Roald Dahl, Going Solo
“I had never before encountered that peculiar Empire-building breed of Englishman who spends his whole life working in distant corners of British territory. Please do not forget that in the 1930s the British Empire was still very much the British Empire, and the men and women who kept it going were a race of people that most of you have never encountered and now you never will. I consider myself very lucky to have caught a glimpse of this rare species while it still roamed the forests and foot-hills of the earth, for today it is totally extinct. More English than the English, more Scottish than the Scots, there were the craziest bunch of humans I shall ever meet. For one thing, they spoke a language of their own… An evening drink was always a sundowner. A drink at any other time was a chota peg. One’s wife was the memsahib. T have a look at something was to have a shufti. And from that one, interestingly enough, RAF/Middle Eastern slang for a reconnaissance plane in the last war was a shufti kite. Something of poor quality was shenzi. Supper was tiffin and so on and so forth. The Empire-builders’ jargon would have filled a dictionary. All in all, it was rather wonderful for me, a conventional young lad from the suburbs, to be thrust suddenly into the middle of this pack of sinewy sunburnt gophers and their bright bony little wives, and what I liked best of all about them was their eccentricities.”
Hello Esteemed readers, all twenty nine of you. (Only kidding, I have a few more these days, thank you lovely readers.)
In July 2015 my new novel, The Photographer’s Wife, will be published in the UK and the US by Bloomsbury. I am unspeakably happy about this. I have been writing this novel for four years or so, and researching parts of it for even longer. In due course I will be putting up additional information about the story and the inspiration behind it, but for now a few photographs which form ingredients for my book.
At the moment I am editing The Photographer’s Wife, preparing to do a guest slot at the gorgeous Lumb Bank for the Arvon Foundation and devising a writing workshop and outline of a plan for a week-long residency in the Yellow Mountains, Huangshan, China which is happening in September. Busy times for the jobbing writer. Soon, the strange process of a novel emerging from the innermost inners of my mind to be sent out into the world to find readers will begin again. Before all of that, though, this August is a private, pottering, editing and gardening sort of month before the great voyage begins. Which brings to mind Edna O’Brien’s novel, August is a Wicked Month. A book I loved almost all of. The end didn’t work for me, but the rest was sublime.
Recently I have been reading Italian author Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan books. They are tremendous. I advise anyone reading this to go and get a copy immediately. I was lucky enough to get a copy of Book 3, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay*, in advance and I can reveal that it is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL.
* A title that sums up the central theme to everything I’ve ever written in seven words.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar continues to amaze me by being read in diverse and wide ranging parts of the world. I have emails from Brazil, Canada, and many other places and recently I heard that it will be coming out in Japan in December and also in China next year. I feel very lucky.
Onwards and upwards dear readers.
I’m very proud that my book has been selected to be part of the charity Womankind’s International Women’s Day book group list. Here is the information.
This film appears in my new book. More information about the book later, but for now:
It is always such a pleasure to read a thoughtful review of my book. This one at a lovely blog called ‘a gallimaufry’ has made my evening.
“The photographs, especially in Bathes’ response to the child of the Winter Garden Photograph, capture the space of love…..”
“I was at the door of the hotel, horrified at seeing in the Alameda people go by who seemed to be made of wood. I rushed to the roof of the hotel and wept there, looking at the chained city below my feet, the city it was my duty to liberate. Coming down to Catherine’s room, I begged her to look at my face; I said to her: “Don’t you see that it is the exact representation of the world?” She refused to listen to me and put me out of her room.”
Leonora Carrington, ‘Down Below’