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This report is taken from PN Review 236, Volume 43 Number 6, July - August 2017.

To Read Hell’s Oulipo Vahni Capildeo
– Are you afraid now? Do you have any regrets? Are you thinking about leaving?
– I have emotional ties to dozens of friends whom I cannot tell how much I love them…


WHEN STEVEN FOWLER INVITED ME to another instantiation of the Enemies project, which pairs poets to collaborate on themed, rapid-fire performances, I said yes out of several kinds of shame; not least of having said no to several previous invitations from this combative visionary and indefatigable traveller. Sometimes my refusal had been simply because for an ordinary mortal like me, on many nights London was too far. Sometimes I refused because, though less indefatigably, I myself was travelling.

To travel at all in a brown and female body feels increasingly strange and tiring. It is an act of privilege to cross borders by choice. It is also an act of protest. There was that other invitation to which I said yes: when, in late spring 2017, the British Council, PEN World Voices and Index on Censorship asked me to take part in their events in New York and in Washington, DC.

Since the travel ban which affects the inhabitants of certain largely brown-skinned majority countries has been variously enforced at US airports, a moral ban also has been in force. In England and, to a lesser extent, Ireland, acquaintances who had not tried travelling to the US expressed their disgust that I would. As good people we should avoid doing what other good or neutral people had been prevented from ...

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