Thanks to the centenary I have caught the WWI bug and I have started working my way through Great War literature. After Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, I figured it was time for a non-fiction account and decided on this collection of letters and diaries, edited by Sebastian Faulks and Hope Wolf. The selection is varied, including not just British documents but also German, Russian, and Indian voices, plenty of women (much appreciated!), and mostly “ordinary people” with the occasional familiar name thrown in (Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, and so on). The fragments are not in chronological order, but have been organised by place and theme instead: ‘Hearing and imagining from afar’, ‘experience at close quarters’, ‘how the war divided us’, and ‘searching for what is lost.’ We get stories from all over Europe, ranging from published articles to letters from loved ones.
Photograph from the “Anima Animus” series by Claudia Moroni.
One issue many writers grapple with is the question of identity. Who are we? How do we know? What shapes us and why? Something that many people take for granted in this discussion is the gender binary: we may not be sure who we are, but one thing we feel we do know is whether we go in the male or in the female box. But what if you’ve been put in the wrong box? What if you don’t belong in any of the boxes? Why do we feel the need for boxes anyway? Do boxes even exist?
So here are some books about boxes (or lack thereof).
Doctor Who still (“Vincent and the Doctor”).
Literature and the visual arts have a long history of inspiring one another, from John Everett Millais painting Shakespeare’s Ophelia in 1852 to the plot of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning novel revolving around “The Goldfinch” (1654) by Fabritius.
The books on this list either have artist protagonists or centre around art itself.