Kafka’s Trail

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Franz Kafka’s writings are often regarded as offering unsettlingly prescient visions of the 20th century. However, as his biographer Reiner Stach has pointed out, Kafka had no comparable foresight when it came to the afterlife of his own manuscripts: ‘No author at the beginning of the twentieth century – least of all Kafka himself – […]

Oktay Candemir & Ahmet Altan

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On 7 September, Turkish police arrested Oktay Candemir at his home in the eastern city of Van and confiscated his computer and personal archive. Candemir is a freelance journalist who writes columns for the pro-Kurdish news website Nupel. According to the Media and Legal Studies Association (MLSA), a local free expression group, Candemir was released […]

The Ghost & the Machine

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

As Halloween approaches, we tend to cast about for ghost stories. Reality and Other Stories, John Lanchester’s new collection, has evidently been pitched to satisfy this autumnal craving. It opens with Horatio’s warning in the first act of Hamlet that when in Caesar’s Rome ‘the graves stood tenantless’ all hell broke loose: a ghost is, […]

Missing, Presumed Dead

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

What happens when a frail old woman self-isolates for months on end, her only contact with fellow humans a weekly trip to the grocery store? This is the question posed by Ottessa Moshfegh in her new novel – one that has recently become pertinent for us all. Vesta Gul, the narrator of Death in Her […]

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Unhappy Together

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In The End of the Day, Bill Clegg returns to his native Connecticut, the setting of his Booker Prize-longlisted debut novel Did You Ever Have a Family. As in that book, Clegg chooses as his leading character an heiress and member of New England’s ersatz aristocracy. Dana Goss is sixty-eight, bisexual and succumbing to dementia. […]

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Village Whispers

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In this feminist coming-of-age epic, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi tracks the early life of Kirabo, a young girl growing up in the Ugandan village of Nattetta in the 1970s. With a mother who abandoned her at birth and a father who works in the city, Kirabo is raised by her stern but doting grandparents. The novel […]

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One Day in Paris

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Nick Newman, the narrator of Jude Cook’s Jacob’s Advice, is a man at sea: an expat living in Paris, he fears he may never see his ex-wife and child again, is struggling to make progress with his book on the history of France from 1789 to the present day, and is adjusting to living with […]

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The Emperor’s New Clothes

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On 3 October 1935, 200,000 soldiers of the Italian army, commanded by Colonel Carlo Fucelli, crossed the Mareb River dividing Ethiopia from the Italian colony of Eritrea without a prior declaration of war. Three hundred kilometres away, an Ethiopian soldier named Kidane began to prepare his men for battle, but within a year Emperor Haile […]

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Miles of Asles

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Since 1983, Jon Fosse has published, by my count, twenty-seven plays, twenty novels and eight collections of poetry. In Norway, he is so celebrated that the king has granted him permanent use of the Grotten, an honorary residence reserved for writers and artists in the grounds of Oslo’s royal palace. Yet so far, his work […]

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Three Get into Trouble

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The year 1968 was one of global turmoil, a terrible hangover after the revelries of the ‘summer of love’ the previous year. The ongoing war in Vietnam, the riots in Paris and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy – all of these rumble in the background of William Boyd’s sixteenth novel, Trio. […]

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What Tambu Did Next

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A mordant, often darkly witty study of postcolonial dejection, This Mournable Body is the third in Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga’s trilogy of novels about Tambudzai Sigauke and her family. At the end of the first volume, the acclaimed Nervous Conditions (1988), a brilliant career shimmered before Tambu. But in This Mournable Body, which has been shortlisted […]

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Between Friends

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The vogue for autofiction has brought developments to cherish as well as indulgences to deride. One of the reasons the term has caught on is the appeal not so much of novels based on their authors’ lives – that isn’t new – but of an approach to storytelling that is attractively minimalist in terms of […]

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Thinking Inside the Box

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Recorder is about a machine, a woman and their creepy symbiosis. The machine in Matt Wolf’s documentary is the VCR, the clunky, now happily obsolete box that, when fed with reels of tape, made it possible for the first time to preserve the unmemorable ephemera that flickered through our television sets; the woman is Marion […]

A Publisher’s Progress

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Quartet Books, owned and directed by Naim Attallah since 1976, has long been something unusual and valuable in the publishing world, ready to take chances on authors and books other firms might avoid. It has become even more precious in today’s era, when independent publishers are rare and political correctness is the norm. Attallah’s entertaining […]

Zen Koans & Blood Sausages

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Dirt is Bill Buford’s second contribution to the swelling subgenre of middle-aged memoir in which a man or, less frequently, woman of letters endures a traumatic but ultimately rewarding apprenticeship in the fetid air of a restaurant kitchen. In the first instalment, Heat (2006), ‘good home cook’ Buford pulls a drastic career switcheroo, going from […]

A Slippery Customer

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 2003, my The Book of Eels was published to some praise from reviewers and general indifference on the part of the book-buying public. I wondered, at the time, why people could not be persuaded to share my fascination with such an amazing creature. But maybe it was just the timing, for not only was […]

Peak Soil

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Towards the end of this lyrical and passionate book, the farmer James Rebanks describes how he is moving towards producing food using the minimum amount of artificial inputs, such as chemical fertilisers. ‘Sadly it means earning money away from the farm when we have to,’ he writes. This is a course of action that increasing numbers of farmers will have to pursue as we leave the EU’s subsidy system. But why

Breaking the Spell

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Human kind/Cannot bear very much reality,’ T S Eliot wrote in Four Quartets, the fruit of his long struggle with spiritual torment. Eliot ultimately found solace in the late-medieval Christian mysticism of Julian of Norwich, but his point still stands: what reality is and how we learn to bear it have been the defining challenges […]

They Went to Spain

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This evocative study is the first comprehensive history in English of all the 35,000 international volunteers who fought the combined forces of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco in Spain in the war of 1936–9. Far more than a civil war, it was Europe’s war against fascism. Giles Tremlett encapsulates its huge stakes perfectly in his opening […]

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