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A Battle

Patrick Süskind

‘Early one August evening, when most people had already left the park, two men sat confronting one another across a chessboard.’

A Beheading

Mohsin Hamid

‘The words are just dribbling out of my mouth. I can’t stop them. They’re like tears.’

A Brief History of Fire

Jennifer Vanderbes

‘My happiness was so deep I was afraid to speak of it.’

A Child’s Book of Death and Dying

Abraham Verghese

‘A fine morning mist had rolled down over Addis Ababa from the Entoto mountains, leaving a sheen on the lawn between the apartment buildings'.

A Clean Marriage

Sayaka Murata

‘Frequency of sex since marriage: zero.’

A Conversation Piece

George Steiner

'No. Listen to me. God's confidence in Abraham was not total. Let me hammer out my meaning.'

A Conversation with the Head of Orpheus

Russell Hoban

'Far, far away in the night are live human beings whose breathing can be heard as they speak, and they're looking at their illuminated dials as I look at mine at this end of the darkness that curves with the night miles to the heave and swell of the ocean dawn.'

A Day in the Life in El Salvador

Manlio Argueta

‘I have not failed you, José. I understand that you were saying goodbye when you opened your eye, and that, besides greeting me, you were expressing your pride in me, seeing me standing with my arm around the shoulders of your granddaughter.’

A Discourse on the Elephant

Richard Rayner

‘This is not the story of my life, at least not the story of all of it, but it is the story of my father.’

A Double-Income Family

Deepti Kapoor

When Mrs Mehra leaves Delhi she retires in one of ‘the vast new satellite townships on the eastern fringes of the metropolis’.

A Fan Letter

Stewart O'Nan

‘Before I begin I'd like to say that I'll try to remember everything as best I can, though sometimes I know it won't be right.’

A Few Words on the Life Cycle of Frogs

Patricio Pron

‘I wasn’t going to abandon the dream of literature, I was going to keep dreaming.’

A Good Man is Hard to Find

Duncan McLean

‘I thought I heard the woman next door crying’

A Hebrew Sibyl

Cynthia Ozick

‘And so began what I was to become. To all these things – the admonitions and the testimonies, the rites and the annunciations – I had easily acquiesced.’

A House in the Country

Romesh Gunesekera

‘The nights had always been noisy: frogs, drums, bottles, dogs barking at the moon’.

A Killing

Katherine Faw Morris

COKE SMELLS COLD AND CHEMICAL LIKE THE INSIDE OF A REFRIGERATOR. It’s what back then smells like, now when she thinks of it.

A Letter From Wales

Cynan Jones

‘Believe me – it will be impossible for you not to wonder – when I vow I am entirely sane.’

A Lovely and Terrible Thing

Chris Womersley

‘For a moment I could not speak. I looked off into the bleak distance, then at this man, and there was something about the sad shake of his head and the way his hair flapped about on his scalp that filled me with unreasonable warmth.’

A Mason’s Hand

Ali Akbar Natiq

‘Haji sahib, these kids are beyond me. I can’t teach them any more. Please make some other arrangement.’

A New World

V. S. Pritchett

‘What was this new world? It was their love for each other.’

A Play on Mothering

David Rakoff

‘His hands are a jewel box and I lean forward and peer in.’

A Queer Streak (Part Two): Possession

Alice Munro

'He thinks he remembers Violet coming for supper, as she sometimes did, bringing with her a pudding which she set outside in the snow, to keep it cool.'

A Queer Streak Part One: Anonymous Letters

Alice Munro

'She would never know why she had done it. She was sleepless and strung-up and her better judgement had deserted her.'

A Religious Conversation

Orhan Pamuk

‘"Hello, sir. Do you recognize me?" "No, I'm afraid I don't."’

A Scream of Toys

Alan Sillitoe

‘Edie looked a long time at blue sky in a pool of water after rain before dipping her finger down for a taste.’

A Sentence of Love

Assia Djebar

‘I met Annie for the first time in 1995, in Algiers. A friend of my sister's, she came from Paris and stayed with me for one night.’

A Short History of Coronation Ale

Graham Swift

‘Rest assured, it was no ordinary ale that they drank by the Ouse while in Westminster crowds thronged.’

A Soap Opera From Hell

Clive Sinclair

‘It comes as no surprise when an ophthalmist informs him that the tears he does produce–the consequence of various allergies–are deficient, poor-quality facsimiles of the real thing.’

A Tale of Two Martyrs

Tahar Ben Jelloun

‘You spend your life swallowing insults.’

A Temporary Stay

Emilio Fraia

‘There doesn’t seem to be any cause and effect.’

A Visit to the Zoo

Colm Tóibín

‘The two chameleons in a glass case appeared to interest all of them, Heinrich thought, because of their beauty and their stillness. They looked like a pale painting.’

A Wedding

Anita Brookner

'The bride and groom were there all the time, in the centre, as they should be. A good-looking couple. But lifeless, figures from stock.'

A World Intact

Adam Foulds

‘His life, unexciting as it may have been so far, was still a detailed, complicated thing.’

Abingdon Square

André Aciman

‘Your problem is not that you misread signs; it’s that you see them everywhere.’

About Her and the Memories That Belong to Her

Mieko Kawakami

‘If I were to forget, then it would be the same as it never having existed at all.’

About the Eel

Graham Swift

‘We have not yet come to the most remarkable episode in this quasi-mythological quest for the genesis of the eel.’