Reading and Discussion with Priya Basil

by Lucy Gasser

Berlin-based writer-activist Priya Basil read from her latest book Gastfreundschaft on food, politics, and hospitality. Basil’s newest book takes the form of a collection of essayistic vignettes, interwoven with stories of her own various experiences of eating, being hosted, and being a host. It tells of a childhood in Kenya, the daughter of Indian migrants, her family’s move to Britain, and finally her choice to settle in Berlin. Her reflections span broad expanses of time and space from colonial British India to her thoughts on and impressions of the reception of migrants in Germany in 2015.  In discussion, she reflected on living and writing in (and sometimes for) translation, as works penned originally by her in English are now sometimes published in German translation first. She also spoke to the emancipatory potential intimated by her book's digressions on food and the kitchen as spheres in which women might, against the odds, have found some forms of empowerment; and addressed Europe's handling of its various colonial histories, particularly in the British and German cases. Finally, the reading having taken place on the eve of the European elections, she discussed the flawed but necessary project of the EU, and the role writers can play in shaping a cultural discourse around these issues.

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