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Jesmyn Ward's ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing'

Book Review

November 2017

Lucy Scholes

Book Review

November 2017

Jesmyn Ward’s third novel returns to the same setting that served her so well in both her debut Where the Line Bleeds (2008) and the...

Art Review

November 2017

Doclisboa Film Festival

Mitch Speed

Art Review

November 2017

Maybe it’s true that sophisticated cinema has perished, as Hollywood alpha-males Ridley Scott and Martin Scorsese recently opined. If...

The White Book feels as if it is being whispered: each paragraph seems to come from some deep and interior place Han Kang wrote it whilst living in Warsaw, though in the book the city is never named explicitly Instead it is only a white city, white for its snow and white for its stone ruins In an interview with Granta, Kang said that when writing this book, she imagined her prematurely dead sister had lived and visited the city ‘in my place’   Photographs are interspersed throughout In some, a woman appears, her face obscured by shadow In others, only her hands are visible She holds a child’s gown She holds a pebble-like object covered in salt The photographs are of white objects, but in contrast to the white pages, they are startlingly grey The specks and splashes of whiteness are surrounded by shadow The woman seems trapped in darkness Who is this woman supposed to represent? The narrator? The ghost of the sister? The novelist Kang? All or none of the above?  The literal answer is that they are photographs of a performance by Kang, shot by the photographer Choi Jinhyuk But within the pages, they seem to carry the spirit of characters — and the novelist herself   The text is a loose collection of thoughts, scenes, and images Few are longer than a page They are gathered into three sections — ‘I’, ‘She’, and ‘All Whiteness’ ‘I’ follows the narrator considering the colour white and describes her sister’s passing ‘She’ imagines the sister’s life Some subsections describe what the sister might have done—having an X-ray, finding a pebble, attempting to befriend a dog Others contemplate white things—seagulls, a dead butterfly, a lace curtain   Both ‘I’ and ‘She’ are pensive and slightly sorrowful At first, this similarity is disorienting: it is hard to see where one perspective ends and the other begins Slowly, the reader realises that this muddling is the point The concern of the narrator is not whether the sister would have been a vastly different person, but what it means to replace one life with another Her mother would not have

Book Review

November 2017

Han Kang’s ‘The White Book’

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Book Review

November 2017

The White Book feels as if it is being whispered: each paragraph seems to come from some deep and...

Little can prepare you for the experience of reading Renee Gladman’s Ravickian quartet and encountering the oddity, humour, and singular intelligence of her mind Gladman began writing the series in 2003, drawing on a private language she had invented with a friend The linguistic game developed and eventually gave birth to Ravicka — a fictional city-state with an absurd, charming, and troubled local population   I want to state from the outset that these novels remind me of little else I have encountered in contemporary literature Ravicka has textual predecessors — Gladman overtly nods to Samuel Beckett, Anne Carson, and Julio Cortázar — but immersion in Ravicka feels, somehow, more like watching contemporary dance or experimental film than reading a novel Absurdity abounds, non-sequitur is employed liberally, and syntax seems more significant than setting or plot Nonetheless — and herein lies Gladman’s achievement — these novels are provocative and profound   To date, four of Gladman’s ten published works are set in Ravicka  The experimental collection of essays Calamities (2016) and a new monograph of Gladman’s drawings, Prose Architectures (2017),  complement the Ravicka project, but her first novel, Event Factory (2010), remains the best port of entry into this extraordinary city ‘From the sky there was no sign of Ravicka Yet, I arrived; I met many people The city was large, yellow, and tender,’ writes the unnamed protagonist, a linguist who arrives in Ravicka when her plane fails to depart after a layover The only novel in the series told from the perspective of a visitor from outside, Event Factory offers an introduction to Ravicka’s foreign culture and strange landscape, where Earth’s physical laws are either suspended or queered   Mostly, the novels offer the mere suggestion of a plot The Ravickians, the second in the series, ostensibly tells the story of a famous novelist trying to cross the city to attend her friend’s poetry reading But it is more a meditation on the impossibility of translation — a fugue-like discourse on community, longing, poetics and friendship taking place on moving trains and in fields, and closing with twelve fractious chapters of polyvocal conversations, taking

Book Review

October 2017

Renee Gladman’s ‘Houses of Ravicka’

Phoebe Clarke

Book Review

October 2017

Little can prepare you for the experience of reading Renee Gladman’s Ravickian quartet and encountering the oddity, humour, and...

Art Review

October 2017

Eleanor Antin, Romans & Kings

Daniel Culpan

Art Review

October 2017

For the past five decades, feminist conceptual artist Eleanor Antin has created an anti-essentialist chronicle of herself. Working within...

Art Review

October 2017

Juliana Huxtable, PNI

Isobel Harbison

Art Review

October 2017

‘IN SUNLIGHT I WAS PLASTICINE PERFORMANCE’, Juliana Huxtable wrote about her teenage years, in her first book published earlier...

The characters in We That Are Young reside at ‘The Farm’ – a sprawling house in New Delhi complete with its own topiary of fat peacocks, bulbous pink flowers with English names, Fendi furniture, and a room in which it snows at the press of a button It’s not far removed from reality – Antilla, the world’s first billion-dollar residence for a single family of four, is a 40-storey building that towers over the suburbs of South Mumbai, replete with a staff of over 600 people, its own electrical power grid, ten-storey parking for a collection of unusable vintage cars, and a room, of course, where it snows on demand In dialogue with Shakespeare’s King Lear, Taneja’s debut novel explores the lives of a family that owns a multinational conglomerate, ‘The Company’, to which each character’s fate (and inheritance) is inextricably tied We have our patriarch, the Lear figure, Devraj; his three daughters Sita, Radha and Gargi; and his right-hand man Ranjit’s two sons, Jeet and Jivan The embarrassment of riches makes for an irresistible, if outlandish, setting; Taneja vividly indulges our intrigue in the way the rich conduct their daily lives, letting her words ooze out their luxury – filthy, yet so desirable After a particularly gruesome scene in which Radha administers the plucking out of a man’s eyes, she steps back into her suite and calls for a pot of first flush Assam, and rose macaroons   A reinterpretation of Shakespeare is the perfect postcolonial conquest: he remains the epitome of the Western canon, patriarchal, and repeatedly failing to include representations of the ‘other’ without recourse to parody Mainstream appropriations of Shakespeare in South Asia, such as Bollywood filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj’s trilogy Maqbool (Macbeth), Omkara (Othello), and Haider (Hamlet), have generally taken us to rural settings, wherein tragedy is relegated to a matter of the lower castes Taneja, a Shakespearean academic and human rights activist, eschews such stereotypes, and goes straight for the jugular: the innate hypocrisy of the Indian class and caste system ‘It’s not about land, it’s about money,’ states the first line of the book, taking
Preti Taneja’s ‘We That Are Young’

Book Review

October 2017

Skye Arundhati Thomas

Book Review

October 2017

Chris Kraus’s ‘After Kathy Acker’

Jennifer Hodgson

Book Review

October 2017

Acker by Kraus is a tantalising prospect. How do you go about writing a biography of an inveterate self-mythologiser,...

Art Review

October 2017

Gothenburg Biennial 2017

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Art Review

October 2017

Secularity, the theme of this year’s Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (GIBCA), is often imagined as something akin...