Author Archives: Frank Brinkley

Full of Prickles

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Stoyo Petkanov, the central character of Julian Barnes’s new novella, is a satirical creation of genius. Three parts Todor Zhivkov, the ghastly former ruler of Bulgaria, to one part Alf Garnett, he is the deposed communist boss of a (nameless) Soviet satellite state. Imprisoned by his reform-minded successors, he is about to be put on […]

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Thank You for Not Interrupting

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I have bought a second-hand Fairway Silver. It is not as smart as a new Fairway Bronze Driver Executive Plus, but I console myself that it is half the price and easier to describe. Both my Fairway and the BDEP are fitted with a Nissan 2.7 diesel engine. Compared with the old tractors, the new […]

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A Book of Quite Startling Banality

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘The most horrible thing he could imagine as a boy was to feel an ice-cold hand laid upon his face in a pitch dark room when alone at night; or to awaken in semi-darkness and see an evil face gazing close into his own; and these fancies had so haunted him that he would often […]

Narzullo Akhunjonov, Nurullo Raufkhon & Bobomurod Abdullaev

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I’ve written in these pages many times about human rights violations in Uzbekistan. Free expression is severely restricted, thousands of people are imprisoned on politically motivated charges, human rights defenders and independent journalists are frequently subjected to harassment and intimidation, including beatings and smear campaigns, and torture is endemic. Uzbekistan’s authoritarian ruler Islam Karimov died […]

Collision Course

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Those familiar with Graeme Macrae Burnet’s previous, Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, His Bloody Project, apparently a historical account of a real murder, will know of the author’s fondness for literary games. This, his third novel, also engages with the meanings of fiction, returning us to the provincial milieu of Saint Louis in France and the borderline […]

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Mommy Issues

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It is fifty years since the publication of Paul Theroux’s first novel, Waldo. Astonishingly prolific, he has published thirty further novels, plus almost twenty works of non-fiction, including a volume of criticism on V S Naipaul. Now aged seventy-six, he shows no signs of slowing down. At over 500 pages, his latest novel is a […]

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Giving Up the Ghost

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At the end of Richard Flanagan’s new novel, the protagonist, a failed novelist called Kif Kehlmann, reflects that experience is the ‘most illusory of art’s myths, the nonsense that we must go beyond ourselves to discover the world’, when in fact ‘all the time it’s only by going within ourselves that we discover the truth […]

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Death of an Actor

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Flying to Chicago on her honeymoon, Eve Swift worries she’s made the wrong choice. Will the marriage work? Is Jim really the right husband for her? After all, he’s writing a book about the benefits of anxiety. The benefits! But it was anxiety that wrecked her budding acting career (‘It was all The Show Must […]

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Familiar Grounds

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

For the successful writer of fiction, there are few more insidious fears than the prospect of running out of material. Even the most indefatigable and prolific of storytellers may be haunted by the possibility that their flow of ideas might one day dry up, leaving them with nothing at all to say that they have […]

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Of Minds & Men

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In a Britain of the near-future so saturated with surveillance that the government can literally plug itself into your mind, a woman called Diana Hunter is taken into custody. Her consciousness is accessed via a technology called Witness, designed to decant her thoughts and memories, thereby allowing the police to determine her level of guilt […]

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Resurrecting Daemons

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

What is Dust? Philip Pullman has been promising an answer to this question since the publication of the last volume of His Dark Materials, the trilogy of novels that took as one of its starting points Blake’s contention that in Paradise Lost the poet Milton was unknowingly of the devil’s party. We were told that […]

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Mixed Felines

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

As Europe struggles to admit refugees from Syria, it is easy to forget that not long ago it was the citizens of the former Yugoslavia who were seeking asylum in western and northern Europe. Pajtim Statovci’s novel tells the story of two generations of Kosovan Albanians who have fled to Finland. Emine was born in […]

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Liar, Liar

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Javier Cercas is one of Europe’s most serious and attractive writers. Soldiers of Salamis, his breakthrough novel (published in English in 2003), dealt with an incident of mercy in the Spanish Civil War, The Speed of Light (2006) with the empty heart of a Vietnam War veteran, and Outlaws (2014) with a gang of thieves […]

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Spinning Out Yarns

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Let’s begin by dispelling a misconception: in essence, László Krasznahorkai’s sentences aren’t long. While the use of the comma or coordinating conjunction in place of the full stop can imbue a writer’s words with a feeling of breathlessness or urgency (or, in the worst cases, of turgidity and torpor), in Krasznahorkai’s case it has little […]

Carte Blanche

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

We might turn, dear reader, to the fundamental paradox of the colour white. It is a blankness that is perceptible, a colour and also an absence of colour. It is symbolically associated with light, purity, innocence, perfection, marriage, birth and swaddling cloth, yet also with winding sheets, ice and snow, mute eternity, death, creepy marble and ghosts

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A Leaf Less Ordinary

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Who dies, if memory lives?’ The well-known question has adorned many tombstones and always raises in me the dour response, ‘But who lives if memory dies?’ If our main hope of survival lies in the memories of the still living, then in two or three generations we shall all of us, as the Gospel of […]

Opposites Attract

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Curiosity takes many forms. Although the author of this entertaining book – which is not so much a twin biography as a cultural companion to Restoration London – never quite acknowledges it, the curiosity of Samuel Pepys was of a rather different order to that of John Evelyn. While both were movers in the nascent […]

A Rock to Call Home

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It’s one thing to pop over to a small British island for a spot of bird-watching or an adventure holiday – or, indeed, to gather material for an island-hopping book – but quite another to be fated to live there year-round. The inescapable truth, conceded here by Patrick Barkham and many before him, is that […]

All Tomorrow’s Battles

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 1908 H G Wells published the very first work of fiction to anticipate that aircraft would play a major role in future conflicts. His novel The War in the Air depicted German airships terrorising American cities: ‘Nation rose against nation and air-fleet grappled air-fleet, cities blazed and men died in multitudes.’ No one described […]

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