Francis Spufford pens unauthorised Narnia novel


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The Stone Table hailed as a ‘seamless recreation’ of CS Lewis’s style, but this addition to the acclaimed series of children’s books may never be published

Francis Spufford has taken a break from writing award-winning adult literature to fill in the details of what exactly went on in Narnia before The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. But he isn’t expecting his novel, set in CS Lewis’s magical world, to be published any time soon.

Spufford, who has been writing for the past three and a half years without the permission of the Lewis estate, began Narnia story The Stone Table on a family holiday to entertain his daughter Theodora. After he had published books including a novel of 18th-century Manhattan, a personal exploration of Christianity and a study of the USSR melding fact and fiction, his daughter “had been lobbying for me to write a book she ...

Anna Burns and Sally Rooney on Rathbones Folio prize longlist


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Booker winner Milkman and Normal People, which took the Costa novel award, among 20 contenders for the £30,000 prize

The 2019 Rathbones Folio prize longlist spans the world, from a Booker-winning novel set amid the Troubles in Northern Ireland to a life of St Francis of Assisi told in verse.

Related: Normal People: how Sally Rooney’s novel became the literary phenomenon of the decade

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Andrea Levy, chronicler of the Windrush generation, dies aged 62


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Award-winning author of Small Island had cancer

The writer Andrea Levy, who explored the experience of Jamaican British people in a series of novels over 20 years, has died aged 62 after the recurrence of a cancer first diagnosed six years ago.

After starting to write as a hobby in her early 30s, Levy published three novels in the 1990s that brought her positive reviews and steady sales. But her fourth novel, Small Island, launched her into the literary big league, winning the 2004 Orange prize, the Whitbread book of the year and the Commonwealth Writers’ prize, selling more than 1m copies around the world and inspiring a 2009 BBC adaptation.

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Diana Athill, writer and editor, dies aged 101


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Centenarian writer and editor won acclaim for ‘nannying’ authors such as Margaret Atwood and VS Naipaul, and for the sharp insights of her own books

Writer and editor Diana Athill, whose clear eye on life and literature inspired authors and readers alike, has died after a short illness aged 101. The news was confirmed by the publisher Granta.

Athill combined a glittering career in publishing, where she worked with writers including Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Jean Rhys and VS Naipaul, with award-winning success as an author herself, turning her flinty gaze on love, work and approaching death in memoirs including Instead of a Letter, Stet and the Costa biography prize-winning Somewhere Towards the End.

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Oyinkan Braithwaite’s serial-killer thriller: would you help your murderer sister?


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The Nigerian author’s darkly comic debut novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer, has become a literary sensation. She explains her struggle with the moral ambiguity of her writing

When Oyinkan Braithwaite sent an early draft of her debut novel to a few friends, one of them told her it was the best thing she had ever written. “I was offended,” Braithwaite says, her voice heavy with irony. “I knew how I had written it.” She might not have thought much of it at the time, but this quick draft ended up unlocking deals with publishers in the UK and the US, as well as an option from the film company Working Title.

My Sister, the Serial Killer arrived in a feverish month, from a writer in a hurry and never looking back as she poured out a novel in an attempt to break a block. She shakes her head ...

As poet laureate prepares to step down, the succession race begins


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Carol Ann Duffy will finish her decade in the role in May, but the long process of choosing the next appointee begins this weekend

Carol Ann Duffy ends Sincerity, her last collection as the UK’s poet laureate, with a peaceful image of retirement, the poet looking up “from the hill at Moniack, / to see my breath / seek its rightful place / with the stars, / with everyone else who breathes”. But the search for her replacement begins this Saturday, with the announcement of a panel of experts to guide the selection.

The steering group assembles the great and the good of the poetry world, from the director of the Poetry Society to the artistic director of the Ledbury poetry festival, with space alongside for the leading lights of the literary establishment.

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How Aladdin’s story was forged in Aleppo and Versailles


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Evidence that its first teller was a Syrian dazzled by the court of Louis XIV inspires a new translation of this magical tale

Aladdin opens in the capital of “one of China’s vast and wealthy kingdoms”, but according to its latest translator, the story’s Syrian roots make it “an artefact from a destroyed world”.

The French-Syrian translator Yasmine Seale is the first woman to translate the whole of One Thousand and One Nights from its French and Arabic sources, and the first to produce an Aladdin since researchers have cleared up the mystery of the much-loved tale’s origins.

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Unseen Sylvia Plath short story to be published in January


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Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom was written in 1952, when Plath was still a student in the US

An “important” short story written by Sylvia Plath when the poet was 20 years old will be published for the first time in January 2019.

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, which describes a fateful train journey, is one of a series of standalone short fiction titles being released by Faber to mark the publisher’s 90th anniversary.

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Owen Booth: ‘I found a way to trick myself to be honest and open’


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The Leeds-born writer remembers the series of accidents that allowed him to tell a story about fatherhood that’s both funny and emotionally exposed

Listen to Owen Booth and you might think his debut novel is appearing by accident. After lucking out with the White Review short story prize in 2015, it seems he started posting flash fiction about fatherhood on his blog by chance. A literary agent happened to come across them and asked him what he was planning to do with them. And so he found himself with enough short pieces to fashion them into a book.

“It was none of it planned,” Booth says. “The whole thing sneaked up on me because I’d found this way to trick myself – or to give myself permission, or to allow myself, whatever you want to call it – to be emotionally revealing and honest and open in a way I ...

The forensic pathologist who got PTSD: ‘Cutting up 23,000 dead bodies is not normal’


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Richard Shepherd’s career saw him work on some of the most high-profile cases of the past 30 years, such as Harold Shipman and Stephen Lawrence. But it came at a terrible personal cost, he says

When Richard Shepherd was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2016, the mental health nurse told him he was really worried. “Most people say they’re going to commit suicide,” the nurse said, “but you actually know what to do.”

Shepherd’s career as one of the UK’s most distinguished forensic pathologists saw him involved in disasters from the Hungerford shootings to the Bali bombings, and in high-profile cases from Harold Shipman to Stephen Lawrence. His daily life was made up of blood-spattered corpses and formalin-soaked dissections, anguished relatives and scornful barristers. But it wasn’t a particular incident that left him immobilised by dread, struggling with sleep and plagued by panic attacks. Instead, it was the ...

VS Naipaul, Nobel prize-winning British author, dies aged 85


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Trinidad-born author won both acclaim and disdain for his caustic portrayals, in novels and non-fiction, of the legacy of colonialism

The writer VS Naipaul, who explored questions of place and identity for more than half a century, has died aged 85.

Lady Naipaul confirmed that her husband had died peacefully in London. “He was a giant in all that he achieved and he died surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavour,” she said.

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Why there’s a buzz about Helen Jukes’ beekeeping memoir


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Ground down by office work, the author took up beekeeping to find a new purpose … and love. She explains why honeybees are good counsellors

‘I was facing the bees, but I also ended up facing myself in that relationship, and once you begin facing stuff maybe things begin opening up.” The writer Helen Jukes trails off, shrugs apologetically. “I’m being really inarticulate about this and I’m not sure why.” She’s happy enough to talk about the bees she kept in her back garden, to explore the changing symbolism of the hive throughout the ages. But when the conversation shifts to the relationship whose first steps she charts in her memoir, she’s not sure what to say. “I’m a bit wary about it being billed as a love story. It’s true, all of this stuff did happen, but I haven’t quite found the right words to describe it....

Man Booker prize 2018: what are your predictions for the longlist?


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The grandest contest in British literature is about to begin. Whose numbers will come up this year?

Sports fans still lamenting the end of Vladimir Putin’s football fiesta can perhaps console themselves with the opening round of the literary world’s favourite game: posh bingo. The Booker prize will unveil the runners and riders on this year’s longlist as Monday night turns into Tuesday morning.

So who will it be? Jostling this year to fill the slots generally reserved for former winners are Michael Ondaatje – fresh from his Golden Booker triumphPat Barker, Peter Carey, Alan Hollinghurst and Julian Barnes. Lining up to feature as American invaders are Anne Tyler, Richard Powers, Rachel Kushner and Madeline Miller, who face off against established home-team names such as Aminatta Forna, Jim Crace, Andrew Miller and Rachel Cusk. And could this be the year that ...

Stav Sherez wins crime novel of the year for ‘moving the genre forward’


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The Intrusions, in which the case of an abduction reveals online terrors, takes the 2018 Theakston Old Peculier prize

Stav Sherez has won the 2018 Theakston Old Peculier award for crime fiction with his novel The Intrusions.

The third outing for detectives Jack Carrigan and Geneva Miller begins when a young woman arrives at their west London police station, saying that her friend has been abducted from the seedy Bayswater hostel where they both live. Soon the investigators discover that someone has been using remote-access technology to gain control both of the women’s laptops and their lives.

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Stig of the Dump author Clive King dies aged 94


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Alongside some 20 other books, his 1963 story of a stone-age hunter living in modern-day Kent sold more than 2m copies and has never been out of print

The writer Clive King, creator of the much-loved children’s classic Stig of the Dump, has died aged 94.

A career that began in 1958 – with Hamid of Aleppo, a book for younger children about a hamster – stretched over five decades, with King writing for the children’s theatre as well as publishing more than 20 books. But it was the stone-age hunter living in a chalk pit on the Downs who captured the imagination of generations, with Stig appearing in television adaptations in both 1981 and 2002.

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Joy and despair in Alaska: Adam Weymouth on his 2,000 mile odyssey


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Weymouth spent months paddling through the wilderness in a canoe, tracking the mighty king salmon. What he found was an ecosystem – and a culture – under threat

The sun is shining on the rear deck of Adam Weymouth’s barge, and the hawthorn along the banks of the river Lea is bright with new growth. But despite the natural beauty all around him in this pocket of London, he’s finding it hard to believe we can avert climate catastrophe: “It’s just really hard to give a fuck.”

“Living where we do, even with the best will in the world and being as informed as you could be, nature is incredibly abstract,” Weymouth says. “When the shit hits the fan, we’re going to turn up the air conditioning. The bread might get a bit more expensive, but we’ll be all right for quite a while.”

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Joy and despair in Alaska: Adam Weymouth on his 2,000 mile odyssey


This post is by Richard Lea from Books | The Guardian


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Weymouth spent months paddling through the wilderness in a canoe, tracking the mighty king salmon. What he found was an ecosystem – and a culture – under threat

The sun is shining on the rear deck of Adam Weymouth’s barge, and the hawthorn along the banks of the river Lea is bright with new growth. But despite the natural beauty all around him in this pocket of London, he’s finding it hard to believe we can avert climate catastrophe: “It’s just really hard to give a fuck.”

“Living where we do, even with the best will in the world and being as informed as you could be, nature is incredibly abstract,” Weymouth says. “When the shit hits the fan, we’re going to turn up the air conditioning. The bread might get a bit more expensive, but we’ll be all right for quite a while.”

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Philip Roth: Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral author dies at 85


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Chronicler of American politics, Jewishness and male sexual desire was widely regarded as one of greatest novelists of the 20th century

The novelist Philip Roth, who explored America through the contradictions of his own character for more than six decades, died on Tuesday aged 85.

Roth’s career began in notoriety and ended in authority, as he grappled with questions of identity, authorship, morality and mortality in a series of novels that shaped the course of American letters in the second half of the 20th century. He refracted the complexities of his Jewish-American heritage in works such as Portnoy’s Complaint, American Pastoral, The Human Stain and The Plot Against America, which garnered both critical and commercial success, garlanding their creator with a dazzling succession of literary prizes.

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Terror hits home: Gabriela Ybarra on the family stories behind her novel


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After her grandfather was assassinated by Basque separatists in 1977, Ybarra’s family never talked about it. Using fiction to fill in the gaps, debut novel The Dinner Guest is up for the Man Booker International prize

When the Spanish writer Gabriela Ybarra heard she had been nominated for the Man Booker International prize, she could hardly believe it. “I had just fed the baby and was going to take a nap,” she says, her four-month-old son gurgling and squawking on her knee, as she speaks at her home in Madrid. “I was super-relaxed. Then I read the email from my UK editor and I couldn’t sleep, because I was so excited.”

The novel that has put this debut author alongside literary stars such as Laurent Binet, Han Kang and László Krasznahorkai is The Dinner Guest, a bold examination of silence and mortality that explores her grandfather’s murder at ...

No Kyding: eminent Shakespeare scholar seeks publisher


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Sir Brian Vickers claims his reputation has been damaged by associates of the New Oxford Shakespeare: they, in turn, dispute his methods

When readers of the Times Literary Supplement open the latest issue, they’re due something of a surprise. There, alongside the advertisements for bursaries and farmhouses to rent, is a small notice from an eminent Shakespeare scholar. After a career spanning more than 50 years, during which he has published more than 40 books, Professor Sir Brian Vickers finds himself in search of a publisher.

According to Vickers, a major reason he has not yet found a home for his complete edition of works by Thomas Kyd is that his “reputation as a scholar has been damaged by a string of hostile reviews by people associated with the New Oxford Shakespeare”.

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