"There is no centre anymore. We live in a multipolar world, and culture reflects that." Fatima Bhutto
Extracts
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...
Double lives

Double lives

Even when I saw Lena onstage, I was shocked by her resemblance to Magdalena. But when she walked out of the hotel and stopped a few feet away from me, it took my breath away, and I felt paralyzed. She hesitated briefly, looked up and down the street, then, seemingly at random but nonetheless purposefully,...
My one and only

My one and only

His parents leave on a five-day trip to Dubrovnik, his father’s home town, hurray, I mentally dance with joy, an empty apartment just for the two of us, to play at being married. I’ll have to sleep at home, though, because that’s only right, an unmarried girl can’t sleep at her boyfriend’s even though she’s...
At sea

At sea

They knew they were lost because they had been travelling for several hours but still had not arrived. When the sun’s disc broke above the sea, they saw nothing to raise their hopes, no sign of an island in any direction. At midday, still with no land in sight, someone said that the man who...
Heart to heart

Heart to heart

It’s August in Tunisia, I come across this scene. Before the wrought-iron window frame, in full sunlight, you can come and see what’s happening now as well as what has happened, you can sit and wait for the sounds to return, for the smells, the gestures, the words to revive and it’s suddenly all so...
Joe Buck!

Joe Buck!

In his new boots, Joe Buck was six-foot-one and life was different. As he walked out of that store in Houston something snapped in the whole bottom half of him: A kind of power he never even knew was there had been released in his pelvis and he was able to feel the world through...