Exiles: William Atkins in conversation with Emmanuel Iduma

Exiles: William Atkins in conversation with Emmanuel Iduma

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7 Mercer Walk

Covent Garden


United Kingdom

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Combining history, biography and travel writing, Exiles is a masterpiece of imaginative empathy.

About this event

Join us at Stanfords with award-winning travel writer William Atkins in conversation about his new book Exiles: Three Island Journeys with Emmanuel Iduma, esteemed author of A Stranger’s Pose.

An exquisitely written blend of biographical history and travel writing, Exiles finds Atkins visiting the islands of banishment of three prominent nineteenth-century dissidents and asking pertinent questions about the nature of exile, colonialism and nationalism.

This is the story of three unheralded nineteenth-century dissidents, whose lives were profoundly shaped by the winds of empire, nationalism and autocracy that continue to blow strongly today.

Louise Michel, a leader of the radical socialist government known as the Paris Commune; Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, an enemy of British colonialism in Zululand; and Lev Shternberg, a militant campaigner against Russian tsarism. Each was exiled to a remote island. Each sacrificed freedom and home to larger ideas of freedom and home.

In Exiles, William Atkins travels to their islands of banishment – Michel’s New Caledonia in the South Pacific, Dinuzulu’s St Helena in the South Atlantic, and Shternberg’s Sakhalin off the Siberian coast – in a bid to understand how exile shaped them and the people among whom they were exiled. In doing so he illuminates the solidarities that emerged between the exiled subject, on the one hand, and the colonised subject, on the other. Rendering these figures and the places they were forced to occupy in shimmering detail, Atkins reveals deeply human truths about displacement, colonialism and what it means to have and to lose a home.

About the speakers:

William Atkins' first book, The Moor, was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize and his second, The Immeasurable World, won the Stanford Dolman Travel Writing Award and the British Library Eccles Prize. He is guest editor of a special travel-writing edition of Granta, and his journalism and reviews have appeared in Harpers, The Guardian and the New York Times.

Emmanuel Iduma was born and raised in Nigeria, where he trained as a lawyer. His most recent book, A Stranger’s Pose (2018), was longlisted for the 2019 Ondaatje Prize. He has contributed nonfiction and criticism to Granta, the New York Review of Books, Artforum, Best American Travel Writing 2020, Art in America, among other places. His art writing has been honored with the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant, the inaugural Irving Sandler Award for New Voices in Art Criticism. In 2020, he was listed in Apollo International Art Magazine’s 40 under 40 Africa for the broad social impact of his work. For his nonfiction, he was awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize for Literature in 2022.

Iduma received an MFA in Art Criticism and Writing from the School of Visual Arts, New York, and taught in three of its graduate programs. He currently edits Tender Photo, a newsletter publication featuring the work of early to mid-career African photographers. I Am Still With You, his memoir on the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war, was awarded a Silvers Grant for Work in Progress, and is forthcoming from Algonquin (US), and William Collins (UK) in March 2023.

Praise For the Book:

'Breathtakingly good... I am deeply moved by what Atkins has achieved. Exiles is completely sui generis.' - Edmund de Waal

'An incredible, brilliant act of retrieval.' - Philip Hoare, author of Albert & the Whale

'Atkins spins a marvellous tapestry of colourful tales, beautifully weaving history and travel accounts.' - Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature

'A fascinating study of displacement and empire. Atkins' voice is distinctive: subtle, reflective and tough-minded.' - Colin Thubron, author of The Amur River

The event will start promptly at 6.30pm.

Tickets £5 

Includes a glass of wine/soft drink with £5.00 off the purchase price of Exiles: Three Island Journeys for ticket holders on the evening.

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