New story in The Southern Review

April 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

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‘Octet’ is the title of my new story in the spring issue of The Southern Review. It’s an odd one, for sure. I don’t have much memory of writing it. I know I was listening to a track from ‘The Tree of Life’ soundtrack on repeat when I was working on it. I also remember walking up and down Montgomery Street, in Edinburgh, Scotland, when I saw something that made me briefly question the physical laws of our universe. But only for a moment, of course.

It starts like this:

The procedure is always the same. He fills in forms. He waits. After twenty or thirty minutes the first of the books arrives. Usually singly, sometimes on a trolley, until they form a tower. All morning his eyes pull in their words like a stove feeding itself. At one o’clock he goes to the canteen; by quarter past he’s back. He remains in his chair until he hears the voice of a man who is never tired, does not age, who may already be dead. It is a voice he hates. The library will be closing in fifteen minutes, says the man. Please return your books to the desk. With this the tower is destroyed. He must return to the present.

He leaves the library and walks down the hill until he reaches his street. At home he eats then tries to read but usually his eyes hurt. All he can do is walk the several blocks of the street, slowly back and forth. He goes over the day’s reading. He waits for the Thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner!

April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

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I’m amazed and delighted to have won this year’s Willesden Herald Short Story Prize.

My story, ‘Ward’, is about a young girl who gets very ill and how it changes her.

You can read it and the other nominated stories by buying the anthology which is a bargain at £5.99 (incl. postage)- the best place to buy it is here.

An extract:

She’d never had so many presents. Flowers, magazines, teddy bears and balloons, a poster of two puppies wedged in a boot. Sandra was the only visitor who didn’t bring a gift. Her presence was confusing, because she and Emily weren’t friends. Emily wondered if Sandra liked her the way she liked her classmate Maxine: quietly, from an awed distance, content to sit two rows behind. After ten minutes she noticed the way Sandra’s eyes returned to the needle in her arm, the IV line, the slowly shrinking bag. She asked if Emily was in pain, if she was going to have an operation. She wanted to tell everyone about her dying classmate.

 

 

Talk on Xinjiang in Chinese and Western Media

March 7, 2014 § 3 Comments

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I’ll be talking at Westminster University, London, on March 19th about how Western and Chinese media tends to represent the  Xinjiang issue in different yet equally distorting ways  – details here.

Background to Kunming attacks

March 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Sean Roberts, an associate professor at Georgetown University, offers a careful, considered response to the attacks, and provides excellent context for what has happened.

After Kunming

March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

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I attempt to make sense of the horrible killings in Kunming on the LRB Blog

Free Ilham Tohti

February 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Ilham Tohti, the respected Uyghur economist, has been charged with separatism and faces ten years to life in prison in China. It’s the kind of thing that’s a reminder of how China’s judicial and political system hasn’t made the same kind of progress as its economy. I wrote about the case on the LRB Blog.

Heroin, comas and mindcrafting in Kyrgyzstan

February 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

coma patients

My piece on a drug addiction clinic near Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan is now up at VICE.

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