"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
Answers without questions

Answers without questions

The Dictionary of Animal Languages is a single-voice narrative that moves concurrently on two planes of being; it stretches itself over dual dimensions of time and space, and lays claim on a bifocal understanding of the self. Not a dichotomised self, but a fully alert, almost live-wire vivid, split consciousness, whose strands interlace ineluctably, creating...
We need to talk about nanny

We need to talk about nanny

My ex-husband and I moved from Berkeley, California to Kensington in 1994. I was the proverbial deer in headlights, having not a clue how the world functioned beyond the scope of my somewhat limited life experience. The word naïve doesn’t really cut it, as I was too naïve to notice my own naïvety. In truth,...
Recapturing infinity in the present

Recapturing infinity in the present

“Am I the same person?” asks Fela Rosenbloom, whose narrative of her early life in Łódź, and her internment in no fewer than six German labour and concentration camps, prefaces her husband’s longer, very different account of the 20th century. Miracles Do Happen is a joint memoir of war, Jewish life, community and identity, survival...
Not alone

Not alone

In the playground, fads come and go consistently, without apparent supervision, like waves on a beach. We had Pokémon, we had Furbies; we had aliens encased in strange plastic eggs. Then at some point, when we were five, imaginary friends took off as a craze. People would save spaces at the lunch table for someone...
Beyond imagining

Beyond imagining

Willa Cather in Death Comes for The Archbishop was able to create imaginary conversations and actions that gave her main character (based on Father Jean Marie Latour) and story depth and motivation, metaphors and textures, a sense of fullness and believability, that may not have been accessible to her had she wrote the book as...
Crying wolf

Crying wolf

Millennial moments are full of auguries and momentum, real promise or sly illusions. They trick us into a sense of tabula rasa, into an exalted feeling of weightlessness from the past and its responsibilities, its phantoms and nightmares, but also from the effort to match and sustain its legacy of greatness and wisdom. It is...
Glimpses of unfamiliar France

Glimpses of unfamiliar France

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan is the title of an idiosyncratic account of Japan as a country, as a philosophy, as a world and way of life, as the seductive Other seen through Western eyes. It was written by a rather remarkable man, Lefkadio Hearn (who became Koizumi Yakumo), now mostly forgotten. It is an intimate...
Riddled words, puzzled lives

Riddled words, puzzled lives

There is something deliciously provocative about a work of literary fiction that begins with the statement “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it”. It is a pronouncement that holds the reader in irresistible tension: will this prove to be the most flawless of narratives or be exposed instead as the most bombastic of bathetic ironies?...
New happiness

New happiness

There is a Latvian goddess of happiness, Laima. It was most probably she who instilled the Latvian language with its rhythmical lilt, its roguish plosives and stops, the stark, spare melodiousness of its musicality. It was most probably she who lured generations of Latvians, both ancient and modern, to their native forests and fields –...
Crackland

Crackland

The São Paulo of my novels Gringa and Paradise City has a lot in common with contemporary London. There is gentrification and social cleansing; there is a political elite deaf to the plight of the disenfranchised; there is the tragic collapse of a social housing project; there are acid attacks; there is the dichotomy of...