"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
Author Archive
The malediction of Minerva

The malediction of Minerva

The story of the passionate last affair in Lord Byron’s life, a culminating point for many of his erratic, errant motion through truth and illusion, has always held a particular fascination for scholars; it has caused vocal perplexity to his admirers and deep-felt sighs of ‘if only’ to the many women (and men) who loved...
Message in two suitcases

Message in two suitcases

There is an old Urdu/Hindi word that would suit well this explosively funny, irresistible, and profoundly tragic human comedy: lifafa/lifaafaa, a term that can mean a bag, an envelope, a wrapper or a cover, anything frail, or an outward show. Mama Tandoori is all of these and indeed much more, a surging personal narrative and...
The Leica way

The Leica way

In his previous book, Norwegian Wood (MacLehose Press, 2015), Lars Mytting composed an elegy to trees – not only as an elemental form of life, as symbols, and as the other, vital half of the animate cosmos, but also in their immutable relation to man. Norwegian Wood is about the transcendental materiality of timber, logs,...
A biblical paradise

A biblical paradise

An impish dog playing tricks on his mistress brings about a meeting that will change the life of a monarch. Or so goes the story in Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, where a corgi-chasing Elizabeth II runs into a travelling library. The rest is a journey into a world of enchantment, discipline, determination, revelation. What...
Elegy in E minor

Elegy in E minor

Of a summer in Spain, where she is vacationing as a university student, M.A. will mostly recall “the portraits of Franco; you thought that was just his first name and you were surprised everyone was on such familiar terms with a head of state.” It is this subtle blend of French phlegm, disingenuously simulated naiveté...
Alpine dreams

Alpine dreams

The German language is a wondrous thing. Among its many mischiefs and perplexities, the word for ‘nightmare’ must be a recurring source of dismayed jollity: an Alptraum is not a dream on an idyllic Alpine peak, tarn or flowery green meadow gone awry, but a night-time experience never to be forgotten – if survived. It...
A dream of good fortune

A dream of good fortune

“When he’d heard the name ‘Flower Island’, he thought they were going to some paradise overlooking the ocean” – with not much more than these words, a thirteen-year old and his mother must choose between a life of increasing impoverishment and a promised alternative of redeeming ‘enoughness’. The choice seems obvious, and in Familiar Things...
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...
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...
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 during the Persian wars, fighting...