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How to Write About Africa

Binyavanga Wainaina

‘Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.’

Agnes of Iowa

Lorrie Moore

‘Through college she had been a feminist – more or less. She shaved her legs, but just not often enough, she liked to say.’

Dreams for Hire

Gabriel García Márquez

‘The wave had erupted with such force that it obliterated the glass lobby.‘ Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor.

Those Who Felt Differently

Ian Jack

‘Could grief for one woman have caused all this? We were told so.’

Menudo

Raymond Carver

‘Vicky says I’m crazy. She said worse things too last night. But who could blame her?’

The Imam and the Indian

Amitav Ghosh

‘We were both travelling, he and I: we were travelling in the West. The only difference was that I had actually been there, in person.’

The Fall of Saigon

James Fenton

‘I wanted to see a communist victory, which I presumed to be inevitable. I wanted to see the fall of a city.’

The Snow in Ghana

Ryszard Kapuściński

‘We always carry it to foreign countries, all over the world, our pride and our powerlessness.’ Translated from the Polish by William Brand.

Glitches

John Gregory Dunne

‘I prefer not to speculate about what might have happened if I had not taken the ECG.’

Lost Cat

Mary Gaitskill

‘Which deaths are tragic and which are not? Who decides what is big and what is little?’

Where is Kigali?

Lindsey Hilsum

‘Evariste was the nightwatchman. He and I were alone in the house in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, when the killing started.’

Shrinks

Edmund White

‘Self-doubt, which is a cousin to self-hatred, became my constant companion.’

Kiltykins

Ved Mehta

‘When I was seeing Kilty (how, even today, the word 'seeing' mesmerizes me), the fact of my blindness was never mentioned, referred to, or alluded to’.

All I Know About Gertrude Stein

Jeanette Winterson

‘The more I love you, the more I feel alone.’

Editing Vidia

Diana Athill

‘I thought so highly of Vidia’s writing and felt his presence on our list to be so important that I simply could not allow myself not to like him.’

Tadpoles

Primo Levi

‘It was a harsh and brutal puberty: the tiny creatures began to fret, as if an inner sense had forewarned them of the torment in store’

The View from this End

Alexandra Fuller

‘It lay like a sodden comma, curled up against its mother, and no one realised it was dead.’

The Zoo in Basel

John Berger

‘To create is to let take over something which did not exist before and is therefore new.’

The Dreadful Mucamas

Lydia Davis

‘We do not believe they are sincerely trying to please us.’

Evensong

Todd McEwen

‘Characteristically my wife refused to be drawn into the situation while I became obsessed with it.’

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.’

Self-Consciousness

Edward W. Said

‘It was through my mother that I grew more aware of my body as incredibly fraught and problematic.‘

His Roth

Philip Roth

‘I naively believed as a child that I would always have a father present, and the truth seems to be that I always will.’

The Summer After the War

Kazuo Ishiguro

‘As it was, my grandfather began helping me to paint without my having to ask him.’

At Yankee Stadium

Don DeLillo

‘From a series of linked couples they become one continuous wave, larger all the time.’

Nadine at Forty

Hilary Mantel

‘Each day we re-enact, on ourselves, what was done to us.’

The Little Winter

Joy Williams

‘She remembered being happy off and on that day, and then looking at things and finding it all unkind.’

Cousins

Angela Carter

‘It sounded like the birth of tragedy.’

A Coup

Bruce Chatwin

‘You do not understand. In this country one understands nothing.’