Explore essays and memoir
Bookshelves: John Berger in My Family Album
‘The contours of the family arranged on the bookshelf shifted.’
Karen Olsson | Notes on Craft
Karen Olsson shares her notes on the craft of writing: ‘Every book is an unsolvable problem, and yet every time I convince myself I’m just on the verge of cracking it.’
Stuck in Trees (with Apologies to Ian Frazier)
‘On 8 January 2018, I noticed a large bunch of purple balloons in a tree near my apartment building.’
Fatima Farheen Mirza on navigating gender roles in a Muslim family, wearing hijab and learning how to box.
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.
‘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.
‘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’.
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.
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.
‘Strangely, it was Joseph Conrad who introduced me to Edward Said and not the other way around.’
‘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.’
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.
Best Book of 2013: Tom Drury’s Pacific
‘There is a remarkable flow to the novel, like that aimless but essential drunken chatter after your third pint.’ John Patrick McHugh on why Tom Drury’s Pacific is the best book of 2013.
The Trouble With Rape
April Ayers Lawson on rape, trauma, and the difficulty of speaking out about sexual abuse.
All Hail the Holy Bone
‘It is part angel, part lepidopteran, part Rorschach inkblot.’
Jack Losh reports from rebel-held Bria in the Central African Republic, where fighting has forced thousands into a displacement camp.
Bohemian Rhapsody in Five Acts
Tiffany Murray on living with Freddie Mercury as a child.
Masculinity Is Leaving The Male Body
‘If we’re gonna imagine this beautiful queer paradise what form does a man take?’ – Seabright D. Mortimer on constructing masculine identity in genderqueer spaces.
‘I again told him I wasn’t ready to have sex, and his only response was to lean in and kiss me. The hallway in which we walked seemed to be shrinking, closing in on us.’ – April Ayers Lawson on intimacy after sexual abuse.
On Paris Hilton and Other Undead Things
‘What sex tapes offer, on a hauntological level, is an impossible closeness to that which is neither dead nor alive.’
See What You Do to Me
‘My intention was to protect myself, and not to have to go back on my word.’
‘Part of what made him interesting was that I felt he would dismiss me the moment I bored him.’
‘We started the affair in a small booth at Village Inn. I didn’t sleep the night before. You were my teacher, and we discussed my fiction.’
‘One by one they’re led into the box. They swear their oath. They confirm their name, their employment, why they were where they say they were, what it was they saw.’
‘We hope that the copilot knows the terrain well. That his mask of youth conceals the face of a seasoned veteran of war. That he knows the minefields because he helped plant them.’