“You have one body and one life to live and you only get this one shot – and that reality can drive you crazy.” Ottessa Moshfegh
Contexts
White dreams

White dreams

In 1685, Louis XIV would sign the Edict of Fontainebleau, revoking an earlier royal decree that had accorded to any French Protestants who had survived the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre the freedom to practise their faith without persecution. The apparent reason given by the Sun King and his court was that the Huguenots were strong-headed,...
The view from below

The view from below

Robert Macfarlane’s Underland: A Deep Time Journey has its roots in three ‘surfacings’ that occurred in the spring and summer of 2010: the explosion of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, the Deep Water Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, and the entrapment of 33 miners at the San José copper and gold mine in northern...
Missing person

Missing person

One day ten years ago, during a summer of no rain, I sat in a rented room in the south of Xi’an listening to a man from my old village as he poured out his story. He stuttered so his story came out in fits and starts. Behind the bed curtain, his wife was sobbing...
New travels with myself and another

New travels with myself and another

Laura Beatty’s new book Lost Property, a nearly sublime hybrid between a novel and a philosophical essay, begins with an England in a state of utter crisis – social, humanitarian, political, cultural, a crisis of identity, values, place, purpose and meaning. Beatty’s heroine describes herself as tottering between being and non-being, reason and insanity. “At...
Docta puella

Docta puella

“This book is about a poet who disappeared, about a woman who pursued her career in a blaze of publicity, while leading a secret life that eventually destroyed her, and who left such a legacy of lies and evasion that her true story can only now be told,” writes Lucasta Miller in the preface of...
Coming in from the cold

Coming in from the cold

My father earned one of the highest security clearances attainable in the US Air Force. The true nature of his work was kept secret from myself, my siblings and my mother. In hindsight, it must have been difficult to come home in the evenings unable to discuss the events of the day. There must have...
A vision of eternity

A vision of eternity

There are infinitely more than fifteen ways of looking at Dante – we can see him as a historical figure, a radical maverick, the conscience of a Church and a State in dire crisis. He is the writer of poetry that many have come to see as the ultimate representation of the sublime, as well...
In the midst of life, we are

In the midst of life, we are

Think of the word Iran. Think of a place, a landscape, a face, a history, a culture and perhaps a taste. What comes first into the contemporary mind is perhaps the tragic story of a mother torn away from her husband and daughter; subjected to imprisonment and negotiations, as though she were a criminal or...
Polar bears in Auschwitz

Polar bears in Auschwitz

“When I was in second grade, I found a piece of paper on my desk with the words, ‘You are a Jew’. I went home and asked: ‘Mum, what is a Jew?’ She explained that people have different religions, Christians, Protestants and Jews in Czechoslovakia. I said: ‘And we are Jews?’ The answer was a...
A complex complicity

A complex complicity

“I’ve forgotten such a lot. Most of it, really. Certain things stick of course, although I’ve no idea why. I don’t understand how it works. I read something and then I go across the room to check what’s for dinner and completely forget what I’ve just read. I think, wait a minute, I’ve only just...