An excerpt from ZED, the forthcoming novel by Joanna Kavenna, a Granta Best of Young British Novelist.
Fatima Farheen Mirza on navigating gender roles in a Muslim family, wearing hijab and learning how to box.
My Mother Pattu
Saraswathy M. Manickam’s ‘My Mother Pattu’ is the Asian regional winner of the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
A Season on Earth
‘He had forgotten in the seminary how many distractions there were in the world.’
The Sole Purveyor of Madame Bovary in Beijing circa 1989
‘In the day, his bevy of besotted rustics were coached in maxims of libertarian socialism. By night: rice wine orgies and folk punk sing-alongs.’
The Ungrateful Refugee
‘I was born in 1979, a year of revolution, and grew up in wartime.’ Dina Nayeri on growing up in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Obsessed with a single line from Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness – Kurtz’s injunction to ‘Exterminate All the Brutes’ – Sven Lindqvist set out across Central Africa, and wrote a book that revealed precisely what Europe’s imperial powers had exacted on Africa’s people over the course of the preceding two centuries.
Rules for Visiting
‘It wasn’t until the end of dinner, when my aunt started clearing and my grandmother demanded another bottle of wine, that I began to understand.’
American Girl and Boy from Shobrakheit
‘Question: is romance just a father who never carried you to bed carrying you, at last, to bed?’
‘Characteristically my wife refused to be drawn into the situation while I became obsessed with it.’
‘It was a harsh and brutal puberty: the tiny creatures began to fret, as if an inner sense had forewarned them of the torment in store’
The Snow in Ghana
‘We always carry it to foreign countries, all over the world, our pride and our powerlessness.’ Translated from the Polish by William Brand.
Dreams for Hire
‘The wave had erupted with such force that it obliterated the glass lobby.‘ Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor.
Agnes of Iowa
‘Through college she had been a feminist – more or less. She shaved her legs, but just not often enough, she liked to say.’
‘When I was seeing Kilty (how, even today, the word 'seeing' mesmerizes me), the fact of my blindness was never mentioned, referred to, or alluded to’.
Always the Same Snow and Always the Same Uncle
‘Who knows: what I write I must eat, what I don’t write – eats me.’
‘The Tanners are like mushrooms: born with every molecule / they’ll ever need.’
A Mother’s Dilemma
‘I can hear the girl scratching a pencil inside a notebook. I don’t like it. I’ve asked her not to write about me.’
On Meeting Mrs Obama
‘Michelle’s story, while deeply rooted in the American story, speaks to experiences that are universal.’
Jennifer Kabat on the Anti-Rent War, one of the earliest moments of rural populism in the US, and something few know about outside the Catskill Mountains.
An extract from Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, translated from the French by Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken.
A Night in the Engadine
John Kaag, author of Hiking with Nietzsche, camps out in the mountains of the Engadine where Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
At the Edge of Night
An excerpt from Friedo Lampe’s At the Edge of Night, translated from the German by Simon Beattie.
The Politics of Feeling
‘Everything already is fraying at the edges if not completely gone.’
‘Strangely, it was Joseph Conrad who introduced me to Edward Said and not the other way around.’
Picking Up Nathan from the Airport
‘When shit like this happens, people don’t walk out on fifteen-year marriages.’
‘This burning girl that I am with skin stretched white hot across unfair flesh. Harmflesh.’
Two Keiths and the Wrong Piano
‘My response to the music had reminded me that concealed inside myself was a more excitable and open self raring to get out.’
Objects in Mirror
‘He runs through the events of the day in his mind. Fairly frightening, really: the sudden request for his file, the question about the government. And the silence.’
Confessions of a White Vampire
‘Many of the people I was living with considered me a white vampire, who killed to extract human fat.’ Jeremy Narby on the Amazonian myth of the white vampire.
Ryszard Kapuściński, once the only foreign correspondent for the Polish Press Agency, on the concept of borders.
If You Start Breathing
‘Sharing her pain with other people meant that her pain belonged to her less, Joanne belonged to her less.’