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A Brief History of a Musical Failure

Catherine Tice

‘At the end of the piece, there was silence, followed by a sudden thunder of feet and bows on the stands. A thrilling noise.’

A Family in Nanjing

Colin Thubron

‘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

Fawwaz Traboulsi

‘In Beirut, a well reveals layer upon layer, generation after generation, of ruins.’

A Hippy Among Communists

Klaus Schlesinger

‘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

Patrick Süskind

‘Just what exactly is it that belongs together, pray tell? Absolutely nothing!’

A Note on Shakespeare

Harold Pinter

‘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 Preface to A.H.

Tony Tanner

‘Words can move mountains, but also Nuremberg rallies.’

A Prisoner of the Holy War

Wendell Steavenson

‘Thayr held out. He would not betray his country, he would not betray his leader.’

A Summer’s Evening in Beijing

Elizabeth Pisani

‘The air is light with the intoxicating fumes of impending martyrdom.’

A Walk Through Manchester

Michael Symmons Roberts

‘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 Wronged

Jeremy Seabrook

‘The dead do not leave us alone.’

After Lockerbie

George Rosie

‘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

Mike Power

‘The Dark Web is a shadow internet, an unindexed, unseen and lawless corner of cyberspace.’

An English Exile

Jeremy Seabrook

‘I was never a revolutionary, not really a Marxist.’

Anatomy of a Cheeseburger

Jeremy Rifkin

‘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

Nii Ayikwei Parkes

‘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.’

Attempt at an Inventory

Georges Perec

‘Nine beers, two Tuborgs, four Guinnesses.’

Bad Land

Jonathan Raban

‘What the bottom line always comes to is the old two a.m. cry: We can’t go on living like this.’

Big Dome

Will Self

‘I began to conceive of the city itself as a kind of loving parent, vast but womb-like and surmounted by an overarching dome.’

Blind Rage

Henry John Reid

‘I was born in Dundee on 3 April 1951, of a mother who was not meant to bear more children and a father who had long before disappeared.’

Bolivia, 1990

Ferdinando Scianna

‘Photographing these people I came to realize that their lives are dominated by fear: fear of old galleries falling, of dynamite, of the spirits trapped in the mine, of tuberculosis, of the disappearance of veta (the wolfram seam), of the future.’

Bomb Gone

Owen Sheers

‘We had been driving along the Bay of Wrecks on the eastern coast of Christmas Island for over an hour and a half when we saw the flock of terns.’

Brief Encounter

Rupert Thomson

‘The man on the other end told me he was looking for sexual fantasies that were about eleven sentences long.’

Burying The Emperor

John Ryle

‘Before I left the city I paid a visit to the national museum to see another celebrated skeleton, that of the earliest hominid, the oldest human ancestor, Lucy.’

Certain Thoughts Arising out of being Pointed out by my Two-year-old Son

Raymond Tallis

‘I was also unable to imagine that future years would generate a pair of green-brown eyes which would look at me, a little brain that would recognize me, a small mouth that would re-christen me 'Daddy’.’

Chatwin Revisited

Paul Theroux

‘He was such a darter he seldom stayed still long enough for anyone to sum him up.’

Chicago’s Great Expositor

Wole Soyinka

‘It is not a complete man now dominating the affairs of the world from a historic mansion appropriately named the White House, although a case can be made that he comes close enough.’

China

Orville Schell

‘But if kitsch cat plates are a far cry from real art, they are also a far cry from socialist-realist propaganda.’

China’s Other Revolution

Orville Schell

‘Hurrying back to the rally ground, I could already hear the sound of martial music drifting out across Taicheng. As I approached the gates of the field, the music suddenly stopped and a strident voice began blasting out over a loudspeaker.’

Christopher Sorrentino | Portrait of My Father

Christopher Sorrentino

‘Those who strongly resemble one parent will recall the unsettling feeling of gazing into old photos and seeing, in relation to themselves, not the remote similarity of the grown-up sitting across the dinner table, but an exact likeness.’

Cinema’s Invisible Art

Jeremy Sheldon

‘Audiences don’t know somebody sits down and writes a picture.’

Closing Time

Jeremy Treglown

‘The effect is brutal and frightening, and rightly so.’

Co-operation for the Birds

Lewis Thomas

‘Somehow, despite the internal squabbles and constant competitions, the tree swallow societies manage to get by and survive, year after year.’

Cold Storage

Oliver Sacks

‘Uncle Toby was alive, but suspended, apparently, in some strange icy stupor.’

Congo

Guy Tillim

‘Visibility is everything.’