June 12, 2019

International writers feeling the burn of Brexit in prep for Edinburgh Book Festival


There is nothing more of a pain in the butt than for a cultural ambassador from one country to be denied entry into another. But it happens often, with greatening frequency, to writers.

Accuse me of hyperbole if you will, but according to Mark Chandler, reporting for the publishing news site The Bookseller, “problems obtaining visas to enter the UK could put off authors from attending the Edinburgh International Book Festival.” Festival director Nick Barley told Chandler there had been “‘considerable reputational damage’ from the issues,” which were reported the previous year as well, and with some performers “having to provide three years’ worth of bank statements or biometric data to appear in 2018.”

By that metric, buying an apartment in New York seems like an easier background check. And these aren’t sniffable names we’re talking about either. Colson Whitehead, Arundhati Roy, and Salman Rushdie are among the many participants from a whopping 65 countries.

But as Chandler notes, some writers at last year’s festival claimed that “they were treated with ‘disrespect’ on arriving at airports in London or Edinburgh.”


Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.