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On 5th November, a group of BA and MA English students met the author Julia Phillips, to discuss her debut novel Disappearing Earth (2019), which was shortlisted for the USA’s National Book Award. Exploring a network of intersecting women’s and girls’ lives in the wake of an abduction in the far-Eastern Russian province of Kamchatka, Disappearing Earth has been described as ‘as much a portrait of humanity as of a small Kamchatka community’.

The event was organised in collaboration with the Crossing Border Festival in The Hague, which this year ran a virtual programme of literature and arts talks and performances. The students, led by English Literature staff members Dr Kristine Johanson and Dr Ben Moore, put their questions to Julia in an hour-long discussion that amongst other topics covered the racial and geographical tensions of the novel’s setting, its innovative structure, which combines the framework of a thriller with the content of a short story collection, and its explorations of women’s friendships and forms of sexuality.

In 2019, Drs Johanson and Moore organized the first collaboration with Crossing Border when they accompanied a group of students to the Festival for a personal Q&A with the Booker Prize-winning author Howard Jacobson.  The English Department looks forward to developing this partnership with Crossing Border in the future by providing more opportunities for our students to meet contemporary creative writers.