“There is no centre anymore. We live in a multipolar world, and culture reflects that." Fatima Bhutto
Burhan Sönmez: Variations on a life

Burhan Sönmez: Variations on a life

“They call me Boratin, and they show me my ID card so I’ll believe it. They think my parents’ names on the ID card, my date and place of birth are all I need to know who I am. But I don’t want to know who I am, I want...
Fatima Bhutto: Culture shifts

Fatima Bhutto: Culture shifts

In New Kings of the World, with customary wit and insight, Fatima Bhutto investigates how Bollywood, Turkish soap operas and K-pop are leading an emerging cultural movement that represents the biggest challenge to America’s monopoly on soft power since the end of the Second World War. The film below touches...
Wendy Erskine: Beyond normal

Wendy Erskine: Beyond normal

Wendy Erskine’s debut story collection Sweet Home, published last year by The Stinging Fly Press in Ireland and since picked up by Picador, combines intelligent lucidity, humour, fear, compassion and above all, what is it to be human. The stories are complicated yet simple; hilarious yet chilling; they deal with...
Etgar Keret: Something weird

Etgar Keret: Something weird

Fly Already, Etgar Keret’s first story collection for seven years, hits a familiarly outlandish and infectious groove. The title story relates a potential suicide jump as witnessed by a young boy whose innocent, excited observations to his father are set against a backdrop of grief, guilt, recovery and misunderstanding. It...
At sea

At sea

They knew they were lost because they had been travelling for several hours but still had not arrived. When the sun’s disc broke above the sea, they saw nothing to raise their hopes, no sign of an island in any direction. At midday, still with no land in sight, someone...
America, are you listening?

America, are you listening?

Heaven, My Home is Attica Locke’s follow-up to her award-winning novel Bluebird, Bluebird. I’m pleased to report that the second instalment in the Highway 59 series is just as compelling as the first. Texas Ranger Darren Mathews is a fascinating character who is constantly having to balance his often conflicting...
Write what you want to forget

Write what you want to forget

What do you do with the things that cannot be expressed? Where do you put the things you cannot say? What do you do when words don’t work? In the opening pages of The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson cites Wittgenstein: “the inexpressible is contained – inexpressibly – in the expressed.” This...
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Anne Cathrine Bomann: How to relate

Anne Cathrine Bomann: How to relate

Danish psychologist, poet – and former national table-tennis champion Anne Cathrine Bomann’s debut novel Agatha is a tender portrait of an ageing, jaded doctor whose life is nudged towards greater fulfilment through the arrival at his clinic of a younger female patient, who forces him to look up from his distracted doodling and re-engage with...
After all that we were, what shall we be?

After all that we were, what shall we be?

The war that would slash modern history, our contemporary awareness of humanity, into before and after, leaving a gaping void between the two states, seems not to have happened at all in the opening pages of Annette Hess’ ambitious and complex debut novel The German House. It is 1963, the year of Hitchcock’s The Birds,...
Keep calm and carry on giving

Keep calm and carry on giving

Christmas books for the young, the very, very young and that lost generation, the ever youthful old   We live in dark and desperate times, we often remind ourselves. And we seem determined, wherever our minds, souls, or ideas may lie, to do our mightiest in order to cast off the hex that has been...
My one and only

My one and only

His parents leave on a five-day trip to Dubrovnik, his father’s home town, hurray, I mentally dance with joy, an empty apartment just for the two of us, to play at being married. I’ll have to sleep at home, though, because that’s only right, an unmarried girl can’t sleep at her boyfriend’s even though she’s...
In body and soul

In body and soul

Jane Rogers’ latest novel Body Tourists imagines a secretive, privately funded clinic in a near-future London that is experimenting with the digital transfer of the minds and personalities of the dead into young, supple bodies. The poor and healthy are recruited from the grim estates of northern Britain, compensated with hard cash for their brains...
Not quite the way to the stars

Not quite the way to the stars

“O, it is excellent / To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous / To use it like a giant.” Shakespeare certainly knew his Romans; even though the lines that capture so brilliantly – and devastatingly – the allure of power and its raw brutality come from Measure for Measure, they could well have...
In Fleabag's head

In Fleabag’s head

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag gave us the best TV comedy entrance in living memory and much more besides, and the great news is there’s now a brand new way to binge on the entire show as Fleabag: The Scriptures collects the full shooting scripts from series 1 and 2, together with new insights and comments from...
From heaven to earth

From heaven to earth

One of the most striking characteristics of Socrates, as we know him from Plato, Plutarch, Xenophon, Cicero or Diogenes Laertius, and the numerous, yet exasperatingly fragmentary sources that survive, was his talent for convincing his interlocutors of his utter ignorance of any subject – his signature style was to present himself to the unwary as...
Disciplines of disobedience

Disciplines of disobedience

‘Let’s do this copper bastard over.’ These are the words my father was accused of saying before his arrest on the anti-Vietnam War protest of 30 March 1968 as it progressed towards Grosvenor Square, then site of the American Embassy. The officer who testified to overhearing him say these words in one of the many...
The short cut

The short cut

I look so much like her, it upsets them. They think they’re seeing her, seeing her returned, seeing her returning. They take me for a revenant. I’ve never returned, though; I haven’t seen my family since then. Since I can’t remember when. Actually I do know, since the death of our grandmother. They talk to...