The Scotsman recently carried my obituary of Mary Bell, a remarkable woman who received the MBE for her work promoting Scottish businesses abroad with the Scottish Council Development & Industry. She also happened to be my much-loved aunt.Continue reading
Three fascinating books leapt to the top of the pile at Christmas. While in different genres, they all shed some light on some of the issues facing us all in 2019.
In the novel The Great Believers Rebecca Makkai brings the world of the mid-1980s Chicago gay community vividly to life. While protagonist Yale Tishman watches helplessly as his friends die from AIDS, a parallel story unfolds in Paris in 2015 in which a middle-aged American woman, Fiona, seeks to track down her wayward daughter. At the denouement the plot lines coincide.
In The Fifth Risk the inimitable Michael Lewis, author of such great non-fiction exposés as Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, The Big Short,and Flash Boys, examines the trouble brewing thanks to the deliberate understaffing of the US Government under President Trump.
In Chernobyl, Harvard professor Serhii Plokhy, an American citizen born in Russia and brought up in Ukraine, shows how, for citizens of the Soviet Union (and Ukraine in particular), the flaws in the failing communist system crystallised in the explosion of the nuclear reactor in 1986. He argues convincingly that this tragedy sheds light on how and why the Soviet Union imploded only 5 years after the Chernobyl explosion. Plokhy’s Chernobyl won the Bailey Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction in 2018.Continue reading
The Jaipur Literature Festival is a fabulous annual extravaganza of literature, music and much more. I first went in 2011 and couldn’t resist another visit in 2012. I then vowed not to return until my first book was published and I was invited as an author.
It was a wonderful feeling therefore to be invited to the 2016 Festival to talk about Sikkim: Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom. I was particularly delighted to be on stage with the Sikkimese poet Guru Tshering Ladakhi. Guru’s poetry captures with great intelligence what it means to be Sikkimese in the 21st century – seeking to understand the past and full of hope for the future. The session was expertly chaired by C Raja Mohan from The Indian Express (India Director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace).
The video is below. (Many apologies for the dreadful gurn that they chose for the cover of the video but worth watching for Guru’s readings of his own excellent poetry alone.)
I’m also delighted to report that Penguin Random House India will be bringing out a paperback version of the book next month.