Claire Sawers

Freelance Writer

Year: 2009 (page 1 of 8)

Interview: James Ellroy

The List
4 November 2009

Blood’s a Rover is most ‘redemptive, romantic and accessible’ to date

Iconic US author James Ellroy has just reached the end of an epic literary trail. Claire Sawers speaks to the man who creates history within a cultural vacuum Continue reading

Ryan David Jahn – Acts of Violence

The List
30 October 2009
4 stars

Ryan David Jahn’s first novel takes a rusty knife and taps into the same vein that gore fans like Quentin Tarantino or Frank Miller love aiming for. Continue reading

Interview: X Lion Tamer

Click here to read an interview with X Lion Tamer, aka Tony Taylor on Amelia’s Magazine.

Barbara Kingsolver – The Lacuna

The List
15 October 2009
3 stars

What really went on in the household of Frida Kahlo and her painter husband, Diego Rivera? Continue reading

‘Cherokee Moses’ comes home

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, a tour guide once said. Gayle Ross, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in bending the truth. Continue reading

The Italian Girl in Algiers puts the soap into opera

A stage full of bunny girls, Space Hoppers and high-tech green-screen effects? It’s Rossini, as you’ve never seen him before Continue reading

A photography exhibition about the Antarctic expeditions of Scott and Shackleton

Adventurers’ view from the ends of the earth

Images of Shackleton’s and Scott’s Antarctic expeditions are as moving now as they were 100 years ago

Continue reading

Frankie Boyle – My Shit Life So Far

The List
1 October 2009
4 stars

Apparently, Glasgow’s cherished cheeky-man Francis Boyle showed a talent for ‘the offensive non-sequitur’ from a young age. Continue reading

JM Coetzee – Summertime

Scotland on Sunday
6 September 2009

This book brings to mind question and answer panels that pop up in Sunday magazines. “What three words would friends use to describe you?” a celebrity is asked, in the hope that loved ones will sum them up in a bite-sized and revealing way. In Coetzee’s case, the answer might be spineless, sexless and bookish, or perhaps gentle, reclusive and remorseful, depending on who he asks.

The South African author realises that for a truthful appraisal, he needs several character references. Summertime, the final part in his “fictionalised memoir” trilogy, continues his autobiography in the third person, where colleagues, relatives and lovers do the talking. Written as if Coetzee is already dead, the author sends an imaginary academic researcher into his past, to interview those who knew him well.


Julia, a married woman whom he had an affair with during the 1970s, first spots “John” in the supermarket. Baking brownies for this shy, scrawny oddball takes Julia’s mind off her own cheating husband. Although she tells the researcher how important her fling with John was, she realised they would never be in love. To Julia, real love requires two people fitting together like “an electrical plug and an electrical socket”. John, however, wasn’t designed for love; “wasn’t constructed to fit into or be fitted into. Like a sphere. Like a glass ball.”

Coetzee, 69, is in beautifully reflective mood here, tenderly mulling over what he has achieved, or more poignantly, not achieved. He wants forgiveness from his father, and understanding from disappointed girlfriends, as he looks back on his life with modest melancholy. It is hard to tell what successes he glosses over, as he seems more comfortable dwelling on his shortcomings.

This process of warping the truth, often painting himself in a worse rather than better light, allowed Summertime to make the Booker Prize longlist again this year as a work of fiction. Coetzee’s rewritten memoirs reveal a strangely sincere, self-critical and romantic man, drawn to poetry and classical music in apartheid-era South Africa, where “real men” laughed at his long-haired, vegetarian ways, and dismissed him as a pretentious wimp. Whether he likes it or not, Summertime shows, once again, he is an intense, outstanding and very enjoyable talent.


Harvill Secker, £17.99


Click here to listen to JM Coetzee reading a passage from Summertime for the New York Review of Books.

Interview: Emmanuel Jal

The List
6 August 2009


A child in time

Growing up around hate and violence, Emmanuel Jal is still trying to put the horrors of Sudan’s civil war behind him. He chats to Claire Sawers about his perfect therapy Continue reading

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