With a busy four-day programme, Biskops Arnö welcomed writers and ICORN residents based in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Among the participants were Azhar Al-Rubaie, Aslı Ceren Aslan, Enas Sultan, Mahdieh Golroo, Mamon Zaidy, Murshida Zaman, Ola Husamou, Saiful Baten Tito, Supriti Dhar, and Suzanne Ibrahim. The fourth edition of the Biskops Arnö writing workshop for ICORN residents continues the ongoing collaboration with ICORN, which began as part of the Nordic translation project Ratatosk. The writing workshop gives space to writers from different backgrounds and languages to meet, write and talk about literature, and share knowledge and experiences.
After attending her Biskops Arnö for the first time, journalist, editor, and activist Aslı Ceren Aslan shared her impressions:
’’I am not the only one experiencing these feelings.’
When I uttered this sentence during the Writing Workshop organised by ICORN at Biskops Arnö between 1-4 August 2023, my new writer friend sitting across from me smiled and said "Of course!".
As writers from different countries who have gone through similar experiences of censorship and oppression, and who today are trying to build their lives and professions in other countries, during these four days of sharing both our work and our life experiences, I had the opportunity many times to discover that I was not alone in the feelings and situations I have experienced and am experiencing. Of course, the opportunity I had was not limited to discovering that I was not alone. We continued to share our experiences about continuing our profession and life in a new country.
Communicating with professionals who have been working as writers, editors and translators in Sweden for years within the scope of the workshop increased what I learnt from these experiences. In a new country, where you start everything from scratch, it is undoubtedly a blessing to have information on many subjects from the writing stage of the book to translation and publishing, and to discuss the problems you have encountered and may encounter.
In addition to all these, I think it was also an important experience to share our own works in their original, native language, even though we shared our conversations about our texts and our experiences with the participants in English. When listening to a text read in a language I do not know, the main thing was to feel the feeling of the author while reading it rather than worrying about understanding it, and similarly, when reading my own text, the main thing was to make me feel my feelings rather than worrying about being understood.
In short, after four days in Biskops Arnö, I was left with great people to meet, enlightening information for my professional future, and discovering the wonderful nature and history of the small island.
The programme of this year’s Biskops Arnö course included talks, lectures, readings, as well as time for writing, with strong emphasis on collective knowledge, networking, and the development of writing skills. Equally, Sweden’s professional literary scene was represented by guest speakers, including author Athena Farrokhzad, translator Jennifer Hayashida, and editor and translator Helena Fagertun. A writer and poet who remains anonymous for security reasons, gave their feedback on the programme of the Biskops Arnö writing workshop:
’Author Athena Farrokhzad's inspiring story of authorship and her power of imagination and fiction, and literary translator Jennifer Hayashida's experiences in literary translation were very eye-opening.
With Both ICORN guest writers from different countries, and authors and translators who made speeches,we exchanged enlightening ideas about the general readership, the role of symbols/cultural symbols in the literary work. The ways to find sponsors in the translation process for the works to be published, and Swedish publishing houses were suggested.’
Alongside the professional development aspect of Biskops Arnö, the four days on the Swedish island were also a chance to meet and socialise with fellow writers in ICORN residencies. Poet, author, and journalist Suzanne Ibrahim, who has attended several of the Biskops Arnö workshop, shared her thoughts on the value of such events:
’It is always important for us, as ICORN writes, to meet and talk about everything in our life in exile. I need to meet people who have same thoughts and experiences as well as difficulties like me. It was also great to meet other writers, artists or translators.
The social part of such workshops is important as well. It is nice to meet new and previous ICORN guests. It was so nice to meet in that beautiful island full of silence, history, and nature. To read and sing, to talk about and discuss anything we need or want to, and to eat and drink’.
The 2023 Biskops Arnö writing workshop was organised and run by Kajsa Sundin (Teacher, Biskops Arnö, Mats Lundborg (Principal, Biskops Arnö), and Karin Hannson (ICORN’s National Coordinator for Sweden).
You can find out more about Biskops Arnö here and read about the 2022 and 2020 editions of the writing workshop for ICORN residents.