OPINION The Good Swimmer

by Martha Sprackland

I got in the sea the other day, on a warm October evening in East Sussex, to where I have recently moved. I’d thought I would go swimming the day I arrived, and every day since, but a week, two weeks passed, and I’ve been timid. I’m a good swimmer, and a good sea-swimmer – though no thanks to my childhood on the north-west coast of England, in a village whose beach, though golden, wide and sandy, sloped so imperceptibly, so diffidently, that to achieve swimming depth you had first to walk what felt like several miles in your swimming costume in icy, shin-deep water, like sloshing through a big puddle. [read full opinion]

OPINION Lockdown on the Move

by Nina Ellis

Lockdown is meant to be about staying inside, in one place. The New York Times Style Magazine recently ran an article on Tehching Hsieh’s ‘One Year Performance’, in which he locked himself in a wooden cage in his studio for a year. The London Magazine published a supplement in June about the experience of being ‘cooped up’ during coronavirus. But I missed the memo: since the middle of March, I’ve moved house four times (in a mask, of course) — from Cambridge to join my partner in Pakistan, and then to North Wales, to London, and back to Cambridge. [read full opinion]

A Faraway Problem

Christina Lamb, Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women

reviewed by Jennifer Thomson

In 2014, Angelina Jolie joined the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, at a summit in London to promote the United Kingdom’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). In the years since its introduction, the movie-star sheen provided by Jolie has faded from PSVI. An Independent Commission for Aid Impact report, released in January of this year, declared that ‘the initiative lacks a clear strategy and overall vision to guide its activities’, and that there is ‘little... [read more]

A Greater Compassion

Gert Hofmann, trans. Eric Mace-Tessler, Veilchenfeld

reviewed by Tom Conaghan

Originally published in Germany in 1986, Veilchenfeld’s appearance in English in 2020 is a timely reminder of our humanity. It was written by Gert Hofmann, a prolific German novelist and academic (as well as father of the poet Michael Hofmann.) Veilchenfeld is set in 1930s Germany during the Nazis' escalating persecution of its Jewish population. Though this is already the subject of innumerable historical accounts, Hofmann’s examination of it in his novel explores the true inhumanity of... [read more]
 

Like a New Muscle

Romalyn Ante, Antiemetic for Homesickness

reviewed by Nikita Biswal

Romalyn Ante’s debut collection, Antiemetic for Homesickness, opens with an image of snow which so closely resembles flakes of coconut that it leaves its subject bloated. Ante extends these poems as a repetitive documentation, rather than a cure, of a chronic longing for home, the familial and the familiar. Ante grew up in the Philippines and moved to the UK at 16, two years after her mother who worked ‘overseas’ as a nurse. She moves naturally between these two positions in her... [read more]

The Poetry of Future Fossils

David Farrier, Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils

reviewed by Nora Castle

‘Language is fossil poetry.’ In his book Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane points to this claim by Ralph Waldo Emerson, explaining that ‘Emerson, as an essayist, sought to reverse this petrifiction and restore the ‘poetic origin’ of words, thereby revealing the originary role of ‘nature’ in language.’ The poet, according to Emerson, ‘re-attaches things to nature and the Whole’ by naming them in their poetry. By illuminating and reinvigorating the origins of words, the poet... [read more]
 

Only By Blood and Suffering

Anthony McCann, Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff

reviewed by Louis Amis

It began with a spectacular victory. In April 2014 several hundred protestors gathered in a desert wash between two highway overpasses near the town of Bunkerville, Nevada, and found that they were able to exert their will directly upon the United States government. They confronted a team of federal agents from the Department of the Interior, who were rounding up a herd of unlicensed cattle, and forced them to retreat. Both sides were heavily armed, but the agents were outnumbered. The... [read more]

A Failed Promise

Maryse Condé, trans. Richard Philcox, The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana

reviewed by Mersiha Bruncevic

Early one morning in Paris, I stood at the crossing between Rue des Barres and Pont Louis-Philippe. Halfway between one side of the road and the other, on one of those small paved islands, I waited for the morning traffic to roll by. I was on my way to work in a café, because the Wi-Fi at home was down, annoyingly. Less troubling were the three young guys standing next to me. Their hair was dutifully short, their eyes indifferent but vigilant, and their hands were clutching machine guns. On a... [read more]
 

On Hesitation

Srinivas Rayaprol, Angular Desire: Selected Poems and Prose

reviewed by Mantra Mukim

‘why did you go to burma? / prickface i said/ what’s there in india?’ Arun Kolatkar’s wax eloquent question at the end of ‘Three Cups of Tea’ is definitely one of the paramount questions of Indian English poetry, to which plenty rejoinders have been delivered in the 1960s and beyond. The question brings into play one of the many concerns in early Indian English writing — that of representation. What is there in the newly-born nation that demands attention, what is there that is... [read more]

None of it is Certain

Camille Laurens, trans. Willard Wood, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

reviewed by Adrian Nathan West

In Britain and America, Degas is a cliché. I briefly studied art history at university, and have an abiding amateur interest in the subject, but my closest association with him is the sun-bleached posters of his ballerinas lining the walls of the shabby roadside dance school where a friend’s girlfriend taught ballet basics to ungainly preteens. Degas is the kind of artist well-represented at poster shops; people buy his prints for sentimental reasons, or just to keep their house from looking... [read more]
 

Everything that Tastes Bad is Good for You

Jeet Thayil, Low

reviewed by Stuart Walton

At the start of the final novel in what is destined to be known as Jeet Thayil's Bombay trilogy, its central character Dominic Ullis is sitting on a flight just coming in to land in that city, transitioning between an imperfect oblivion brought on by 20mg of the prescription soporific, zolpidem, and a wakefulness that hasn't quite yet earned the name, the woman next to him thriftily smuggling his airline cutlery as well as her own into a gigantic handbag, his wife's ashes in a box cradled on... [read more]

Scurrying in the Dark

Sophie Mackintosh, Blue Ticket

reviewed by Laurane Marchive

Female identity, traditionally feminine aesthetics and the dynamic between men and women are central concerns for fiction author Sophie Mackintosh. In her Booker-longlisted debut novel The Water Cure, Mackintosh explored the relationships between three sisters raised in the belief that men are poisonous. In her new novel Blue Ticket, she pushes the exploration further by focusing on pregnancy, thus raising fundamental questions: what does it mean to be female, within and without female biology?... [read more]