Yara Rodrigues-Fowler’s debut novel, Stubborn Archivist, was longlisted for this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize and came out in the States in July. When trying to describe it, clichés abound: I could tell you that it explores growing up between two cultures (Brazil and London), that it mixes poetry and prose. What would be more apt is if I were to tell you that Stubborn Archivist runs rings around pronouncements such as these: in many ways it is a novel of refusals: a refusal to bow down to stereotypes of the multicultural bildungsroman, a refusal to fill in the gaps left by trauma, a refusal to translate either experience or language (it contains passages of unglossed Portuguese). It is a moving novel, and brings a quiet joy at pages’ end. I met Yara the morning after Notre-Dame caught fire. We sat in the cold of the British Library courtyard and drank coffee. [read full interview]
You can be killed in a school, a movie theatre, a shopping mall, a bar, a concert, a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a goddamn garlic festival. Because this is what it’s like living in America as the second decade of the new millennium draws to a close. If there are still Americans in the future on the other side of that divide, in a hopefully fairer, saner, better nation, please read this as a missive from foreign country. This is a civilian letter in this grim war, and what I’d tell all of you fortunate enough not to wake up everyday with push notification of a mass shooting in your neighbourhood is that in the United States we’re scared and scarred, jarred, anxious, frightened, and most of all exhausted. [read full essay]
These truths we hold to be self-evident:
- Motherhood is work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work which comes at the expense of paid work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work which, because it comes at the expense of paid work, is often subcontracted to other women, who are paid. Often, in the words of Megan Stack, ‘They [are] poor women, brown women, migrant women.’ And, she writes, ‘They were important to me, primarily, because they made me free.’ Stack is writing... [read more]
To me, there are two Norways. There is the peaceful, idyllic Norway that was voted the world’s Happiest Country in 2017. And then there is the darker Norway: the Norway of Scandi noir, the Norway that has known mass-scale violence like the July 2011 terror attacks. Henrik Nor-Hansen’s Termin, translated by Matt Bagguley, is definitely set in this second Norway. Nor-Hansen is concerned thematically with violence, disillusionment, and suburban socioeconomic changes. In particular, he’s... [read more]
‘Watch the forest burn/ with granular heat’, comes the opening instruction of Kingdomland. This is appropriate to a collection that abounds with stark, singular imagery and sets the tone for a poetry that is as graphic as it is immersive: ‘Watch,’ says Rachael Allen, commanding our attention. Allen’s practice is of world-making, a Kingdomland whose underlying cohesion is disguised to the inattentive reader, appearing at first disorienting and chaotic, disjunctured, often appalling;... [read more]
Toronto-based writer Karen Solie, described by Michael Hofmann as ‘the one by whom the language lives’, has done it again. The Caiplie Caves is both an extraordinary and unsettling accomplishment. Solie begins by setting out a brief history of the caves and a description of the book’s protagonist of indecision, St Ethernan. Whilst the caves are still visited today, she tells us, records of St Ethernan are ‘often sketched only briefly, in passing’ so that his story ‘resists a final... [read more]
Even if the details of their adventures vary throughout the eight short stories comprising Nicole Flattery's debut collection, Show Them a Good Time, her protagonists bear a striking resemblance to one another. Not only are they (with one exception) relatively young women from small-town backgrounds – Flattery is 29 and from Kinnegad, Co Westmeath in Ireland – they also share a propensity to float through life like sticks thrown into a stream, barely resisting the things that happen to... [read more]
Donatella Della Ratta, Shooting a Revolution: Visual Media and Warfare in Syria
reviewed by Giovanni Vimercati
Unlike many accounts of what Western commentators referred to as the ‘Arab Springs’ and the creative insurgency that chronicled and simultaneously fuelled them, Shooting a Revolution: Visual Media and Warfare in Syria refrains from the acritical celebration of the alleged power of social media to undermine authoritarian regimes. Rather than simply a skeptical dismissal of the role grassroots media played in the Syrian uprising, Donatella Della Ratta has produced an in-depth study of its... [read more]
‘There is no democracy in any love relation: only mercy,’ wrote Gillian Rose in Love’s Work. There is no justice to be found; no rulebook with consequences for illicit behaviour. This is a terrifying truth even when relationships take place on a level playing field – you cannot sue a friend for betraying you – but when combined with structural inequalities of race, class and gender, it is deeply, unfathomably unfair. It is not fair, for example, that Asian men and black women receive... [read more]
‘Listen, before Hark,’ opens Sam Lipsyte’s latest novel, ‘was it ever harder to be human? Was it ever harder to believe in our world?’ Whether the question refers to the novel or its titular character, the answer appears to be a resounding no. Ravaged by exploitative capitalism and climate breakdown, Lipsyte’s world is our own as caught in funhouse mirrors, stretched and heightened into forms both hilarious and terrible. America is at war with Europe, fighting for control of... [read more]
The allegorical tradition in literary history has been an inexhaustibly rich source of speculation through the ages, and over the past century in particular. This is owing, at least in part, to the indeterminate status of allegory itself. Is it a genre in its own right? Is it a technique? Is it a literary temperament inherited from the performing arts, such as antique theatre and the medieval play of lamentation (Trauerspiel) of which Walter Benjamin wrote, or even from theology? How do its... [read more]
1. The Large Door started life as short story. The novel is better. I haven’t read the short story but The Large Door is better than most novels, and as novels are more often better than short stories (deeper, richer and more enriching) there is a high probability that this novel is better than the short story from which it is derived. Expanding short stories into novels is risky. There is a high probability of failure. Most novels that start out as short stories aren’t very good. Ian... [read more]