Thursday 19 July 2018


This is a “nonfiction novel” describing the author’s experience of rape and attempted murder, or rather describing the victim’s thoughts and actions in the aftermath of the ordeal:

After holding back the story for some time, I felt I had earned the right to talk, even monopolize conversation. I told and retold the story even to people who were not close, but bristled if they tried to respond, to empathize or give me their analysis of what happened. At the same time I felt that there was something staged about my telling. Not that the tears were put on. The pain was real. But I also knew I’d have to act the part, or no one would believe me. Telling the story created a distance. I no longer recognized my own memories, when I spoke them out loud…I no longer recognized the outlines of my own experience.

Absurdly, I found myself sympathizing with the attacker, a refugee from North Africa, who described his life in a hostel to me as soul-destroying. It was not the authoritarianism of the manager, the cramped rooms...the lack of place to put your things, or the stench that spews from those toilets as if from the center of the earth (he said), not the insects, the roaches hidden in every crack, every fissure, under the rickety furniture, or the fires that punctuate life in the kitchens because of the faulty wiring. It wasn’t even the sexual deprivation, or the resulting dreams, the obsession with women (or in some cases men) and the erections, hard and damp under the sheets. What made life unbearable for him above all, he said, was the noise which penetrates the body by way of the ear and reverberates in every cell, the noise troubles the silence of the inner organs…the creaking doors, the snores, the shouting in the sleep, the groaning beds, all the misery that comes out in noise.

Is that why he attacked me not only physically but also assailed me with noise? I tried to escape the sound of his shouting, as if there were shouting scattered all around, ready to spring up, as if shouting existed before there were human beings and humans were merely tools invented to give it an outlet. In defense, he whispers to his attacker, trying to calm him down.

After my ordeal, I can no longer stand seeing anyone smile or be happy. I want to slap them, to shake them and spit in their faces, scratch them until I drew blood, scratch their faces off till all the faces around me disappeared. Their laughter pierced my eardrums and stuck in my ears, it echoed inside my skull for the rest of the day, it stuck in my skull, in my eyes, in my lips – it was as if their laughter existed to hurt me.

Tuesday 10 July 2018


I love Rachel Cusk’s long sentences. How come my editor never lets me get away with that?

The man seated next to her on the plane:
He was somewhere in his forties, with a face that was both handsome and unexceptional, and his tall frame was clad with the clean, well-pressed neutrality of a businessman’s weekend attire. He wore a heavy silver watch on his wrist and new-looking leather shoes on his feet; he exuded an air of anonymous and slightly provisional manliness, like a soldier in uniform.

You could the bells that rang unendingly from the town’s many churches, striking not just the hours but the quarter and half hours, so that each segment of time became a seed of silence that then blossomed, filling the air with what almost seemed a kind of self-description. The conversation of these bells, held back and forth across the rooftops was continued night and day: its cadences of observation and agreement, its passages of debate, its longer narratives – at matins and evensong, for instance, and most of all on Sundays, the repeating summons building and building until it was followed at last by the joyous, deafening exposition.

Journalist and literary critic:
He couldn’t ever imagine writing as the author had written, or indeed, in some cases, wanting to; even thinking about it exhausted him, and he sometimes found himself wishing these prodigies had a little less energy, because every time they wrote something new they also created his obligation to respond to it. The tremendous effort to conjure something out of nothing, to create this great structure of language where before there had been only blankness, was something of which he personally felt himself incapable: it usually rendered him, in fact, quite passive and left him feeling relieved to return to the trivial details of his own life.