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Scott McCulloch

Anam by André Dao

July 2023, no. 455

André Dao’s début novel, Anam, deals in the inconsistencies of memory and perception. It is narrated by a writer, a lawyer, an immigrant, a student, a partner, a son, a parent, a grandparent, and many ghosts, yet the motor of the story is Dao’s grandfather, who was sentenced, without charge or trial, to ten years’ imprisonment as a political detainee in the infamous Chi Hoa prison in Vietnam.

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On the surface, Scott McCulloch’s début novel, Basin, takes place in a brutal and degenerated landscape; the edge of a former empire in a state of violent flux. Rebels, separatists, terrorists, paramilitary groups, and the remnants of imperial forces clash over borders and interzones in the wake of the ‘Collapse’, an undefined geopolitical and ecological disaster. Print and broadcast media warn of inter-ethnic conflict and Rebel advances. Bazaars, brothels, and a chain of Poseidon Hotels all operate amid industrial waste and military checkpoints, servicing the region’s fishermen, soldiers, smugglers, and drifters. There is a multiplicity of language and religion (Abrahamic denominations mingle with archaic, pagan beliefs). Alcohol consumption and illicit drug use are rife. The climate is oppressively humid.

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Behind Omonoia Square I check into a cheap hotel, one that mainly sleeps prostitutes and their customers. The receptionist is worn – nicotine fingers, few teeth, sharp cheekbones, gaunt features. His flesh is as green as old tattoos. Leading me down the dank hallway, he lifts up his G-Star Raw T-shirt and scratches a large tattoo of a skull heaving angels from its ...

‘We are the children of death and it is death that rescues us from the deceptions of life.’
Sadeq Hedayat

Smoke fills the car as my friend Amir and I share a cigarette and hurtle down the highway from Tehran airport to the north of the gargantuan metropolis. Thin crowns of sunlight emerge from the shadowy horizon. The urban sprawl starts to ...

The guard with the Kalashnikov singles me out from the other passengers on the border to Ukraine. I am leaving the frozen state of Transnistria. He leads me to a small interrogation room. Four more border patrol guards and a translator are in the room. The men fossick through my bags and ask questions. ‘Are you carrying drugs or weapons?’ ‘Do you deal drugs or weapons?’ ‘Are you aware that you are entering a country that is at war?’

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Lost Art: Two Essays on Cultural Dysfunction is an absorbing and lyrical journey through the contemporary art world. Combining a sensibility that is both highly critical and deeply personal, Julian Davies and Phil Day analyse what is celebrated and what is forgotten in an increasingly ruthless and commercial industry.

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