"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
Author Archive
Flowers in a jam jar

Flowers in a jam jar

In April 1961 Ernest Hemingway would distil, in almost oracular terms, the nature of the writing act as a way of capturing the world, as a way of relating to life, but also as a way of confronting the inexorable absence at the heart of much of existence: “In writing, there are many secrets. Nothing...
An absence full of presence

An absence full of presence

What You Did Not Tell: A Russian Past and the Journey Home by Mark Mazower is an eloquently written rhapsody on the art of remembering. It is rhapsodic both in the primary sense of the word, in that it is a chronicle exuding a certain air of poetry and exalted, almost epic feeling, and in...
The truth of the lie

The truth of the lie

“The duty of art (or of thought) consists in showing us the complexity of existence in order to make us more complex, in examining the mechanics of evil, so that we may avoid it, and even the mechanics of good, perhaps so we may understand them”. This is Javier Cercas’ declaration of intent at the...
Stilted life

Stilted life

Our times belong, in many ways, in an eerie brotherhood with moments in human history from almost half a millennium earlier: in our audacity, curiosity, enterprise, demographic explosion and multi-ethnic convergence, in the vibrancy (dark or light) of our questioning of what it means to be human, to belong to society, to progress and to...
Under the sign of eternity

Under the sign of eternity

Until not so long ago, a hand-made quilt of one’s own was one of the most prized possessions a young woman could have: part of her trousseau, a link with her past, a vision of her future. It offered a reflection of who she was, culturally and ancestrally, of who she wished to be, creatively...
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...