"Hwang Sok-yong has a knack of presenting us with stories that look like the simple jottings of an idle, curious man... yet each phrase almost is invested with the power of a parable." Mika Provata-Carlone
Author Archive
New directions of our past

New directions of our past

It used to be that as a year came to a close and a new one began, an unwritten law beyond remembrance or time also called for acts of similar closure and commencement on our part. A little before, or perhaps slightly after the virtual timekeeping of our humanity went through its annual rites of...
Kingly reads and mistletoes, yule logs, childish games and silent nights

Kingly reads and mistletoes, yule logs, childish games and silent nights

As the year 2018 draws to a dumbfounding or resounding close, the words to speak the tales of both tragedy and joy become perhaps the most precious of gifts. Especially for young – or not so young – ears and eyes searching for a meaningful narrative, a thread of sense through a life whose text...
The sins of our future

The sins of our future

Many years ago, a young boy from an affluent Egyptian family was travelling with his parents by train to their summer house somewhere deep down the valley of the River Nile. This was a journey he had made many times as he grew older. Each time, the curtains of their first-class carriage were pulled tightly...
The mountain king

The mountain king

In the popular imagination, German history, culture and even reality closes down in 1918 with the end of WWI, the end of the German Empire and its Central European logic, the end of all order based on the authority of hereditary power, received structures, hierarchies, even typography. A strange, fantastical interlude begins, officially called the...
Black is the badge of hell

Black is the badge of hell

“Black is the badge of hell / the hue of dungeons and the school of night,” laments Ferdinand, King of Navarre in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour Lost. Some versions of the text offer scowl, style or suit instead of school, and one is tempted to think that Stephen Greenblatt would have boldly and keenly pressed for...
The genius of too much and too little

The genius of too much and too little

“They call them sculptures because they’re made of marble or iron or wood, but they’re really yarns, brief stories from the past that got stuck in your throat, pills that wouldn’t quite go down; you blurt them, mumble them, ruminate over them. And then they show them in Paris.” Whether narratives of an inner life,...
Unlocking vanishing voices

Unlocking vanishing voices

Travelling through Burma (Myanmar) in the mid-1990s, Jan-Philipp Sendker, a young German journalist for Stern and other publications, is given as a parting gift a tattered old book, carefully restored by a local bookseller who has spent many days sticking small pieces of paper over its hole-ridden pages, and retracing by hand the obliterated printed...
A red sun setting over ruins

A red sun setting over ruins

Modern Greek literature is often viewed with relative suspicion when translated or transposed for the foreign reader beyond its borders; it is deemed perhaps too local and of limited or specialist interest, too parochial and unmodern, or as a weak, nerveless attempt at emulating Western fads and already expired fashions. Greekness is inevitably dominated by...
Great expectations untold

Great expectations untold

In 1949 an Australian man is travelling around Europe – a Europe that has only recently emerged from the cataclysmic shock of WWII, and still very much bears the marks of unhealed, perhaps unhealable searing wounds. This man, Denison Deasey, carries with him an aura of mystery and of multiform tragedy, of fate eluded and...
Wondering at the world

Wondering at the world

“We are confused about happiness. Almost everyone believes that they want to be happy, which usually means a lasting psychological state of contentment,” writes Edith Hall in Aristotle’s Way, pointing out however that most of our everyday expressions of happiness are ephemeral, if not outright trivial and insubstantial, unsustaining, and eventually even fundamentally disappointing. In...