"The West doesn’t understand radicalism. It’s anger, isolation, alienation, pain – that’s what drives young people to take up arms against the world. Not religion." Fatima Bhutto
Confessions

Confessions

David Means is the author of the highly acclaimed story collections A Quick Kiss of Redemption (1991), Assorted Fire Events (2000) The Secret Goldfish (2004) and Spot (2010) as well as the Man Booker-nominated novel Hystopia (2016). His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zeotrope and Best American...
Fatima Bhutto: Lost hearts and souls

Fatima Bhutto: Lost hearts and souls

Fatima Bhutto’s second novel The Runaways is a provocative, astute and ever-timely exploration of what makes three young people in Pakistan and England reject the society that raised them and sign up to the war against the West. Anita, growing up in a sprawling Karachi slum, aims to better herself...
Ece Temelkuran: Disrupt the disrupters

Ece Temelkuran: Disrupt the disrupters

 Desperate, confused, bored and exhausted. These are all words that most of us could relate to when we think of modern-day politics. Have we lost the plot? According to Ece Temelkuran, a prominent critical political commentator, we most certainly have but we are not alone. In her ominously titled...
Sheena Kamal: The rage that simmers

Sheena Kamal: The rage that simmers

It All Falls Down is the second in what will hopefully turn out to be a long-running series of crime novels by Canadian author Sheena Kamal. Once again focused on an enigmatic female protagonist named Nora Watts, it is a worthy follow up to Kamal’s critically acclaimed debut Eyes Like...
Visions and monsters

Visions and monsters

The Monstrous Child, which has just completed a very successful run at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre, is one of the first and most audacious examples of a new genre: highly evocative classical opera especially written for teenage audiences. Adapted from the YA novel of the same name by...
Leïla Slimani: We are all monsters

Leïla Slimani: We are all monsters

 Leïla Slimani has been in huge demand on the global literary circuit since winning the Prix Goncourt in 2016 with her second novel Chanson douce, which was published in English last year as Lullaby (and in the US as The Perfect Nanny), translated by Sam Taylor. A worldwide bestseller,...
Mothers, daughters and make-believe

Mothers, daughters and make-believe

Whistle in the Dark, Emma Healey’s highly acclaimed follow-up to 2014’s Costa First Novel Award-winning Elizabeth is Missing, is now out in paperback. She fills us in on her daily routines and favourite reading, and explains why she is hesitant about meeting her literary heroes, preferring to confer with their...
The supper

The supper

I bite the cookie I’d slowly brought to my mouth; it breaks, like bones being crushed. I grind it and picture the lattice pattern on its surface coming apart, reminding me of the game my grandfather taught me and invited me to play on many afternoons. Cookie, lattice, crushed bones....
The crossing

The crossing

The girls on the top deck brush the hair from their faces. The hazy blue mountain ranges, rising on both sides of the Strait. The places you will never go, the life there. Ilham’s eyes wander over the mountains of the Rif, the country they are leaving behind. Why did...
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Life on the edge

Life on the edge

Rodrigo Fuentes’ Trout, Belly Up is an extraordinary collection of tales that weave together to create a dark picture of contemporary rural Guatemala. The stories coalesce around Don Henrik, a kind but unlucky landowner of Scandinavian descent, whose abortive agricultural projects include trout, cardamom and melon farming. We hear from family members and employees how his attempts...
The cow who wanted to be a dog

The cow who wanted to be a dog

It was the sugarcane harvest and the fields were burning. You could see flames all the way from here to the mountains. Ash floated around all day, sticking to your skin, your moustache, your eyelashes. We were all black with it. On the fifth day it rained. It doesn’t rain in December, but that year...
A paean to the death of Central Europe

A paean to the death of Central Europe

Józef Wittlin, like Homer’s Odysseus whom he so much admired, was a man of many minds, human experiences, geographical and national homes. Born in Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he would come to be hailed as one of the most important voices of a new-born independent Poland. A Jew by birth, a Christian...
A fetching destination

A fetching destination

It’s not every day I find myself eyeing up pornographic imagery with a Chinese man and a veiled-up African Muslim woman. The three of us were gathered around a counter and inspecting some aphrodisiac pills, the packaging of which displayed a photo of a man (with what I pray was a prosthetic penis) in session...
All in the mind

All in the mind

At the risk of sounding like valedictorian delivering a graduation speech, a ‘psychological thriller’ is defined on Wikipedia as a thriller “which emphasizes the unstable or delusional psychological states of its characters.” As definitions go, that’s good enough for me. In general, I just know a psychological thriller when I read one. Most whodunits, at...
First date

First date

I met Finn outside the BFI. It was my idea to go there; if he turned out to be incredibly unattractive or boring, at least I’d have seen one more Derek Jarman film, which would give me something to talk to my dad about. I stood at the entrance, eavesdropping on a conversation between two...
Fantasies

Fantasies

Her costume would be stunning, covered in sequins and feathers. She’d chosen the most spectacular one on the samba school website, not worrying about cost. Headdress, heels, rhinestones, feathers, and glitter galore – all eyes would be on her as she showed off the steps she’d learned at the dance studio in preparation for the...
Lúcia Bettencourt: The inconstant gardener

Lúcia Bettencourt: The inconstant gardener

Lúcia Bettencourt and I first met in New Haven in the late 1980s and became fast friends. Our shared adventures and collaborations have taken us to far-flung places, from New York and Rio to Bloomington and Cuiabá. Over the years, we’ve kept up conversations about a host of topics; we most often come back to...
Butterflies

Butterflies

“You’ll see, my girl is wearing such a pretty dress today,” Calderón says to Gorriti. “It looks so nice on her with those brown eyes she has – its color, you know. And those little feet…” They’re standing with the other parents, waiting anxiously for their children to be let out. Calderón is talking; Gorriti...
You didn't understand...

You didn’t understand…

In May 2016, Gresham College in London hosted a symposium on the subject of ‘Cultural Heritage and War’. Chaired by Professor Tim Connell, it featured Sir Derek Plumbly, speaking on British and American policy and the temporal lapses between historical awareness and political action, Dr Elisabeth Kendall, discussing ‘poetry as war’, ‘poems as swords’, and...