James Meek

James Meek is a contributing editor at the LRB. His most recent novel is To Calais, in Ordinary Time.

There was​ a corpse on the street where I stayed in Kyiv, among the caryatids, 19th-century tenements and boho joints near the Golden Gate. It was an amiable June day, warm, fresh and cloudless, and most of the living wore bright summer clothes. The paramedics had covered the dead man in a dark grey plastic rubbish sack, cut along the seam to make a rectangle, but it wasn’t long...

Short Cuts: Voter ID

James Meek, 4 May 2023

The government​ is making it harder to vote. As of 4 May, when local elections take place in some parts of England, and in all British elections after that, everyone who votes at a polling station will have to show photographic proof that they are who they say they are. Some have made the comparison with voter suppression in the US, where Republicans impose onerous ID requirements to keep...

In my horror and despair, in those first weeks, particularly when the systemic cruelty of the Russian military showed itself – not just towards civilians and the Ukrainian military, but towards its own troops – I was glad to see video of Russian hardware being destroyed. If it was not, it would kill more Ukrainians. I gradually remembered that inside the destroyed war machines were people.

Underwater Living

James Meek, 5 January 2023

The Quadrant is in what the Environment Agency defines as Flood Zone 3a, land with a high probability of flooding, though this doesn’t take sea defences into account. When construction began, the site was, on average, barely two metres above sea level, and four metres below the level the Haven rose to during the 2013 storm. I have to dwell for a bit on the weirdness of that last sentence. It has ‘sea level’ both as a constant and as a value that goes up and down all the time. Human life and property by the trillion dollarload hang on the millimetre margins of the concept of ‘sea level’, but a closer look makes a seemingly hard-edged measure complex and uncertain. It turns out we’re all flat earthers by instinct. If I think about the concept of sea level hard enough, I experience disorientation, almost motion sickness, as awareness grows that I’m not living on solid ground but on a sinking chunk of planetary crust, on the surface of a not-really-spherical spinning globe, at the mercy of the nearest star, two icecaps and a capricious moon that sloshes the oceans to and fro like a child rocking in an over-filled bath.

Short Cuts: Droning Things

James Meek, 3 November 2022

The success​ of the Normandy landings in June 1944 brightened the mood in London, but some people worried that Germany would lash out in revenge. One morning, on the Isle of Dogs, William Regan heard a small plane fly over and get shot down, causing a surprisingly large explosion. The same thing happened to another plane, and another. ‘I said to Alf that the gunners were on form, three...

Planes, Trains and SUVs: James Meek

Jonathan Raban, 7 February 2008

James Meek’s last, bestselling novel, The People’s Act of Love, published in 2005 to great critical acclaim, was set in 1919, in ‘that part of Siberia lying between Omsk and...

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Dynamite for Cologne: James Meek

Michael Wood, 21 July 2005

James Meek’s early fiction is alert, acrid and funny, and only slightly too insistent on its own quirkiness – as if it were hoping reviewers would call it surreal (they did) and...

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