As spring arrives in Cardiff, I divide my time between teaching responsibilities and reading. This week marks the final week of semester before Easter break. In my spare time, I am reading Marilynne Robinson‘s 2005 novel, Gilead. And in light of Teju Cole‘s essay collection, Known and Strange Things, I have have also been keen to return to his breakthrough novel, Open City.

Over the weekend, I watched an interesting documentary on the life and work of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The film was produced for BBC’s Horizon series back in 1989, and in just under 49 minutes manages to mount an engaging profile of the twentieth-century thinker. The film includes interviews, anecdotes, and rare photographs of the people and places connected to the philosopher’s life. All in all, it’s a good general primer. For those interested in finding out more about Wittgenstein’s life, Ray Monk‘s excellent biography, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, is the place to go.

Back in April, Sarah Werkmeister interviewed Indonesian writer Aan Mansyur for the Emerging Writers Festival. Here is what he had to say…
Aan Mansyur
Aan Mansyur

Tell us about your writing style. What are your influences, passions and the messages that you try to convey in your work?

I write poems and prose. In every piece I write, I’m trying to say different things in different ways. I often think that writing is how I discover things, rather than an exercise in telling readers things I already know.

What are some of the challenges you face in the writing process, and what tips would you give to aspiring writers to overcome these?

I’m a lazy writer. I like to spend my time reading books instead of writing. I also can’t write in crowded places unlike other writers, although I live in library which is quite packed with visitors. I try to allocate two to three hours daily at early dawn while everyone else is still asleep, to read books I admire and recommendations from my favorite authors. This is how I learn and a solution to my laziness. Reading books is good, they make me feel haunted and keep me awake so I ended up writing. (more…)

An extract from James Wood’s 2011 review of Open City for the New Yorker
Teju Cole, Open City
Teju Cole, Open City
Publishers now pitch their books like Hollywood concepts, so Teju Cole’s first novel, “Open City” (Random House; $25), is being offered as especially appealing to “readers of Joseph O’Neill and Zadie Smith,” and written in a prose that “will remind you” of W. G. Sebald and J. M. Coetzee. This is shorthand for “post-colonialism in New York” (O’Neill), “lively multiracial themes” (Smith), “free-flowing form with no plot, narrated by a scholarly solitary walker” (Sebald), “obviously serious” (Coetzee), and “finely written” (all of the above). There is the additional comedy that Cole’s publishers, determined to retain the baby with the bathwater, boldly conjoin Smith and O’Neill, despite Smith’s hostility, advertised in an essay entitled “Two Paths for the Novel,” to O’Neill’s expensive and upholstered “lyrical realism.”

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