Sat 8th July / Leila Aboulela for Africa Writes - Exeter Festival

Sat 8th July / Leila Aboulela for Africa Writes - Exeter Festival

Saturday Night's Festival Headliner - Leila Aboulela 

Multi award-winning author Leila Aboulela will be in conversation with writer Billy Kahora about River Spirit, her writing craft and engaging with Sudan's histories.

Leila Aboulela's latest novel River Spirit is receiving much acclaim. Set mainly in Sudan in the war-torn 1880s, the story follows Akuany who is orphaned and, with her brother, taken in by young merchant Yaseen. As revolution stirs, and Sudan begins to prise itself from Ottoman rule, people become divided, forced to choose sides as the fighting begins. Aboulela writes gently and powerfully about a small group who were, for a brief moment, independent from foreign rule. River Spirit speaks to love, devotion and the family we find.

Book Pay What You Can Afford Tickets here . This event runs from 7.30

About the Speakers

Leila Aboulela was born in Cairo, grew up in Khartoum, and moved to Aberdeen in her mid-twenties. Nominated three times for the Orange Prize (now the Women's Prize for Fiction) she is the author of five novels, including Bird Summons, The Translator, and Lyrics Alley, which was Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards. Leila was the first winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, and her short story collection, Elsewhere Home, won the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award.

Billy Kahora is the author of the short story collection The Cape Cod Bicycle War and the non-fiction novella The True Story of David Munyakei . He was highly commended by the 2007 Caine Prize judges for his story 'Treadmill Love'; his story 'Urban Zoning' was shortlisted for the prize in 2012, 'The Gorilla’s Apprentice' in 2014. Director of creative writing teaching initiative Saseni!, he currently teaches Creative Writing at University of Bristol.

Praise for River Spirit

'Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela holds a unique place in Scottish literature, for the immense passion and insight she brings to the subject of colonialism and its legacy, from the persepectives of both colonisers and colonised... in the shimmering quality of her prose, we glimpse the peace and joy that underlies her world view, perhaps a vital one for our time; clear-eyed, realistic and sophisticated in recognising the world's horrors-- but never without hope, or the underlying sense that our conscious existence, here on earth, is a miracle to be celebrated, every day that we live and love.'-- The Scotsman

‘A novel of extraordinary sympathy and insight … a wonderful achievement.’ -- Abdulrazak Gurnah, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

‘Dazzling … One of the great pleasures of “River Spirit” is listening as the novel tells us how to read it. The pace is swift, galloping over momentous events, stating profound changes with unsettling directness. The text is ruthless when rendering moments of grief. … Aboulela has written a novel of war, love, faith, womanhood and — crucially — the tussle over truthful public narratives. From 19th?century Sudan to present-day America, the questions, in their travel to us, grow only more pressing.’ -- Megha Majumdar in the New York Times

Africa Writes Festival - Exeter 2023

Africa Writes is the UK’s leading platform celebrating the best contemporary African writing and is part of Exeter’s Unesco City of Literature programme. The events this year will include performances, book launches and workshops and are hosted in collaboration with independent bookshop Bookbag and creative hub Roots Resistance.

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