The Pilgrim and the Poet

by Ben Leubner

A prominent first-person narrative strategy employed from Dante to Proust works in such a way that by the time the character’s story comes to an end, they’re ready to become the writer who will then relate the story we’ve just read. Dante the pilgrim becomes Dante the poet; Marcel becomes Proust. Their stories begin as soon as they cease. This is not so in My Struggle, in which the pilgrim and the poet are identical; Karl Ove Knausgaard is Karl Ove Knausgaard. His struggle is less to get to the point where he can now finally write My Struggle than it is to actually write it, which he is in the process of doing throughout all six books. [read full essay]

Various Images of Truth

Olga Tokarczuk, trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

reviewed by Antonia Cundy

Reading a novel when you know that you are going to review it is an odd thing. No matter how many times you approach the exercise – whether you diligently insist on reading it once through like a ‘normal’ reader, saving note-taking until a second read, or not – it is impossible to completely escape the reviewer’s mindset. Whilst the story unfolds, another narrative begins to write itself in your own head, the narrative of your review itself. This is particularly true when what... [read more]

Prisons We Choose To Live Inside

Lara Feigel, Free Woman: Life, Liberation and Doris Lessing

reviewed by Emily Bueno

‘There were too many weddings that summer,’ writes Lara Feigel at the opening of Free Woman. Forced to endure a succession of bourgeois nuptials – all take-home marmalade and hand-sewn Liberty print bunting – Feigel, a reader in modern literature at King’s College London, becomes increasingly truculent. Why does it bother her so? In large part, it’s the oppressive uniformity: the ‘apparent assumption’ that marriage ‘remained the only way to live’, with the entire room... [read more]

Meaningful Unreason

Philip C. Almond, God: A New Biography

reviewed by Neil Griffiths

If I were to say, ‘God, I love this book’ a few things are clear: (1) a reviewer (2) is advocating (3) in an emotional register (4) the book under review. What cannot be known is what is what I mean by ‘God’, beyond upping the declarative nature of the sentence and taking the Lord’s name in vain. However, if you’re reading this in the Anglophone West, there will be an assumption. Something around an outmoded intercessionary being that church / synagogue / mosque goers have decided... [read more]

Breaking Bread With the Dead

Laura Freeman, The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite

reviewed by Stephanie Sy-Quia

There is a variety of ways in which I, a woman, could begin a review of a book about another woman relaying her experience of living with anorexia. I could steep my response in the personal, discussing my own relationship with food; or relaying the experience of watching a schoolmate slowly starving herself over the course of our teens (not quite to death, but to infertility, which is after all, wouldn’t you agree, the same thing). I could dangle details of her condition before you: how her... [read more]

Performing Passion

Lena Andersson, trans. Saskia Vogel, Acts of Infidelity

reviewed by Thea Hawlin

‘There are neither words nor syntax for falling in love,’ Lena Andersson observes, ‘however many attempts have been made to parade it through the alphabet.’ Acts of Infidelity might be said to be such a parade. In her long-anticipated sequel to Wilful Disregard (2013), Andersson gives us a book about the dangers of loving the attached. An act between two people in an affair is always more than the sum of its apparent parts, every smile, every kiss, every action forever accompanied by a... [read more]

Sixty Billion Chickens a Year

Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

reviewed by Peter Mitchell

I recently re-read Moby-Dick, because I know how to have fun, and found myself coming down a with a moderate case of metaphor envy. How convenient for Melville, I thought, that he just so happened to have been hunting the the perfect vehicle for his grand mad investigation into capitalism, murder and the cosmos. And how convenient that both that vehicle and the means of hunting it – an enormous floating cow full of magical oils that wrestles giant squid to the death in the most crushing and... [read more]

Anyways Elastic

Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability

reviewed by Bernard Hay

How can you find the truth from pixellated imagery, memories erased by trauma, and stories suppressed by state censorship? Founded in 2010 and nominated for this year’s Turner Prize, the architectural detective Forensic Architecture has become a leading voice in socially engaged spatial culture. Over the past eight years it has developed a practice gathering, analysing and presenting architectural evidence in their search for truth against state-sanctioned injustice. In Forensic... [read more]

Between the lines

Sally Rooney, Normal People

reviewed by Rebecca Watson

Near the end of Sally Rooney’s second novel, Normal People, Marianne says to Connell, her on-and-off boyfriend: ‘I don’t find it obvious what you want.’ Said in a tiny voice, this moment – Marianne declaring that she does not intuit what Connell assumes her to – is a turning point. Much of Normal People exists in the unsaid, narratives carved by Marianne and Connell of how the other is feeling and thinking; of how they might act or respond. Assumptions influence their decisions,... [read more]

A Time of Huge Belief

Nell Dunn, Talking to Women

reviewed by Bárbara Borges de Campos

First published in 1965, Nell Dunn’s Talking to Women is a collection of interviews portraying the reality of being a woman in the 1960s. This new edition edition features a mesmerising introduction written by Ali Smith that contextualises the interviews, the time and the work within Dunn’s oeuvre. Talking to Women is, as Ali Smith remarks, about the ‘radical necessity of giving and having voice.’ Nell Dunn created a space that enabled eight different women to speak. Some of them... [read more]

What is the point of death?

Costica Bradatan, Dying for Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers

reviewed by Stuart Walton

To pose the question, 'What is the point of death?', has become inseparable from nightmare visions of a world that nobody would be allowed to escape. While research continues in both scientific and metaphysical sectors into the possibility of extending life indefinitely, the socialised life that one would be extending goes on deteriorating in itself into something unliveable, in which the unifying aspect once looked for in communism has finally arrived in the form of environmental degradation... [read more]