"There is no centre anymore. We live in a multipolar world, and culture reflects that." Fatima Bhutto
Extracts
The country of cats

The country of cats

As he had walked aimlessly, the boy had crossed the border of Gorbstan, the country of cats. The patrols found him half-dead, licked his face, and took him to the city. He slept for two more days before he opened his eyes. The city was built around a large pond surrounded by low hills. The...
Enter Officer Anderson...

Enter Officer Anderson…

Cops are easy. All you have to do is show him your ID, explain you’re a congressman. There will be some perfunctory chit-chat, and you will make the officer feel important, for you know, like, providing the civil service that he provides, and he may or may not write you a light traffic ticket or...
It's coming!

It’s coming!

At stake: the contested objects, nine hundred thousand white leghorn hens, their foremothers brought over from Italy in the mid-nineteenth century and bred in a frenzy ever since. Were they property or individuals? That’s what had to be decided. — It was from this farm, don’t forget, that Cleveland had taken Bwwaauk some three months...
Deciding not to die

Deciding not to die

Increasingly frequently, when out in the street, I run into people I know, but when I go to kiss them I remember they’re dead and realize to my horror that I’m about to kiss a doppelganger. It’s pretty unsettling, having to stop yourself saying hello to the dead. “Hi Régine!” “Excuse me?” “You’re… you’re not...
Back on land

Back on land

Well, when I saw her hanging upside down, like reverse crucified, my heart stop and my blood run cold cold cold. So, they ketch her. My worse fear. I kept up with their boat for an hour or so, but left before they hook her good. They were heading far out. I turn back; I...
The secret

The secret

My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother. In 1968, she was working at the gift-wrap counter at Davison’s downtown when my father asked her to wrap the carving knife he had bought his wife for their wedding anniversary. Mother said she...
A good lie

A good lie

“Excuse me?” Her voice unnerved me a little. It also scared me. First I heard the surprise in it, and then the touch of indignation. I disregarded her tone. She shouldn’t see the flaws. My fright, for example, and my inner doubts. If she noticed those, there was no chance. I explained again, as clearly...
Nile madness

Nile madness

Petina Gappah reads a chapter from the first part of Out of Darkness, Shining Light, narrated by David Livingstone’s cook Halima. In the wake of the famous meeting with American journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley, Livingstone and his companions prepare to press on with the hunt for the source of the Nile – despite...
The dolphin children

The dolphin children

Belkis and I met when we were sixteen. Numen prides himself as the architect of the country’s ‘robust’ economy, a feat he achieves by laundering billions of dollars, via private banks, to help Iran and North Korea circumvent the international sanctions imposed on them – a service that reputedly also rewards him with tea chests...