"When you think about something, when you remember something, it’s never linear, it’s kaleidoscopic. You remember someone and then another story comes." Négar Djavadi
Tara Isabella Burton: My sister's keeper

Tara Isabella Burton: My sister’s keeper

I have this friend on Facebook. Man, she just about glows in the dark. For the past five years, she’s been adding sparkle to my feed with posts about her opulent lifestyle. From the stream of articles she posts on her timeline (in Salon, National Geographic Traveler and Vox, to...
The masterful Margarita

The masterful Margarita

From the moment I began reading them, I loved everything about the two novellas and story collection that comprise Margarita García Robayo’s Fish Soup. I found the author’s voice incredibly compelling and felt an instant connection. I could relate to the detachment, the darkness juxtaposed with understated humour, the sense...
Tishani Doshi: Saying it out loud

Tishani Doshi: Saying it out loud

Tishani Doshi’s Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods is an unflinching, tender, witty and wise collection of poems about danger, memory, beauty, time and tide, and transient but treasured joy. I catch up with her at the start of a marathon book tour that takes her from London and...
Around the world in 80 trees

Around the world in 80 trees

Trees are one of humanity’s most constant and most varied companions. From India’s sacred banyan tree to the fragrant cedar of Lebanon, they offer us sanctuary and inspiration – as well as raw materials for everything from aspirin to maple syrup. In Around the World in 80 Trees, Jonathan Drori uses...
Other worlds

Other worlds

I love a good dystopia as much as the next reader. Throw me into a destroyed civilisation with a handful of plucky survivors struggling to stay alive, and I’m right in there with the can opener and home-made water filters. But sometimes I struggle to understand how that world came...
Teeth

Teeth

From vampires and tooth fairies to barber-surgeons and professional dentists, Wellcome Collection’s summer exhibition traces the evolution of our relationship with our teeth and what they say about us. Featuring over 150 objects from cartoons and caricatures to protective amulets, toothpaste advertisements and a range of chairs, drills and training...
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Glimmers of destiny

Glimmers of destiny

In Mircea Eliade’s Gaudeamus, yet another precocious, pernicious, prescient adolescent, full of a sense of predestination and the promise of literary greatness, marches out into the world to audaciously forge life’s meaning in the smithy of his soul. In a narrative where Goethe’s Teutonic Young Werther and Wilhelm Meister meet a more Central European Stephen...
On translation

On translation

For some, translation is the poor cousin of literature, fool’s gold or last resort, a necessary evil if not an outright travesty. For others, it is the royal road to cross-cultural understanding and literary enrichment. Translation skirts the boundaries between art and craft, originality and replication, altruism and commerce, even between genius and hack work....
Outback to the future

Outback to the future

I didn’t always want to be a writer. When I was at school it just wasn’t the kind of thing I thought you could ‘become’, or, even if it was, how you would ever go about doing so. This was pre-internet, a dark and mysterious time when the sum of all knowledge was the ragged...
Wrong side of the tree line

Wrong side of the tree line

Central Queensland, Australia, 1885. They stalked the ruined scrubland, searching for something to kill. Two boys, not quite men, tiny in a landscape withered by drought and drenched in unbroken sun. Vast plains pocked with spinifex and clumps of buckbush, grass brittle as old bone, red soil fine as gunpowder underfoot. There’d not been rain...
Stitching up our mouths

Stitching up our mouths

The first copies of the paperback edition of The Book of Untruths have arrived and again I am awake for hours in the night. This has happened before. A sleeplessness which is kicked off by the unintended consequences of writing a life. Needing soothed I message the poet Joanne Limburg, who has given much thought...
The starving father-man

The starving father-man

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which sits so large and many-stepped on Fifth Avenue in New York, there is a section on the first floor referred to as the sculpture garden, and I must have walked past this particular sculpture1 many times with my husband, and with the children as they got older, me...
Moisture

Moisture

“In girls, just like in other fauna, moisture attracts all sorts of nasties.” Olga Luz was pacing from one end of the classroom to the other, her gaze fixed on an invisible point somewhere above our heads. She walked in a straight line, always the same path. As if she was afraid of getting lost,...
Marcia Daley-Ward aka 'mum'

Marcia Daley-Ward aka ‘mum’

had a slim waist (in the very beginning), soft hair a gorgeous smile (pearly arcs, those teeth. Shining church doors). Marcia had smiling eyes loose hips could dance as well as anyone on television lived with her grandparents in Kingston, Jamaica, and she was oh so kind, had some art about her. When told to...
Piercing prisms and Persian perspectives

Piercing prisms and Persian perspectives

“The truth of memory is strange, isn’t it? Our memories select, eliminate, exaggerate, minimize, glorify, denigrate. They create their own versions of events and serve up their own reality. Disparate but cohesive. Imperfect yet sincere.” Thus begins a compulsive, fiercely resisted, yet inevitable journey into memory in this in many ways extraordinary novel – the...
Girls are coming out of the woods

Girls are coming out of the woods

Girls are coming out of the woods, wrapped in cloaks and hoods, carrying iron bars and candles and a multitude of scars, collected on acres of premature grass and city buses, in temples and bars. Girls are coming out of the woods with panties tied around their lips, making such a noise, it’s impossible to...