TLS review of ‘Uyghur Nation’

April 19, 2017 § Leave a comment


I wrote a piece on David Brophy’s remarkable book for the Times Literary Supplement.

An almost-equally burning question

April 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

This time: How I write.

The smell of death

March 20, 2017 § Leave a comment

Backstreet 3 copy

In today’s Guardian I wander round various lesser-known Chinese cities and talk to people about what it’s like to live and work in such fast expanding places. I am also asked to sample the smell of death.

The same thing, on a larger scale, is the subject of my next book, Chasing the Chinese Dream, out in September from IB Tauris.

The Burning Question

March 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

In which I answer the burning question of WHY I WRITE. Warning: this contains my actual voice.

The Explosion Chronicles

March 1, 2017 § Leave a comment


I reviewed Yan Lianke’s novel The Explosion Chronicles in the March issue of Literary Review. I thought it was a bloated, prurient, timid satire.

The Return of Munchausen

March 1, 2017 § Leave a comment


I wrote a piece on the great Soviet fabulist Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky for Open Letters Monthly.

Show and Tell

February 12, 2017 § Leave a comment


When I was a teacher in China I used to get my students to bring in items and talk about them. It was good practice for them and also meant there was only 42 minutes left of the lesson to fill. The best one was a young man who brought in a bullet and then spoke about how happy he’d felt the first time he fired a gun. This story is probably vaguely inspired by this – it’s in The Manchester Review.

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