Uncategorised Archive

Sinclair and the Shard

From the windows in our loft, 15 miles or so from central London by road, the Shard is an arrowhead bound for space. Iain Sinclair, in the inner borough of Hackney, has it jabbing in his eye:

It assaults you: vanity in the form of architecture. Desert stuff in the wrong place. Money laundering as applied art. Another unexplained oligarch’s museum of entropy for the riverbank. A giant dagger serving no real purpose: an exclamation point on the Google map of an abolished city once called London.

  That passage is from The Last London, which was published in Britain last autumn and billed by Sinclair’s publishers as “the final chapter in [a] life-long odyssey through the streets of the Big Smoke”. The book, which appeared earlier this year in the United States, has just been reviewed in The New York Review of Books by Ian Jack, who says:

English matter-of-factness will never be [Sinclair’s] game; he is indefatigable in his pursuit of the ineluctable, and often his prose succeeds (or fails) like poetry does, as a fleeting glimmer of something that can’t be made sensible.

Boardman Tasker short list announced

The short list was announced this week for the Boardman Tasker Award for mountain literature. Among the seven books is a work of fiction “audaciously told in blank verse” by the Austrian author Christoph Ransmayr, about two Irish brothers intent on climbing an unnamed peak in Tibet. The winner will be named at the Kendal Mountain Festival on November 16.


Deskbound Traveller is taking a break while its editor has a holiday.

Travel writing’s far from dead

In the “Book clinic” slot of The Observer yesterday, a reader asked: “Is travel writing dead in the age of social media?” Sara Wheeler answered with a  robust “no”, and a challenge to users of Twitter.

The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan

Thanks to Tim Dee for directing me, via his Twitter feed, to a piece by Joshua Cohen on the Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan, extracted by Tablet Magazine from Cohen’s new book of essays, Attention, which Fitzcarraldo Editions will publish on August 14. It’s educational, entertaining and — as Tim Dee says — in places  exhausting. (Cohen, who lived and worked for half a dozen years as a journalist in Eastern Europe, is not a writer to waste research: “Both Nisanov and Iliev were born in the most venerable of the Mountain Jewish auls, Quba. Pronounced Guba. Actually, they’re from a Jewish enclave located just outside Quba, which in Azeri is called Qırmızı Qəsəbə, and in Russian is called Yevreiskaya Sloboda (Jewish Town), though under the Soviet period its name was changed to Krasnaya Sloboda (Red Town).”) Don’t try to read it on a phone.


Deskbound Traveller is taking a break while its editor heads for the hills.


Deskbound Traveller is taking a break while its editor escapes from the desk.

RSL Ondaatje Prize winner will be announced tonight

The winner of one of my favourite literary awards, the RSL Ondaatje Prize — for a book “evoking the spirit of a place” — will be announced this evening. I’ll be on a plane at the time, but you can find out who has won by keeping an eye on the websites of Telegraph Travel and the Royal Society of Literature. On the former, you can read extracts from the six books on the short list.

‘Spirit of place’: the RSL Ondaatje Prize short list

The short list for the 2018 RSL Ondaatje Prize was made public while I was away. On the website of Telegraph Travel, you can read extracts I’ve chosen from the six books.


Deskbound Traveller is taking a break while its editor escapes from the desk.