“I wish I had a more reliable way of figuring out how to write. It’s all just intuition and waking dreams.” – Robbie Arnott
Virginia Woolf and science fiction

Virginia Woolf and science fiction

They rode in the dark, arriving at Yorkshire in the pre-dawn. The Astronomer Royal had set up a camp directly on the line of totality. In Southport, on the beach, a quarter of a million people gathered. Woolf and her group left their train and walked uphill towards Richmond. Everybody...
Wildness and wonder

Wildness and wonder

Franco-Mauritian author Caroline Laurent’s latest novel An Impossible Return is an epic love story set against the shocking injustice of the Mauritian government’s deal with Britain for independence – which resulted in the wholesale evacuation of the Chagos Islands to enable the US to set up a strategic military base on Diego...
Out

Out

Three flashes of lightning illuminate the night, and I catch a glimpse of dirty terraces and dividing walls. The rain hasn’t started yet. The sliding glass door of the balcony across from us opens, and a woman in pajamas comes outside to bring in the clothes from the line. I...
Robbie Arnott: Untamed nature

Robbie Arnott: Untamed nature

In the heat of a Tasmanian summer, with the world at war and his brothers away on secretive missions in the Pacific, 15-year-old Ned West traps, shoots and skins rabbits to sell their pelts in the hope of saving to buy a small boat. As his father and older sister...
Pascal Engman: Contact at any price

Pascal Engman: Contact at any price

According to Wikipedia, an incel, or involuntary celibate, is “a member of an online subculture of people who define themselves as unable to get a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one.” United by a lethal form of misogyny, male adherents are becoming increasingly emboldened. Deadly attacks from Toronto to...
Looking back and moving on

Looking back and moving on

LEONE ROSS’S MESMERISING third novel This One Sky Day recounts events over the course of a single “strange day, full of surprises and moments with sharp teeth” across an imaginary Caribbean archipelago called Popisho. It’s a place peopled by seers and healers, rebels and dancing ghosts; a beautiful, twisted world...
Rijula Das: The constant smallness of being

Rijula Das: The constant smallness of being

Set in Calcutta’s notorious red-light district Sonagachi, Rijula Das’s debut Small Deaths resists lazy stereotypes. Years of research have provided Das with an intimate understanding of the power dynamics at play between the madams, pimps and police, and how their often-cruel manoeuvrings have devastating consequences for the endless stream of...
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Close at hand and out of reach

Close at hand and out of reach

Jonathan Escoffery’s debut novel is bold and beautiful. It’s told over seven interconnected stories and from different members of the same family. A Jamaican family come to the USA to find a better life for their sons Delano and Trelawny but things don’t work out as planned. When his parents split up Trelawny stays with...
Into the volcano

Into the volcano

In Iceland, volcanoes used to be a menace; terrible, sleeping monsters that erupted once in a while, spewing ash and lava over the country, killing people and animals, destroying homes and causing famines. Today, thanks to science, we know much more about them, we understand why they erupt, and our brilliant geoscientists can often warn...
Look to the skies

Look to the skies

The novella Boundless as the Sky takes place in Chicago on a single day – 15 July, 1933. It is based closely on a true event, the arrival of a “roaring armada of goodwill” in the form of twenty-four seaplanes flown in a display of fascist power by Mussolini’s wingman Italo Balbo to Chicago’s Century of Progress...
History and 'the people'

History and ‘the people’

The stories in German Fantasia were written between 2016 and 2020. Although the times and the conditions under which each of these texts was written were different, they turn on themes and ideas that have been important to me for a long time: first and foremost that of the incoherence of history and the roles men play in it,...
Back to that place

Back to that place

José went in a car with two plainclothes policemen. I went in another with the detective and a muscular man covered in tattoos. The vehicle I was in drove slowly, up the same road that a few days earlier I had travelled up on foot, clothed and intact, and on the way down, torn and...
“With affection, wondrous sensible” – a life of reading Shakespeare

“With affection, wondrous sensible” – a life of reading Shakespeare

For Leonard Barkan, even the littlest things can mean the world. It is not size, but substance that truly matters. Readers of his (many, and “wondrous sensible”) books should take good note of this, and never skim, skip, or, worse even, skivvy, over his words or pages, for nothing in them is a mere “mouthful...
Winds of change

Winds of change

They sat around the plot, as peaceful as seabirds. Their hands plunged into woven baskets, pulled out coconuts that they set on their skirts. Always the same gestures: raise the machete, split the fruit with a sharp thrust, husk each half before putting it on the ground, the meat exposed to the sun. Then the...
So they know it's Christmas – and why that matters

So they know it’s Christmas – and why that matters

It’s that wondrous, mystifying, awesome and perchance disorienting time of the year when trees come out, baubles roll about, nutcrackers grin and gnash their teeth, elves get busy, and we revel in company, or brace ourselves against yet another formidable bewilderness of loneliness or mere aloneness, when we find ourselves in opulence, common enoughness, or...
The most Bantu of all the Swiss

The most Bantu of all the Swiss

The controversial poster has all tongues wagging. There are opinions of every flavour. Some say there’s nothing nasty about it. It’s just an everyday expression, they argue. A black sheep is simply someone who’s a bit different from its fellow sheep. Nothing more. Others, however, claim that it contains blatant discrimination against foreigners. On this...
Capital Crime 2022

Capital Crime 2022

When bookseller and literary agent David Headley and his team launched a new London-based literary festival in September 2019, they couldn’t have foreseen the pandemic’s arrival the following spring. Covid’s toll on the capital was particularly harsh. There were days when the only sound you heard outside your windows was ambulance sirens. Going in and...
Light in a world of darkness

Light in a world of darkness

In 2013, Icelanders voted for the most beautiful word in their language. They chose a nine-letter one, the job title of a healthcare worker, the Icelandic term for midwife: ljósmóðir. In its reasoning, the jury stated that the word was a composite of the two most beautiful words: móðir, meaning mother, and ljós which means light.  Although I had two...
Approaching The Peckham Experiment

Approaching The Peckham Experiment

Five and a half years after the appalling tragedy of Grenfell Tower, the public inquiry has finally completed more than 300 public hearings. Richard Millett KC, counsel to the inquiry, declared: “Each and every one of the deaths that occurred… was avoidable.” He mapped out the way the companies, authorities and individuals involved had all...