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Body Language

Friday Night Unlimited -
WU 2024 - eindeloos ontwerp
WU 2024 - eindeloos ontwerp

One of the things that distinguishes humans from machines is that humans have a body. A body that can experience pleasant sensations as well as pain. The body is our initial calling card to the outside world, an outer shell that is seen by others, judged and pigeonholed. Writers Aminatta Forna and Celeste Ng discussed this matter and read from their work. Writer and journalist Hassnae Bouazza moderated.

Aminatta Forna (UK) is the daughter of a Sierra Leonian father and a Scottish mother. The question of how the horrors of war are remembered years after the fact is central to her work. Forna spent her youth partly in Sierra Leone, where her politician father was accused of treason and hanged. She writes about these events in her 2003 autobiography The Devil that Danced on the Water.

Before this debut, she worked as a reporter and documentarian at the BBC, where her probing reportages about Africa stood out in particular. In her novel Ancestor Stones (2006) four elderly Sierra Leonian aunts tell stories of the past to their niece. In the 2013 novel The Memory of Love, a London psychiatrist in Freetown recognizes that everyone suffers from post-traumatic stress but no one talks about their experiences. In 2013's The Hired Man, Forna brilliantly depicts the fermenting tension in post-war Croatia.

Celeste Ng (USA) visits The Netherlands for the first time for the 2024 Writers Unlimited festival. Her three novels are true page-turners; currently she is the internationally most-read author with Asian roots. Her debut novel Everything I Never Told You (2014) is a sensitive portait of a family with several cultures. Little Fires Everywhere (2017), an even bigger bestseller, was turned into a film with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington (available on Prime).

Her third novel Our Missing Hearts (2022) takes on the love between mother and child, discrimination against people with Asian roots, and humanity in dark times. Ng grew up in Pittsburgh and Shaker Heights (Ohio) and studied at Harvard. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian.

Festival tip: Celeste Ng and Aminatta Forna also appeared during Opening Night (Thursday, 18 January 2024) and Saturday Night Unlimited (Saturday, 20 January 2024).