Visions of Corsica

Posted on by David Gelber

In August 1947, with wartime travel restrictions having been lifted, John Minton and Alan Ross set off for Corsica to escape the austerity of postwar Britain, thanks to the invitation and sponsorship of John Lehmann. Lehmann had suggested to Ross that he and Minton travel around Corsica to produce not a travel book but, as […]

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Lobsang Lhundup

Posted on by David Gelber

In June 2019, Lobsang Lhundup, a Tibetan intellectual and former monk who writes under the pen name Dhi Lhaden, was detained by the Chinese authorities. His whereabouts remain unknown and there are concerns for his welfare. Lhundup, the author of two books circulated underground in Tibet, had been teaching at a private cultural education centre […]

The Housewife & the Frog

Posted on by David Gelber

Rachel Ingalls – whose 1982 novella Mrs Caliban has now been reissued by Faber – was primarily a writer of short stories, and it shows in the precisely chosen language of this subversive, superlatively weird fairy tale. Ingalls has a canny eye for detail: the novella opens with the protagonist, Dorothy, and her faithless husband, […]

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Unlucky Break

Posted on by David Gelber

A lecturer leaves Rhode Island following his recent divorce to gather his thoughts in Buenos Aires. Here he stays at a guest house run by Enrique. While sitting in a cafe, the lecturer witnesses Enrique becoming drenched by the previous night’s rain as it is unleashed from the cafe’s unfurling canopy. This comic incident sets […]

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Call of Nature

Posted on by David Gelber

The nature writer and literary critic Richard Smyth’s new novel is an unusual and enticing beast, reminiscent of the early work of John Fowles. The setting and characters are painted with precision and flair, which makes up for the occasionally meandering parts of the narrative. The story is set in the 1920s. The protagonist, Jon […]

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Lifting the Fig Leaf

Posted on by David Gelber

‘A tree is a memory keeper,’ says the fig tree that, in a wonderful rebuke to anthropocentric storytelling, serves as one of the narrators in Elif Shafak’s extraordinary new novel about grief, love and memory. Grown from a cutting rescued from the ruins of a bar in Cyprus, the fig tree in the Kazantzakis family’s […]

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A Widow’s Tale

Posted on by David Gelber

Joyce Carol Oates’s new novel begins with the main character’s husband falling ill. Michaela and Gerard, an esteemed historian of science, have come to New Mexico so that he can take up a short-term fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Research. But after some time in the local hospital, Gerard dies, leaving Michaela alone in […]

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Away from the Beach

Posted on by David Gelber

In Britain and elsewhere, Barcelona has acquired a reputation as a city of Gothic and art nouveau architecture, of beaches and of cool urban living. As someone who lives there, I can testify that there is some truth in this. It is also, though, a polluted, noisy city where most people live in small, sticky-with-heat […]

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At Home with Matisse

Posted on by David Gelber

Cut Out is the story of two people, a young ‘country mouse’ called Clémence, or Clem, whose relationship with an artist and his mistress leads to her running away from home, and a gay man, Denis, her long-lost godson, who is invited to meet her in Nice many years later. What is the mystery his […]

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Only Disconnect

Posted on by David Gelber

Lionel, the main character of five linked stories at the heart of this, Brandon Taylor’s first collection, is a black, queer man – like Wallace, the protagonist of Taylor’s Booker Prize-shortlisted debut, Real Life (2020) – living on the fringes of academia in the American Midwest. When we first meet him in the opening story, […]

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For Love or Money

Posted on by David Gelber

Despite the promise of the title, there are no easy answers here for those seeking a happy life. Some may be inferred, though, from the fact that the novel’s unhappiest characters are fixated on money – because they have either too much, or not enough. The happy ones have made a decision to make do […]

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Wheesht Laddie

Posted on by David Gelber

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Walter Scott, not the least of whose achievements was the invention of the historical novel. Andrew Greig was surely aware of this when he embarked on Rose Nicolson, which has a heroine cast from the mould of Jeanie Deans in The Heart of Midlothian […]

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Strange Fruit

Posted on by David Gelber

In Morocco during the French protectorate, mixed-race marriages were viewed with revulsion by polite colonial society. It’s little wonder, then, that the mixed-race family at the heart of The Country of Others are such a dyspeptic bunch. When the book opens, in the 1940s, Amine Belhaj is an aspiring fruit grower and self-taught botanist tasked […]

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Time After Time

Posted on by David Gelber

David Keenan’s fifth novel, Monument Maker, may be construed as a monument in its own right, aspiring to timelessness – a vast, often bewildering store of memories and narratives ranging across different periods and landscapes. Keenan, we are told, spent a decade writing the book, and the result is a text of colossal ambition. At […]

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Sufferings of Helen

Posted on by David Gelber

Once Hector was dead, there was no hope for the Trojans. In the closing scenes of Homer’s Iliad, the warrior’s widow, mother and sister-in-law pine over his battered corpse before it is consigned to the flames and envisage further miseries before them. ‘I do not think he will reach his teenage years,’ says Andromache of […]

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Let Them Eat Cake

Posted on by David Gelber

The poems in Selima Hill’s Men Who Feed Pigeons are between two and twelve lines in length – typically they are four – and are about men but rarely about pigeons. In the opening section, alphabetically arranged, from ‘The Anaesthetist’ down to ‘The Uncle’, they take the form of small self-contained narratives. Poems like ‘The […]

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Disinterring Anton Chekhov

Posted on by David Gelber

Thirty years ago, Russia’s archives opened their doors to any plausible enquirer. The vast treasures of the Russian State Library and the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art excited biographers, historians and editors, though older archivists, like the dogs in charge of the hay, disliked the invasion of their mangers by foreigners with laptops. […]

Taking a Bow

Posted on by David Gelber

Remember Addison DeWitt, the drama critic so vividly incarnated by George Sanders in All About Eve? DeWitt is a person of formidable hauteur and waspish wit who writes without fear or favour, devoted above all to the integrity of the art form over which he sits in judgement. In his lineage stands Clement Crisp, revered […]

Master Keys

Posted on by David Gelber

It has been a dry eighteen months for live music. Completed just as lockdown began in the UK last March, these short essays open worlds of sound and history, illuminating familiar and forgotten works with succinct vignettes. They make up a book that encourages you to listen to and explore gems from the piano repertoire. […]

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