"Good writing, for me, usually comes from groping around in the dark." J. Robert Lennon
Hari Kunzru: Between the grooves

Hari Kunzru: Between the grooves

It’s Hari Kunzru’s first press trip to London for a few years, this time to discuss his fifth novel, White Tears. It’s that rare beast: a novel of ideas that is also a transfixing thriller. The morning after he arrives from New York, we meet in a room just off...
Samanta Schweblin: Passion and terror

Samanta Schweblin: Passion and terror

Samanta Schweblin is an acclaimed Argentinian short-story writer whose compact debut novel Fever Dream is shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. A disorientating and utterly gripping psychological thriller and an unsettling exploration of family ties, panic and dread, it is told in spare dialogue between a woman called...
Reality check

Reality check

She registered his shadow, a passing cloud bringing inclement weather. “Clare?” She was not even sure she heard her name, but she watched his mouth form the shape. The stereo was turned up loud, his voice lost in drums and double bass. He ducked his face to hers, kissed her...
The house by the woods

The house by the woods

It is a few minutes past one in the morning when the front door slams shut. Anyone remaining in the house – but there is no one – would be able to hear, through the closed door, the footsteps of three people hurrying across the porch and down the stairs....
Howling whispers

Howling whispers

Aeschylus wrote the Oresteia at the age of 67, after a life that had included divine inspiration (he was advised by Dionysus in a dream that writing plays, rather than cultivating vineyards, might perhaps be his true calling), overwhelming and continuous political change in his native Athens, valour in battle...
Through a mirror darkly

Through a mirror darkly

Well before Shakespeare made the feeling into one of the most celebrated tenets of art as well as life, the Greeks had already been there and done that. The principle of “all the world’s a stage” was for them the clearest, most perfect prism through which to analyse the full,...
Jon McGregor: The long and short of it

Jon McGregor: The long and short of it

Although it begins with the disappearance of a young girl while holidaying with her family in a Peak District village, Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 deliberately fails to resolve whatever accident or crime may have occurred, and instead explores how such an event lives on in the collective memory of a...
Russian Revolution: Hope, tragedy, myths

Russian Revolution: Hope, tragedy, myths

Marking the 100th anniversary of the world-changing events of 1917, Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths, shines new light on the experiences of ordinary Russians living through extraordinary times, as well as the life and times of key figures from Lenin to the Romanovs. It tells the story of the Revolution...
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A song for the king

A song for the king

It was exactly as he’d always envisioned palaces to be. Supported by columns, paintings and statues in every room, animal skins draped over sofas, gold doorknockers, a ceiling too high to touch. And more than that, it was people. So many people, striding down corridors. This way and that, attending to affairs or looking to...
Sun on grey water

Sun on grey water

There is no time or place in human history without a crisis (not even the Garden of Eden of Adam and Eve). Whether in the form of socio-political or cultural earthquakes of greater or lesser magnitude, or as underlying tensions, festering wounds or unquietened, maddening murmurs, crises are at the heart of the very act...
Innocents uncovered

Innocents uncovered

With its portico designed by Brunelleschi, its decorative tiles from the workshop of Della Robbia, its nine well-proportioned arches, each topped with an elegant tabernacle window, the Ospedale degli Innocenti is one of Florence’s most-scrutinised, most-photographed buildings, often claimed by tour-guides to be the earliest example of Renaissance architecture in the world. But it is...
Juliet West: Back to black

Juliet West: Back to black

Juliet West’s second novel The Faithful is a love story set during Britain’s brief dalliance with fascism in the 1930s, and a tale of two mothers set on distinct paths. I chat to her about the book’s key issues and themes, and how she approached researching and recreating the era. CF: I love the title...
Premontions

Premontions

When I was young, a remarkable woman lived in the village where I grew up. Her name was Frida Andersson. Frida lived alone in a cottage by herself but she had a daughter and a grandchild in the city. Sometimes in summer they would come to visit, but as Frida grew more and more peculiar,...
Filthy treasures at Flower Island

Filthy treasures at Flower Island

Bugeye heard indistinct chatter around him in his sleep, but decided to stay curled up and ignore it. “Wake up, honey,” his mother said, pulling the blanket off him. “It’s time to go to work.” She shook Bugeye, who managed to sit up but still had his eyes closed, and then stood him up by...
Bitter chocolate and the laughter of tears

Bitter chocolate and the laughter of tears

If chocolate-coated ‘Teffi’ bonbons tasted nearly as good as Nadezdha Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya’s own prolifically produced literary confections, they must have tasted perfectly delicious: light on the palate and yet a rich mouthful; intriguingly exotic textures and aftertastes enveloping an unadulterated kernel of pure truth. ‘Teffi’ perfume would have been equally alluring, causing men to melt...
Watching the river flow

Watching the river flow

The creative process is a funny thing, but when I’m in the middle of it I don’t do much laughing. As an idea gestates in my mind, hour upon hour of writing time can flit by with my skull hitting the desk more frequently than my fingertips hit the keyboard. Trying out a new genre...
Forever girl

Forever girl

6:54 at night, Tuesday, September 7th The plastic electronic baby won’t stop crying. My Forever Parents said it’s supposed to be like a real baby but it isn’t. I can’t make it happy. Even when I rock it. Even when I change its diaper and give it a bottle. When I say ush, ush, ush...
Morrissey built my bookshelf

Morrissey built my bookshelf

I didn’t read a lot as a child and, to a certain extent, I still don’t. Time being the most valuable commodity there is, ideas for my own writing – and the things that inspire me creatively – usually come from other sources; from visual media and, above all, from music. I’m someone who gets...