Literature

Turkey puts novelists including Elif Shafak under investigation

Prosecutors target authors whose fiction tackles difficult subjects such as child abuse and sexual violence Alison Flood The Guardian Turkish prosecutors have launched investigations into writers of fiction including the award-winning novelist Elif Shafak, in what campaigners are describing as a serious threat to free speech. The move comes in the wake of a vicious debate on social media in which novelists tackling challenging subjects – such as child abuse and sexual violence – have been accused of… After a ... Read More »

Does reading fiction make us better people?

Reading fiction has been said to increase people’s empathy and compassion. But does the research really bear that out? By Claudia Hammond BBC Every day more than 1.8 million books are sold in the US and another half a million books are sold in the UK. Despite all the other easy distractions available to us today, there’s no doubt that many people still love reading. Books can teach us plenty about the world, of course, as well as improving our ... Read More »

Helen Garner’s musical metaphors come alive in a new production of The Children’s Bach

A new production of an Australian opera is an unusual event. Michael Halliwell The Conversation The performance of Andrew Schultz and Glenn Perry’s 2008 opera, The Children’s Bach, as part of the Canberra International Music Festival, was refreshing and welcome. Perfectly suiting the central thematic strand of the Festival – the music of Johann Sebastian Bach – the opera is based on the 1984 novella by acclaimed Australian writer, Helen Garner. The title is derived from a book of relatively ... Read More »

Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa review – searing Syrian road trip

The poetic and horrific combine in this tale of love and death set in a Syria torn apart by civil war Hisham Matar The Guardian Recently, at a literary festival in Italy, the Syrian author Khaled Khalifa spoke about life in Damascus. “Everyone has left, but a few stubborn souls like me remain. We cling to each other.” Then his face lit up, which happened every time he was about to tell one of his signature anecdotes that mingle defiance with ... Read More »

Why the ancient promise of alchemy is fulfilled in reading

Within a 20-minute walk from Notre Dame Cathedral, in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, is the oldest house in the city: the house of Nicolas Flamel. Elisabeth Gruner The Conversation If the name rings a vague bell, perhaps it’s because you read J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” or, as it’s known outside the U.S., “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Nicolas Flamel creates the philosopher’s stone of the title – and he was, in fact, a ... Read More »

Six books that shock, delve deeply and destroy pieties: your guide to the 2019 Stella Prize shortlist

Young people – how they think and feel, how institutions (families, schools, clinics, courts) fail them – are a recurring theme in the books shortlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize. Camilla Nelson The Conversation These six surprising books – four novels, a memoir and a collection of essays – cover subject matter as diverse as grief, loss, history, childhood, and Indigenous resistance. They make risky aesthetic choices. Some feature dazzling experiments with language, structure and form. Despite, or, more likely, ... Read More »

Bring Behrouz home to Australia: he is one of us

There is a pivotal moment in Behrouz Boochani’s book, No Friend but the Mountains. In late August, 2013, a propeller-driven plane stands waiting on a strip on Christmas Island, to take asylum seekers to a faraway destination. Arnold Zable The Age Each man is escorted at two-minute intervals, 50 metres from a bus to the plane. They are held by the arms between two officers. At the base of the stairs, they are handed over to a second pair of officers, ... Read More »

The Invisible Man

Introduced by writer Anna Funder The extraordinary story of Behrouz Boochani, the man who won Australia’s richest literary award but remains unable to set foot in this country. ABC Australian Story The stateless refugee, who’s in detention on Manus Island, smuggled out his entire book text by text on a smuggled mobile phone. In January, No Friend But the Mountains won the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, Born during the Iran-Iraq war and suffering persecution as a Kurd in his ... Read More »

Sue Smith’s Hydra: how love, pain and sacrifice produced an Australian classic

Running through Hydra, the new play by Australian playwright Sue Smith, is the myth of Icarus, the boy who flew so high that his wings melted and he crashed to his death in the sea near the Greek island of Samos. Alastair Blanshard The Conversation It is an easy myth to misunderstand. Moralists think it is a story that reinforces the importance of listening to your parents and sticking to the safe middle path – not flying “too close to ... Read More »

Music was ubiquitous in Ancient Greece

Now we can hear how it actually sounded Much of what we think of as Ancient Greek poetry, including Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, was composed to be sung, frequently with the accompaniment of musical instruments. aeon And while the Greeks left modern classicists many indications that music was omnipresent in society – from vases decorated with lyres, to melodic notation preserved on stone – the precise character and contours of the music has long been considered irreproducible. However, the UK ... Read More »

The best books by women of the 21st century

On International Women’s Day, writers and critics pick the best works by women since 2000 Martin Doyle The Irish Times SINÉAD GLEESON You don’t need me to tell you to read everything pre and post-2000 by the greatest Irish writer, Anne Enright (who just happens to be a woman) – but you really should. Or to read our poets: Eavan Boland, Rita Ann Higgins, Elaine Feeney, Sinéad Morrissey, Leanne O’Sullivan. You already know all about the success of Marian Keyes ... Read More »

Five books on work by French authors that you should read on your commute

An emerging genre of fiction in France is providing an unlikely brand of escapism. Growing numbers of French writers are choosing work as their subject matter – and it seems that readers can’t… Amy Wigelsworth The Conversation The prix du roman d’entreprise et du travail, the French prize for the best business or work-related novel, is testament to the sustained popularity of workplace fiction across the Channel. The prize has been awarded annually since 2009, and this year’s winner will ... Read More »

Behrouz Boochani’s literary prize acceptance speech – full transcript

Asylum speaker accepts $125,000 Victorian premier’s literary prize via video from Manus Island, where he has been held for six years Behrouz Boochani The Guardian This is a transcript of the speech Behrouz Boochani delivered via video link on 31 January 2019 Behrouz Boochani wins Australia’s richest literary prize When I arrived at Christmas Island six years ago, an immigration official called me into the office and told me that they were going to exile me to Manus Island, a ... Read More »

Behrouz Boochani wins $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature

The winner of this year’s $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature couldn’t be at the awards presentation on Thursday evening. Jason Steger The Sydney Morning Herald He was unavoidably detained elsewhere – on Manus Island, where he has been incarcerated for more than five years. Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani’s​ poetic memoir, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (translated by Omid Tofighian), not only won Australia’s richest writing prize, but also the $25,000 non-fiction prize in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, ... Read More »

The art of distraction: Sebastian Smee’s Quarterly Essay

Guilty as charged. Yes, I spend too much time on social media. Yes, I have become more easily distracted. Yes, I have given up too much personal information to various apps and websites over the years. And yes, I have read a number of articles that articulate precisely how foolish, or at least, misguided this… Stephanie Trigg The Conversation And so when I opened up Sebastian Smee’s Quarterly Essay, Net Loss: The Inner Life in the Digital Age, I was ... Read More »

‘The world is diminished by the death of Amos Oz, it has narrowed down’

The writer David Grossman pays tribute to his friend, the Israeli novelist and outspoken peace campaigner Harriet Sherwood The Guardian The world has been “narrowed down” by the death of the Israeli literary giant Amos Oz, according to his close friend and fellow author David Grossman. “There will not be another Amos Oz, there was only one like him. You can say this about every human being, of course, but there was something unique about Amos,” Grossman told the Observer. “Those who appreciated ... Read More »