• Podcasts


Ep. 1 – The Power of Literature to Create a Better World: Closing Keynote with Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer, John Freeman

Drawing upon his 32 years as a writer and his 44 years as a traveler, Iyer will close the festival with a keynote illuminating the power of literature to create a world beyond walls. Iyer will then be interviewed by renowned literary critic John Freeman.

Ep. 2 – Wrestling with the Devil: Ngugi wa Thiong’o in Conversation

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o interviewed by Namwali Serpell

Taken prisoner by the Kenyan government in 1977 because of artistic defiance of the regime, this Nobel Prize short-listed writer will recount this experience, its effect on his art and the freedom to write. Sponsored by UC Berkeley Arts + Design.

Ep. 3 – Fierce Originality: Eimear McBride interviewed by Sylvia Brownrigg

Eimear McBride interviewed by Sylvia Brownrigg

Compared to a feminist James Joyce, McBride comes to us from Ireland to talk about writing, life, feminism and communicating consciousness through deconstructive writing. With the support of Culture Ireland.

Ep. 4 – Off the Map: Traveling, Self, and Other

Sylvia Brownrigg, Kerry Campbell, Geoff Dyer, John Freeman, Moderated by Olivia Sears

The best travel writing is about exploration of “the other” and an embrace of this new terrain into self and one’s understanding of the greater world. These writers explore the concept of “place” from very different perspectives.

Ep. 5 – Beyond Borders: Powerful Writers on Immigration

Francisco Cantu, Hernan Diaz, Lauren Markham, moderated by Ian Gordon

This diverse panel — a former U.S. Border Patrol agent haunted by the job he quit, a novelist, historian and a journalist — provides a sweeping perspective on this vital issue. Sponsored by Mother Jones.

Ep. 6 – Breaking Literary Ground: Ambitious Young Writers from Ireland

Eimear McBride, David Hayden, Liz Nugent, moderated by Rosemary Graham

The small country of Ireland has always had an outsize influence on world literature. For the third year in a row, the festival showcases some of today’s most powerful writers who come from this land of literary pioneers. With the support of Culture Ireland.

Ep. 7 – Translating Trauma

Katherena Vermette, Winnie M. Li, moderated by Natasha Singh

These writers showcase the art of writing trauma — one focusing on Native women and the other inspired by her own experience as a survivor of assault. With the support of the Consulate General of Canada, San Francisco/Silicon Valley.

Ep. 8 – Resist: Unlocking the Political Power of a Novel

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Rodrigo Hasbún, Madeleine Thien, moderated by Mal Warwick

These talented novelists explain how the novel can illuminate political change in ways that no non-fiction account can. With the support of the Consulate General of Canada, San Francisco/Silicon Valley.

Ep. 9 – Viv Albertine, Formerly of The Slits, Sits Down with Greil Marcus

Viv Albertine interviewed by Greil Marcus

Post punk rocker (formerly of the feminist cult band The Slits) comes to us from the UK to confront questions of feminism, family and inevitable death with her trademark raw, intimate, vulnerable style. Legendary rock critic Greil Marcus will interview.

Ep. 10 – Utter Fascination: The Art of the Exceptionally Complex Character

Åsa Avdic, Therese Bohman, Carl Frode Tiller, moderated by Laleh Khadivi

Come hear how writers dream up, and then capture on the page, entirely new people who are exceptionally complicated. With the support of the Norway House Foundation, NORLA – Norwegian Literature Abroad, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, and the Consulate General of Sweden in San Francisco.

Ep. 11 – Timeless: Historical Fiction

Heather O’Neill, Linda Spalding, Adrienne Sharp, moderated by Terry Gamble

Great historical fiction rewards readers with entertainment and education at the same time. With the support of the Consulate General of Canada, San Francisco/Silicon Valley.

Ep. 12 – Wanderlust: Essaying Forth

Oddný Eir and Geoff Dyer, interviewed by Ethan Nosowsky

In Eir’s “Land of Love and Ruins” and Dyer’s “White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World,” these two genre-defying authors explore the meaning of travel and pilgrimage as well as the connections between imagination and reality, place and identity, story and myth. Sponsored by the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and the Icelandic Literature Center.

Ep. 13 – New Irish Fiction

Colin Barrett, Paul Murray, and John Toomey, moderated by Rosemary Graham

Why does this small, rocky island have such outsize influence on world literature? Who is coming along in the footsteps of James Joyce, Frank O’Connor and Edna O’Brien? Meet three members of an exciting new generation of Irish fiction writers. Sponsored by Culture Ireland.

Ep. 14 – Cuba!

Cristina Garcia, Rachel Kushner, and Achy Obejas, moderated by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

For decades Cuba has been an American obsession, a political flashpoint and a forbidden paradise. Four writers — two from Cuba and two other experts for whom Cuba is passionate muse — explore Cuba yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Ep. 15 – Writing from Africa

Lesley Nneka Arimah, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, and Sarah Ladipo Manyika, moderated by Aaron Bady

Where is Africa in world literature? Three authors discuss what it means to tell their own stories, in their own words and languages, and the journey their work takes to arrive in print, at home and abroad. Sponsored by Transit Books.

Ep. 16 – Collecting the Pieces: Fiction and Trauma

Oddný Eir, Jonas Hassen Khemiri, and Katie Kitamura, moderated by Stephen Sparks

How do we process loss? What role does memory play in mourning? The novelists gathered here — from Iceland, Sweden, the United States and Norway — all use extraordinary restraint to create great emotional impact. Sponsored by the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the Icelandic Literature Center and the Literary Hub (lithub.com).

Ep. 17 – First Books: What It Took to Get There

Colin Barrett, Jonas Lüscher, Pajtim Statovci, Aura Xilonen, moderated by Joan Frank

There’s a book in all of us, but what does it take to get it out into the world? Hear four successful authors’ expert advice. They come from Ireland, Switzerland, Finland and Mexico, and all saw publication in their home countries and the United States. Sponsored by the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco, Culture Ireland, FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange, Finlandia Foundation National, Pro Helvetia, the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco and the State of Jalisco.

Ep. 18 – Fiction at the Edges: On Trauma, Displacement and Loss

Krys Lee in conversation with Elizabeth Rosner

Debut novelist Krys Lee, in “How I Became A North Korean,” focuses on individuals in desperate circumstances. Lee’s characters, forced into exile, must find ways to retain their humanity in the midst of aching upheaval. Berkeley author Elizabeth Rosner talks with Lee, considering the multitude of ways that literature can address modern life’s most urgent and painful challenges. Sponsored by Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea).

Ep. 19 – Living in Two Worlds: Crossing Borders and Identities to Create Home

Lesley Nneka Arimah, Laleh Khadivi, Carolina De Robertis, and Pajtim Statovci, moderated by Michael Holtmann

Border-crossers and novelists Lesley Nneka Arimah (“What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky”), Laleh Khadivi (“A Good Country”) and Pajtim Statovci (“My Cat Yugoslavia”) contemplate a life between the lines. Sponsored by the Center for the Art of Translation, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange, and Finlandia Foundation National.

Ep. 20 – Writing Irish

Catherine Ryan Howard, Mike McCormack, Emilie Pine, moderated by Rosemary Graham

From the little island with the big reach: Hear from Mike Mc- Cormack with his acclaimed third novel “Solar Bones,” Catherine Ryan Howard and her debut propulsive thriller “Distress Signals” and Emilie Pine with her searching “Notes to Self.” With the support of Culture Ireland.

Ep. 21 – Seeking Connection: Literature from Germany and Switzerland

Dorothee Elmiger, Nora Krug, Katja Petrowskaja, Takis Würger, moderated by Sabine Kieselbach

Four distinct voices from Germany and Switzerland explore these questions in their work, all bestsellers in Europe. Discover these new voices in translation, one of the most exciting areas in literature today. With the support of the initiative “Wunderbar Together,“ initiated by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe Institut, and supported by the Federation of German Industries (BDI); the Goethe-Institut San Francisco; Goethe-Institut’s translation support program “Books First”; also supported by the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco and Pro Helvetia.

Ep. 22 – Not So Polite After All: Canadian Writers Challenge the Status Quo

André Alexis, Esi Edugyan, Sheila Heti, moderated by Omar El Akkad

Award-winning Canadian writers converge on one stage to recount their adventures in literary risk-taking and rule-breaking. Hear from Esi Edugyan (“Washington Black”), Sheila Heti (“Motherhood”) and André Alexis (“Days By Moonlight”). With the support of the Consulate General of Canada, San Francisco/Silicon Valley.