Jonathan McAloonExistential BlowsTyll, Daniel Kehlmann (trans. Ross Benjamin), Riverrun, 2020, pp. 352, £18.99 (hardcover) Measuring the World, Fame, F, Daniel Kehlmann (trans. Carol Brown Janeway),...
September 2016. On the second day of the new autumn term, a sixth former sets out from home. His bike is later found padlocked to a fence behind a church, his uniform stuffed into a binbag lying nearby. His letter to his parents arrives next day telling them where the bike is and promising not to be away for ‘longer than a year’. From his Kindle it is apparent that he has just read Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London [...]
The widow made her way down Ledra Street, soaking up the energy of the sun, past plastic green mermaids and a giant M made of potato chips. Tour groups stopped to take photos, bless them, while the young people chatted at tables with their frappés. On one wall, someone had graffitied a tick of the kind associated with Nike, goddess of victory, with RIOT written above it. She kept on down, past cool balconies where shadows cursed the heat. She passed old [...]
Picture them, standing on the platform of Paddington Station in August 1913: Leonard and Virginia Woolf, suitcases by their feet, ready to board a train for a long journey. They are going on holiday to Holford, a small, pretty village in Somerset, the same place they went for their honeymoon last summer. They had a wonderful time then, enjoying country walks and sumptuous food. This time, however, I imagine Leonard struggling with his unease, tempted to abort the trip, leave the station, guide Virginia back home to their lodgings in Clifford’s Inn. For Virginia is in a vulnerable state. She has spent the last fortnight in a home in [...]
The other labs on the third floor of the biosciences building are empty, as if after the rapture. Strangely, it’s also not dissimilar from catching a glimpse of someone undressing when they think they are alone, the twin thrill and shame of the voyeur. The air carries the salty scent of yeast media. Wallace’s mouth waters. Below him, the atrium is filled with gauzy light. Dry yellow vines wrap around the railings, the floor glossy with wear. If he jumps, he thinks, he will plummet [...]