"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
Contexts
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...
A death in the neighbourhood

A death in the neighbourhood

Biljana Jovanović’s Dogs and Others is strong medicine. It depicts a young person’s attempt to ‘invent her childhood’ and ‘liberate her memory’ while she negotiates a bohemian, urban existence in Yugoslavia in the 1970s; it is more than graphic, and painful, and awkward at times: it is a tale of catastrophe, really and truly annihilating...
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...
Hauntings on the home front

Hauntings on the home front

If my recent reading list is anything to go by, crime novels that touch on the paranormal are growing in popularity. Often set in houses that evoke an atmosphere of fear and dread, many of these storylines have elements found in Gothic horror. The reader is left to decide whether the house is truly haunted...
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...
Shadows and elevations

Shadows and elevations

With his camera and notebook, Jack London circles Hawksmoor’s Christ Church. He does not look up at the portico, the threatening mass of columns, ledges and alcoves. The Mayan dagger of the steeple. He does not step beyond the defensive railings. He stays outside. A photograph from distance, in which men are sprawled, sick or...
Unflinching and unforgettable

Unflinching and unforgettable

Catriona Ward’s superbly crafted, atmospheric new novel Little Eve continues to expand her oeuvre as one of the most interesting writers in Britain today. Following on from her stunning gothic debut Rawblood (winner of the Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, and shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award), Little...