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Jun 07, 2022

The astonishing story of how Rudolf Vrba escaped the Nazi camp, and his mission to tell the world about it

“It was my good fortune” are the opening words of Primo Levi’s memoir If This Is a Man, and good fortune is the chief reason Levi gave for his survival in Auschwitz. Other factors helped too: fitness, intelligence, adaptability, usefulness about the camp, sturdy footwear. But at crucial moments he and other survivors were saved by luck.

Rudolf Vrba didn’t just survive Auschwitz, he escaped from it – he and his companion Fred Wetzler were the first Jews to do so. Vrba was 19. The story of how he got away is astonishing and what happened as a result (or failed to happen) is an indispensable part of Holocaust history. But when Vrba died in 2006, only a handful of people attended his funeral and a mere 40 were there for his memorial service nine months later. Jonathan Freedland’s gripping book sets out to bring him to prominence as a name to rank with Levi, Anne Frank and Oskar Schindler.

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Jun 07, 2022

The outgoing children’s laureate has transformed six primary schools through her Life-changing Libraries initiative, but says a ringfenced fund is needed for lasting impact

Author Cressida Cowell has renewed a call for the government to invest £100m in primary school libraries, as her final act in the role of children’s laureate.

Cowell said that it was “ever more urgent to introduce a proper, lasting” library intervention, as new research shows that school libraries help to improve academic standards, as well as foster a love of reading in children.

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Jun 07, 2022

The crime writer on being fascinated by A Clockwork Orange, inspired by Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and taking comfort in Muriel Spark’s novel

My earliest reading memory
I read children’s comics voraciously from a very young age, starting with Bimbo (aged four or five) and progressing via the Dandy and Beano to the Victor and the Hotspur. Then there were the comic strips in the Sunday Post newspaper – Oor Wullie and the Broons. I did try drawing my own comics, but wasn’t much of an artist. I do still read comics, by the way – and I credit them with being my gateway drug to literature.

My favourite book growing up
In my pre-teen years it was mostly Ladybird books and Enid Blyton. I don’t remember ever reading Winnie the Pooh or Thomas the Tank Engine, and didn’t encounter Dr Seuss until I was a parent myself. The only real books I kept and returned to were the comics’ Christmas annuals. I was also a sucker for TV tie-ins, so would have annuals based on the Gerry Anderson shows (Joe 90; Captain Scarlet) or Dr Who or The Persuaders!.

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Jun 07, 2022

The aftermath of abuse is met head-on by subtle and delicate skill in the Vietnamese-American poet’s debut collection

Sometimes, reading a poet for the first time is like meeting a person: the first impression is defining. That is what Paul Tran’s debut is like. A queer, transgender Vietnamese American – such labelling scarcely serves as an introduction – their presence on the page is instantly dramatic: there is a gorgeous sensuality to the writing but a reason for readers to stay alert, to be on guard. A story of sexual abuse is unfolding – Tran was raped in their first year at college – and this is a complicated, nonspecific confessional that extends to abuse of Tran’s mother and abuse endured in childhood, underpinned by an intense quality of performance at every turn. All the Flowers Kneeling might not convince you as a title (the literal gardener in me objects) but, even within the fey wording, there is an embattled supplication to which you find yourself paying attention.

The collection opens with Orchard of Knowing, an encounter based on the story of the Buddha and the brigand who collected 1,000 human fingers – in a bid to be allowed home from exile – before being converted. There is an imperative clarity to it and the line that stands out is: “when you detach from your received idea of purpose”. Tran’s own work is filled with purpose yet with a threat of self-erasure ever-present. There is a momentum, a thespian verve that does not mask the work’s integrity. There is courage in their ongoing confrontation with pain. One of the questions that arises is: can trauma be contained by form – and how? In the book’s most impressive 13-poem sequence, I See Not Stars But Their Light Reaching Across the Distance Between Us, the acrostic is meticulously reconfigured. Each poem is 13 lines long and each line contains 13 words. If you read each poem vertically, you can collect a complete sentence as you read the first word of every line. The last line of the poem then dictates the following poem as the form is repeated.

All the Flowers Kneeling by Paul Tran is published by Penguin (£12.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

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Jun 06, 2022

This enlightening book reveals the importance of scales and rulers to humanity’s survival and how measurement can be used for inhumane purposes

Once upon a time there was no time at all. And no weight, no mass, no height, no volume. None of the gauges and instruments we use to make sense of the world around us existed. They hadn’t been invented yet. And although the physical properties measurements refer to existed before the names humans coined to describe them, James Vincent notes in Beyond Measure, the point at which people developed systems to quantify the physical world around them was a moment of transformation for our species. Thirty-two thousand years later, that transformation is still unfolding, as measurement embeds itself ever further into our lives, from work to health, love to death: the world made data.

A Fitbit is some distance from a bone ruler, and the gap marks a huge expenditure of energy across a vast expanse of time during which generations laboured over finer and finer gradations of measurement. What motivation could there possibly be for this kind of devotion? In the first instance, Vincent says, the simplest imaginable: survival.

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Jun 06, 2022

Who can write about whom was a running question, tackled by writers from Rose Tremain to Damon Galgut

“Authenticity” is a word that gets bandied about in the cultural sphere quite a lot just at the moment, so it’s perhaps no surprise that discussions around how “authentic” a work of literature should be were something of a theme at this year’s Hay festival.

When it comes to fiction, according to Julian Barnes, there is kind of a grey area, with it being “a strange mixture of something that is very personal, and also something very objective”. Is it a novelist’s job to imagine characters from all walks of life? Or should autofiction become the only option?

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Jun 06, 2022

Human beings will always hurt one another. It’s how we respond that’s crucial, says the Archbishop of Canterbury

In the midst of the second world war, Lieutenant Kurt Reuber, a pastor and physician with the German army at Stalingrad, drew a Madonna which hung pinned to a mud wall outside the dugout. In the midst of the darkness, the brutality and the cruelty of war, he portrayed a mother protecting her child from the world. Around the margin are the words: “Licht, Leben, Liebe”. In the depths of conflict and suffering that have occurred so often in the history of humanity (and still occur today), people have always imagined those possibilities: light, life and love.

Peace is something that human beings long for – in our lives, our families, our communities, our country and our world. And yet we are living again in the shadow of war in Europe as Ukraine fights for its existence, hearing regular stories of the chaos, cruelty, suffering and destruction that characterises the effect of war on blameless people.

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Jun 06, 2022

Moving elusively between private and public worlds, the poet finds grace in small, shared moments

Air

Friend, I saw you sitting
at the window of yourself

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Jun 06, 2022

Two writers take on a tale of exile, personal tragedy and literary friendship in a stirring reimagining of the political novel

One of the US’s largest overseas military bases lies in the Indian Ocean on Diego Garcia in the Chagos Islands. How that came to pass is murky, to say the least. The islands were once part of Mauritius, a British colony until 1968. Knowing the US wanted a base there, Britain made independence conditional on retaining Chagos, which it promptly leased to the US in exchange for cut-price nuclear submarines. None of this came before parliament or Congress – or the Chagossians, who over the next five years were removed from the islands by subterfuge and force, barred from returning to live there.

If ever there were a subject for a protest novel… Yet the concept of political fiction is just one of many things complicated by Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams’s wonderful new book. Opening in 2014, it follows two Edinburgh-based writers, Damaris, who is British-Mauritian (like Soobramanien), and Oliver, who is Scottish (like Williams). The story turns on their encounter with Diego, a garrulous Mauritian who vanishes after a couple of nights out in their company, leaving them only with his luggage, both literal and figurative in the form of his tale of the misery, or sagren, which followed his mother’s childhood expulsion from Chagos in 1973.

For Damaris and Oliver, his story is an education, and perhaps for us, too, as the writers’ subsequent, increasingly outraged reading-up on the Chagossians (once dismissed as “a few Man Fridays” in a British government memo) finds its way directly into the narrative, glossed or verbatim, in an unfussy manner akin to Ali Smith. But the stakes are raised when, to Oliver’s quiet dismay, Damaris composes an experimental story that, comprising the second part of the novel, maps Diego’s tragedy on to the tragedy of Oliver’s brother, a video artist who killed himself after leaving a psychiatric ward.

There’s much warmth in the book’s portrait of literary friendship, as the two writers talk of Adorno and autofiction en route to and from the library and pub, getting by on teaching gigs and bitcoin trading. But the first thing you notice is the book’s style. Cigarettes are always referred to as “tubes”, books “blocks” and the text splits into two columns whenever Damaris and Oliver are apart; when they’re together, run-on sentences meld first-person plural and third-person singular: “We’d spent [the morning] the way we spent every morning, him coming to her room with coffee, her accusing him of switching the heating off, him denying this.”


More than a gimmick, the style is key to a novel that unsettles the notion of writing as a solitary pursuit, letting air out of the egotism that tends to hang over literary production. Co-authorship is one strategy – Soobramanien also wrote two chapters of Williams’s 2011 debut, The Echo Chamber (a difficult-sounding enterprise alluded to in Oliver and Damaris’s backstory) – but the narrative thrust also draws us away from the idea of literature as a winner-takes-all pursuit. Even before Oliver questions Damaris’s motives, we’re invited to raise an eyebrow at her desire to write a book that will “connect the social death of the Chagossian people ghosted by the British government to the structures of intercontinental superexploitation… The blow my book will deal to the military-industrial complex!”

Diego Garcia is righteously scandalising yet it recognises, vitally, that the imperative to circulate the painful history of the Chagossians doesn’t require anyone to claim it for themselves. Instead of setting out to leave us acclaiming the authors’ skill in evoking the islanders’ plight, it sends us off in the direction of other articles, books and films, such as Olivier Magis’s remarkable documentary Another Paradise, about the Chagossian community in Crawley. Intimate yet expansive, heartbroken but unbowed, and a book about writing that is anything but solipsistic, it’s a stirring novel that lights a way forward for politically conscious fiction.

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Jun 05, 2022

This unusually lucid commentary on sex in the 21st-century, informed by the author’s work in a rape crisis centre, is daring and important

The title of Louise Perry’s first book makes it sound almost comically conservative: uh-oh, you think, expecting a manifesto worthy of some latterday Mary Whitehouse or Victoria Gillick. But don’t be misled. In this cultural moment, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution could hardly be more radical. It is an act of insurrection, its seditiousness born not only of the pieties it is determined to explode, but of the fact that it is also diligently researched and written in plain English. Did Perry, I wonder, struggle to find a home for it? Was her manuscript considered too hot to handle? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that while most mainstream publishers are seemingly content to publish feminist books that are both fact-free and clotted to the point of unreadability with jargon, her utterly sane and straightforward text comes to us courtesy of Polity, a small academic press.

Perry used to work in rape crisis, and it’s this experience – harrowing, but also highly, endlessly bewildering – that is her starting point in The Case Against the Sexual Revolution. It seems to her, as someone who has both talked to victims and run the kind of well-meaning workshops that are meant to reduce sexual violence against women, that 21st-century liberal feminism has backed itself into a corner so far as rape goes. Hellbent on the notion of freedom, and determined to minimise the innate differences between the sexes, such women have arrived at a point where they are not only queasy about using the power of the state to imprison rapists (those who disagree with them on this they call “carceral feminists”, a phrase that is only ever said with a sneer); they remain unwilling even to consider how women might best keep themselves safe, believing that to do so is simply “victim blaming”.

In combination, this takes the more unthinking among them to some pretty wild places – even when, ostensibly, they’re trying their hardest to be furious about male aggression. Perry cites the (admittedly extreme) example of a 2020 book of feminist essays about #MeToo in which one contributor encourages rape survivors to seek out sexual partners with a taste for sexual violence, otherwise known as “joining the BDSM community” (if you can’t beat them, join them, in other words). But as appalling and as stupid as this may be, she’s hardly surprised by it. For all the gains that the sexual revolution has brought women – chiefly the freedom to have sex without the fear of getting pregnant – those who have benefited from it most, according to Perry, are men. In a world in which sex is now just another leisure activity, and in which to be anything other than “sex positive” is to be, at best, a killjoy and, at worst, someone who is harbouring deep internalised shame, women must remain eternally silent about certain behaviours. They must celebrate “kinks”; they must enjoy porn; they must consider “sex work” a valid choice (even as, say, they disapprove of clothing sweatshops). Above all, they must fuck like a man, celebrating this as hard-won equality, and never, ever texting afterwards.

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Jun 05, 2022

Bond is headhunted by Smersh in a plot to eliminate the moderate Khrushchev in this rollicking Russian spy story

Anthony Horowitz’s third James Bond tale begins both dynamically and canonically. It starts immediately after the events of Ian Fleming’s final Bond novel, The Man With the Golden Gun, at M’s funeral; his murderer is none other than 007, who has now been brainwashed by the Russians and turned into their prime asset. Nothing is as it seems, though, and a labyrinthine game of spycraft develops, with Bond caught between British intelligence and a dastardly group of Smersh villains who regard Khrushchev as too moderate. They wish to recruit the British spy to further their nefarious plans. Will they succeed? Or will Bond save the day?

This is the first 007 novel to be published post-No Time to Die, which ended with the death of Bond. A similar sense of unpredictability permeates With a Mind to Kill. The secret agent depicted here is an ageing, vulnerable figure, weary both from torture and from years of deceiving everyone around him; this is not so very far from the Daniel Craig incarnation, but I was also reminded of William Boyd’s poignant representation of an over-the-hill Bond in his 2013 African-set novel Solo. At one point, a junior MI5 agent angrily says to 007: “Whatever you were is gone… there are no heroes any more, and you’re just the lowest of the low.” Strong stuff.

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Jun 05, 2022

Personal testimonies humanise the Stalingrad author’s mesmerising study of the bloody battle for power after the collapse of the tsarist regime

The Russian Revolution is an event that, even over a century later, remains buried under layers of myths, lies and ideological romance. In a crude sense the fiction still persists in progressive circles that Lenin was an enlightened leader whose premature death led to Stalin’s betrayal of the revolution’s great promise.

One problem historians have encountered when attempting to disinter the truth is the sheer level of chaos that reigned after the collapse of the tsarist regime of Nicholas II in early 1917. Every colour of reactionary and revolutionary emerged to lay claim to the future, of which the Bolsheviks were far from the largest grouping.

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Jun 05, 2022

An invigorating debut places the same couple in different decades, examining how changing social conditions alter their story, to fascinating effect

When Violet and Albert first meet they’re mutually smitten. It’s all stolen glances, burning cheeks and churning desire with one major twist: their initial encounter takes place in 1947, then again in 1967, and once more in 1987. On each occasion they both are just 20 years old.

Despite some tantalising intimations of deja vu, journalist Holly Williams’s highly engaging debut is concerned less with supernatural solutions than with real-world problems, so any reader wondering how these characters manage to be reborn every couple of decades is destined to be frustrated. Instead, the shifting eras of the novel’s backdrop shape three distinct sections that combine the fizz of a romance with an earnest inquiry into the vastly changing (in some respects at least) fortunes of women in the second half of the 20th century, along with questions of class and privilege, and a glimpse into the history of British socialism.

What Time Is Love? by Holly Williams is published by Orion (£14.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

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Jun 05, 2022

The environmental activist’s proposals for remaking the global food industry, from changes in farming practices to 3D-printed steaks, make for urgent, essential reading

We are farming our planet to death. Half of the world’s habitable land has already been colonised to produce our food. Nature, the many millions of other species, is forced to survive in the polluted, overhunted, degraded fragments of what remains. Extinction rates are around 1,000 times the natural background rate, largely because wild land has been lost to agriculture or polluted by it, or because of conflict with farmers. In spite of it all, around 800 million people go hungry, with 150 million children under five suffering from stunted growth.

In the coming decades, we will need to feed more people more food – at least doubling today’s food production by 2050 – at a time when all the best lands have been taken and during an escalating climate crisis.

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Jun 04, 2022

In this latest collection of anecdotes, the American humorist riffs on Covid, death and family, looking for catharsis in comedy

David Sedaris got his start in comedy as Crumpet the Christmas elf, campily dancing attendance in Santa’s grotto at Macy’s department store while clad in green knickers and a spangled bonnet. As he recalls in his first book, Barrel Fever, his merriment with the squalling brats and their bossy mothers barely concealed his outrage.

No longer elfin, Sedaris has matured into a devilish imp who scourges human folly and filth. In his later books he listens to strangers apoplectically effing at each other in the street, visits “a mall with cancer” in Manila, where every shop is an excrescent tumour, and dodges buoyant turds at his local swimming pool. “Grotesque is a plus,” he announces when browsing in a Notting Hill antique shop, which prompts the owner to bring out a French rococo snuffbox carved in the shape of a hunchback straining over a bowel movement. As seen by Sedaris, the deformed, indecent, preposterously decorative figurine is the embodiment of our species.

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Jun 04, 2022

The Albanian author and academic on what she misses most about her homeland and how a communist childhood steeped in lies sparked her interest in philosophy

Lea Ypi grew up in the last Stalinist outpost in Europe: Albania. She had no idea that Xhafer Ypi, former prime minister of Albania, a man she had to pay lip service to despising, was her great-grandfather, nor that her parents were anything but enthusiastic about the communist regime. In her award-winning memoir, Free, she recalls that in 1991, when communism in Albania came to an end, her parents revealed the truth and told her the country had been an “open- air prison for almost half a century”. She goes on to write about her harrowing experience of civil war in 1997. Ypi is a professor of political theory at the London School of Economics.

You explain that “biography” was a fraught concept in communist Albania. Was this irony in your mind as you embarked on your memoir?
I didn’t set out to write a memoir – I was going to write a philosophical book but then Covid-19 happened. I was in Berlin sheltering from my kids who were always chasing me around the house. They felt that if we were all in the house, it couldn’t be that some people were working, everyone should be playing and it was always Sunday. So I was hiding in this cupboard and the book became more and more personal because it was about this very experience of physical restriction surrounded by great uncertainty about what freedom meant in a liberal society. I’d been in a lockdown in Albania, in 1997, and although completely different and terrifying because there was a war outside, there was a sense of deja vu.

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Jun 04, 2022

Author cites Brexit and the climate crisis as examples of previous generations ‘breaking’ their future

The author Elif Shafak has said she thinks “there’s a scream building up” inside many young people, because they feel their future “is being shaped by older generations”.

“It’s difficult to be young, in this age in particular,” the Turkish-British novelist told the Hay festival. “It’s their future that’s been broken by previous generations,” she said, citing Brexit and the climate emergency.

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Jun 04, 2022

The novelists discuss using real life in fiction, email style, and the art of writing sex scenes

Sally and I began this conversation when I was in London, having flown there to attend the Dylan Thomas prize ceremony. My husband, Jason, had experienced a medical emergency on the plane from Los Angeles and had been rushed to Charing Cross hospital as soon as we touched down, so my emails were written under the influence of steroids, cold medicine, and pure adrenaline; Sally’s were written under the influence of a little cup of water. Realising, perhaps, that I hadn’t looked forward to writing an email for a very long time, I begin by asking her a simple question: when did email die?

Sally Rooney: Email is dead?? I’m reeling. Why do people keep emailing me then??

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Jun 04, 2022
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Jun 03, 2022

The story of the clergymen, soldiers, architects, actors and apothecaries forced to rub shoulders during desperate times

In the centuries following the burning down of Basing House by Oliver Cromwell in 1645, all sorts of odd things kept turning up in the ruins. There was fine glass from Venice, an ivory cup from west Africa, apothecary jars from Delft and fragments of a Chinese bowl. Random though these remnants were, they were nothing compared with the assorted jumble of house guests who had left them behind. For three years at the height of England’s civil war, 500 or so mostly strangers had been obliged to cram hugger-mugger into the Tudor castle, which lay two miles east of Basingstoke. Sheltered within the massive earthwork fortifications were Roman Catholics and Anglicans, soldiers and architects, actors and apothecaries, people who burned with righteous anger at what was happening to their beloved country, and those who couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over. The one thing they all had in common was that they were nominally king’s men, on the side of Charles I in his bloody and seemingly endless struggle against his own parliament.

In The Siege of Loyalty House the historian Jessie Childs, whose great strength is her ability to deliver first-rate scholarship in really luscious prose, uses Basing as a microcosm through which to view the civil war in all its fog and mess. While each side liked to trade in stereotypes – Cavaliers cut off old ladies’ heads and played tennis with them, Puritans wanted to cancel Christmas – if you asked people why they were for or against the king they replied vaguely in terms of “religion”, “liberty”, “loyalty” and “law”. The ageing architect Inigo Jones appears to have been holed up in Basing House for no other reason than his role as the Stuarts’ in-house purveyor of grand buildings and court masques. Then there was Thomas Fuller, a clergyman who took advantage of the downtime offered by the siege to write a vast study of Britain patchworked from its “native commodities and rarities”. Hampshire, for Fuller, was a place of “malignant” moles, “troutful waters” and the best bacon in the land. All this hectic record-making was his way of keeping the olden days safe even as they were going up in smoke.

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Jun 03, 2022

Quiet by Victoria Adukwei Bulley; More Fiya, edited by Kayo Chingonyi; The Lascaux Notebooks by Jean-Luc Champerret, edited and translated by Philip Terry; and Continuous Creation by Les Murray

Quiet by Victoria Adukwei Bulley (Faber, £10.99)
“Bones can speak long after the flesh has gone.” Victoria Adukwei Bulley’s debut is an exploration of the power of silence as a means of resistance, a way of carving space for the self in a hostile world. Rooted in Black feminist thinking, the poems have a clear-eyed elegance, buttressed with a controlled ferocity that is acute on the damage done by institutional blankness, and how it forces an uncomfortable conformity: “They were too happy / to realise they were poster girls / for the effacement of themselves.” Bulley, a former Barbican Young Poet and poet-in-residence at the V&A Museum, achieves a tone both delicate and strong, studded with moments that catch the breath: “if your pain is alive in me / so too must be your joy”. With a generous and interrogative spirit, Quiet marks the arrival of a major poetic talent.

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Jun 03, 2022

The standup narrates her soul-baring work, which pushes the boundaries of comedy

Hannah Gadsby’s memoir begins, in typically contrary fashion, with the epilogue. Here the self-styled “stand-up performance artist” discusses the runaway hit that was her 2018 show, Nanette, a visceral, soul-baring work that pushed at the boundaries of comedy and, thanks to a Netflix special, turned her into a global sensation. She recalls turning up to the Netflix Emmys party where her most pressing thought was: “What kind of monster would choose a white carpet for an outdoor event?” There she was summoned for an audience with Jennifer Aniston, who confided she hadn’t watched Nanette but she was sure she would love it when she did. Gadsby asked, “But what if you hate it?”, at which Aniston patted her hand reassuringly and replied: “I won’t tell you.”

Gadsby goes on to plot her journey from rural Tasmania as the youngest of five children, her queer coming-of-age (homosexuality was illegal in Tasmania until 1997), her experiences of sexual violence and misogyny, her early career as a stand-up and a brief flirtation with cocaine. We also learn of her diagnoses, as an adult, of autism and ADHD, a condition that, she notes, “makes a lot of people very, very angry … Too many people have been conditioned to believe ADHD is a nonsense disease that is not so much over-diagnosed but entirely under-existing.” Fans of Gadsby’s standup will find much to enjoy in her narration, which is similarly quizzical, self-deprecating and sardonic but also contains moments of startling candour and intimacy. The footnotes, in which she provides contextual asides such as “In my defence, my best friend, Douglas, is a dog”, are also to be savoured.

• Ten Steps to Nanette is available from WF Howes, 13hr 47min

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Jun 03, 2022

The novelist on polar exploration, Middlemarch and reading Donna Tartt in the pool

My earliest reading memory
I remember lying in bed with my mother while she read picture books to me when I was three or four, but I think that’s probably an amalgam memory, since she did this every night. I also remember her reading aloud to the whole family while we drove cross-country. Bunnicula by James and Deobrah Howe, about a vampiric rabbit, and its sequel Howliday Inn were big hits.

My favourite book growing up
I loved slightly starchy, slightly exotic (to me), varyingly outdated children’s novels: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Also, horse books.

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Jun 03, 2022

A history of pioneering first world war plastic surgeon Harold Gillies gives due weight to the stories of the men he treated

For many men fighting in the first world war, the fear of being permanently disabled was more terrifying than death. Yet worse even than the prospect of a life-changing disability was the horror of facial disfigurement. While men who lost a limb were treated as heroes, those who suffered facial injuries were often shunned or reviled. Mothers hurried their children indoors to avoid seeing these disfigured men; women broke off engagements with their mutilated fiances.

Harold Gillies, a New Zealand-born surgeon who trained in Britain, helped thousands of men to literally face the world again. His work in the unit he created at the Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup, has been overshadowed by the more familiar story of his cousin, Archibald McIndoe, who rebuilt the burnt faces of pilots in his “Guinea Pig Club” in the second world war. Yet it was Gillies, an extraordinarily compassionate man as well as a skilled surgeon, who really transformed the speciality of plastic surgery.

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Jun 02, 2022

Infused with magic and black humour, these fables of women affected by Russian aggression have accrued an unsettling timeliness

Yevgenia Belorusets is a Ukrainian photographer, writer and artist. For more than a decade, she has been documenting the ominous splits in the social fabric of her country. Her installations and photographic work have showcased the lives of female factory workers, impoverished villagers in western Ukraine, the country’s persecuted Roma citizens, and its LGBTQ community. In 2012 an exhibition in Kyiv of her photographs about non-traditional families was vandalised by rightwing activists. Since 2014, she has worked and reported from the Russian-backed breakaway enclaves around Luhansk and Donetsk, where a conflict was unfolding to the almost complete indifference of the outside world.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, all that has changed. A previously obscure war and its attendant disputes over language, nationhood, the Orthodox church and the meaning of fascism have become matters of existential concern for our entire planet.

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