INTRODUCED BY STUART EVERS: ‘A genuine, fully fledged masterpiece of the twentieth century; one that remains just as terrifyingly relevant and truthful in the twentry-first’
An existential, political literary thriller that explores the plight of the exile with extraordinary compassion and insight.
Having escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in Germany and later a camp in Rouen, the nameless twenty-seven-year-old narrator of Seghers’s multilayered masterpiece finds himself in the dusty seaport of Marseille. Along the way he is asked to deliver a letter to a writer named Weidel in Paris, who he discovered has killed himself, leaving behind a suitcase containing letters and the manuscript of a novel. As he makes his way to Marseille to find Weidel’s widow, the narrator assumes the identity of a refugee named Seidler, though the authorities think he is really Weidel. There in the giant waiting room of Marseille, the narrator converses with the refugees, listening to their stories over pizza and wine, while also gradually piecing together the story of Weidel, whose manuscript has shattered the narrator’s “deathly boredom,” bringing him to a deeper awareness of the transitory world the refugees inhabit as they wait and wait for that most precious of possessions: transit papers.
With a Foreword by James Baldwin
‘Beautiful, timeless and relevant’ Jacqueline Woodson
‘A most important novel’ Paule Marshall
‘A considerable achievement’ James Baldwin
Depression-era Harlem is home for twelve-year-old Francie Coffin and her family, and it’s both a place of refuge and of danger. Her beloved father becomes a number runner when he is unable to find legal work, and while one of Francie’s brothers dreams of becoming a chemist, the other is in a gang. Francie, too, is a dreamer, but women in her neighbourhood have limited prospects, either selling their bodies on the streets, running poker games or having a baby every year. There are risks in everything, from going to the movies to walking down the block.
Sunlight on a Broken Column, first published in 1961, is an unforgettable coming-of-age story set against the turbulent background of Partition.
‘The deftness with which Attia Hosain handles the interplay of manners, class, culture and different forms of female power is gorgeously done . . . Laila is such a remarkable heroine – sharp, spirited and passionate’ – KAMILA SHAMSIE
‘An extraordinary novel, with an extraordinary heroine. Laila – even from the confines of the women’s quarters – is a sharp observer of the tumultuous politics, and the cultural, racial, and religious conflicts of the dying days of the Raj. There is such richness here, waiting to be rediscovered. And readers will fall in love with Laila’ MONICA ALI
‘My life changed. It had been restricted by invisible barriers almost as effectively as the physically restricted lives of my aunts in the zenana. A window had opened here, a door there, a curtain had been drawn aside; but outside lay a world narrowed by one’s field of vision’
Laila, orphaned daughter of a distinguished Muslim family, is brought up in her grandfather’s traditional household by her aunts, who keep purdah. At fifteen she moves to the home of her ‘liberal’ but autocratic uncle in Lucknow. As the struggle for Independence sharpens, Laila is surrounded by relatives and university friends caught up in politics, but she is unable to commit herself to any cause: her own fight for independence is a struggle against tradition.
With its stunning evocation of India, its political insight and unsentimental understanding of the human heart, Sunlight on a Broken Column is a classic of Muslim life.
Attia Hosain published only two books, but her writing has influenced generations of writers. Discover Phoenix Fled, Hosain’s acclaimed short-story collection, also published in Virago Modern Classics.
‘There is so much to love and admire in these stories – their understanding of heartbreak, their attention to affection and love across many divides’ KAMILA SHAMSIE
‘Listen to me, child. You will be a woman soon and must behave well and with modesty. The Kazi will ask you three times whether you will marry Kalloo Mian. Now don’t you be shameless, like these modern girls, and shout gleefully “Yes”. Be modest and cry softly and say “Hoon”.’
A marriage is arranged between a little servant girl and a middle-aged cook with an opium habit; an idealistic political worker faces disillusionment; a man returns from years studying in England to a wife he scarcely knows; a conventional bride has her first encounter with her husband’s ’emancipated’ friends.
Telling of the lives of servants and children, of conflict between the old traditions and new ways, and exploring the human repercussions of the Muslim/Hindu divide, these twelve stories present a moving and vivid picture of life in India in the mid-twentieth century. To each episode Attia Hosain brings a superb imaginative understanding and a sense of the poignancy of the smallest of human dramas.
Attia Hosain published only two books, but her writing has influenced generations of writers. Discover Sunlight on a Broken Column, Hosain’s acclaimed only novel – a coming-of-age story set against the turbulent background of Partition, also published in Virago Modern Classics.
The scene is Naples, against whose ancient and fantastic background the modern action takes place.
Among the protagonists is Jenny, young and pretty, who has come to Naples in flight from a sombre drama, unaware that a larger drama waits her there.
She has an introduction to a Neapolitan woman, and one day she idly follows it up. This is her leap through the looking glass.
Caro, gallant and adventurous, is one of two Australian sisters who have come to post-war England to seek their fortunes. Courted long and hopelessly by young scientist, Ted Tice, she is to find that love brings passion, sorrow, betrayal and finally hope. The milder Grace seeks fulfilment in an apparently happy marriage. But as the decades pass and the characters weave in and out of each other’s lives, love, death and two slow-burning secrets wait in ambush for them.
BY THE AUTHOR OF BALLET SHOES
with beautiful illustrations by Edward Ardizzone
‘A joyous, sunlight book. For me, the best Noel Streatfeild of all’ HILARY MCKAY
‘”You have a whole wing of the house to yourselves. The glorious world outside to play in. All that the earth brings forth to feed you, and you stand there asking foolish questions until my head reels. Help yourselves, children, help yourselves.” Then, flapping her cloak as if to shoo off a clutter of chickens, Great Aunt Dymphna was gone.’
Summer will be different for the Gareth children this year. Their father, an epidemiologist, is ill abroad, and their mother must go to help him. So Alex, Penny, Naomi and Robin are sent to Ireland to stay with an eccentric distant relative.
Great Aunt Dymphna is like nobody they’ve ever met. She lives in a ramshackle house, quotes swathes of poetry and flits about like a great bat. And, to the children’s consternation, she expects them to fend for themselves. Despite tears and many mishaps, they learn something new every day, and living with Great Aunt Dymphna becomes an adventure.
‘Who would suspect her sense of fun and irony, of a passionate love for beauty and the power to drag it from its hidden places? Who would imagine that Miss Mole had pictured herself, at different times, as an explorer in strange lands, as a lady wrapped in luxury and delicate garments?’
Miss Hannah Mole has for twenty years earned her living precariously as a governess or companion to a succession of difficult old women.Now, aged forty, a thin and shabby figure, she returns to Radstowe, the lovely city of her youth. Here she is, if not exactly welcomed, at least employed as housekeeper by the pompous Reverend Robert Corder, whose daughters are sorely in need of guidance. But even the dreariest situation can be transformed into an adventure by the indomitable Miss Mole. Blessed with imagination, wit and intelligence, she wins the affection of Ethel and her nervous sister Ruth. But her past holds a secret that, if brought to life, would jeopardise everything.
BY THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE STREET
WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY KAITLYN GREENIDGE
‘Petry is the writer we have been waiting for, hers are the stories we need to fully illuminate the questions of our moment, while also offering a page-turning good time’ TAYARI JONES
‘Her work endures not only because it illuminates reality, but because it harnesses the power of fiction to supplant it’ Parul Sehgal, New York Times
Link Williams is a handsome, brilliant Dartmouth graduate whose promise is unfulfilled; because of the lack of opportunities for a young Black man, he tends bar in his New England town. The routine of his life is interrupted when he intervenes to save a woman from a late-night attack. The thick fog rolls in from the river, so it is only when they enter a bar for a drink that Camillo sees her rescuer is black. Camilo is a wealthy, married heiress, who has crossed the town’s racial divide to relieve the tedium of her life. Brought together by chance, Link and Camilo draw each other into furtive encounters that violate the rigid and uncompromising social codes of their times.
Surrounded by a family notable for its size, eccentricity and marital irregularities, Letty grows up with only one aim in mind – marriage. For Letty learns that, for a woman, social survival depends on winning and keeping a man. Amidst the bustle of life in New York and London in the 30s and 40s, she relentlessly pursues her aim. An outrageous emotional and sexual experimenter, sustained always by an indomitable sense of humour and a wonderful eye for the main chance, Letty pursues one relationship after another, until her luck finally turns.
She wondered if, when human souls try to get too near each other, they do not inevitably become mere blurs to each other’s vision.’
Susy Branch learned early that to thrive without money in a society driven by wealth one must dissemble, flatter and sometimes even drop one’s moral guard in order to share a little of one’s host’s luxury and leisure. Nick Lansing has also learned and wearied of the same lesson. Despite the foolishness of their romance – for each should be seeking a partner of means – they decide to marry. By combining their skills they should be able to enjoy a year’s invitations and happiness before they need face reality. But love makes its own exacting demands and its costs can also be high . . .