Paul Binding

Tip-toeing through Sri Lanka

‘The first night I stayed in Kilinochchi, I was a little apprehensive,’ admits the usually cool-headed Vasantha, van-driver and narrator of all the stories in Noontide Toll. Kilinochchi was the operational centre of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) until the Sri Lankan army’s entry in January 2009. Now the town offers amenities like

The making of a novelist

Karl Ove Knausgaard was eight months old when his family moved to the island of Tromøya; he left it aged 13, because of his father’s higher-grade teaching appointment on the mainland. As they drove over the bridge linking the island with the southern Norwegian port of Arendal, ‘it struck me with a huge sense of

From frankness to obsession – the novels of Francis King

Gide wrote to Simenon: ‘You are living on a false reputation — just like Baudelaire and Chopin. … You are much more important than is commonly supposed.’ Something of the kind could, I feel, be said about Francis King (1923–2011), who was prolific, like Simenon (his last book, Cold Snap published in 2009 was his

The Child’s Child, by Barbara Vine – review

‘I always know when a novel is going to be a Barbara Vine one,’ Ruth Rendell said to me in 1998. ‘In fact I believe that if I weren’t to write it as Barbara Vine, I wouldn’t be able to write it at all.’ A Barbara Vine — from the first, A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986)

A snake in the grass

‘He walked straight past the wolf and picked up the dead garter snake.’ This is the exemplary sentence that young teacher Connie writes out for a good-looking, baseball-loving pupil three grades behind in his studies. ‘Fifteen years old, and thick as a plank,’ the school Principal, Parley Burns considers him. Connie chooses her words to

Doctor in distress

It is winter 1936. Every weekday morning a group of young people travel by train from Ferrara, their home city, to Bologna where they are studying at the university. Theirs is a six-carriage stopping train, often infuriatingly late because of delays on the line, thus contradicting the famous Fascist boast about improvement of Italian railways.

Abiding inspiration

In 1971 looking back over his life, Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) declared himself surprised at being referred to as a critic. Certainly his plan when young had been the pursuit of the literary life, ‘but what it envisaged was the career of the novelist. To this intention, criticism, when eventually I began to practise it, was

The father of songs

‘The two great gifts of the Greeks to humanity, said the poet Hölderlin, were Orpheus-Love and Homer-Song.’ ‘The two great gifts of the Greeks to humanity, said the poet Hölderlin, were Orpheus-Love and Homer-Song.’ The great German poet’s statement shows him as belonging to our own phase of Western civilisation. For us Orpheus — born

. . . or sensing impending doom

‘What am I? A completely ordinary person from the so-called higher reaches of society. ‘What am I? A completely ordinary person from the so-called higher reaches of society. And what can I do? I can train a horse, carve a capon, and play games of chance.’ So reflects Botho von Rienäcke, the central character of

Terrors of the imagination

Of the four Prime siblings of the Beacon farm, Frank, the second boy, was, throughout their early lives, ‘almost invisible’. He did everything late, spent most of his time alone, and was a dunce at school, where he bemused teachers and children alike. They never knew what to make of Frank, they said; what went

The importance of being Henrik

The celebrations and theatre- productions for this centenary year of Ibsen’s death certainly attest to the continuing vitality of his work. At August’s Ibsen conference in Oslo I heard delegates from China, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Latvia, Mexico speak both of the plays’ intrinsic fascinations and of their relevance to specific contemporary societies. Likewise scholars and critics

A member of the awkward squad

On an autumn Saturday in 1944 Private Robert Prentice, an 18-year-old rifleman trainee, makes a long journey from his camp in Virginia to New York City, to see his mother. He is soon to be sent abroad, France most likely, and there he’ll see action, which will at least be a change from tedious, thankless

Small is beautiful | 12 November 2005

The British, publishers and booksellers regularly tell us, have an antipathy to the short story; they respond unfavourably to even a well-known writer coming up with a collection, and for an emergent one to devote creative energy principally to the medium would be regarded as literary suicide. And this despite determined efforts by certain key

Singing for your supper

On 23 February l937 a small boy of seven arrives at Victoria station, London. Here he is met, as arranged, by his uncle, a man he has never seen before though he has heard an intriguing plenty about him – that he is very amusing and also famous, a national hero. The boy doesn’t understand