"Good King Wenceslas wasn’t a king, and he wasn’t called Wenceslas. But he was good, so our mythologizing lyricist scores one out of three for historical accuracy." – Andrew Gant, Wenceslas squared
Wonder Woman for President!

Wonder Woman for President!

By the beginning of 1972, when the editors of Ms. were planning the magazine’s first regular issue, the women’s movement seemed on the verge of lasting, breathtaking success. In January, Shirley Chisholm announced that she was running for president, seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination. In March, the Equal Rights Amendment,...
Wenceslas squared

Wenceslas squared

English Christmas carols are a hotchpotch, like the English themselves. Perhaps that’s why they are so popular. They have the power to summon up a special kind of midwinter mood, like the aroma of mince pies and mulled wine and the twinkle of lights on a tree. It’s a kind...
Boualem Sansal: Resistance writer

Boualem Sansal: Resistance writer

Boualem Sansal began writing his first novel, Le serment des barbares, in his late 40s while still working as a civil servant. When the book was published in 1999, containing criticism of the political situation in Algeria, he was asked to go on leave. In 2003, after further criticism of...
The eternal rocks

The eternal rocks

Sally Green is the author of Half Bad, about one boy’s struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches, published by Penguin last March and now sold in 50 languages. As her new Half Bad e-story is unveiled, she gives us the lowdown on her working space and practices....
Better than love

Better than love

“‘For too many years,’” Max recited, “‘women have been excluded from the full pleasure available to them in their bodies.’” He was reading from a printed sheet of paper. A press release. “‘I believe, as do many medical professionals, that a large proportion of chronic mental and physical ailments beset...
Other people's stories

Other people’s stories

Reading other people’s stories for discussion in a workshop, you will need to decide whether or not the piece succeeds as literary fiction, which elements of the present version do and do not work well, and what revisions might result in a more successful story. Then you will need to...
Believable lies

Believable lies

Boris Fishman’s engaging debut novel A Replacement Life offers a critical and affectionate portrait of the Russian-American immigrant community that clusters around South Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. Slava Gelman is a lowly hack on a New Yorker-style magazine whose grandfather suggests an outrageous writing assignment: to forge a Holocaust restitution claim....
A bookshop like no other

A bookshop like no other

Ah, Paris. The city of love and food and books. Abundant with literary cafés and penniless poets. Home of Le Procope, the city’s oldest restaurant still trading, founded in 1686, where Voltaire is supposed to have drunk forty cups of coffee a day. Also home to Bar Hemingway, at the...
The wraith

The wraith

Carl Blunt was fully aware when he married her that Lurene was an unhappy woman, and he’d had no illusions about the possibility of her ever changing. She had told him as much when they met: “I’m not happy,” she’d said, on their second date, a dinner followed by a...
Pretending to wait for someone

Pretending to wait for someone

Wanting to be Tinkerbell and take you in my arms— pearly pink flat shoes After seeing you off this morning, I glance at my toothpaste tube— the dent in it is new Sharing in the sun with you summer’s first tomato, skin firm yet delicate He loved another first— and...
Gifted

Gifted

When the nurses handed me my son, I couldn’t believe how perfect he was. Ben was so robust, nearly fifty inches tall, including horns and tail. Even the doula was impressed. “My God,” she said. “My holy God in heaven.” Alan and I knew instantly that our child was exceptional....
A resounding peace

A resounding peace

Irene and I reached a point where we overdosed on silence, although not long before it had seemed normal to us to be surrounded by sound. Not a single thought about the importance of sound or of its absence had ever crossed our minds. Our research into silence had its...
Captain Coconut

Captain Coconut

Captain Coconut is a one-of-a-kind Indian detective, ready to solve any mystery, large or small. In his debut adventure The Case of the Missing Bananas – the first in a planned series – we follow the Captain as he moves from his office to the scene of crime, his powerful...
Latest entries
Tomás González: Undercurrents

Tomás González: Undercurrents

Thirty years ago, Tomás González’ brother Juan and his wife Marie-Elena, bored by the wealthy, partying, intellectual circles of Bogotá, escaped to Colombia’s Caribbean coast and sunk their money into a run-down farm overlooking a deserted beach surrounded by jungle. Their dream of escaping the rat race ended in calamity as spiralling debts, divisive frictions,...
Fiction 2014–2015

Fiction 2014–2015

It’s that time of year again, so here’s my list of the best reads from the past twelve months, and some recommendations for a few titles to look out for in the new year. Starting with novels, and a title I would pick as my favourite of the year if pushed – Akhil Sharma’s Family...
New beginnings

New beginnings

The luggage was transported on the roof of the bus. Two leather suitcases containing their clothes, a trunk containing his books, and her sewing machine. Their belongings were surrounded by bunches of plantains, sacks of rice, blocks of unrefined sugar cane wrapped in dried banana leaves, and other suitcases. Elena and J. were heading for...
Seeds of change

Seeds of change

Wednesday 10 December 2014. Tonight is the night I leave Beirut with a suitcase full of my first children’s book, The Giant Watermelon, a bilingual Arabic-English story set in a refugee camp in Lebanon. It’s almost 4 am, I am sat at the airport and have just given a couple of copies to some curious...
Children's books for all ages

Children’s books for all ages

Here’s a selection of children’s favourites to be cherished across the generations, a compendium of winged words and enchanted images by endlessly inventive authors and illustrators. Mostly published (or reissued) over the past year, new characters rub shoulders with old and voices combine in captivating harmony, jostling for space on bookshelves, coffee or breakfast tables...
Head on the block

Head on the block

There’s a cartoon I saw once which shows a writer stepping into a ‘Manuscript Doctor’s Office’. The writer is suffering from a bad case of blockage. The doctor says, “Can I take a look at a sample of your prose, please?” The writer blanches: “I can’t just produce like that, here, with you staring at...
J. Robert Lennon: Short, weird stuff

J. Robert Lennon: Short, weird stuff

We talk to the author of Familiar about his new story collection See You in Paradise, the story ‘The Wraith’ (published here), music, adaptations, and other creative engagements. MR: ‘The Wraith’ touches on a lack of political engagement, our complex and disturbing inner lives, the disabling terror of depression, a refusal to accept the anodyne, the...
Perseus and the Gorgons

Perseus and the Gorgons

Perseus’ meeting with Hermes had bolstered up his spirits, and he came to the mountain where the three Graeae lived feeling confident. The air was scalding hot and a cloud of dust rose at each step he took. The closer he approached, the more the landscape turned grey. The rays of the sun did not...
The untelling

The untelling

The early morning light filters through the empty bottles which clutter our caravan’s kitchen table. The light stains my nightdress with blotches of blue, green and red, and I lean over the back of a chair, waiting, breathing. The chair is a cast-off from Gil’s mother, and I see that on the vinyl seat there...
Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage

Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage

Just a matter of weeks after the long-anticipated discovery of Sir John Franklin’s lost ship HMS Erebus, the British Library looks back on 400 years of fascination with the fabled Northwest Passage. From Charles II’s lavish personal atlas to 19th-century woodcut illustrations and wooden maps crafted by Inuit communities, Lines in the Ice features material from Europe, Canada and...