How does a novelist set about exploring a culture that is not his own? Or writing about her own culture from a different country? And what are the advantages and challenges of exploring history through a domestic prism? In Scenes from Early Life, published in April, prizewinning novelist Philip Hensher combines biography, memoir, fiction and history to tell the story of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War through the eyes of his partner, Zaved. Both Tahmima Anam’s novels, A Golden Age (2007, winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book) and its sequel, The Good Muslim, explore the same war, which took place five years before her birth. In a conversation chaired by travel writer Sara Wheeler, who has visited and written about Bangladesh, they discuss their relationships with this young country, and ask what makes the Bangladeshi novel distinct.

We are grateful to the Robert Gavron Charitable Trust for sponsoring this event.