Tag Archives: London

A new life?

Asylum and Exile – The hidden voices of London by Bidisha is a collection of stories – real-life stories. They remind us what it means to migrate, to search for a new (better?) life, to look for work, love, attachment – a home. As the reader, I do not get the comfort zone of fiction – these are people with real woes, sorrows and some happy encounters. Manny, Elodie, Marie, Glorianna and all the others do not have much in common, but in the public perception, they are often viewed as one anonymous group of refugees. For me, it is the greatest achievement of this book to lift these people from this anonymity and introduce them to us, the readers. They arrive from different places and backgrounds and – although in the same country now – do not want the same things from life. One thing they DO have in common, though, is the desire for physical safety and no violence. They’ve given up a lot and face a lot of unknown quantities. Frequently highly educated and equipped with at least one university degrees, they have to start from scratch. Their documented new beginnings show a glimpse of hope. Thank you, Bidisha, for unlocking „….the lost people in the city.“ The city that is London. And thank you to Seagull Books for this honest account of what it means to live in a new and often hostile place.

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A Holiday Read

Michael Palin promises no less than The Truth with a novel that loves its main protagonist. Hamish Melville is a really nice man – with all the flaws that go with it. He is not particularly successful in his work or private life, yet somehow always stumbles into something new when he’s about to give up. Sometimes the plot is a bit far-fetched, which made me like it even more …. and the fact that it is partly set in London and partly in some remote place in India adds to the attraction. It’s for all those who don’t quite go with the flow and still find their place in life. Take it on holiday with you. Or read it on the sofa on a rainy day. Or on a deckchair on your balcony. I hope you’ll like it as much as I did.

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Two (Crime) Stories

I listened to John Lanchester when he read from his book Capital and knew I had to read it. It is about London after all – or rather about a street in London. It tells the tale of several families and their sorrows and joys in 2008. Their lives are disrupted by postcards, followed by nastier messages.
The book is also about suspected and real criminal activity, fraudulent and destructive behaviour, love in various forms and great despair. The „hurly-burly of family life“, as the author puts it, is presented to the reader without judgement. The double entendre of the title stayed with me throughout the story – and on a recent visit to London, I was wondering whether it would always be the place of choice for those who have made this city truly great – its people from all over the world and their creative approach to life.

A friend recommended the other story  to me. Luckily, one of my favourite London bookshops had this little gem in stock. Dag Solstad’s Professor Andersen’s Night is a fascinating study on solitude, inner monologues, their sometimes rather destructive and misleading nature and on friendships and how they evolve over time. I think it’s a novella. Would you agree?


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A Reading in London

In my view, there is no better word than visceral to describe Hassan Blasim’s collection of short stories The Madman of Freedom Square. They touched me and they moved me deeply. The stories  tell us about the futile nature of war, about displaced people and people who stay at home. Home is in war-torn Iraq, where life is often perilous and marked by the loves, the joys and fears of everyday life. Death comes unexpectedly at home in The Market of Stories, where reading about a shoe has the same effect on me as a film scene with boots in ‚All Quiet on the Western Front‘ –  and is expected to turn up at every turn in the story The Truck to Berlin. I was lucky to be able to listen to Hassan Blasim and his English translator Jonathan Wright at an English PEN event, where they introduced the writer’s latest book The Iraqi Christ. They talked about the humour of the stories – a humour that doesn’t mask the horror. Humankind in all its rich facettes  – I’m looking forward to reading more by Hassan Blasim.

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