What a difference a decade makes

Ten years ago the American short story was in decline. Now it is once again a vital genre Ruth Franklin The short story is an amuse-bouche: luscious, glittering, to be consumed in a single bite. It should be artfully conceived, but not so dainty that you can’t sink your teeth into it. It should restrain … Continue reading


A new exhibition reminds us of Alice In Wonderland’s enduring influence on visual art. But its impact extends much further. Why do Lewis Carroll’s books still have such a hold on us? Richard Jenkyns Nyima 438 (2009) by the Swiss artist Annelies Štrba. This Alice in Wonderland-inspired painting will be on show at Tate Liverpool … Continue reading

African stories

A timely anthology of short stories reveals the strength of contemporary African fiction—and, writes Ruth Franklin, the growth of globalised, “post-national” literature Ruth Franklin Africa in the 21st century, carved into an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of countries (the latest being South Sudan), is no longer the empty space that once served to represent it on European … Continue reading

The Sexual Lives of Missionaries

A novel excerpt by Kyle Minor There were big ones and small ones and medium-sized ones, blonde and brunette, and even bald ones… Photograph via Flickr by Brian C. Carter In Koulèv-Ville, Haiti, spring of 1983, the bachelor missionary Samuel Tillotson stropped his father’s straight razor on the leather he hung from a ring on … Continue reading

Town of Cats

Haruki Murakami  At Koenji Station, Tengo boarded the Chuo Line inbound rapid-service train. The car was empty. He had nothing planned that day. Wherever he went and whatever he did (or didn’t do) was entirely up to him. It was ten o’clock on a windless summer morning, and the sun was beating down. The train … Continue reading

Micro Stories

As is known, every man is limited to a certain number of words in his lifetime, and it’s not like this number is such a big prize, some of these words might also be words that you whisper in a foreign language that you don’t even know, in a dream… lex Epstein, translated from the … Continue reading

Franco-British Council Short Story Prize

Earlier this month an expert panel awarded the annual Prospect/Franco-British Council prize for a short story inspired by France. The winning stories are reproduced below 19-25 CATEGORY 1st Prize: Emile Nelligan est Mort, by Iona Carmichael After finding you in his company, I held Émile Nelligan in my hands. Although slim and delicate as a … Continue reading

The Prison Diary of Dominique Strauss-Kahn

DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN Day 1 – Monday, 16 May 2011, 11:45 PM What an outrage! What an abomination! I, DSK, have just been brought a revolting objet which my captors have the unmitigated audacity to call food.  Non, ce n’est pas food! I shall show them. Ptui! There. I have spat out upon the floor of … Continue reading

The In-Between Woman

by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Nivedita Sen Photograph via Flickr by Jessica Lucia Nibaran’s domestic setup was extremely run-of-the-mill; nothing in it smacked of poetry. It had never occurred to him that there might be any need for such a flavor in life. Just as one slides one’s feet securely into one’s slippers automatically everyday, … Continue reading

Ask Me If I Care

by Jennifer Egan  Late at night, when there’s nowhere left to go, we go to Alice’s house. Scotty drives his pickup, two of us squeezed in the front with him, blasting bootleg tapes of the Stranglers, the Mutants, Negative Trend, the other two stuck in the back, where you freeze all year long, getting tossed … Continue reading

Why We Love Fiction

By Brian Boyd Stories play a large part in our lives, not only as a pastime. More important is that fiction has helped humanity survive. Even though science can explain the need of fiction, it cannot replace it. When did you last immerse yourself in the pool of make-believe? In a television drama, or a … Continue reading

Telling Tails

The problem with unsuccessful stories is usually simple: they are boring, a consequence of the failure of imagination. To vividly imagine and to vividly render extraordinary human events, or sequences of events, is the hard-lifting, heavy-duty, day-by-day, unending labor of a fiction writer. By Tim O’Brien. My sons, Timmy and Tad—both fans of Winnie the … Continue reading


by Monica Ali. The Potts girl walked into the café preceded by her reputation so that everyone was obliged to stare. Even Stanton, who had been in Mamarrosa for less than a month, looked her over once more than was strictly necessary. Vasco, stuffed behind the grand Formica counter, served her with pineapple Sumol and … Continue reading

Ten rules for writing fiction

Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray. Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin. 1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go … Continue reading

The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut

By Nora Ephron. There was a tap at the door at five in the morning. She woke up. Shit. Now what? She’d fallen asleep with her Palm Tungsten T3 in her hand. It would take only a moment to smash it against the wall and shove the battery up the nose of whoever was out … Continue reading

Redrawing Boundaries

By Adam Kirsch. A Short History of the Jews by Michael Brenner Princeton University Press, 472 pp., $21 In the writing of history, there are no innocent decisions—especially if you are trying to write a compact book about a huge, complex, and polarizing subject, like Michael Brenner’s A Short History of the Jews. Brenner, a … Continue reading

Extreme Solitude

by Jeffrey Eugenides: It was debatable whether or not Madeleine had fallen in love with Leonard the first moment she’d seen him. She hadn’t even known him then, and so what she’d felt was only sexual attraction, not love. Even after they’d gone out for coffee, she couldn’t say that what she was feeling was … Continue reading