In 2012, the Portuguese writer José Luís Peixoto, on the occasion of Kim Il-Sung’s 100th birthday, went to North Korea for a fifteen-day trip. The experience led him to write a travel memoir, Inside the Secret, which you can read in serialized form online at Ninth Letter magazine. You could also read Pulitzer laureate Adam Johnson’s new Granta essay about the country.
In the new Granta, Adam Johnson writes about the mind-bending experience of traveling to North Korea, an experience which informed his Pulitzer-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son. Perhaps the saddest anecdote — and there are a lot of sad anecdotes — is the one about the North Korean tour guide who couldn’t believe the author didn’t want to buy knockoff goods.
At Bookforum, Rebecca Donner talks with former Granta editor John Freeman about his new book of interviews, How to Read a Novelist. Freeman says that he enjoys interviewing writers in their homes because it allows him to observe them more closely: “The writer thinks you’re taking notes about what he’s saying, but you’re really writing, ‘His head looks like a lion’s head.’”
A couple months ago, I linked to a new Granta series in which authors select one of their own first sentences and recall how they came to it. This week, Patrick French explains the first sentence of a nonfiction piece titled “After the War” (available in Granta 125) by digging up an old photograph that shows how the Edwardian English were “stitched and machined into a grid of expectations.”
I sat down in the shrine grounds under the early-summer sun, and gazed around again at the surroundings, trying to get used to what I was seeing. Absorbing and accepting this scenery as naturally as I could, mentally and viscerally. Trying to remember how I was back then. But this was all going to take a long time, as you might imagine.
"The Book Club is not hip, but on Monday evening, I felt the bibliophilic glamour of a place, which, despite its age and sometime pokiness, is founded on the fundamentally sound principal that if you have three glasses of wine in a plastic cup and listen to something beautiful or see it, it can change the whole complexion of the world." On seeing two of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists.