“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
Cuckoo

Cuckoo

At first, I thought that old devil of a back problem had returned to haunt me. I assumed the position – lay down, knees up, feet flat on the floor. Unlike Martha, I’m not one for the dramatic, but I did text her to come back ASAP. My no-longer-little niece,...
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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Guillermo del Toro: Monster maker

Guillermo del Toro: Monster maker

Alongside compatriots Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Carlos Reygadas, Guillermo del Toro emerged as one of the most visible and distinctive artists in modern Mexican cinema. A major contributor to the critical and commercial renaissance cinema from Mexico enjoyed on an international scale, the universal acclaim generated by Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) (which won a...
The Italian Plutarch

The Italian Plutarch

The Renaissance is so much more than the sum of its parts. Not only because of the tremendous change that it brought, as many have argued, to history, art, knowledge, human experience and science, to the perception and very substance of our world, but especially for the even more momentous continuity which, according to color...
Wilde

Wilde

Inside the Dublin guesthouse, over a breakfast of peppery scrambled eggs, I sat watching the young couple below on the street. They stood on the opposite side of the road, next to the bus stop’s thin yellow pole, bundled up in woollen accessories and thick, dark jackets. They pressed their bodies together, their arms clasping...
Lagoon

Lagoon

I can’t stop taking pictures of the big ships; I’m doing it this afternoon with Teresa, just as I did that day at the end of July in 2013. I was sitting in the usual bar, on the Riva dei Sette Martiri, where you barely even notice the passage of the cruise ships anymore. They...
Staying in, not slowing down

Staying in, not slowing down

On the release of Both of You, her twenty-first novel in as many years, the author of the Number 1 bestselling Lies Lies Lies and Just My Luck reflects on keeping going during lockdown, some of her literary influences and heroes, and the routine and discipline that always underpin the creative process. Where are you now? Right...
Why I write

Why I write

Why do I write? I often ask myself this question. Bottom line is, tough and demoralising as producing books always is, with the countless rewrites and stinging rejections, it is actually much more painful not writing. I always say anyone who can give up writing, does. It’s deep in my soul. I have two lines...
Fifty per cent of Borges

Fifty per cent of Borges

“For nearly the past three years, I have been lucky to have my own translator by my side,” Jorge Luis Borges wrote in 1970, “and together we are bringing out some ten or twelve volumes of my work in English, a language I am unworthy to handle, a language I often wish had been my...
On the fly

On the fly

Elizabeth Macneal’s second novel Circus of Wonders, set in the latter part of the 19th century, tells the story of a young girl named Nell from a seaside town in southern England whose father sells her to a travelling circus. Trained as an aerialist, and dubbed ‘leopard girl’ because of the birthmarks that speckle her...
Everything, everywhere

Everything, everywhere

Fíona Scarlett’s stunning debut novel Boys Don’t Cry is a heartbreaking book about two brothers growing up in Dublin. Trying to get by while their dad is in prison, their world shatters when the younger brother Joe gets a cancer diagnosis. This book will make you cry and warm your heart at the same time....
What are you playing at?

What are you playing at?

What is the opposite of a game? Work? Reality? Real life? Read the books on this list and you’ll be even less certain. From a teacher lured into a game of make-believe (or is it?) on a Greek island, to the S&M mind games of The Image, to Professor Johan Huizinga’s seminal Homo Ludens, the...