Simon Akam

Write what you know — especially if it’s the second world war

Adam Foulds’s latest novel is less successful than its predecessor. In 2009 he reached the Booker shortlist with The Quickening Maze, which saw Victorian poets orbit a lunatic asylum in Epping Forest. Now, with In the Wolf’s Mouth, he has shifted his attention to the Mediterranean theatre of the second world war. Will Walker is

419 by Will Ferguson – review

The term ‘419’ is drawn from the article in the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud. However, it has transcended its origins in statute and become shorthand for trickery across West Africa. When I worked as a correspondent in Sierra Leone, 1,400 miles from Nigeria’s capital Abuja, the phrase was in widespread use. Deception is

21 books for a godson, pt. 2

This post is the second half of a list of 21 books that a man might give to his godson on the occasion of his twenty-first birthday.That is novels done. The bespoke bookcase is more than half loaded; 12 slots are full, nine remain. I conceive the selection of other titles as a complement to

21 books for a godson, pt. 1

There is much to be said for godfathers. They offer the wisdom of maturity without the complications of direct filial ties. Likewise there is much to be said for 21st birthday celebrations, the last relic in our ossified, post-industrial society of the adulthood rituals of traditional peoples. However, it is the fusion of these two

The Childhood of Jesus’, by J.M. Coetzee – review

Stripping down prose is not a risk-free undertaking. The excision of adverbs and the passive voice is sound practice in journalism. However, to make very bare writing a thing of beauty in fiction requires enormous skill. Hemingway’s short stories — those clean, well-lighted places — manage it. Despite its author’s fellow possession of a Nobel