Author: alan

Muriel Spark’s The Girls Of Slender Means

By William Boyd I first became aware of the strange and beguiling world of Muriel Spark on the release, in 1968, of the film version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  Like most successful films, the adaptation took me back to the original, hungry for a richer aesthetic experience. I was not disappointed and since […]

The Castle In The Forest

By Norman Mailer Random House 477 pp $26.95 Reviewed by William Boyd The prospect of this novel was highly enticing and alluring: Norman Mailer on Adolf Hitler and his family. Mailer, who has tackled – fearlessly, full-throatedly — Marilyn Monroe, Jesus Christ, Lee Harvey Oswald, Picasso, Mohammed Ali and Gary Gilmore (amongst others) seemed to […]

Chekhov’s Genius

Like Vladimir Nabokov, I think the word ‘genius’ should be used incredibly sparingly and not be casually bandied about. In certain fields of human endeavour the appellation seems relatively easy to understand and identify – I’m thinking of science, philosophy,  mathematics and music, in particular.  We appear able to recognise genius in composers almost instinctively. […]

A Short History Of The Short Story

By William Boyd Let us begin at a notional beginning.  I have an image in my head of a band of Neanderthals (or some similar troupe of humanoids) hunkered round the fire at the cave-mouth as the night is drawing in and one of them says, spontaneously: ‘You’ll never believe what happened to me today.’ […]

Lanark By Alasdair Gray

Readers develop unique histories with the books they read. It may not be immediately apparent at the time of reading but the person you were when you read the book, the place you were where you read the book, your state of mind while you read it, your personal situation (happy, frustrated, depressed, bored) and […]


Foreword by William Boyd “O homem nâo é um animalÉ uma carne inteligenteEmbora às vezes doente.” [Man is not an animalIs intelligent fleshAlthough sometimes ill.] Something of the baffling, beguiling, disturbing appeal of Fernando Pessoa is contained in these three lines of poetry taken from a short poem he wrote in 1935, the year of […]

Filming Hitler

By William Boyd April 20th 1945. On this day, almost sixty years ago, Adolf Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday, in the Fuhrerbunker deep below the Reich Chancellery in a Berlin virtually surrounded by the Russian army, devastated by artillery and heavy bombing. On previous birthdays the custom was that he would be greeted by his […]

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