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A Bizarre Courtship

Ben Okri

‘One morning, more golden than yellow, I went outside to our housefront and saw that the beggars had gone.‘

A Blow to the Head

A.L. Kennedy

‘I am looking for my dead grandfather in the British Library.’

A Bosnian Alphabet

Lawrence Norfolk

‘APOLOGY: A should be for Alphabet: the device I am resorting to in some desperation to structure my thoughts on this subject: my relations vis-à-vis two Yugoslavian wars.‘

A Childhood in Broadmoor Hospital

Patrick McGrath

‘These were the friends of my early boyhood, men who twenty years earlier would still have been called ‘criminal lunatics’.‘

A Childhood in Terezin

Ivan Klíma

‘I am trying to reach, in memory, a time before the war began.’

A Cock Fight

Charles Nicholl

‘And now, the night before the fight, with the moon high and nearing the full, came the final preparation: we were taking him to Auguste.’

A Dose of Winter Medicine

Kseniya Melnik

‘I looked at the carpet in her small living room. This is where she had fallen and lay for twenty-four hours before her younger sister, Auntie Tanya, had found her.’

A Fish Out of Water

Mario Vargas Llosa

‘A democracy, I said, is driven by the electoral process, and in elections there are victories and defeats.’

A Kidnapped West or Culture Bows Out

Milan Kundera

‘But since Europe itself is in the process of losing its own cultural identity, it perceives in Central Europe nothing but a political regime; put another way, it sees in Central Europe only Eastern Europe.’

A Letter

Sławomir Mrożek

‘I draw your attention to football. The practice of this game threatens the basis of our very way of life.’

A Tour of Angola

Ryszard Kapuściński

‘You have to learn how to live with the check-points and to respect their customs, if you want to travel without hindrance and reach your destination alive.’

A Train in Winter

Caroline Moorehead

‘It was clear that not all would, or could, or would choose to, survive.’

A Trip to Syria

David McConnell

‘Several years ago, a friend and I stayed at the one hotel set amid the ruins of Queen Zenobia’s oasis capital, Palmyra, in the Syrian desert.’

A very young Dancer

Todd McEwen

‘I have a snapshot of the two of us: late on a summer afternoon we're playing in an inflatable wading pool.‘