Explore essays and memoir
'I didn't start out a writer, and had no plans of becoming one.' Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Anya Migdal
A Brief History of a Musical Failure
‘At the end of the piece, there was silence, followed by a sudden thunder of feet and bows on the stands. A thrilling noise.’
‘I walk out of the theatre in a daze. I’ve glimpsed something. But a glimpse, as it turns out, is not enough.’
A Family in Nanjing
‘The old people had prepared a banquet for me - an extravagant spread of cold meats and dumplings which we ate with the prestige television blaring, and nobody watching it.’
A Guide to the City of Beirut
‘In Beirut, a well reveals layer upon layer, generation after generation, of ruins.’
A Hippy Among Communists
‘In March 1975, thirty years after the collapse of German fascism, N., a student from Berlin – bearded and long-haired – attended a series of lectures at a university on the Baltic coast.’
A Mid-life Crisis
‘Just what exactly is it that belongs together, pray tell? Absolutely nothing!’
A Note on Shakespeare
‘Shakespeare writes of the open wound and, through him, we know it open and know it closed. We tell when it ceases to beat and tell it at its highest peak of fever‘, Harold Pinter in 'A Note on Shakespeare' in Granta 59: France: The Outsider.
A Place on Earth: Scenes from a War
Dense forest and formless roads lead Sundaram to the most recent sites of conflict, burnt-out villages where pigs have taken over their former owner’s homes in an ‘inversion of man and beast, of civilization and nature’.
A Prisoner of the Holy War
‘Thayr held out. He would not betray his country, he would not betray his leader.’
A Summer’s Evening in Beijing
‘The air is light with the intoxicating fumes of impending martyrdom.’
A Walk Through Manchester
‘The rich, tomato red that decorated most of my bedroom – curtains, lampshade, bedspread – and the pale, rinsed-out blue like a milky north-west sky that represented the other side.’
A Woman’s Worth
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan on the evolution of feminist judgments in India.
The Royal African Society takes a look back at the history of the Africa Writes festival, their annual celebration of contemporary literature from Africa and the diaspora.
‘I’ve seen many images from the Lockerbie calamity since but none has stayed with me like the picture of Shannon’s pretty, smiling face.’
After Silk Road
‘The Dark Web is a shadow internet, an unindexed, unseen and lawless corner of cyberspace.’
All the Devils Are Here
‘A seaside shelter in the middle of autumn – it seems a strange choice.’
Anatomy of a Cheeseburger
‘Ray Kroc, one of the founders of the McDonald's hamburger chain, changed American eating habits as effectively as Henry Ford changed the way Americans travel.’
Ants of Accra
‘Ants became an obsession with her – she darted with them as they changed paths, watched them find their way around obstacles placed in their way.’
Any Idiot Can Write a Book
A production company is looking for contestants to participate in a new TV show, modelled on The Apprentice. They are seeking unpublished writers who have completed a novel.
‘It was like trying to go back to before the earthquake, to before knowledge.’
‘What the bottom line always comes to is the old two a.m. cry: We can’t go on living like this.’
Bad Luck, Britain
‘It was a wonderful day of high summer in the Stockholm archipelago.’
Be Careful with that Fan
‘I was stuck in Texas for a month. The days passed like slow-motion films.
Best Book of 1868: Dostoevsky’s The Idiot
‘The beauty of The Idiot lies in its opposition to closed systems.’
Best Book of 1901: The Octopus
Rob Magnuson Smith on why Frank Norris' The Octopus is the best book of 1901.
Best book of 1936: Locos
Ingrid Persaud on why Felipe Alfau’s Locos is the best book of 1936.
Best Book of 1950: A Natural History of Trees by Donald Culross Peattie
‘Now more than ever environmentalists need to remember what it’s like to write for that real world.’
Best Book of 1955: Pedro Páramo
Louise Stern on why Pedro Páramo is the best book of 1955.