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Writers celebrate the power of words to show us the world as others see it, raising funds for refugee and anti-hate charities.

Across the world, intolerance of otherness is growing: in Donald Trump’s America, in Brexit Britain and in a Europe seared by nationalistic resentment. Prejudice and hatred thrive in minds unwilling to entertain other points of view.

The craft of writing arguably depends on representing the experience of others. Poets and novelists make an art of giving voice to the voiceless, and of putting consciousness in places where we didn’t expect to find it. On literature’s springboard, we can all know the exhilarating leap into another worldview.

Others celebrates how words can take us out of the selves we inhabit and show us the world as others see it. Fiction writers and poets will make us look out through other pairs of eyes; essayists will probe the mental blocks that can make it hard to see the realities beyond the media bubbles. The contributors to Others will do nothing they don’t already do – make the homely strange and the exotic familiar – but they’ll do it with an unflinching eye on today’s social inequalities and the thirst for political change.

What can you expect from the book? Sometimes the theme will be the brutal consequences of intolerance and hatred, as in one shattering story of a racist hate crime. Other pieces will explore the quieter forms of otherness that go with deafness, disability, and mental distress. Our failure to stand in other pairs of shoes is most catastrophic when it goes with imbalances of power. But great writing can also illuminate ordinary kinds of otherness, by taking us into points of view we might not otherwise have been able to enter: those moments when, thanks to the magic of words, people are less strange to each other, or we glimpse something of the strangeness of our own selves.

It’s common to hear that now, of all times, literature matters. We hear less about why it matters, how books and reading can relieve minds that have come to despair at the world. Others will be much more than a worthy call for empathy. The greatest literature challenges us to recognise our own otherness; not just to understand how people out there are different to us, but how we are alien to them.

Others may not change the world, although it will be shaped by passions that could. At the very least, it might serve as a pocket device for keeping track of our humanity through what could be some rough years. Net profits from the book will be donated to the charities Refugee Action and Stop Hate UK.

Current contributors include:

Leila Aboulela, Gillian Allnutt, Damian Barr, Noam Chomsky, Rishi Dastidar, Peter Ho Davies, Louise Doughty, Salena Godden, Colin Grant, Sam Guglani, Matt Haig, Aamer Hussein, Anjali Joseph, AL Kennedy, Joanne Limburg, Tiffany Murray, Sara Nović, Edward Platt, Alex Preston, Tom Shakespeare, Kamila Shamsie and Will Storr.

Charles Fernyhough is a writer and psychologist. His non-fiction book about his daughter’s psychological development, The Baby in the Mirror (Granta, 2008), was translated into eight languages. His book on autobiographical memory, Pieces of Light (Profile, 2012) was shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. His latest non-fiction book is The Voices Within (Profile/Wellcome Collection). He is the author of two novels, The Auctioneer (Fourth Estate, 1999) and A Box Of Birds (Unbound, 2013). He has written for the Guardian, Observer, Financial Times, Literary Review, Sunday Telegraph, Lancet, Los Angeles Times, TIME, Nature and New Scientist, and has made numerous radio and TV appearances in the UK and US, including Start the Week, Woman’s Hour, All in the Mind and Horizon. He is a part-time professor of psychology at Durham University. Further details are available at www.charlesfernyhough.com.

Excerpt from ‘The Ostrich’ by Leila Aboulela

I had forgotten how small the flat was, how thin the walls were. Student accommodation. The cleanliness comes as a surprise, this clean land free of dust and insects. Everywhere carpet and everything compact like boxes inside boxes, the houses stuck together defensively. September and it is already winter, already cold. The window, how many hours did I spend looking out of this window? For two years I looked out at strangers, unable to make stories about them, unable to tell who was rich, who was poor, who mended pipes and who healed the ill. And sometimes (this was particularly disturbing) not even knowing who was a man and who was a woman. Strangers I must respect, strangers who were better than me. This is what Majdy says. Every one of them is better than us. See the man who is collecting the rubbish, he is not ravaged by malaria, anaemia, bilharzia, he can read the newspaper, write a letter, he has a television in his house and his children go to a school where they get taught from glossy books. And if they are clever, if they show a talent in music or science, they will be encouraged and they might be important people one day. I look at the man who collects the rubbish and I am ashamed that he picks bags with our filth in them. When I pass him on the road I avert my eyes.

Read more...

'Solidarity is not discovered by reflection but created. It is created by increasing our sensitivity to the particular details of pain and humiliation of other, unfamiliar sorts of people.'

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Louise doughty

‘Writers help us imagine.’ I’ve been doing a fair bit of tweeting to try to pique people’s interest in Others, and that’s been a nice short slogan for the different ways in which our contributors will be showing how words and writing can take us into the perspectives of other people.

One writer who has really engaged with that idea is the bestselling novelist Louise Doughty. Louise has been in…

'With this collection, I hope that some readers might come to recognize the value in difference, while others might see a sliver of themselves on the page, feel a little peace.'

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Sara novi%c3%a7

Others is an anthology of writings celebrating how words and literature can take us out of our own rooted viewpoints and show us the world from another’s perspective. We’ll have pieces on migration and racial prejudice, and what it’s like to have people making judgements about you on the basis of the colour of your skin or where you appear to be ‘from’. Look out for a piece from Salena Godden developing…

‘Writers narrate the times, we report from the trenches, and write from the front line and the breadline, from the guts and from the heart.’

Monday, 30 October 2017

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Hello! I hope you’ve been enjoying the updates on Others. We have a brilliant line-up of authors who will be exploring how literature can break down barriers of understanding and imagination, showing how we ourselves are ‘other’ to those we want to set apart as different, dangerous and unknowable. You’ll see from the updates so far that we’re covering topics including deafness, neurodiversity, mental…

‘To be one of the others is to live at the end of the queue, and to understand that you belong there.’

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Joanne limburg cropped

Our theme in Others is how words in the hands of writers can show us the world as others see it. If you’ve followed these updates, you’ll know that we’re looking at otherness in a whole variety of its facets: the dividing lines of politics, the strangeness of the medical encounter, the anonymising power of city life, and endless battles that should have been won by now around social inequality. We…

'Anonymity is both the place before and the place after individuality. As the place after it can be full of joy and beautiful.'

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

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Our question in this project is quite simple: how, why and under what conditions do writers try to enter the perspectives of others? If they didn’t, we would have no Underground Railroad or Mrs Dalloway. But what are the risks and pitfalls? How do writers pull off this trick?

You’re reading this because you’re interested in the idea. I'm pleased to say that more than two hundred people feel the…

'It seems to me there are no others: only fragile, weathering and astonishing life.'

Monday, 4 September 2017

Sam guglani cropped

This update comes with news of a milestone: Others is now one-third funded. More than two hundred people have signed up to support this project; you can read their names here. There's still a way to go, and I need your help. More on that below. 

Today, I've news of an exciting addition to the line-up of contributors: the very brilliant Sam Guglani. As you'll know by now, Others is about celebrating…

‘When it feels as if all the good is on my side and all the bad on the other, I know I’ve probably got lost somewhere.’

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Selfie

Others is an anthology of writings celebrating how words, in the hands of brilliant writers, can help us to see the world from other points of view. When there is political upheaval, of the kind we've seen so much of over the last year, there is often a closing of minds. That’s the theme of our profiled author this week, the award-winning journalist and author Will Storr.

Will is the author…

‘We need a space for others to share their stories, a chance to be seen and heard on our terms.’

Friday, 16 June 2017

Damian barr

Thanks for supporting Others. We’re here to celebrate how books and writing can free us to imagine other points of view: whether it’s a novelist giving voice to the voiceless, a poet bringing alive a moment of consciousness we might not otherwise have experienced, or an essayist examining the many ways in which people can be strange to each other.

We’re crowdfunded, so we need you and all your…

‘To some people, at some points, in some places, everyone is an other.’

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Rishi dastidar

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be showcasing some of the writers who are already lined up to contribute to Others. First up is an outstanding voice in British poetry, Rishi Dastidar. Rishi has been described (by none other than Daljit Nagra) as ‘one of the most ingenious, modern, thrilling, hilarious and tender poets writing today’. With cool wit, exhilarating invention and sheer verbal brilliance…

Thanks for supporting Others!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

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You’ll know what this is all about by now: a fantastic group of writers celebrating how words can help us to see the world as others see it.

You’ll also know that proceeds from the book will be going to two very worthy causes. Stop Hate UK works to challenge all forms of hate crime and discrimination, and runs a 24-hour helpline for reporting it. Refugee Action supports people fleeing from…

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