All Features

'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]

Against 'Us' and 'Them': Reframing the Migration Question

by Luke Davies

The resurgence of the right in the EU – and of hostility towards migrants – is a direct result of the gross inequality that has resulted from the EU's failure to safeguard against an economic downturn with anything akin to a federal reserve, its insistence on making poorer nations pay for the recklessness of European banks, and its compulsory programmes of austerity. In short, the rise of fascism in Europe today is a byproduct of the EU's laissez-faire economics. [read full essay]

Twitter and the Novel

by Andrew Marzoni

Twitter’s character limit has proven attractive to recent crafters of narrative, among them Teju Cole, whose novel Open City won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in 2012. In an interview with Wired, Cole credited Twitter for engaging ‘the part of me that makes sentences. I try to shape a sentence that works. … When you’re writing fiction and longform prose, you think about the best sentences, of course, and you work on them. But when you’re tweeting, the sentences are isolated, they’re naked, and so there is that much more scrutiny on how they work.’ On the one hand, Twitter is like poetry, in that ‘every single line has a certain punch and precision to it’; on the other hand, it is like a drug: ‘I’m addicted to it the way I’m addicted to coffee or to my headphones: guiltlessly.’ [read full essay]

‘How to Endure’: An Interview with Simon Critchley

by Marc Farrant

In an increasingly violent world, Simon Critchley’s study of suicide underlines the difficulty of attempting to inhabit the mental space of those who choose to take their own lives, where ‘reason runs headlong into one last, long tunnel with no exit.’ To confront head-on this perverse rationality, ‘to meet darkness in the darkness,’ in the winter of 2014 Critchley took up residence in a hotel room with a sea-view in Aldeburgh, on the North Sea coast of Suffolk, England, and wrote. The resulting book, Notes on Suicide, is both an exercise in philosophical exposition and a movingly intimate engagement with an intractably personal issue. In this interview we discussed a range of issues related to suicide, including the religious and psychiatric discourses around it and its consequent framing in our moral imagination. [read full interview]

Fiction Highlights: Review 31's Best Novels of 2015

by Review 31

With the year drawing to a close, we invited several Review 31 contributors and editors to select their literary highlights of 2015. Their recommendations ranged from the metafictions of Ben Lerner and Tom McCarthy to the personal and political vistas of Marilynne Robinson and Elena Ferrante, and works in translation by Han Kang and Nathalie Léger. [read full essay]

Telling Tales Out of School: Impact, Literature and the Academy

by Duncan Wheeler

In ‘Why I Quit,’ an already infamous piece published in the London Review of Books in Autumn 2014, Marina Warner rallies against the increasingly top-heavy corporate style of modern British universities. I can perfectly understand her frustration, and I agree with many of her complaints about the higher education system – the willingness to take on under-par fee-paying graduate students, an exponential growth in administrators and philistinism – but I was somewhat less convinced by her portrait of my colleagues and me as sacrificial lambs to the slaughter. In my experience, the correspondent from the Daily Telegraph was closer to the mark: ‘Most professions harbour rivalry and backbiting, but academics make politicians look like fawning puppies.' [read full essay]

Prizes are Political: A Conversation About Literary Prize-giving

by Review 31

A few days after the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize was announced, Review 31 invited four critics to discuss the politics of literary prize-giving. They discussed a range of issues including gender bias in the selection process; the marginalisation of experimental and genre fiction; the obstacles encountered by smaller presses wishing to submit their books for consideration; and the emergence of the ‘prize-winning novel’ as a genre in itself. They discussed a range of issues including gender bias in the selection process; the marginalisation of experimental and genre fiction; the obstacles encountered by smaller presses wishing to submit their books for consideration; and the emergence of the ‘prize-winning novel’ as a genre in itself. [read full essay]