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

The life-lie

In 1990 Tony Harrison shocked and riveted London audiences with his production of Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, which pits an ancient text, Sophocles’ satyric play Ichneutae, against the inevitably objectifying and alienating mechanism of historical analysis. With unflinchingly raw social realism, Harrison not only raised questions of high and low art, of the validity of the...
The unbearable burden of non-being

The unbearable burden of non-being

Lviv, also known as Lwów and to others as Lvov, as Antonia Lloyd-Jones reminds us in her translator’s note, or to some as Lemberg and even Leopolis, is a city with a rich enamel of history – it is almost majolica-like in its many facets, colours, hues and patterns, in the broken splinters of its...
An Amazon dreaming of Arcadia

An Amazon dreaming of Arcadia

Historical fiction or fiction inspired by real events often runs the risk of yielding to the temptation of aggrandising one’s subject, of over-valorising the kernel of truth for the sake of effect and novelty, of the triumph of a first discovery. Like Arrowby in Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea, the author, as much as...
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...