"I didn't want people to read in the same way they might eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, but because I wanted them to know the mind-expanding privilege of walking a mile in someone else's shoes." Cathy Rentzenbrink
Contexts
It's about time

It’s about time

Periods of calmness and peace are often likened to infinity; when the passage of time is blissfully suspended, or sublimely extended beyond the limits of human reckoning or reason. Times of crisis, on the other hand, such as war, are characterised by the particular effect they have on the very notion and substance of time....
The hunter who crossed a continent

The hunter who crossed a continent

The last hunter in the village of Lalaoran, which in my dialect of Paiwanese means “the first ray of dawn’s light”, has pairs of hand and feet that were given to him by the ancestors, and he has wisdom that helps him coexist with the mountain. When I was a boy, what I liked to...
Dante's nose

Dante’s nose

Early in the morning of September 1321, Dante died of malaria in Ravenna. Looking at the images (pictorial or sculptural) that we have of him, and considering the corpus of his work, especially the impact he was to have on our understanding of European culture in the centuries to come, one would think this would...
Here and there

Here and there

One of the things we do as poets is to try to preserve experiences, people, places important to us, in an effort to save them from time’s erasure. In Passport to Here and There, I’ve been more conscious of this than in some of my other books and felt that a short introduction to my...
Modern fiction

Modern fiction

Reading Andrea Marcolongo’s The Ingenious Language: Nine Epic Reasons to Love Greek in certain ways lives up to its English title in providing an epic experience (the Italian original’s simpler 9 ragioni… emphasises the more light-heartedly catchy, yet didactic underpinnings of the text, rather than its epic claims, significance or proportions). As Marcolongo reminds us...
How Boris Johnson ruined my book launch (and Vladimir Nabokov restored it)

How Boris Johnson ruined my book launch (and Vladimir Nabokov restored it)

There’s a persistent aftertaste to bad timing. Just ask someone born on 11 September 2001, or the brides and grooms of late November 1963, after JFK’s visit to Dallas. Better yet, consider Vladimir Nabokov, whose novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight – not nearly as famous as Lolita but arguably on par with it...
Short cuts

Short cuts

The judges of the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award have winnowed down a shortlist of six from almost 1,000 entries. Louise Kennedy, who was shortlisted in 2019, makes the final round a second time, having since secured a two-book deal with Bloomsbury that will kick off with the collection The End of the...
The dream of Norway

The dream of Norway

In 1920, two years after the end of WWI, the League of Nations officially began its work of rebuilding the world. It was a grand scheme, a tremendous dream, a triumph of a reconstituted modernity, and the legacy of enlightenment humanism over militarism, colonialism, barbarity and tribalist divisionism. It should have been idealistic. It has...
History from the wings

History from the wings

In times of crisis, sociohistorical impasses, and what the French scholar John Cruickshank has termed, on a different occasion, the despair in the face of “man’s metaphysical dereliction in the world”, the individual and collective instinct is to turn to parallels, contrasts, and to recent or very distant memory. To familiar or unfamiliar territory. We...
Marbles

Marbles

I have lost plenty of people. Every loss is a lessening. Every loss makes one more aware of how much there is to lose. But the death of my mother was something else. I don’t know when she died. She had dementia. For ten years she was among us in the midst of life cut...