Explore essays and memoir
‘This snapshot of us in the foyer of the MuSoN Hall has come to symbolize a lot of things to me. Our smiles seem to say that the worst for our country is over, we are gazing beyond the camera into a new and brighter future, where we could be poets without fear of arrest, murder or exile. We had cheques worth 50,000 naira and 20,000 naira in our pockets. But above all the picture is a confirmation of my deepest dream, that of becoming a writer.’
‘Anthony’s life was a triumph and a tragedy. It was a tragedy which I believe he foresaw.’
Are We Related?
‘Most family relationships are difficult, and sometimes they can become the most difficult human relationships of all.’
Arguing With The Dead
‘My childhood was spent in Kimberley, the diamond-mining town in South Africa.In those years most of the mines were no longer being worked’.
‘It is to Shakespeare’s pages I return whenever I feel I am sinking. There I can be sure to find a lifeline.’
Asking for it
‘Having my hair cut one morning in February 1999, I fell foul of one of those barber-shop discussions which are a feature of life here in Italy’.
At War With Writing About War
‘Perhaps a more precise and academicish moniker for War Literature would be, Suicide Averted In Favour of Writing.’
August in my Father’s House
‘Dinner has been cleared away from the table under the mulberry tree, and she is sitting at the table with a wine glass in her hand watching the light dwindling away behind the purple leaves of the Japanese maple.’
‘Every sect needs jargon. We did not have churches, we had halls; services were called meetings; the congregation was the assembly; elders were overseers’
Barely Imagined Beings
‘Monsters of one kind or another are woven into virtually all the cultures of which we have record.’
‘Restored nature would be a phantom of its former self. The experience would be akin to visiting a wildlife park.’
‘The nun beside me on the helicopter this morning had a tight, self-righteous face.’
Best Book of 1766: Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling
Dave Haysom on why Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling is the best book of 1766.
Best book of 1947: L’Écume des Jours by Boris Vian
‘In those spring nights, I sat by barbecue stalls in the streets of Beijing, reading this novel under dim streetlights while eating lamb skewers.’
Best Book of 1967: Ice by Anna Kavan
‘What a writer, and what a vision. What a perfect book to read in preparation for the end of the world.’
Best Book of 1981: Lanark
Lorna Gibb on why Alasdair Gray's Lanark is the best book of 1981.
Best Book of 1993: Written on the Body
‘Influences imprint themselves on our consciousness as light does a photograph, or trauma the psyche’
Best Book of 2003: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke
Daisy Hildyard on why Lisa Jardine's The Curious Life of Robert Hooke is the best book of 2003.
Best of Young American Novelists 2: Introduction
Ian Jack introduces Granta 97: Best of Young American Novelists 2.
Best of Young British Novelists 2003: Introduction
‘What had been an exercise to publicize the literary novel, at a time when there were few spotlights on this particular branch of culture, might now have a new role as an independent consumer's guide to novelists who deserved to be read in an era where 'a thrilling debut by a young writer of enormous talent' is the standard blurb, and where there are now so many spotlights directed by marketing money and the size of the writer's advance.’
‘The thrill of this film – and it is thrilling – is seeing that understood and played out by actors of incredible skill.’
‘It was my child’s outlook to think most things were right. And yet if life’s eternal drama is of events seeking a more perfect state, their life and mine was not that.’
Blue Hills and Chalk Bones
‘One day, something changes; a corporeal blip. For me, it happened in the months after turning thirteen: the synovial fluid in my left hip began to evaporate like rain.’
‘Driving along la Séptima, the main road into the centre of Bogotá, we find ourselves blocked by a high-speed convoy.’
‘'Hey, I saw an Inuk once with a hat that said: INSTANT ASSHOLE. JUST ADD ALCOHOL'.’
Borges and Me, and Me
‘What would be the point of writing anything if I went down in history as the person who killed Borges?’
‘Water curls through the Fortaleza slum: sewer water. It drains between shacks made of sticks and mud, and is pretty when it catches the sun’.
‘These bored, frustrated and hungry animals appear as reluctant figures in some unsolvable puzzle, or as victims of a grand experiment whose original purpose is lost in time.’