Explore essays and memoir
Jianan Qian | First Sentence
‘For every witness, history unfolded at some other time, and in some other place.’ Jianan Qian on the first sentence of her story, ‘To the Dogs’.
The Emperor of Ice Cream
‘Death is terrifying and impossibly big, but life is even bigger – vulgar, relentless, ruthless.’
Lemons in Winter
‘I wonder why I am always the last to let go. I wonder if there is any amount that will ever be enough.’
Read an excerpt from Raja Shehadeh’s Going Home, a reflection on ageing, failure, the occupation, and the changing face of Ramallah.
Night on Fire
‘I know what’s going to happen and I know that it’s going to be bizarre.’
Distributed Denial of Service
‘Once you learn to seal the shell, to make it watertight, you can let anything roil around in there.’
How I Write My Books
Anne Serre on how she writes. Translated from the French by Mark Hutchinson.
Pajtim Statovci | Notes on Craft
‘My childhood was pierced not only by the violence in Kosovo but also by the violence my immigrant family was confronted with in Finland.’
‘I naively believed as a child that I would always have a father present, and the truth seems to be that I always will.’
‘It was through my mother that I grew more aware of my body as incredibly fraught and problematic.‘
The Power of a Name
‘When English is the dominant everything, you can’t help wanting to fight for the little speck of the rest of your self.’
The Nine Circles
‘The body wants to escape suffering at all costs. The body wants to live.’
‘Touch had its own language, and the rules were the opposite of the ones I knew at home.’
Feeling Southern: A Patagonian Story
‘I was harbouring a southern feeling, a deep connection with the South of this real world, where I was born and will probably die.’
‘Indigenous chefs will tell you that their dishes are Indigenous, not Canadian. With the plate, these chefs demonstrate that the food is the land, and that the land is still theirs.’ Zoe Tennant on Indigenous cuisines.
When We Returned to Pakistan
Bina Shah on growing up in Pakistan. ‘Culture shock was what they called it in those days, but to me it felt like a kidnapping.’
Best Book of 1949: The Thief’s Journal
‘To read it is to feel the alternative tempo in the rude repetitions of the thief who loves to steal.’
The Best Book of 1943: Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
Kathryn Scanlan on the best book of 1943: Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles.
Best Book of 1966: Season of Migration to the North
‘Of course, literature cannot be separated from its flesh of language and form. Nor can its tangible subject explain why it moves its reader, through the subtleties of language, or the shadowy geographies that it leaves to the imagination.’
Best Book of 1947: Call Me Ishmael by Charles Olson
Chris Power on the Best Book of 1947: Call Me Ishmael by Charles Olson.
Best Book of 1935: Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi
Naben Ruthnum on the best book of 1935: Junichiro Tanizaki's The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi.
Why Should You Be One Too?
Spencer Reece on alcoholism, homosexuality, and the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop.
Kathryn Scanlan | Notes on Craft
‘I try to write a sentence as unbudging and fully itself as some object sitting on a shelf in my office.’
The Canvas Bag
‘It was given to her by her Japanese captors after the Fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 to pack the few possessions she was allowed to take with her to prison.’
Paul Dalla Rosa | Notes on Craft
‘I feel like I’m haunting an empty building, inert, waiting for each room to burst into flames.’
Murasaki’s Paper Trail
Martin Puchner on how Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting at the Japanese court, manage to write the first great novel of world literature.
Fred Pearce | Notes on Craft
‘For a hack like me, book-length meta-journalism is both a luxury and a challenge. I cannot hide my own views over 100,000 words, even if I want to.’