A Sense Of Ourselves

Four writers and immigrants to Britain give the outsider's perspective on modern Britishness.



Jamaican poet James Berry came to Britain 60 years ago as part of the Windrush generation.

He talks about the process of rethinking the idea of Britishness he had absorbed as a child of Empire and his subsequent efforts to bring Caribbean culture to bear on Britishness through literature.

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Nadeem Aslam came to Britain from Pakistan at the age of 14.

His last novel Maps for Lost Lovers deals with the emotional life of an immigrant family living in a working-class Pakistani community in the north of England.

Nadeem explores the emotional ambiguity underpinning his own relationship to Britain.

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Eva Hoffman is a Polish Jew who came to Britain in 1992, having spent most of her adult life in the United States.

What she found confounded her prejudices of a stodgy, emotionally closed and uncommunicative culture.

But she also found a society in a state of rapid flux, a culture which seemed unsure of the balance to strike between absorbing outside influence and maintaining traditional values.

Eva reflects on how we should handle this crisis of confidence.

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Kapka Kassabova is a young poet and novelist who briefly flirted with Britain in the early 1990s when her father brought the family over from Bulgaria.

Thirteen years later, she returned to Britain from New Zealand and has made her home in Edinburgh.

She contrasts her impressions formed as a teenager landing in a country where for her peers Bulgaria meant a character from the Wombles with those she has formed as a mature adult.