Posts tagged immigration

On the violence of borders

I recently visited Ceuta, a piece of the north African coast that belongs to Spain and is hence part of “Europe”. It was a very strange and disturbing experience to cross that border so easily just by showing my British passport, when many people with different-coloured passports die trying to do the same thing. Here’s a photo I took of the border fence. The houses to the left are in Spain; the hillside to the right is in Morocco. There’s also a small village on the Moroccan side, just out of… Read More

Review of Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones

Did you know that there’s an Albanian tradition in which, if there are no male heirs, a woman can choose to become a man, as long as she swears herself to virginity for life? Neither did I until I read Sworn Virgin, a fascinating novel by Albanian writer Elvira Dones, translated into English and published in 2014 by And Other Stories (a wonderful not-for-profit, largely reader-funded UK publisher). I’ve been interested in Albanian literature ever since I discovered Ismail Kadare (who wrote the foreword for this book) many years ago, and… Read More

The Things I Care About

What do you really care about? I asked myself that question recently, and I was surprised by the results. Firstly, it seems that I care about quite a lot of things. And secondly, although I care about these things, they’re generally not the things that I spend most of my time talking about, writing about, reading about, and taking action on. So it was a useful exercise. I’d recommend it to anyone, writer or non-writer. Just ask yourself what you really care about, and list what comes to mind, as quickly and roughly as possible, without… Read More

Indian Magic by Balraj Khanna

Lately I’ve been reading quite a few books with complex structures and experimental elements. In the middle of all that, it was good to read Indian Magic, a simple enough story told in a traditional, chronological narrative. We start with Ravi arriving in England from India in the early 1960s, and follow him through various adventures and misadventures as he adapts to his new home. The author, Balraj Khanna, arrived in England in the same year as his character, Ravi, and it’s tempting to wonder how many of the events… Read More

The Pleasures of Exile by George Lamming

I loved George Lamming’s novel In the Castle of my Skin, but wasn’t so impressed by this collection of essays. There were some wonderful ideas in here, but the book as a whole felt disjointed. First of all, for those of you who don’t know George Lamming, he’s Barbados’s most famous writer. Austin Clarke mentioned In the Castle of my Skin in a recent talk as “the Barbadian novel.” He was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Bim Literary Festival. I went to see Lamming give a talk… Read More