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The Wasafiri Anthology of New Writing

Thirty-five writers; one simple brief: to write a short story, essay or poem inspired by “1984”.

1984 is the year that Wasafiri magazine was founded, as a place for diverse literary voices from the UK and around the world. It is also the title of George Orwell’s dystopian novel. For this anthology, it is the broadest of creative briefs: writers might choose to be inspired by contemporary echoes of Orwellian super states, thought police and Newspeak; or they might recall family life and childhood, wherever that unfolded, back in the 1980s.

Wasafiri supports the work of established authors (it has published work by writers including Chinua Achebe, Nadine Gordimer, Salman Rushdie and Anita Desai) as well as championing new voices, not least through its annual New Writing Prize, which puts no limits on age, gender, nationality or background. The magazine was an early cheerleader for the poet Warsan Shire, who has since worked with Beyonce on Lemonade. Amaal Said, who was recently featured in Vogue, won 2015’s New Writing Prize for poetry.

This anthology will feature well-known writers, as well as discovering some of tomorrow’s most important voices. With an introduction by founding editor Susheila Nasta, it will show why literary diversity and Orwellian truth-telling are more important than ever in this age of right-wing revivals and fake news. With pioneering attitude, diverse voices and a dose of punk spirit, 1984: The Wasafiri Anthology of New Writing will cut through the noise and tell it like it is, from the perspectives of people of colour and international communities in the margins.

Literature is about to get edgier – join Wasafiri and let’s make some thoughtcrimes happen.

– Edited by the Wasafiri team

Wasafiri encourages readers and writers to travel the world via the word. Its name stems from the Kiswahili word for ‘travellers’ which reflects the magazine’s longstanding engagement with cultural travelling and diverse histories. Brainchild of its founding editor, Susheila Nasta, the first issue was launched at the University of Kent in 1984. One of its inaugural aims was to provide much needed literary and critical coverage of writers from African, Caribbean, Asian and Black British backgrounds who often struggled to get adequate attention in the mainstream press. The magazine played a pioneering role in reviewing the first novels and early poetry of writers who are now well known, challenging the assumption that their work would only be of ‘minority interest’.

For over three decades, it has created a dynamic platform for mapping new landscapes in contemporary international writing, featuring a diverse range of voices from across the UK and beyond. Committed to profiling the ‘best of tomorrow’s writers today’, the magazine simultaneously celebrates those who have become established literary voices – including Chinua Achebe, Kamau Brathwaite, Anita and Kiran Desai, Sam Selvon, Nadine Gordimer, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Michael Ondaatje, Vikram Seth, Leila Aboulela, Nayantara Sahgal, Salman Rushdie, Gillian Slovo and Ben Okri – and offers a creative space for new writers to engage in dialogue and debate.

‘In a world which gives voice only to the few, Wasafiri comes to us like a choir of thousands singing the stories of everywhere.’ – Aminatta Forna

From Wasafiri, Volume 1, Autumn 1984: ‘Engaging the World’ by Earl Lovelace, the Trinidadian novelist, journalist, playwright, and short story writer.

"... I have the impression that this literature of Africa, the Caribbean and Asia is viewed as a thing apart, that it belongs to Africans, Asians and Caribbean people and not to the world. This is not so surprising when the bulk of this writing has been produced over the last thirty to forty years. The writers came from countries that were colonies and the literature produced was a colonial literature, a literature seen as a literature of the learner, the student of civilization. Some of us have done impressively well. I don't mean to scoff at all, because this learning of English was a very important matter. While it was the language of the colonizer, English has also been the language in which text-books were written and it provided in one sense a getaway for the entry of those societies in the modern world.

Since Independence has been achieved in these countries, we have changed. From being colonial writers, we are now Third World writers. From colony to Third World is, I suppose, some progress, but we are not viewed as being quite in the world.

What then is the world? Who qualifies for the world? Who decides what is the world? Is there a world? Is there one world? Why are we not an automatic part of the world?

I do not want to simplify things, but I believe that it is the technological superiority of Europe that supports in the minds of its people their right to decide for the world. Technological advancement has become the morality, the argument, the rationale for a sense of leadership, so much so that technological advancement is viewed as being synonymous with human advancement.

Of course it is undeniable that technological competence has contributed much to human society, and even if we were to grant Europe the praise for refining and even spearheading this in the modern world we need to recognize that technology expresses only one dimension of human advance. I think we must see that life is much more complex, much more textured than the straight line of technological advance called progress. We must also see that while technological advance brings life, it also brings death, and most importantly that while it provides services, it does not provide meaning...


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