"I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That’s what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.” Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall
Author Archive
The hydra of memory and forgetting

The hydra of memory and forgetting

“If you have no wounds, how can you know you are alive?” wrote Edward Albee in 1998’s The Play About the Baby. Steven Uhly’s Kingdom of Twilight could be said to be all about physical, psychological and historical wounds and about the true meaning of knowing oneself to be alive – the true worth of...
Timely and timeless books

Timely and timeless books

Book browsing in a bookshop is as much an art as it is a way of life. Here is my trawl through some rather beautiful children’s books, with delighted thanks to Hatchards and Waterstones Piccadilly, for being not only shops but especially worlds of books, with wonderfully rich departments dedicated specifically to children.   Seasonal...
Reclaiming both past and future

Reclaiming both past and future

Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben ist barbarisch – it is barbaric to write verses after Auschwitz – is Theodor Adorno’s famous, massively quoted and frequently misunderstood 1951 declaration about the state, the potential and the responsibility of a life of the mind, of the voice of any spirit and intellect, after what Joseph Roth...
Berlin by twilight

Berlin by twilight

“Who in all the world goes to Berlin voluntarily?” wrote Joseph Roth in The Wandering Jews in 1926–27. For him, as for so many others who were acutely attuned to the particular dissonances of a global order in turmoil, Berlin represented the metaphorical and real space of a harrowing existential predicament: the new paradigm for...
Enchanted by the mystery of books

Enchanted by the mystery of books

Ana Pérez Galván, the tranquil force behind Hispabooks, has an unwavering dream: to publish new writing from every corner of Spain in English translation, and to change readers’ perceptions of Spanish literature as eternally oscillating between the two monumental poles of Cervantes and Lorca; to revise our view of Spain as being only the realistic...
Delusions of a terrorised conscience

Delusions of a terrorised conscience

“I desire to be humbled before God. It was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time. I did not do it out of anger, malice, or ill-will,” stated Ann Putnam in 1706. When only twelve or so, she had been one of the principle witnesses and accusers in the notorious...
A loftier reality

A loftier reality

Broken loves, heart-stopping encounters, death and maimed lives, grand visions, disillusionment and a country precariously balanced between terror and resolute optimism; between organic belonging and absolute, unalloyed autonomy. Martutene begins ambitiously as a metanarrative about storytelling, a novel about real or fictional persistent storytellers who are likened to kidnappers of others’ attention. Or about reluctant...
Dreamland

Dreamland

No Picnic on Mount Kenya is neither a war memoir nor the travel log of an exotic mountaineering expedition; neither history pure and unimpeachable, nor a novel where the imagination is given free reign; it is neither biography nor documentary. It is, and explosively, all of the above – a grippingly beguiling tale as well...
Read the world

Read the world

“There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops,” wrote Doris Lessing in the introduction to The Golden Notebook (1962). That post-modernist novel famously pieces a life back together through multiple, juxtaposed experiences in and outside time and consciousness, through and because of writing, as it seeks to create...
Apocalypse never

Apocalypse never

In his Brief Theory of Travel and the Desert, skilfully translated with grit and brio by Jacqueline Minett, Cristian Crusat orchestrates a syncopated arrangement of six stories suspended in time and space, relating the experience of being and non-being through stunted snapshots from the lives of disparate, seemingly ordinary and inconsequential characters. Their insignificance, we...