“When you are a latecomer, outsider, immigrant, exile, there are fractures in your life that you can’t heal… I have a lot of respect for people that have stayed behind and have to deal with the wounds every day.” Elif Shafak
Ink blots in the trunk

Ink blots in the trunk

Every aspiring writer is familiar with the concept of the ‘trunk novel’. This is the novel that doesn’t make it to the bookshelf, but instead gets tucked into a bottom desk drawer or old USB drive after refusing to do what its writer wants it to do. Often it’s the...
Magpies

Magpies

The girl tenses when her mother calls her name like that. She clings to the racks; sleeves brushing against her cheek. She crosses the store. Normally, her mother doesn’t like to be overt; only gentle movements when she’s found what she wants. Sometimes the girl won’t even notice. Today, though,...
Elif Shafak: Time to reconnect

Elif Shafak: Time to reconnect

Elif Shafak’s richly evocative, elegantly crafted novel The Island of Missing Trees transports readers between 1970s Cyprus and 21st–century London in a cross-generational saga of passion, trauma, memory and renewal. Greek Cypriot Kostas and Turkish Cypriot Defne fall in love as teenagers in the divided city of Nicosia in 1974,...
Tessa McWatt: A place in the world

Tessa McWatt: A place in the world

Tessa McWatt’s The Snow Line throws together four strangers at a wedding in the Indian Himalayan foothills. Twenty-five-year-old Reema is a classical singer born in India but raised as a Londoner, who has travelled without her Scottish boyfriend. Having recently discovered she is pregnant, she is facing a life-shifting decision...
Samira Sedira: The makings of a murder

Samira Sedira: The makings of a murder

French-Algerian author and actress Samira Sedira’s People Like Them, her first novel to be translated into English, is a fictional retelling of a real-life multiple murder in a mountain village in Haute-Savoie, in which a recently arrived wealthy black property developer, his white wife and their three young children were...
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A thousand and one tales of a philosophical life

A thousand and one tales of a philosophical life

What can Hannah Arendt possibly teach us today? What was, and still is one hopes, her indelible imprint on the world, on our humanity, on what she so unwaveringly upheld as civilisation? And who was she? How did she become that singular multitude of perspectives, human facets, existential and conceptual spaces that can certainly lay...
Blind ricochets and unexpected avenues

Blind ricochets and unexpected avenues

“We want Jack! We want Jack! We want Jack!” It starts with just one voice, some anonymous drunken loser without a girlfriend to embarrass, hidden deep within the chattering mass of denim and leather. Cliché to begin with, those three syllables sound particularly obnoxious coming from just one person. But a restless herd of kindred...
The story of their history

The story of their history

The experience of lost places of belonging, of lost states of existence, together with the tenacity to defy and resist both loss and non-being, are deeply ingrained in the Russian language: thanks to Maxim Gorky, a term such as Бывшие люди, or ‘former people’, would come to acquire an eerily tangible corporeality, reality, and even...
Queer families

Queer families

Is blood thicker than water? Or is family chosen, acquired throughout our lives? Ask me in the immediate aftermath of a family Christmas, and I’ll say definitely, definitely it’s not about genetics – no ties but what we make! But sit me down with my sister in the peace of her kitchen for a cup...
Secrets and lies, red Welshmen and words of vagrant wisdom

Secrets and lies, red Welshmen and words of vagrant wisdom

“All families develop a special language, words and references no outsider can understand. My family’s special language was Rotwelsch.” Thus begins Martin Puchner’s complex, compelling, if at times ambivalent exploration of a family and a language, or in point of fact of Language (and perhaps Family) capitalised. Of language as an institution, as a structure...
A collector's thing

A collector’s thing

Nicholas Royle’s White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector reflects on the author’s passion for Picador’s fiction and non-fiction publishing from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. It explores the books themselves, the bookshops and charity shops he gathers them from, and the way a unique collection grew and became a literary obsession....
Books as a Covid passport

Books as a Covid passport

Earlier this year, my novel The Butchers won the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize, awarded to the book which best evokes ‘the spirit of a place’. The prize seems like a lovely thing at the best of times – I am a big believer in the transportive power of books – but this year it felt...
Grief and transformation

Grief and transformation

My debut novel This Shining Life is a meditation on grief. It follows a family on their journey through bereavement after the death of Rich, a beloved father, son, husband and friend. When I first invented his character I saw him in a garden at dawn with the sky pale and peachy behind him. He...
Rich

Rich

He woke up at dawn and shuffled to the edge of the bed. Ruth did not stir. She always slept deeply at this time, when there was a chill in the air and the sky was dusky over the river. Rich, though, was at his most wakeful. He rummaged in the heap of clothes on...
New writers for the new normal

New writers for the new normal

Kei Miller’s list of Emerging Writers of an Emerging World for the 2021 International Literature Showcase fizzes with hope, like an old-timey musical. Spring is bustin’ out all over, and it’s named Caleb Azumeh Nelson, Daisy Lafarge, Gail McConnell, Helen McClory, Ingrid Persaud, Jarred McGinnis, Mícheál McCann, Rachel Long, Sairish Hussain and Steven Lovatt. There is something for everyone: six novels, three volumes...