Joseph Conrad

Three men in exile: My Friends, by Hisham Matar, reviewed

Hisham Matar’s third novel is, among its many other virtues, a paean to reading widely; to imagining literature as not, in the narrator Khaled’s words, ‘a field of demarcations’, but as a great river that connects and animates ‘the entire human event’. Reading is how Khaled – exiled from Libya when his part in the anti-Gaddafi demonstration at the country’s embassy in St James’s Square in April 1984 made a return to Benghazi impossible – lays the foundations beneath his precarious life in London. Carrying with him his father’s copy of Abual Ala al Ma’arri’s The Epistle of Forgiveness, an 11th-century  precursor to Dante’s Divine Comedy, he ponders the links

Seeing the dark in a new light

True darkness, it turns out, can be experienced but does not exist. If you have been down a deep mine where the guide tells you to turn off your lamp you will have seen – in not seeing – something close to it: an utter nothingness in which your body and mind seem to shrink and expand at the same time. On a school trip to Big Pit in South Wales my entire class fell into a moment of unprecedented and never-to-be-repeated silence, a gasped amazement at the disappearance and invisibility of ourselves. Just for a moment everything vanished – and then the whooping and squealing started.  This double impulse,

Heart of Darkness revisited: The Dimensions of a Cave, by Greg Jackson, reviewed

When Joseph Conrad sent his narrator into the heart of darkness, Africa was unknown territory. Revisiting the scene now, Greg Jackson dispatches his explorer to an even stranger destination: an algorithmic universe.  Jackson, a Granta Best of Young American Novelists in 2017, won prizes with his story collection Prodigals. His debut novel, The Dimensions of a Cave, could hardly be better timed. New fears about AI give it disquieting relevance. Conspiracy theories mingle with deep state corruption. Gradually it grows into a Chandleresque adventure: down these mean cyber streets a man must go. Dropped into the thick of it, the reader might get the feeling of arriving late at a