Everyone was fleeing and everything was temporary

Dear Anna, Do you know this feeling we have when something terrible happens in a dream and we must scream or run, but we find ourselves suddenly unable to do it? We have no voice, or our legs are suddenly unbearably heavy. This feeling of being trapped: that’s the stuff your novel Transit (tr. Margot…

Anna Seghers

Anna Seghers (pseudonym; neé Anna Netty Reiling, 19 November 1900 – 1 June 1983) was a German writer. Anna was born in Mainz into a Jewish family. She studied History, History of art and Chinese in Cologne and Heidelberg, and in 1924 she completed her doctorate at the University of Heidelberg with a dissertation on Jews and Judaism in…

They didn’t dare before; now they do, that’s all

Dear Anna, I was halfway through Manja (tr. Kate Phillips, 2003. Manja: Ein Roman um 5 Kinder, 1938) this past week, when your book acquired a new poignancy for me. Do you know that eerie feeling, when we overhear a stranger on the bus or out passing by us in the street, and, by accident,…

Anna Gmeyner

Anna Wilhelmine Gmeyner (16 March 1902 – 3 January 1991) was an exiled Austrian writer. She was born to liberal Jewish parents in Vienna, where her father was a lawyer. In 1924, Gmeyner married a biologist, whit whom she had one daughter. The family then moved to Scotland in 1926, where her husband got a job as…

They had taught her to take what she wanted

Dear Vita, I came to your book Aphra Behn: the Incomparable Astrea (1927) because of this thing called Virginia. In the fourth chapter of A Room of One’s Own (1929), Woolf claims that “all women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, (…) for it was she who earned them the right…

Vita Sackville-West

Victoria Mary Sackville-West (Lady Nicolson, 9 March 1892 – 2 June 1962) was an English writer. In 1913, Vita married the writer and diplomat Harold George Nicolson, with whom she had two children – and an open marriage. The affair for which she is most remembered was Virginia Woolf, in the late 1920s. Vita was the inspiration behind Wool’s Orlando (1928)….

And the book had broken right open

Dear Ali, Your most recent collection of short stories, framed around the massive closures of public libraries in the UK, borrows its core from the very idea of borrowing. Each of the 12 stories in this collection can be read as an exploration of what we borrow from what we read. Each story lends us something –…

Christina Stead Week

Hello, dear readers, I have been absent, I know. In my defense, I would say that I’ve been enthralled by the course I am teaching at the university this semester, which, in return, has been leaving me with few time and mindspace for the ever-growing pile of fiction books patiently waiting for me at the…

Nonfiction november

Hello, lovely readers! It’s time to turn to another favourite bookish event: Nonfiction November! Katie over at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, and Julz at Julz Reads are hosting a month of nonfiction reading. Every Monday, one of them will post a discussion question and a…

This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine

Dear Margaret, You ingeniously managed to fulfill the task of writing a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – and, most importantly, you did it precisely by escaping from this task, taking it to its limits, with the help of some tricks of theatrical illusion. Hag-Seed (2016) is, at the same time, an attempt at…

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Eleanor Atwood (November 18, 1939) is a Canadian writer. In 1957, Atwood began studying at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. There, she published poems and articles in Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English,  and a minor in philosophy and French. In 1962, she…