"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
Contexts
Stilted life

Stilted life

Our times belong, in many ways, in an eerie brotherhood with moments in human history from almost half a millennium earlier: in our audacity, curiosity, enterprise, demographic explosion and multi-ethnic convergence, in the vibrancy (dark or light) of our questioning of what it means to be human, to belong to society, to progress and to...
In the zone

In the zone

In early 1947, the time in which The Ashes of Berlin is set, the Second World War had been over nearly two years. Although the guns had fallen silent, the war’s effects lingered on, and the peace had thrown up problems all its own. The main character of the novel, Inspector Gregor Reinhardt, returns to...
Lamentation

Lamentation

This son has become so light, wasted away literally to skin and bones, his legs thin as sticks, so light that his mother can hold up his torso effortlessly on the flat of her hand. Her fingers unnaturally long, she could embrace his hips with her two hands. But is she his mother? If my...
Never happier

Never happier

When I first came across Jia Pingwa’s Gaoxing (高兴: Happy) in 2007, I felt an immediate empathy with this handful of migrant workers collecting the trash of a sprawling Chinese metropolis, and being treated like trash too. In the novel, now published as Happy Dreams, Happy Liu and his fellow villager Wufu arrive in Xi’an...
Under the sign of eternity

Under the sign of eternity

Until not so long ago, a hand-made quilt of one’s own was one of the most prized possessions a young woman could have: part of her trousseau, a link with her past, a vision of her future. It offered a reflection of who she was, culturally and ancestrally, of who she wished to be, creatively...
Adventures of the imagination

Adventures of the imagination

Teaching creative writing is a pain in the ass. You bust a gut all year to put on thoughtful classes, to challenge, coax, and inspire the best work, you read reams and reams and reams of work in progress and then a few flinty, original pieces which give you hope, only to be met by...
The life-lie

The life-lie

In 1990 Tony Harrison shocked and riveted London audiences with his production of Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, which pits an ancient text, Sophocles’ satyric play Ichneutae, against the inevitably objectifying and alienating mechanism of historical analysis. With unflinchingly raw social realism, Harrison not only raised questions of high and low art, of the validity of the...
The unbearable burden of non-being

The unbearable burden of non-being

Lviv, also known as Lwów and to others as Lvov, as Antonia Lloyd-Jones reminds us in her translator’s note, or to some as Lemberg and even Leopolis, is a city with a rich enamel of history – it is almost majolica-like in its many facets, colours, hues and patterns, in the broken splinters of its...
An Amazon dreaming of Arcadia

An Amazon dreaming of Arcadia

Historical fiction or fiction inspired by real events often runs the risk of yielding to the temptation of aggrandising one’s subject, of over-valorising the kernel of truth for the sake of effect and novelty, of the triumph of a first discovery. Like Arrowby in Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea, the author, as much as...
A lie is saved by a lie

A lie is saved by a lie

Once upon a time Don Quixote – that very well-known knight of the doleful countenance, the noblest of all the knights the world has ever seen, the simplest in soul and one of the greatest in heart – while wandering with his faithful attendant, Sancho, in search of adventure, was suddenly struck by a puzzle...