Literature and political violence

Filed under: Fiction

Adam Foulds, Pankaj Mishra, Chris Petit and Kamila Shamsie on the relationship between literature and political violence.

From Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent onwards, writers have attempted to deal with the politics of violence. While political leaders speak of waging a ‘war on terror’, and even Hollywood is producing films about current conflicts, how do novelists and poets approach so contentious a subject? A panel consisting of writers who have published books about violent political events and their consequences considers the ethical and aesthetic challenges of creating art from such material. Adam Foulds is this year’s Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and has written about the Mau Mau uprising in 1950s Kenya in his verse narrative The Broken Word; Chris Petit’s conspiracy novel The Passenger is based on the Lockerbie bombing of 1988; Kamila Shamsie’s forthcoming novel, Burnt Shadows, brings together Nagasaki, Afghanistan and post-9/11 New York. In such books as The Romantics and Temptations of the West Pankaj Mishra, who will chair this discussion, has written both fiction and non-fiction about the effect of violent political unrest on ordinary lives in Inida, Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Nepa and Tibet.

Related RSL Fellows

Kamila Shamsie 2011
Pankaj Mishra 2008
Adam Foulds 2009