Hermione Lee was President of Wolfson College, Oxford, from 2008 until 2017. Her most recent book is a biography of 
Penelope Fitzgerald. Her biography of Tom Stoppard will be 
published this fall. (May 2020)


Not Even Past

British warships arriving at Donegal Bay during the Irish Civil War, July 1922

A Thousand Moons

by Sebastian Barry
In a novel by Sebastian Barry from 2011, On Canaan’s Side, a very old Irishwoman in America is writing her life story, a story of obscure survival through the dark, violent dramas of twentieth-century history, stretching back to “a thousand thousand moons ago, as one might say.” Among her memories …

The Dark Side

William Trevor, Devon, England, 2009

Last Stories

by William Trevor
William Trevor, one of the finest writers of this and the last century, was born William Trevor Cox in 1928 in a small town in County Cork to middle-class Protestant parents. He left Ireland in 1954, lived for much of his life in Devon, loved and often visited Italy. He …

The Mists of Time

Michael Ondaatje


by Michael Ondaatje
The narrator of Warlight, an Englishman called Nathaniel Williams who is fourteen when the story begins and twenty-nine (though sounding much older) when he looks back and tries to piece it all together, tells himself this about the past: You return to that earlier time armed with the present, and …

The Triumph of Jenny Diski

Doris Lessing and Jenny Diski, London, 1963

In Gratitude

by Jenny Diski
The epigraph for Jenny Diski’s Skating to Antarctica (1997), a typically uncategorizable mixture of travel journal, childhood memoir, and Melvillean meditation on whiteness and oblivion, was from Beckett’s Malone Dies: “I wonder if I am not talking yet again about myself. Shall I be incapable, to the end, of lying …

A Poet Unlike Any Other

Stevie Smith, March 1966

All the Poems

by Stevie Smith, edited and with an introduction by Will May
Forty-five years after her death, Stevie Smith can be celebrated as a major English poet of the twentieth century. She is a writer of astonishing skill, range, comedy, and depth of feeling; she is inimitable, strange, and utterly original. With her poetry collected as a whole, it becomes more apparent too that though she is a funny writer—funny-ha-ha and funny-peculiar—her work is melancholy and despairing, full of pain, terror, and grief.

Alice Munro’s Magic

Alice Munro, early 1980s

Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995–2014

by Alice Munro
The slow-burning fuse that is an Alice Munro story frequently hides, then exposes, something violent, shameful, or sensational. Down-and-out characters struggling on the edges, psychopathic killers, vindictive children or vengeful old people, abused women, passionately self-abnegating lovers, irresponsible adulterers, horrible acts of cruelty, startlingly show up inside these domestic, realistic narratives.