In 1988 Saul Adler (a narcissistic, young historian) is hit by a car on the Abbey Road. He is apparently fine; he gets up and goes to see his art student girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau. They have sex then break up, but not before she has photographed Saul crossing the same Abbey Road. Saul leaves to study in communist East Berlin, two months before the Wall comes down. There he will encounter – significantly – both his assigned translator and his translator’s sister, who swears she has seen a jaguar prowling the city.

He will fall in love and brood upon his difficult, authoritarian father. And he will befriend a hippy, Rainer, who … More

“Loners are the opposition. Pensive, thoughtful & furious, marooned with stories that need to be spoken out loud and no one to listen, curries to be cooked & no one to taste, days & days of traffic signals to be manoeuvred & no one to congratulate except other loners: they find each other because like all good maps there are familiar signs that lead the way. The loner who both observes & creates worlds necessarily speaks with many tongues. It is with these tongues that she explores the contours of the centre & the margins, the signs for somewhere & elsewhere & here & now.”

Like her namesake Jack Kerouac, J.K. is always on the road, travelling Europe with her typewriter in a pillowcase. From … More

“In ‘Why I Write’, Orwell entertainingly declared: “All writers are vain, selfish & lazy, & at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.” He divided reasons for soldiering on into “sheer egoism”, “aesthetic enthusiasm”, “historical impulse” & “political purpose”. Like Orwell, Levy is entertaining & makes his categories her chapter headings. But, unlike Orwell, she is not steadily organised. She is a maker not a clearer up of mysteries. And she is fugitive. It is this that gives the book its subtle, unpredictable, surprising atmosphere.”

The opening line hooks one instantly: “That spring when life was hard and I was at war with my lot … More