In Refugee Tales III we read the stories of people who have been through this process, many of whom have yet to see their cases resolved and who live in fear that at any moment they might be detained again. Poets, novelists and writers have once again collaborated with people who have experienced detention, their tales appearing alongside first-hand accounts by people who themselves have been detained. What we hear in these stories are the realities of the hostile environment, the human costs of a system that disregards rights, that denies freedoms and suspends lives.
‘We hear so many of the wrong words about refugees – ugly, limiting, unimaginative words – that it feels like a gift to find here so many of the right words which allow us to better understand the lives around us, and our own lives too.’ – Kamila Shamsie
All profits go to the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Help for Refugees.
Monica Ali is the daughter of English and Bangladeshi parents. She came to England aged three, her first home being Bolton in Greater Manchester, and later studied at Oxford University. Her first novel, Brick Lane (2003), is an epic saga about a Bangladeshi family living in the UK, and explores the British immigrant experience. It was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and made into a film, released in 2007. Her second novel, Alentejo Blue, set in Portugal, was published in 2006, and her third, In the Kitchen, in 2009. Monica Ali lives in London and was named in 2003 by Granta magazine as one of 20 ‘Best of Young British Novelists’. Her latest novel is Untold Story (2011).
Lisa Appignanesi is a prize-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. She was President of English PEN and is currently Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. Her most recent book is Everyday Madness: On Grief, Anger, Loss and Love. Her many other works include Trials of Passion: Crimes in the Name of Love and Madness, All About Love: Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion, Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors, and with John Forrester, Freud’s Women. She has written an acclaimed family memoir, Losing the Dead. Her novels include The Memory Man and the psychological thrillers Paris Requiem and The Dead of Winter. She writes for a variety of papers, including The New York Review of Books and broadcasts regularly on cultural themes. Everyday Madness was published in 2018.
David Constantine was for 30 years a university teacher of German language and literature. He has published a dozen volumes of poetry, two novels and five collections of short stories. He is an editor and translator of Hölderlin, Goethe, Kleist and Brecht. With Helen Constantine he edited Modern Poetry in Translation, 2003-12. In 2018 Bloodaxe published his new and greatly enlarged Selected Poetry of Hölderlin, and Norton a Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht translated by Tom Kuhn and him. He is a volunteer mentor with Refugee Resource.
Bernardine Evaristo MBE is the award-winning author of nine books of fiction and verse fiction including Girl, Woman, Other (Penguin 2019), Mr Loverman (Penguin, 2013), Lara (Bloodaxe, 2009), Blonde Roots (Penguin, 2008) and The Emperor’s Babe (Penguin 2001). Her work includes drama and other writing for BBC Radio 3 & 4, as well as fiction, poetry, memoir, theatre drama and essays. She has judged and chaired many literary prizes and founded The Complete Works poetry development scheme for poets of colour in 2007, and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2011. In 2004 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; in 2006 she was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; and in 2017 she was elected a Fellow of the English Association. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.
Patrick Gale is the author of the Emmy award-winning Man in an Orange Shirt and of many novels, including The Whole Day Through, Notes from an Exhibition, A Perfectly Good Man, the Costa-nominated A Place Called Winter and his latest Take Nothing With You. He was born on the Isle of Wight, where his father was prison governor at Camp Hill. His first two novels, The Aerodynamics of Pork and Ease were published by Abacus on the same day in June 1986. The following year he moved to Camelford near the north coast of Cornwall and began a love affair with the county that has fed his work ever since. He chairs the North Cornwall Book Festival, is patron of Penzance LitFest and a director of both Endelienta and the Charles Causley Trust.
Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 in Zanzibar and taught for many years at the University of Kent. He is the author of seven novels, including Paradise (shortlisted for both the Booker and the Whitbread Prizes), By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and awarded the RFI Temoin du monde prize), Desertion (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize) and, most recently, Gravel Heart.
David Herd’s collections of poetry include All Just (Carcanet, 2012), Outwith (Bookthug, 2012), Through (Carcanet, 2016) and Walk Song (Equipage, 2018). He is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Kent and a co-organiser of Refugee Tales.
Emma Parsons started a career in journalism and editing in the 1970s as a newscaster in Iran for National Iranian TV and Radio. She also co-wrote and acted in a popular Iranian TV show for children. Her awareness of policy iniquities regarding asylum seekers and refugees was first sparked when she was in Djibouti in 1979 and wrote a feature article for The Spectator on the conditions suffered by refugees from neighbouring Ethiopia. Her short story ‘The Turf Cutters’ was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and she was the scriptwriter for Don’t Shut Me! a drama/dance performance at Jackson’s Lane Theatre, London. For the last twenty years, Emma has worked as a teacher in London schools. She has an MA in Language, Ethnicity and Education from King’s College, London.
Ian Sansom is a novelist, journalist and broadcaster. His most recent book was December Stories 1 (2018). He contributes regularly to The Guardian and writes and presents programmes on BBC Radio 4 and Radio 3.
Jonathan Skinner is a poet, field recordist, editor, and critic, best known for founding the journal ecopoetics. His poetry collections and chapbooks include Chip Calls (Little Red Leaves, 2014), Birds of Tifft (BlazeVOX, 2011), Warblers (Albion Books, 2010), and Political Cactus Poems (Palm Press, 2005). He has published numerous essays at the intersection of poetry, ecology, activism, landscape and sound studies. Skinner teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick.
Gillian Slovo is a playwright and the author of thirteen books, including five crime novels, the courtroom drama Red Dust, which was made into a feature film starring Hilary Swank and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the Orange Prize-shortlisted Ice Road. She co-authored the play Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, which was staged internationally. Her research for her play The Riots inspired Ten Days. Gillian Slovo was President of English PEN from 2010 to 2013 and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She was born in South Africa and lives in London.
Lytton Smith is Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Center for Integrative Learning at SUNY Geneseo in Western Upstate New York. He has translated nine books from the Icelandic, including works by Bragi Ólafsson, Ófeigur Sigurðsson, Sigrún Pálsdóttir, Jón Gnarr, Kristín Ómarsdóttir, and Guðbergur Bergsson, as well as various poems and short stories. He is the author of the poetry collections The All-Purpose Magical Tent (Nightboat, 2009) and While You Were Approaching the Spectacle But Before You Were Transformed by It (Nightboat, 2013) as well as the chapbooks My Radar Data Knows Its Thing (Foundlings, 2018) and Monster Theory (Poetry Society of America, 2008).
Roma Tearne is a Sri Lankan born novelist and film maker living in the UK. She left Sri Lanka with her family, at the start of the civil unrest during the 1960s. She trained as a painter and filmmaker at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford and then was Leverhulme artist in residence at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. She has written six novels. Her fifth, The Road To Urbino was published by Little Brown in June 2012 to coincide with the premier of her film of that name at the National Gallery in London. She has been shortlisted for the Costa, the Kirimaya & LA Times book prize and longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2011 and, in 2012, the Asian Man Booker. Her sixth novel The White City was published in April 2017.
Jonathan Wittenberg was born in Glasgow in 1957, to a family of German Jewish origin with rabbinic ancestors on both sides. The family moved to London in 1963, where he attended University College School, specialising in classical and modern languages. He further developed his love of literature when reading English at King’s College Cambridge (1976-9). He took a PGCE at Goldsmith’s College, London and trained for the rabbinate at Leo Baeck College London, receiving ordination in 1987, and continued his studies to gain a further rabbinic qualification from his teacher Dr. Aryeh Strikovsky in Israel. Since then he has worked as rabbi of the New North London Synagogue. In 2008 he was appointed Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism in the UK.
A 63-year-old man is woken one morning by border officers ‘acting on a tip-off’ and, despite having paid taxes for 28 years, is suddenly cast into the detention system with no obvious means of escape…
An orphan whose entire life has been spent in slavery – first on a Ghanaian farm, then as a victim of trafficking – writes to the Home Office for help, only to be rewarded with a jail sentence and indefinite detention…
These are not fictions. Nor are they testimonies from some distant, brutal past, but the frighteningly common experiences of Europe’s new underclass – its refugees. While those with ‘citizenship’ enjoy basic human rights (like the right not to be detained without charge for more than 14 days), people seeking asylum can be suspended for years in Kafka-esque uncertainty. Here, poets and novelists retell the stories of individuals who have direct experience of Britain’s policy of indefinite immigration detention. Presenting their accounts anonymously, as modern day counterparts to the pilgrims’ stories in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, this book offers rare, intimate glimpses into otherwise untold suffering.
After years of travelling and losing almost everything – his country, his children, his wife, his farm – an Afghan man finds unexpected warmth and comfort in a stranger’s home...
A student protester is forced to leave his homeland after a government crackdown, and spends the next 25 years in limbo, trapped in the UK asylum system...
Modelled on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the second volume of Refugee Tales sets out to communicate the experiences of those who, having sought asylum in the UK, find themselves indefinitely detained. Here, poets and novelists create a space in which the stories of those who have been detained can be safely heard, a space in which hospitality is the prevailing discourse and listening becomes an act of welcome.
All profits go to the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Help for Refugees.