Peerie Breeks: Willa and Edwin Muir

Robert Crawford, 21 September 2023

‘I am a better translator than he is,’ Willa Muir complained in a 1953 journal. For several generations the couple’s Kafka translations were the most widely read English-language versions. Early...

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Trapped with an Incubus: Shirley Hazzard

Clair Wills, 21 September 2023

In Hazzard’s fiction there are very few children, and the ones who do appear are not particularly rewarding. But they are not the enemy. The enemy is the person who sees others as playthings. The enemy...

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Throw them a bone: Megan Nolan

Clare Bucknell, 21 September 2023

The trick that Nolan’s Ordinary Human Failings plays is to make us think we’re reading a certain kind of novel, before wrongfooting us. Crime narratives are appealing not just because they’re lurid...

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Book of Bad Ends: French Short Stories

Paul Keegan, 7 September 2023

Voltaire regarded the short tale as a duel with the reader, and a form of complicity. He went out of his way to disparage the ‘littleness’ of the form, and to ridicule all fiction, as fables without...

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Flight of Snakes: Emily Holmes Coleman

Tessa Hadley, 7 September 2023

The sheer force of the memories exacted an impressive precision and solidity in Coleman’s expression. And she must have felt the electricity of her novel, as she was writing it, in both directions: channelling...

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What’s this fork doing? Alice Notley

Andrea Brady, 7 September 2023

Early Works shows Alice Notley feeling her way past the dominant aesthetics of her period – she was a key figure in the downtown New York poetry scene before moving to Paris in 1992 – and discovering...

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Man as Mindfulness App: Naoise Dolan

Malin Hay, 7 September 2023

In Exciting Times, Naoise Dolan’s first book, the choice presented to bisexual women – surrender to the world’s expectations and get with a man, or follow your desires and risk forfeiting power and...

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Sausages and Cigarillos: Sebastian Barry

Michael Hofmann, 7 September 2023

In Old God’s Time Tom Kettle, Barry’s hero, sees the moon rise behind Dalkey Island, and it feels like an eclipse; each time he looks at it, it’s in a different pane of the window. Wave or particle?...

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Arruginated: James Joyce’s Errors

Colm Tóibín, 7 September 2023

Ulysses is haunted by the story of its own composition. As Joyce famously put it, ‘I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant,...

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Fiction can do without all sorts of things that seemed essential to 19th-century novelists: it doesn’t need to comment on society, or provide descriptions of settings and scenery, or a linear chronology,...

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Han Kang’s story is propelled by antinomies. Here is a dead language, Greek, and there is the ‘unbearably alive’ Korean. Here is a philosopher, there a poet; one unrequited love, another love one...

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Flavourless Bacon: The Wife of Bath

Irina Dumitrescu, 10 August 2023

With her insistence on renegotiating power dynamics between the sexes, claiming her right to sexual pleasure, and earning her own money, Alysoun can sound not unlike a second-wave feminist. Yet she doesn’t...

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Isn’t London hell? Evelyn Waugh

Seamus Perry, 10 August 2023

Readers have thought that Waugh’s books divided on much more rudimentary lines: the good ones, which are funny, and the bad ones, which are pious. There is the string of brilliant, brittle social comedies...

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Coke v. Bacon

Stephen Sedley, 27 July 2023

Both sides of Edward Coke’s reputation have endured. Not long ago the benchers of the Inner Temple refused to name a new building after him because of his brutal prosecution of Walter Raleigh. Yet Coke’s...

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Honest Lies: Jean Giono

Michael Wood, 27 July 2023

All three of Jean Giono’s books are crowned, in their different ways, by killings, done by the hero or heroine and not against them or for them to tackle. An intriguing choice for a pacifist, and a choice...

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Fashion, the It-girl Alexa Chung once said, is just what happens when you have been wearing one thing for ages, then get bored with it. Is this the reason Fleur Jaeggy has become so fashionable, because...

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A Cat Called Griselda: ‘Mothercare’

Nicole Flattery, 27 July 2023

Lynne Tillman’s Mothercare shows us the end. Reading it, you feel Tillman’s clammy grip on your wrist reminding you not to waste time. She offers a writer’s prescription: examine the world closely,...

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Buttockitis: ‘The Hive’

Tim Parks, 13 July 2023

Three hundred​ characters in 260 pages. How do you possibly keep track of so many names, so much intrigue? It’s hard to imagine a reader of Camilo José Cela’s masterpiece, The Hive, who hasn’t...

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