All Features

An Absence Made Present

by Thom Cuell

With The Holy Bible the Manics created a myth that would haunt their future. This extraordinary album will be the band’s legacy, one which they can never fully embrace nor truly escape from. It has been re-released twice in special editions, for the 10th and 20th anniversaries of its release; they have also vowed never to perform songs from it again. When I first encountered the Manics, in the downtime between The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go, they were a band on hiatus, with no definite sign they would return – the madwoman in the attic of British rock. Since then, they have enjoyed commercial success, fallen in and out of fashion, and created eight albums. Fans have grown up, left, returned. Borrowing from Joseph Heller, if they were charged with not writing anything as good since The Holy Bible, they could justifiably respond with ‘no, but neither has anyone else’. [read full essay]

Death and Life in Knausgaard

by Andy Merrifield

The search for answers became Knausgaard’s quest for self-clarification, his attempt to find wholeness again – or perhaps to find wholeness for the first time. It was a literary quest as much as anything else: how to find the right words to represent a life, prompted by a sudden insight into death. Writing wasn’t and still isn’t cathartic for Knausgaard; he insists on that. It is torture, a twisted medium that buys time, that somehow offsets death. My Struggle became Knausgaard’s personal struggle, his trial, perhaps even The Trial. Only here K. is Knausgaard himself, and The Trial in question is one in which Knausgaard – let’s henceforth call him K. – is both judge and jury. The case that follows is to prove his own innocence – or guilt. In My Struggle, K. accuses himself. [read full essay]

Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses: Shortlist Announcement

by Neil Griffiths

Set aside the difficulty in comparing formally ambitious novels against one another; what about comparing formally ambitious novels with experimental short form writing; or translated fiction that limns the borders of fiction, poetry, memoir? It was my decision to make eligibility so open. I am disappointed no translated fiction made it onto the shortlist. But we only had a few translated submissions, something I hope to rectify in future years. I am pleased, though, that the shortlist included so much short-form fiction. [read full essay]

Eloquence in the Age of Trump

by Kit Toda

Our criteria for what constitutes eloquence may vary a little and has adapted somewhat over time, but there has never been a huge reversal in its definition. Crystal himself suggests a seven-point list: ‘fluent’, ‘personal’, ‘appropriate’, ‘heightened’, ‘clear’, ‘memorable’ and ‘reactive’. ‘[F]or me’, he writes, ‘top marks for eloquence would go to anyone rated highly on all seven points.’ Barack Obama is one of them: his ‘Yes we can’ victory speech occupies a central role in this book as an exemplar of rhetorical excellence. But after November's shock presidential election result, it is impossible not to compare Obama’s oratory with that of America’s next president. For many, the election of Trump has sent a great crack running through our assumptions of the world. To theorise about eloquence might appear somewhat trivial in comparison to this global shudder of horror. It is, however, central to understanding what has happened. [read full essay]

Fiction Highlights: Review 31's Best Novels of 2016

by Review 31

As is customary at this time of year, we invited some of our regular contributors to look back over the past 12 months and select their literary highlights of 2016. They produced a varied and eclectic list of recommendations, ranging from Garth Greenwell’s poignant exploration of sexual identity to Yuri Herrera’s bleak panorama of urban decay; from Roger Lewinter’s meditations on the beauty of everyday objects to Madeleine Thien’s poignant exploration of history and memory; and a couple of more experimental works – by Alejandro Zambra and Jung Young Moon – that riff on the porous border between fiction and non-fiction. [read full essay]

The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses: Longlist Announcement

by Neil Griffiths

If the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses isn’t a grand enough name, we added a strapline to make it even clearer the kind of work we wanted publishers to submit. I confess I lifted the line from Galley Beggar’s website, but in my defence it seemed to me to set the bar at just the right level, whilst at the same time encapsulating what is missing from much of mainstream publishing these days. We weren’t just looking for great novels but ‘hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose.’ [read full essay]

'Beware Mirrors': The Ludic Magic of Helen Oyeyemi

by Hilary Ilkay


Books such as What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours hold a unique position in a literary market that has been dominated by the hyperrealist, quotidian, deeply personal multi-volume sagas by the likes of Karl Ove Knausgaard and Elena Ferrante; they demonstrate, much like historical fables and myths, the cultural importance of storytelling that plays with reality. [read full essay]

African Modernism

by William Harris

Still, modernism’s ideological vagueness was lent structure by the rise of the welfare state, with big public projects taking up much of its focus. And while the welfare state rose, colonialism fell, leading anxious colonial powers at times to bestow public institutions on colonised populations as gifts of appeasement. Protests shook Ghana after British officials jailed a young Kwame Nkrumah and colonial authorities responded by building more schools; a decade later trade boycotts led to a new community center in Accra. On the eve of independence African states prepared to inherit universities, libraries, housing blocks, garden cities – the patchy and underfunded skeletons of state infrastructure, much of it designed by modernists. [read full essay]

North and South

by Jude Cook

The politically engaged novel is becoming something of an endangered species, with only a few outstanding recent examples springing to mind. Jonathan Coe’s Number 11 (2016), and Benjamin Markovits’ You Don’t Have to Live Like This (2015) provided exceptional analyses of how capitalism and neoliberalism lost their way, while Lionel Shriver’s scorching satire on American greed, The Mandibles, promises to be one of 2016’s highlights. Yet by and large, books set in, say, the post-industrial Midlands, or 1970s Belfast, are thin on the ground. So when two engagé novels set in just these locations come along at once, it’s particularly pleasurable. [read full essay]

Too Many Sciapods: Europe, Migration and the Other

by Horatio Morpurgo

Mason’s case is that Europeans, in their haste to be blaming, or praising, or civilising, hardly saw or heard non-European peoples at all. How clearly do we see them now? The folklore we have, each of us, internalised, locates the migrant somewhere on a spectrum from exotic treat to compassion-object, from financial burden to con-artist, and thence to cultural threat and / or terror suspect. [read full essay]