International Writers’ Day 2003

The audience (Photo: Jo Paterson)International Writers’ Day 2003

was a rip-roaring success, with our largest ever number of speakers and a strong international slant to the programme.

The morning kicked off with the esteemed Canadian Professor Steven Pinker, who delivered the 2003 Dawson-Scott Memorial Lecture, The Blank Slate: Consciousness and Creativity  Provocative and fascinating, deeply intellectual yet made accessible by his delivery, verve and wit, the talk centred on the nature/nurture debate and its applications in terms of morality and creativity.  It was followed by a lively question and answer session.  

Toby Litt was the first of the Granta Young Novelists to take the stage, reading from his current title, Finding Myself. Peter Parker then announced the winner of the J.R Ackerley Award for Biography as Jenny Diski for Stranger on a Train; unfortunately the author couldn’t be present, so the award was accepted in her place by agent Lennie Goodings.

Uzma Aslam Khan read affectingly from her acclaimed novel Trespassing, which was followed by Michael Burleigh awarding the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History to Jenny Uglow for The Lunar Men. The morning was rounded off by Hari Kunzru, who read from a work in progress, Lila.exe.


After lunch the audience was treated to one of the most venerable of Latin American writers, Carlos Fuentes, interviewed by Maya Jaggi in the André Deutsch Memorial Talk. The interview covered a number of areas: the predominant themes that appear in his work; how growing up as an expatriate Mexican shaped both his writings and political views; Fuentes’ views on American politics past and present. He took a variety of questions from the audience, who made full use of the opportunity.


Later in the afternoon Rachel Cusk read her short story, On Caravaggio’s Sacrifice of Isaac, which was followed by Hanif Kureishi delivering Loose Tongues. He also took questions from the audience that covered many aspects of his wide-ranging career as well as points raised in his speech. 

The last reading of the day was from literary sensation Monica Ali, reading from the much-fêted Brick Lane. It was only then left to English PEN President Victoria Glendinning to present the Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature to Michael Frayn.


Report by Tanya Andrews

The bookshop (Photo: Jo Paterson)
The bookshop
Photo: Jo Paterson


Do please watch this space for transcripts and recordings of the day.

Click Prizes  for a full report on the winners

More Photos from International Writers’ Day can be seen here


English PEN would like to thank all the esteemed speakers who made the day so memorable, as well as all who attended the event.



    • S.T Dupont – Prizes sponsor


    • Christopher Andrews – visual presentation


    • The Prize Judges


    • Pamela Petrie – Prize Administration


    • FMcM – PR


    • John Sandoe Booksellers


  • All the team at Senate House

Originally posted with the url:

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *