Letters on Democracy

Forum on European Culture

Programme editor
How can the future of Europe be imagined? What are threats to European democracy, and what should we pay attention to? We asked five writers to envision the future of Europe. Whilst looking at the past writers from all over Europe predict the present in a letter on democracy. The first letter will be drafted by writer Arnon Grunberg and writers Oksana Zabuzhko, Lana Bastašić, Kamel Daoud and Drago Jancar will react with theirs. During the programme, Grunberg leads the conversation about the Europe that lies ahead of us and the role of the writer in it.
About the speakers

Oksana Zabuzhko is a Ukrainian writer, essayist and poet. She studied philosophy and worked at Kiev University. In the 1990s Zabuzhko left for the United States, where she taught, among others, at Harvard University. In her work, Zabuzhko explores themes such as (national) identity, gender and sexuality, in relation to the role of Ukraine in the modern world.

She is considered one of the most important contemporary Ukrainian writers, and her work has been translated into many languages. Her best-known works are the novel Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex (1996), in which she explores the challenges and struggles of gender equality in a post-Soviet society, and the essay Feminism and Eastern Europe (1996). Zabuzhko received several awards, including the Antonovych Prize, the Angelus Central European Literature Prize and the International Vilenica Prize.

Lana Bastašić is a Bosnian writer who wrote several collections of short stories, poetry and literary works. Bastašić has gained international prominence with her first novel, Cath the Rabbit. The book is based on her own experiences as a young female in post-war Sarajevo, and describes the exploration of her own identity in this complex society. Her work has been translated into several languages, and she won the European Prize for Literature 2020. Bastašić is considered one of the most promising and relevant voices of modern Bosnian literature.

Kamel Daoud is a French-Algerian writer and journalist, living in Oran. His book The Mersault Investigation (Mersault, contre-enquête, 2015) – an answer to the famous novel by Camus, L’Entranger, was his renowned debut. In 2021, he published Zabor, or The Psalms. For the last 30 years, he has been working for Le Quotidien d’Oran, a big French-language newspaper in Algeria.

Drago Jančar, born in Maribor in 1948, is a novelist, short story writer, essayist and playwright. His works have been translated into many European languages, and his plays have enjoyed a number of foreign productions. In 1974 he was taken into custody over alleged propaganda, and he was active in the democratization of his native country as President of the Slovenian PEN Centre between 1987 and 1991. In 1993 he received the highest Slovenian literary award for his lifetime achievement, and in 1994 he won the European Short Story Award. He lives in Ljubljana.


Arnon Grunberg
Arnon GrunbergDutch writer
Oksana ZabuzhkoUkranian writer
Lana BastašićBosnian writer | Photo: Radmila Vankoska
Kamel DaoudFrench-Algerian writer | Photo: Joel Saget
Drago Jančar Slovenian writer | Photo: Joze-Suhadolnik