Monthly Archives: August 2016

‘I must write. If I stop writing, my life will have been an abject failure.’: Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea

In 1939 Jean Rhys’s second husband gave her a copy of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, an act that would shape Rhys’s writing life for the next three decades. So haunted was Rhys by the shadowy figure of Rochester’s mad Jamaican … Continue reading

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‘I feel as fastidious as though I wrote with acid’: Katherine Mansfield and Prelude

When Virginia Woolf asked Katherine Mansfield for a story for the Hogarth Press in 1917, Mansfield reworked a piece she had begun during the First World War intended to be a novel about her childhood in New Zealand. Renamed ‘Prelude‘, … Continue reading

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‘I am nothing but literature and can and want to be nothing else’: Franz Kafka and The Trial

‘Somebody must have made a false accusation against Josef K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.’ This much-quoted opening sentence of The Trial sets the tone—one of cool, lucid observation of increasingly bizarre events—of Franz … Continue reading

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Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter ‘trod all underfoot and braved all that you might come together’

Sigrid Undset’s medieval trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter is the story of the fiery Kristin Lavransdatter from her girlhood to old age. Kristin is the eldest daughter of Ragnfrid and Lavrans (hence Lavrans-datter), a God-fearing farmer whose knowledge of animals and plants … Continue reading

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‘I will take my anguish and lay it upon the roots under the beech trees’: Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

By the time Virginia Woolf came to write The Waves, her seventh novel, she was at the height of her creative powers, riding on the success of a period of intense work that had given birth to Mrs Dalloway (1925), … Continue reading

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‘Trees and meadows and mountains will only be a spectacle’ (and btw by 2025 there will be 3 tonnes of plastic in the ocean for every 1 tonne of fish): E.M. Forster’s Howards End

I’m thinking about E.M. Forster’s novel Howards End, so beautifully adapted to the screen in 1992, and writing up my copious notes from the Natural Capital Forum in Edinburgh last November. Tragically, they are related. I love this novel for … Continue reading

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‘our friendship has no other purpose, no other reason, than to show you how utterly unlike me you are …’: Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund

Most days it seems the world is going mad. I’m sure I don’t need to enumerate the many reasons why, but yes they include the US Republican presidential candidate, the continuing destruction of vast swathes of the earth from the … Continue reading

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