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11May

Top 10 novels about neighbours | Ayşegül Savaş

From commune-dwellers to lodgers in miniature, the people we live alongside make intriguing subjects for fiction

In my childhood, my family lived in a commune of 20 identical yellow houses on the outskirts of Copenhagen. There was dinner six days a week at the “common house”. The neighbours also shared maintenance duties, prepared after-school snacks, kept a shop without a shopkeeper, and celebrated most holidays together. We were the only non-Danes at the commune, and our arrival was at once exciting and disconcerting for the group. We were too loud, our house was too bright, we had family and friends visiting from Turkey for months on end. But we were also the most popular cooks at the commune, spending out of pocket, beyond the dinner budgets, to make roast lamb and feta pastries. The commune was an experiment in living together, as equals, though to me, it was also an education in all the ways that we were different.

I’m fascinated by lives that unravel in close proximity. What draws me to contemplate life as a model for fiction is the crossover of intimacy and distance, the ways in which lives interact, get entangled, or pass each other by. Neighbours offer a unique vantage point in fiction, because they witness much of life on the surface but may be blind to the depths. The friendship of neighbours is also interesting to me: neighbours must maintain a delicate balance of courtesy for all the living together that lies ahead.

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