"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
Author Archive
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...
The dream of a ridiculous man

The dream of a ridiculous man

This is a dark firecracker of a book – a deceptively slim volume dominated by a single, long-drawn voice that holds tremendous evocative powers and contains almost overwhelming quantities of undiluted pain but also startling wisdom. The storyline is almost risible – and the main character is convinced that the murkiest ridicule is his quintessential...
Through a mirror darkly

Through a mirror darkly

Well before Shakespeare made the feeling into one of the most celebrated tenets of art as well as life, the Greeks had already been there and done that. The principle of “all the world’s a stage” was for them the clearest, most perfect prism through which to analyse the full, multi-hued spectrum of human experience,...
Where unhappiness ends: Naples beyond Ferrante

Where unhappiness ends: Naples beyond Ferrante

You know you are in Naples when the taxi taking you to the city centre from the tiny local airport seems to be driven by a perfectly amiable madman, dead set on breaking your neck (and his) as he hurtle-bumps his vehicle down the almost vertical, serpentine ribbons that are many of the city streets....
Lives in black and white

Lives in black and white

If we seek truths, we should look into fairy tales; at least this seems to be Meike Ziervogel’s advice, as she begins her novel with the all-familiar “Once upon a time…” It is still hard for Germany to search for truths, the many sore, dark, unspeakable looming truths behind the period of National Socialism, the...
A breath of sadness

A breath of sadness

“Like a breath of sadness” is how Edvard Munch felt at the time he painted The Scream. “I stood there shivering from dread – and I felt this big, infinite scream through nature,” he wrote in his diary for 1890­–92. A reader of Larry Tremblay’s The Orange Grove will inevitably feel the same – will...