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

The muse

Night after night, a guard would come for me, and Semionov and I would have our little chats. And night after night, my humble interrogator would ask the same questions: What is the novel about? Why is he writing it? Why are you protecting him? I didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear: that...
A neighbourly word

A neighbourly word

All around them, all this time, things were changing and continued to change. As Mrs Glass said, the place wasn’t the same. If she hadn’t lived right through the changes, she told her friend Mrs Fletcher, she wouldn’t have recognized it, she would have walked up the street and right past her house and not...
We are all addicts

We are all addicts

– I feel sorry for Richard. – You always do. – Do you see him as an addict? – Well– – What would his therapist say? – It all depends on how you look at it. First, it’s the person-not-called-Bob who mentions the idea when he presents Richard with the facts. We can sack you...
Flight to Gaza

Flight to Gaza

My seatmate goes on talking as if we come from the same country. As if we share the same fears, the same constellations of film stars. As she recounts stories about the festival, my mind recalls televised scenes of the war – the live coverage of American attacks that sowed democracy across Iraq. The tonnes...
An unlikely avenger

An unlikely avenger

When you want to avoid gruesome images, you resort to euphemism. To say that an army has suffered great losses is more acceptable than describing the horror of an appalling hecatomb. Liberating oneself of someone’s presence generally means leaving him at the door, or avoiding spending time with him, but in a deeper sense it...
God's rib

God’s rib

When I think about my own death, the moment it happens is always the same. I’m wearing a plain, colored shirt and a matching pair of pants, cut from thin material that’s easy to pull on. It’s early in the morning and I am happy, I feel the same sense of contentment and satisfaction as...
Landing a whopper

Landing a whopper

I knew a young man once, he was a most conscientious fellow, and, when he took to fly-fishing, he determined never to exaggerate his hauls by more than twenty-five per cent. ‘When I have caught forty fish,’ said he, ‘then I will tell people that I have caught fifty, and so on. But I will...