1. Writing
  2. Essays
  3. (Page 3)

Essay | ‘An Era of Maximum Foment’: How Reading My Great-Great-Grandfather’s Prison Diary Initiated Me into the World of Gulag Literature

Essays, Writing

In 1944 the Soviet Occupation of Romania led to the imposition of a communist regime in the country. My grandmother’s grandfather, Onisifor Ghibu, an independent politician who played a role in the creation of Greater Romania in 1918 and co-founded the first Romanian university in Transylvania, was the first professor at the university he taught at to be ‘purged’ and interned in a provisional prison for his ‘anti-Soviet’ activity. Carted to a prison camp in a wasteland […]

Essay | On Stefan Zweig: An Open Letter to English Heritage

Essays, Writing

The application for a blue plaque in Hallam Street, Central London, to commemorate Stefan Zweig’s residence in the city from 1933–1939, was turned down in 2012. English Heritage argued then that the Austrian writer’s ‘London connections did not appear strong enough’ and that his ‘profile has never been as high in Britain as elsewhere.’ Even at the time, this puzzled many. Zweig had been made so well-known to a new generation of English readers, mainly through […]

Essay | The Madman and the Dwarf: Van Gogh and Lautrec by Jeffrey Meyers

Essays, Writing

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), eleven years his junior, both contracted syphilis and died at the age of thirty-seven. Despite their completely different backgrounds, character and way of life, these freakish outsiders formed a strange friendship during the last four years of Vincent’s life.  They were drawn together by their passion for art, which relieved the agony of their lives.  They respected each other’s work, exhibited together […]

Essay | Psychogeography and Succotash by Will Vigar

Essays, Writing

After decades of hearing Looney Tunes’ Sylvester the Cat say ‘thuffering thuccotash’ my friend Dirk, a Native American, told me what Succotash actually is. Succotash is a Native American dish. Its name is Anglicised from the Narragansett word ‘msickquatash’ meaning cooked corn. I’m not sure how we got to the subject of succotash, but he told me that it was one of those dishes that everyone made differently, although it always had corn and beans in it. His family’s recipe had fatty […]

Essay | On Being Seen: The Rise of Spoken Word by Joelle Taylor


I am writing this in a dressing room in the Southbank Centre, deep beneath Queen Elizabeth hall. We have gathered along with a full film crew to record our first Out-Spoken Live film which will be broadcast this Sunday. I am part of the team that curates and presents Out-Spoken Live, a poetry and music night resident in the Southbank Purcell Room. We did not begin here. Our move to these prestigious halls is symptomatic of the rise of live poetry and spoken word not only in the UK but globally […]

Essay | The Year Without Atmosphere

Essays, Writing

It is two months into your new job when someone mentions, in passing, that your microphone fails to capture the first few words of every sentence you utter, so no one has heard almost anything you’ve said. Until that moment, you believed that you were uninsightful and off-topic and you actually cried, getting off one call, at the feeling that you were a kind of business ghost, haunting meetings without ever provoking a response. You felt that your disappearance might […]

Essay | John le Carré: A Biographer’s Struggle

Essays, Writing

Eager to write le Carré’s biography, unwilling to proceed without his permission and naively hoping for his help, I wrote a brief letter on September 3, 1989 and sent it to him through his agent.  I introduced myself, mentioned my five previous biographies, offered to send him copies, gave two references from prominent English authors, asked if he would authorize a life to make sure it would be done by a capable and responsible writer, and suggested a meeting […]

Essay | A Modest Proposal by I. Bickerstaff

Essays, Writing

Dear B.C., I write to you because accountancy is tiring my patience and I have developed some better schemes which will propel me to fame. It is melancholy to consider the bank statements and tax returns of common people while they hang in doubtful circumstances; and, only being trained to contend with positive numbers, I have not enjoyed examining the arrears, debts, and bankruptcies which now litter my desk, from which I can not extract my usual fees or […]

Essay | Broken Inheritance by Richard Aronowitz

Essays, Writing

If you want to understand history, you need to go out and find its stories. You have to dig them out, unearth them, like archaeologists uncovering traces of earlier civilizations. These stories, the really important ones, are never written down in books. I spent much of one hot summer’s day in Haifa up in a cool, sun- dappled apartment on a quiet residential street at the bottom of the steps leading up to the Shrine of the Báb and its gardens on Mount Carmel […]

Essay | Rediscovering Violette Leduc by Isabelle Marie Flynn

Essays, Writing

Most bibliophiles will name Simone de Beauvoir, George Sand and Colette among the greats of French literature. Yet they represent the tip of a subversive, transgressive and deeply political iceberg of women writers who have changed the literary and social landscape. As women’s voices grow louder and more diverse in modern publishing, it is vital to recognise that their writing is not new, nor has it just now become important. The words of women are sadly more […]

Essay | The Fate of the Artist: Wyndham Lewis and Saul Bellow by Jeffrey Meyers

Essays, Writing

Wyndham Lewis’s adult life spanned two world wars. In the First he fought on the front lines and was also a war artist; in the Second he lived in poverty in America and Canada. An innovative painter, he wrote fierce polemics on art and the role of the artist in society but held a bleak view of modern life. Auden called the self-styled ‘Enemy’ and conservative advocate of western culture ‘That lonely old volcano of the Right.’ Lewis idealistically believed that the power of […]

Essay | The Ring by Tomoé Hill

Essays, Writing

I still have my wedding ring – platinum with a pear-shaped, grass-green tourmaline, and small diamond baguettes flanking either side, facets refracting both light and superficial values. Sometimes I take the cursed object from its black octagonal leather box with the gold bird on the lid, wondering what illness it slowly introduced to me in the guise of joy. ‘Green stones are bad luck,’ said a friend of my then-fiancé, on admiring my ring. It was automatic; one of […]

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