Author Archives: David Gelber

Paperback Pusher

Posted on by David Gelber

‘Now Barabbas was a publisher.’ The joke was made by Thomas Campbell, once a great editor, now a forgotten man. I suspect that many authors, looking at their six-monthly royalty figures, have invoked the line. If every translator, following the Italian, is a traitor (traduttori, traditori), many publishers might be thought robbers. One recalls the […]

Alaa Abdel Fattah

Posted on by David Gelber

It has been months since I wrote a letter and more than a year since I’ve written an article. I have nothing to say: no hopes, no dreams, no fears, no warnings, no insights; nothing, absolutely nothing … I try to remember what it was like when tomorrow seemed so full of possibility and my […]

Death Becomes It

Posted on by David Gelber

At its core, Frankenstein in Baghdad is a novel about the personal and collective trauma of war and the many afterlives of violence. A reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this novel joins Hassan Blasim’s The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq and The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon as the most recent additions to […]

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Mad World

Posted on by David Gelber

After the Second World War, partly influenced by Michel Foucault’s 1961 history of the institutionalisation of madness, fury at medical bureaucracy developed into an anti-psychiatry movement. Patients subjected to tranquilising pharmaceuticals and electrocution were seen as the hapless victims of harsh disciplinary systems. Mental illness itself was understood as an explicable response to a world […]

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Off Road in the Outback

Posted on by David Gelber

Peter Carey’s fourteenth novel goes gleefully around in circles. The most obvious example is the Redex Around Australia Reliability Trial, described by Irene Bobs, one of three narrators, as ‘the greatest Australian car race of the century’. Redex glory was gained not by circumnavigating Australia the quickest, but by finishing in one piece: ‘As the […]

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Blasts from the Past

Posted on by David Gelber

Zohra Dasgupta is a young postwoman going about her rounds in Bromsgrove when, one day, she finds herself delivering a letter to an address she’s never heard of. Through a tangle of bushes set back from the road she discovers a pair of old railway carriages, mouldering and shabby, with two elderly brothers living in […]

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Growing Pains

Posted on by David Gelber

The Adulterants follows an adolescent thirty-something as he makes a series of poor life decisions during his wife’s third trimester. ‘I was building a case for myself as a father,’ Ray explains as he flirts with other women, then gets punched in the face, prosecuted, kicked out of his flat and publicly shamed. Joe Dunthorne’s […]

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Following the Male Gaze

Posted on by David Gelber

What you make of this tangled tale of backhanders and blackmail in southern Italy may turn on whether you feel it perpetuates or merely portrays the misogyny at the novel’s heart. It’s tempting to judge the matter purely on the evidence of the prologue, in which an unnamed woman with a ‘full, taut pair of […]

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Love’s Labour

Posted on by David Gelber

Julian Barnes has often made a virtue of the ordinary. His first novel, Metroland (1980), spins a yarn out of growing up in the suburbs; in The Sense of an Ending, which won the Booker Prize in 2011, the narrator is a retired bureaucrat who rakes up his regret at a friend’s suicide decades earlier. […]

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Bosk Country

Posted on by David Gelber

Alfred Busi is a singer of a certain age, feted and garlanded in his home town and indeed about to be made the subject of a commemorative bust on its Avenue of Fame, but quietly ravaged by grief for his dead wife. One night he is drawn from the faded opulence of his seafront villa […]

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Literary Fixes

Posted on by David Gelber

Laura Freeman’s memoir of her teenage years and her early twenties, The Reading Cure, recounts her fight with anorexia. But it is not so much a diary chronicling the painful stages of the illness as an ode to the joy of reading. The descriptions of eating and food in books help her break through her […]

Dreaming of Gondar

Posted on by David Gelber

Back in 1924, Granny Yetemegnu (or Nannyé) warranted a five-bullock wedding in her home town of Gondar, in northwest Ethiopia. No matter that she was only eight and her husband, Tsega, an aspiring priest, around thirty. Wearing a heavy black cape trimmed with gold filigree, she stood barefoot as a ring was threaded onto her […]

Mute Justice

Posted on by David Gelber

Rarely can such an injustice have been noticed by so few people. How many have even heard of Wang Yam, still in prison serving a life sentence for murder? Some might remember the man whom he was alleged to have killed. Allan Chappelow was once, many decades ago, slightly if not widely known for his […]

For Good or Ill

Posted on by David Gelber

Illusion, like hope, springs eternal. Without illusion, life would certainly be intolerable and even impossible; one might almost say that the art of the good life is in choosing one’s illusions wisely. The person who says that he is under no illusions contradicts himself. No subject provokes illusion more powerfully than that of health. At […]

I’m Very Good at Sex

Posted on by David Gelber

I recently interviewed the radio DJ Shaun Keaveny on behalf of a trouser company called Spoke. Shaun anchors the breakfast show on BBC Radio 6 Music, which means that, five days a week, he has to get up at stupid o’clock. So I asked him. I said: tell us your tips for dealing with the […]

No Respect for Golf Courses

Posted on by David Gelber

However well we think we know the suffragists and suffragettes, it is still easy to be dazzled by the iconic images: a tiny Emmeline Pankhurst being lifted off her feet by a burly policeman, Emily Davison tumbling under the hooves of King George V’s horse at the Derby, an enraptured Christabel Pankhurst rousing her supporters. […]

Memory Slain

Posted on by David Gelber

This provocative and engaging little book should be read as a personal essay. Francis O’Gorman makes his own voice and lived experience visible, which transforms his argument into a conversation with the reader. Thus, controversial and surprising ideas are presented with the armchair authority of a scholarly gentleman. The personal voice provides the illusion of […]

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