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A Clean Marriage

Sayaka Murata

‘Frequency of sex since marriage: zero.’ Sayaka Murata on a sexless marriage and the ‘Clean Breeder’ technique for pleasureless reproduction.

A Fan Letter

Stewart O’Nan

‘Before I begin I'd like to say that I'll try to remember everything as best I can, though sometimes I know it won't be right.’

A Good Man is Hard to Find

Duncan McLean

‘I thought I heard the woman next door crying’

A Hebrew Sibyl

Cynthia Ozick

‘And so began what I was to become. To all these things – the admonitions and the testimonies, the rites and the annunciations – I had easily acquiesced.’

A Killing

Katherine Faw Morris

COKE SMELLS COLD AND CHEMICAL LIKE THE INSIDE OF A REFRIGERATOR. It’s what back then smells like, now when she thinks of it.

A Mason’s Hand | New Voices

Ali Akbar Natiq

‘Haji sahib, these kids are beyond me. I can’t teach them any more. Please make some other arrangement.’

A Queer Streak Part One: Anonymous Letters

Alice Munro

‘She would never know why she had done it. She was sleepless and strung-up and her better judgement had deserted her.’

A Queer Streak Part Two: Possession

Alice Munro

‘He thinks he remembers Violet coming for supper, as she sometimes did, bringing with her a pudding which she set outside in the snow, to keep it cool.’

Accident

Etgar Keret

’Thirty years I’m a cabbie,’ the small guy sitting behind the wheel tells me, ’thirty years and not one accident.’

Adults

Claire Messud

‘Those summer evenings were all alike.’

After Helena

Andrés Neuman

‘What can damage us more? The blunt honesty of hatred, or the thwarted objective of reconciliation?’

Agnes of Iowa

Lorrie Moore

‘Her mother had given her the name Agnes, believing that a good-looking woman was even more striking when her name was a homely one.’

Always the Same Snow and Always the Same Uncle

Herta Müller

‘Who knows: what I write I must eat, what I don’t write – eats me.’

Amateur Dramatics

Jonathan Lee

‘I heard the news from a nurse with a piece of tinsel tied around her waist: my father had become a hypochondriac.’

America

Chinelo Okparanta

‘It is a reluctant kind of disregard that stems from a feeling of shame.’

An Amateur Spy In Arabia

Norman Lewis

‘In the 1930s I wanted to travel and I wanted to write. In 1935, I published my first book—about a journey to Spain’.

Animals

Michel Laub

‘I only stopped playing with him when he began biting the fingers of anyone who tried to pet him.’

Anubis

Paul Murray

‘Here in space you don't often get the chance to meet women.’

Arithmetic Town

Todd McEwen

‘Free play is when you have fun instead of playing kickball.’

At The Kitchen Table

Peter Orner

‘Your husband dies, you’re a widow. There’s almost joy in it. Why not scream it? Glory.’

Auto-Suggestion

Toby Litt

‘I began to think, for no particular reason, about what the exact series of events would be were I to die at that moment – before, even, my coffee went cold.’

B-ABEL

Jeremy Lane

‘Partial, our protagonist, to the palatal; prone, too, to the plosive; and apt, you’ve heard, to alliterate.’

Bad Seeds

Masatsugu Ono

‘Evil, she told herself. That was the name of the flower.’

Bears in Mourning

Adam Mars-Jones

‘When I think about it, it was terrible the way we behaved when Victor died. We behaved as if we were ashamed of him, or angry.’

Bicycle Thieves

Blake Morrison

‘Late June, scorched grass and sprinklers, the sky as if scuffed and beaten. Too hot to work, too lazy to think.’

Big Blue Bus

Etgar Keret

‘I want to I want to I want to I want to I want to I want to I want to.’

Black Bazaar

Alain Mabanckou

‘Roger The French-Ivorian understood that I didn’t appreciate his tone of voice and ordered two Pelforts to win me back.’

Blazing Sun

Tatiana Salem Levy

‘It’s never easy to trade one love for another.’

Blue Jay

Lillian Li

‘Like romantic love, you can’t ever replicate your first best-friendship.’

Bolivia, 1970

Ryszard Kapuściński

‘There is a demonstration on the other side of La Paz.’

Books and Roses

Helen Oyeyemi

‘A golden chain was fastened around her neck, and on that chain was a key.’

Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi

‘I didn’t enclose a note, though there were a few things I’d have liked to say. Restraint is classier.’

Breakfast

Toshiki Okada

‘If I had known she were heading for Tokyo then, and if I had known she thought of Tokyo as a city of zombies, I would have wanted to know, of course, whether she saw me that way, too.’

Bucket of Eels

Mitsuyo Kakuta

‘I was gazing into my empty bowl and realizing how little time it takes to eat when you’re not carrying on a conversation.’

Car Concentrate

Etgar Keret

‘Women mostly touch it tentatively with the backs of their hands.’