"I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That’s what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.” Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall
Pennyfeather is sent down

Pennyfeather is sent down

Evelyn Waugh’s sparkling college satire Decline and Fall has been made into a three-part BBC One series starring Jack Whitehall, David Suchet and Eva Longoria, adapted by James Wood. As Penguin Classics publishes a special tie-in edition, we’re delighted to present an extract from the beginning of the book to...
Mohsin Hamid: Moving on

Mohsin Hamid: Moving on

Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel Exit West imagines a world in which war refugees and economic migrants have the chance to break for safety by passing through supernatural black doors that serve as wormholes to wealthier countries. It’s a magical conceit that fast-forwards the likely exoduses of the coming decades, and...
Tim Murphy: Shouting out

Tim Murphy: Shouting out

Published last year in the US, and now here in the UK, if you haven’t already heard of Tim Murphy’s novel Christodora, let this be your tip-off. Not least because Paramount TV have bought the rights and they’ve hired Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias – whose film collaborations Keep the...
Saunders in the zone

Saunders in the zone

If you want to succeed in art, you need to be constantly scanning the horizon for inspiration. For me, by and large, this comes more in the form of life experience than from direct artistic influence. A bit of happenstance, a string of tiny coincidences in my day-to-day activities, is...
Laura McVeigh: Journeys of the mind

Laura McVeigh: Journeys of the mind

Laura McVeigh’s debut novel Under the Almond Tree is a vibrant and tender modern fable of a young life blighted by war. Fifteen–year-old Samar is displaced from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and narrates her story from aboard the Trans-Siberian Express as it trundles east and west between Moscow and Vladivostok. With family...
Heart and darkness

Heart and darkness

As the current two top-ranking films at the US and UK box office testify, adaptations are a reliable route for getting a film out to a receptive audience. The Lego Batman Movie is an adaptation not only of the original DC Comics stories but also a playful take on just...
Driving to distraction

Driving to distraction

Sonja is sitting in a car, and she’s brought her dictionary along. It’s heavy, and sits in the bag on the backseat. She’s halfway through her translation of Gösta Svensson’s latest crime novel, and the quality was already dipping with the previous one. Now’s the time I can afford it,...
Steven Uhly: A life of encounters

Steven Uhly: A life of encounters

The chance to converse with Steven Uhly is not just a meeting but a real and even formative encounter, a moment of wisdom, laughter, serious and relaxed humanity. He is someone with a very distinct presence, ineradicable and self-effacing at the same time, poetic and materially concrete. He exudes indomitable...
Chris Cleave: Across the divide

Chris Cleave: Across the divide

Chris Cleave’s latest novel, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, is a London-set examination of the real impact of the Second World War, centring on an 18-year-old schoolteacher called Mary North. Cleave and I have tea one afternoon in Piccadilly to discuss it. There’s a reason why we’re drinking tea and not,...
Nathan Hill: Unpuzzling it all

Nathan Hill: Unpuzzling it all

Nathan Hill’s debut novel The Nix is a hefty, engrossing, deeply funny family drama and a sweeping examination of American politics, protest and the shifting media landscape over the last fifty years. At its centre is Samuel Anderson, a blocked writer, bored teacher and online gamer, whose mother Faye walked...
Out there

Out there

The Doll Funeral began as an image of a young girl running out from the back door into an unkempt garden. In my mind it’s as if there is a camera tracking behind her. The camera follows her out into the garden where she jumps off the step, runs through...
Michael Chabon: Flying high

Michael Chabon: Flying high

Michael Chabon’s latest novel Moonglow is a fake memoir that spans the Jewish slums of pre-war Philadelphia, rocket science and espionage in World War II Germany, the verve and machinations of the space race and the dwindling of the American Century in a sleepy Florida retirement home. It’s a comical,...
Alexandra Kleeman: Spaces in between

Alexandra Kleeman: Spaces in between

She’s been hailed by the New York Times as “one of the wise young women of our generation”; Ben Marcus called her “one of the sharpest and smartest young writers” around, “ambitious, promising, brilliant”; and Vanity Fair described her as a “future superstar”. These are just a handful of the...
Latest entries
Seeking the zing

Seeking the zing

Shanthi Sekaran’s second novel Lucky Boy is a moving and timely account of motherhood, immigration, infertility, adoption and minority life in contemporary America. It’s an eventful road trip from the Mexican border to Silicon Valley, told with verve and love. Her precious writing time is usually spent among trusted friends. Where are you now? I’m...
Welcome to dystopia

Welcome to dystopia

Writer-directors Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel have adapted and filmed György Dragomán’s dystopian fantasy The White King, a series of interlinked stories influenced by the author’s childhood in a Hungarian enclave of Romania during the Ceausescu regime. Lorenzo Allchurch stars as 12-year-old Djata, whose father Peter (Ross Partridge) is imprisoned while he and his mother...
Vagrant tales

Vagrant tales

Before Greece embraced modernity and its marvels, it was a nation of stark realities and pernickety sprites. Lore and legend held as much validity as did hard facts in the popular imagination, but also in the synthesis of what was no less than a national soul. Sprites, trolls, crones, harridans and ogres, with innumerable names,...
Claire Fuller: A family at sea

Claire Fuller: A family at sea

Claire Fuller’s second novel Swimming Lessons tells the story of a missing woman and her adult daughter who, twelve years on, tries to piece together the facts about her mother’s disappearance. She talks to Juliet West, author of Before the Fall, about the book’s genesis and her inspirations in nature. JW: Swimming Lessons is such...
Sophisticated murder

Sophisticated murder

I was ten years old, living in England due to my father’s job transfer, when I first saw an Alfred Hitchcock film. That film was Dial M for Murder, Hitchcock’s 1954 adaptation of Frederick Knott’s stage play. If I were introducing the films of Alfred Hitchcock to a ten-year-old boy, Dial M for Murder would...
Wraiths of neither good nor evil

Wraiths of neither good nor evil

With the hindsight of history, with the raw, stinging feeling on the skin of one’s conscience of the viciousness and harrowing desolation that was spawned by Nazi rule and WWII, it may seem that there was for Germany a distinct separation between a brutal, all-obliterating moment of total guilt and a redeeming ‘moment after’ of...
In defence of book learning

In defence of book learning

Running for President in 1952, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson came up with a peculiar rallying cry. “Eggheads of the world, unite!” he declared in a stump speech. “You have nothing to lose but your yolks!” These days, of course, such a bad pun wouldn’t make it out of a Democratic Party focus group alive, but...
Keeping it pastoral

Keeping it pastoral

Tim Pears’ spellbinding new novel The Horseman tells the story of a touching, unexpected friendship between a carter’s son and a landowner’s daughter. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy that begins in a remote valley on the Devon–Somerset border in the early years of the twentieth century. He fills us in on his...
Strange fascination

Strange fascination

The 1970s took their shape from any number of events, tragedies, trivialities, crises, obsessions, conflicts, characters, fashions, inventions, resignations, processes and social and cultural situations. It was a decade of cults, terrorists, protests, scandals, strikes, recessions, environmental panic and a sense of constant crisis. It was also the decade of Bowie. He always had a...
The hydra of memory and forgetting

The hydra of memory and forgetting

“If you have no wounds, how can you know you are alive?” wrote Edward Albee in 1998’s The Play About the Baby. Steven Uhly’s Kingdom of Twilight could be said to be all about physical, psychological and historical wounds and about the true meaning of knowing oneself to be alive – the true worth of...