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The Scarlet & Black

International writers come to Grinnell

Gregory Garcia
shabana gupta Writers from Russia, Spain and Germany visited campus this past week to share their work and writing processes with Grinnellians at Hotel Grinnell. Photo by Shabana Gupta.
Writers from Russia, Spain and Germany visited campus this past week to share their work and writing processes with Grinnellians at Hotel Grinnell. Photo by Shabana Gupta.

Four internationally-acclaimed writers from non-English speaking countries, Salah Badis from Algeria, Adriana Borja Enriquez from Ecuador, Rasha Khayat from Germany and Alisa Ganieva from Russia were featured in the College’s Writers@Grinnell’s “Celebration of Global Writing.” Writers read small sections from their writing, ranging from poetry to chapter sections, and read in the writing’s original language and in English. Badis read a poem while Borja Enriquez read a fictional story of a child with her grandmother.

After the readings, the panelists answered some questions posed by coordinator and the College’s writer-in-residence, assistant professor Dean Bakopoulos. The questions focused on their experiences as writers and some of the reasons why they write. Ganieva described how the political atmosphere around writers in Russia generates an expectation of writers to be experts, and how fiction writers are becoming more and more popular.

Ganieva wrote her first book in what she describes as “broken Russian,” a regional dialect. She described how she wanted to draw attention to areas of Russia that are less represented and can be portrayed by other Russian writers as exotic or militant.

A tornado warning was sent out as panelist Khayat answered a question on writer activism. The panel was in the perfect room for a tornado shelter, allowing the discussion to continue. Because many people in the audience were tense after the warning, Bakopoulos stopped the panel and moved everyone’s attention to the food area, where attendees could mingle with the authors while asking questions.

Previous “Celebration of Global Writing” panel members recommended Badis, Enriquez, Khayat and Ganieva to join the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa. The program sent the four to Grinnell for the day to give their talks and interact with students during school times. Khayat was impressed by the German students, even those in the beginning level classes.

Through IWP, the writers stay for three months in Iowa City, share stories and participate in different panels. They sometimes travel around the area.

Writers@Grinnell has been looking to expand their programing to bring in more international writers, but has not managed to make that happen on a regular basis. In recent years, they have sponsored a Grinnell College resident to teach a six week short course, and this year is the first time there has been a partnership with IWP to have multiple authors at once. Many of the language departments helped make the short course happen by expressing interest in having students meet writers whose native language corresponded to their courses.

Creative writing courses may expect to see more international writings being used in the future. “Creative writing doesn’t mind so much if the stories are in translation; it doesn’t feel weirdly outside our discipline,” Bakopoulos said in the panel. “We’re teaching the story and the narrative and the craft, so the translation certainly is a part of it.” It is harder for other areas of the English department to integrate translated stories because they need to be more focused on form as opposed to content.

The next Writers@Grinnell event will be one of Grinnell College’s own, English Professor Ralph Savarese, who will read from his newest book, “See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor.”

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