"When I read Céline I thought, 'Wow, you can do this, you can do anything!' That was a turning point, because it showed me you just have to follow your heart." Antti Tuomainen
Contexts
Many a woman scorned

Many a woman scorned

If Sarah Vaughan possessed a secret superpower I’d hazard to guess that it was precognition. The storyline of her latest novel Anatomy of a Scandal could have been plucked from today’s newspaper headlines. To label the work as a political thriller would be missing the point, as it is so much more than that. Deftly...
The world that watches

The world that watches

Each of us, to a greater or lesser extent, with varying degrees of enchantment or epic promise, is both a myth and a dry ledger of facts; a fantastical spectrum of stories, our own and those in the minds of others, as well as a hard surface of all or the little that there is....
Near death – and resurrection

Near death – and resurrection

On 25 July 1982, Amitabh Bachchan was injured in Bangalore while shooting for Manmohan Desai’s Coolie (Porter, 1983). The shot required a simulated punch to the star’s abdomen, a fall on a desk, followed by a half-somersault to the other side of the desk. Bachchan refused a body double and shot the sequence himself. The...
All, nothing and everything in between

All, nothing and everything in between

As people travelled across Europe in the late 16th century, fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, a word travelled with them – nada; a nothingness of prospects, a future where nothing remained and everything was lost, a universe where the centre of faith was being fiercely usurped by the massive, ponderous vacuum of doubt and agnosticism, of...
Unquiet spirits

Unquiet spirits

Even now, perhaps most especially today, understanding the events of the first half of the twentieth century has a significance that we cannot possibly afford to ignore. The way to the trauma, evil and pain, to the sociohistorical origins, causes, sociodynamics and pitfalls, and to the portents and lacunae we overlooked to our horrific detriment,...
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 devil you know

The devil you know

Mirjana Novaković’s Fear and His Servant, set in 18th-century Serbia under Austrian rule, begins with the journey to Belgrade of the Devil in the guise of Count Otto von Habsburg, accompanied by his equally diabolical servant Novak. On the way to the city their carriage breaks down. In the thick fog at the crack of...
Written in my soul

Written in my soul

Like most avid readers, I was pleased to see British national treasure Kashuo Ishiguro win the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. Pleased, but a little disappointed. Ishiguro is worthy, to be sure, but in a way he was too worthy. After the lather the Nobel committee worked the literary world into last year by giving...
Having words in Manchester

Having words in Manchester

There’s an old quip: ‘What’s another word for a thesaurus?’ In fact, there is another word for a thesaurus and what’s more, there always has been: synonymicon. Next time someone rolls out that old line, you can respond by telling them that. It might not make you the most popular person at a party, but...