As perverse as it sounds, Vladimir Putin gave a pretty good speech on Friday in proclaiming the illegal seizure of four provinces of Ukraine where his military campaign is falling apart faster than a rusty Kalashnikov. I don’t mean it was good in the sense of being eloquent, morally uplifting or intellectually stimulating. It was … Continue reading ‘Make Russia great again’: Why Putin’s annexation speech hit its mark
What use is this barrel? It’s broken; the wood is cracked and rotting, the frame is speckled with rust. The bloated planks have lost their symmetry: they're weathered and weary. Why would you keep it? A decade is a long time by any reckoning. A month can go by, a year, without much changing, but … Continue reading Over a barrel
Theatre Europe (screenshot from C64 Wiki) When I was growing up there was a computer game called Theatre Europe. It allowed you to play out, from the comfort of your Commodore 64 or ZX Spectrum, a 30-day campaign between Nato and the Warsaw Pact countries, and it had three possible outcomes: either one of the … Continue reading Vladimir Putin and the fiction of war
Not long ago my son said something that hit me like a sniper’s bullet: ‘You’ve got loads of books in this house but you never read them.’ I felt ashamed. While never a gluttonous reader, I always enjoyed books and usually had two or three on the go. In a typical year I’d get through … Continue reading Faith in endings: how grief nearly killed my love of books
In the distant light of the hallway I grab a pair of socks from the drawer and unbundle them as I walk to the kitchen. My feet shuffle in their mocassins, still half-awake, while six feet higher up my brain decants the day. Breakfast, sandwiches, send the boys off to school, a couple of phone … Continue reading The memory-sock
The pandemic was giving everybody – rich and poor, young and old – a dose of isolation. And I was a veteran of isolation. I knew things would get worse, but eventually better. I knew many people would suffer and most of their suffering would go unseen. The main thing was not to despair.
At first, when the shutdown was announced, I joked that my lifestyle as a widowed parent had become fashionable. If a government minister hadn’t announced on television that the bars and restaurants were closing I'm not sure I’d have noticed. After self-isolating for years, I felt as if the world had come to me. I … Continue reading Coronavirus: one faceless killer can conceal another
Copies of De tijd die we nog dachten te hebben on sale at Paagman in Scheveningen. The Dutch translation of All the Time We Thought We Had, with the title De tijd die we nog dachten te hebben (I like the fact that the Dutch don't capitalise book titles) has been out for a couple … Continue reading Now available in Dutch
...the beasts are chained and subdued, serenaded by a man playing one of four pianos rising from the sand like stranded ships...
I am in a library full of writers. An exclusive audience of around 15 men, seated across from me on hard chairs, are scrutinising my memoir, All The Time We Thought We Had. There is an expectant buzz in the air but the tone on both sides is respectful throughout. They ask the kind of … Continue reading Time inside