"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
A bear in a million

A bear in a million

The varying merits of the UK’s early November film releases appear to be in direct proportion to the protagonists’ face-fuzz. Much was made in advance of Kenneth Brannagh’s reimagining of Hercule Poirot’s ‘magnificent moustaches’ in the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (20th Century Fox, 3...
Magritte: This is not a biography

Magritte: This is not a biography

Intoxicated by the prospect of a promotion, Charles Singulier allows himself a small extravagance: he buys a bowler hat. But unbeknownst to him, this particular hat was once the property of the great Surrealist René Magritte – and by donning it, he is transported into the artist’s off-kilter world. What’s...
Lilja Sigurðardóttir: Caught in a trap

Lilja Sigurðardóttir: Caught in a trap

Iceland is a country that has loomed large in my imagination since I was a young child. My father was stationed on a United States military outpost near Reykjavík in the mid-sixties. Heavily pregnant and unable to return to Pakistan to be with her parents, my mother and older brother...
Laughter in the dark

Laughter in the dark

One of the memories I most treasure about In the Loop, writer-director Armando Iannucci’s previous big-screen outing, is the moment when Alastair Campbell sat down to view the film with critic Mark Kermode. As Tony Blair’s ex-spin-doctor, Campbell was understandably tetchy at being compared to onscreen fixer Malcolm Tucker, a...
Harry Potter: A history of magic

Harry Potter: A history of magic

Marking the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this major exhibition delves into centuries-old British Library treasures and surprising artefacts from other cultural institutions in a celebration of all things magical. Rare books, manuscripts and objects capturing the traditions of magic and folklore around...
Lina Meruane: Blood in the eye

Lina Meruane: Blood in the eye

When she was a PhD student at NYU, Chilean author Lina Meruane was temporarily struck blind as her eyes haemorrhaged and blood flooded her vision. Her semi-autobiographical novel Seeing Red, set in contrastingly chaotic New York and Santiago, spins off from that episode in a searing examination of illness and...
Taking an interest in the meerschaum tram

Taking an interest in the meerschaum tram

Once, when Moomintroll was quite small, his father got a cold at the very hottest time of summer. Moominpappa refused to drink warm milk with onion juice and sugar, and he refused to go to bed. He sat in the garden hammock blowing his nose and saying his cigars had...
Latest entries
Learning from the masters

Learning from the masters

Forget thrillers. Forget horror. Forget (forgive me) crime, and historical novels, and all the rest. For me, if you want a page-turner, Icelandic sagas are where it’s at. Sagas are the novels of the medieval world. By which I mean, as prose narratives go, they’re miles ahead of anything else being written in medieval Europe:...
What to do when you can't do anything

What to do when you can’t do anything

The consultant is still talking, fingertips poised on his desk as if he is about to play a concerto. Unsettling minor-key melodies fill the room, yet I feel nothing while I weep. Palliative is a pretty word. It masks a horror that should not wrap its spindly legs around my three-year-old. A greying moustache hangs...
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...
The whiskered stranger

The whiskered stranger

I met the cat in a bar. And he wasn’t just any cat, the kind of cat that likes toy mice or climbing trees or feather dusters, not at all, but entirely different from any cat I’d ever met. I noticed the cat across the dance floor, somewhere between two bar counters and behind a...
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...
A study in scarlet

A study in scarlet

As part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, SelfMadeHero has reissued a quartet of acclaimed Sherlock Holmes adaptations by Ian Edgington and I.N.J. Culbard in all-new pulpy, pocket-sized editions, priced £9.99. The original editions, published between 2009 and 2011, were a central part of SelfMadeHero’s early publishing programme. These concise, page-turning graphic novels bring new life...