Buenos aires

Citizens of nowhere: This Strange Eventful History, by Claire Messud, reviewed

Any personal history is hard to fictionalise, not least because the story needs to be both universal and unique. Claire Messud manages to find the right balance in her latest novel, reconstructing her family’s past in vivid episodes that open a multitude of windows on to the world. Continents and decades chase one another as the narrative traces the movements of the Cassar family. Hailing from Algeria, for much of the book they are citizens of nowhere. Their tribulations begin in 1940, when Lucienne and her children, François and Denise, flee Greece (where their father, Gaston, has been posted as the French naval attaché) to wait out the war in

Satirical pulp: The Possessed, by Witold Gombrowicz, reviewed

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland. It’s hardly an event which needs its significance re-stating, but there was one outcome which has received rather less attention than the impending crisis in Europe. After the first instalments – serialised in newspapers in the summer of that year – a bizarre, flamboyant, mock-gothic novel by an unknown writer, ‘Z. Niewieski’, was forced to cease publication on 3 September. Witold Gombrowicz, the author of The Possessed and master of Polish modernism, had penned the work under a pseudonym, and, he claimed, only for money. If that distance from the book weren’t enough, he then put an ocean between himself and the manuscript.

How I narrowly escaped joining Argentina’s ‘disappeared’

A bully-boy leader. A corrupt, out-of-touch regime. A twisted reading of history. An unprovoked, military-led landgrab. A domestic disinformation blitz. And an enemy that, contrary to all the aggressor’s expectations, fought back. We’ve been here before. Not on the scale of Russia’s attack on Ukraine perhaps, nor with the tragic cost to civilian lives. But wind back 40 years and something akin to Putin’s demented assault played out in the South Atlantic. In the last throes of a desperate government, Argentina’s military dictatorship ordered an assault on the Falkland Islands. When the news broke in early April 1982, the world gaped. Sabre-rattling from Buenos Aires was nothing new. But an