Zahra Zazemi

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

REPRESSIVE REGIMES OF whatever political or religious persuasion often have in common an internal struggle between the hardliners and the reformers. Those in Vietnam and the former Soviet Union spring to mind. In the Vietnam of the early 1990s, the reformists offered American PEN visas to visit the country and meet its many writers in […]

French Kissing

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

KATE CLEG’S LIFE lacks glamour. A local reporter, she lives (overweight and boyfriend-less) with her parents and gran up north in Slackmucklethwaite, a town whose only attraction is a pub, The Punch Bowl – affectionately known as ‘The Punch Up’. Attempts to introduce a touch of class into her family life are lost on her […]

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Modern Alchemy

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

IT IS 2020 and only two years since the dollar was cancelled. Anna Moore, Inland Revenue Inspector (A2 Grade), must investigate John Law, quadrillionaire inventor of Soft Gold, the first electronic currency. Despite his enormous wealth, the man known as the Cryptographer has been engaged in a prosaic fiddle, apparently to mask an undeclared deposit […]

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He Snored Very Loudly while the City

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

DRAMATIC IRONY ORIGINATED as a concept in studies of Greek tragedy and was located in the space between the ignorance of the characters on stage, who grasped at the future only through prophecies and omens, and the knowledge of the audience members, who knew their myths – who knew that Medea, to take one example, […]

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Money Talks

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

GIVEN THAT A large chunk of our lives is devoted to accumulating and spending, why is this topic so neglected in fiction? Even novels centred on the workplace tend to treat it as a backdrop to people’s social and emotional relationships. Not so Good Faith. In this excellent novel, the desire for wealth is the […]

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A Tale From Tallinn

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

JAAN KROSS, PERHAPS Estonia’s most famous contemporary author. has been writin”g novels that confront the troubled history of his country for more than three decades. During the years of Soviet rule, his books were by necessity written to outwit censorship, concealing their criticism of the state in layers of ambiguity and irony. This is no […]

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The Agoraphobe Within

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘TIBOR FISCHER’ ACCORDING to a quote on the cover of his latest book, ‘is a pyrotechnic craftsman.’ Does he make fireworks? No, he doesn’t. He makes novels – morose, high-handed, glancingly philosophical comic novels. I wouldn’t let him anywhere near a firework, particularly not with children around, but he can be trusted with a novel. Fischer’s […]

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Faith, Fate and Teens in America

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

ACCORDING TO POPULAR legend, during the 1999 massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School, the two teen assassins paused to demand of Cassie Bernall, a student of known Christian faith, if she believed in God. When she answered in the aftirmative, they shot her in the head, killing her instantly. If Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris […]

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Mid-Wife Crisis

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

THEREC OMES A point in the career of a male novelist when his thoughts turn to sex. In between mid-life crisis and old age – when, perhaps, his sexual prowess no longer matches his libidinous imagination – he has the urge to put his fantasies into his fiction. He casts himself (disguised, of course) as […]

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The Poet Who Never Was

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

THIS IS THE story of a joke, which backfires big time. Lives are lost, reputations shattered, frailties exposed. And it all starts quite parochially in the backwaters of literary publishing in Melbourne in the late 1940s. A bumptious Australian poet called Christopher Chubb decides to teach his country a lesson by exposing its neediness to […]

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Anarchy In The UK

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

TWO YEARS AGO J G Ballard published his Complete Short Stories, a remarkable collection warranting his reputation as one of Britain’s most formidable writers. At 1,200 pages, the ninety-six stories were notable for their range and consistency over nearly half a century. There was no falling oe if anything, the stories grew bolder and more […]

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A Modern Shipwreck

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

ELIZABETH  COSTELLO IS , like her creator, John Michael Coetzee, a novelist of world renown. She is also, rather like the reclusive, taciturn Coetzee himself, a fugitive. She is in hiding from the world and perhaps also from herself. We meet her in disillusioned old age, a lifetime of steady achievement behind her. She has […]

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Mart – The Return

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A MERCILESS PR campaign (the website, the refurbished back catalogue, the serial, the authorial pronouncements); the agent’s terse embargo letters, piling up like leaves on the forest floor; the pre-publication spats: one gets the impression that quite a lot is hanging on the success, or otherwise, of Yellow Dog. It’s Mart’s first novel, Mart’s first […]

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Wheeling And Dealing

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

EVERY SUMMER SOME 200 professional cyclists set out to race over 3,000 kilometres round France in the most gruelling test of mental and physical endurance in the world of sport. What Geoffrey Wheatcroft achleves in Le Tour is to set the race in its political and social context. An accomplished historian, he is also a […]

Passion For Cultivation

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

KAREL CAPEK ACHIEVED international fame in 1923 when his play R.U.R. introduced the word robot into the Enghsh language in a blackly satirical vision of a world threatened by its automated workforce. The Capek brothers were already well known in their native Czechoslovakia, but Karel’s disturbing science-fiction fantasy, The War with the Newts, is probably […]

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Wallpaper and the Wilderness

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

If British moviemakers can be divided into realists and romantics, then John Boorman is firmly on the dreamier side of the equation. Filming Hope and Glory (1987), his autobiographical take on Blitz-blown Britain, Boorman had printing blocks etched to reproduce the wallpaper that hung in his parents’ living room during the war. It’s a lovely bit of mundane […]

Meddling with the Mujahedin

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

LEAFY TUNBRIDGE WELLS is an unlikely setting for the beginning of a book about Afghanistan; Kent and Kandahar have little in common that immediately springs to mind. But Tunbridge Wells is where Saira Shah, the author of this lyrical ta’ie, was raised. Much of the book deals with the conflict between East and West, between […]

The Identikit Dictator

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

THIS FINE AND timely book reminded me of Shiva Naipaul’s North of South. ‘Hopeless, doomed continent! Onlv lies flourished here,’ Naivaul exclaims at the close of his travels. ‘Africa was swadhed in lies – the lies of an aborted European civilization; the lies of liberation. Nothing but lies.’ Christopher Hope is not far from coming~to […]

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