What Do Writers Read?

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald.

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.

—James Baldwin

Courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood

Reading a good book is like spending time with a good friend. When you leave, feeling warmhearted and thankful, you look forward to coming back to them as soon as possible. To me, they are both a privilege and a treasure. Reading, like friendship, is essential to our quality of life—helping us relax or sleep, enhancing empathy or reducing stress by sharing new realities—but it also stimulates memory, critical thinking, and intelligence. In addition, and especially if you are a writer, you might have heard that the best advice for good writing is good reading.

So, what do writers read? What can we call a good book? Of course, the options are innumerable, as vast as people and tastes are on Earth, but I have narrowed a list of writers and books that have talked to me in the past, or hopefully will touch my life soon. I am quoting below the reading preferences of the following extraordinary authors: Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, Ray Bradbury, Vladimir Nabokov, Samuel Beckett, J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, Henry Miller, Jhumpa Lahiri, Haruki Murakami, Paul Auster, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Barak Obama. Read More

Culture Shock: A Literary Passage from New Zealand to Poland

Courtesy of Jerzy Gorecki

In New Zealand, the only borders are where land stops and water begins. There we speak of going overseas. For that is the only possibility to travel, one must literally go overseas to get to another country, be it on boat or aeroplane. But what do Europeans mean by ‘going abroad?’ Is it to go where the language is different, where they live under different rules and regulations, where they have something else for breakfast, where they behave differently? All while sharing the same piece of land?

The first time I came to Europe I was excited. The thought I’d be breathing the same air that Kafka had, walking the same dog-shit Parisian streets Celine did, seeing the same night sky that Hamsun saw… but then I realised it wasn’t the same as I’d imagined; it was actually similar to what I already knew. I’d dreamed of Dostoevsky’s adventures across the continent. Instead, when I got off the train, having arrived in yet another European city, the kids were listening to Eminem and wearing T-shirts with cheap English phrases on them. My dream of Europe was a myth, a romantic notion, a ridiculous expectation, an idealisation. The reality was different: I certainly wasn’t drinking whiskey with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Read More

The Relevance of Science Fiction

Courtesy of NASA

Ever since I was young and watched my first episode of Star Trek: Enterprise I’ve been fascinated by science fiction and the stories that can be told in this genre. Since then, I have watched many other science fiction shows, and I have read a good amount of science fiction novels. I feel this genre is often misunderstood as a literary genre and not always taken seriously or fully appreciated. While I understand it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think the beauty of science fiction is that there are so many layers and ideas inside of these stories that can make us reflect on whatever issue or aspect of society we care about.

While by definition speculative, and often considered as futuristic, science fiction has a long and rich history. Arguably the first work can be dated all the way back to the 2ndcentury AD when Hellenized Syrian satirist Lucian wrote A True Story. This novel contained themes that are still explored today in the genre, such as travel to outer space and alien life forms. Some stories from The Arabian Nights also include elements that could be considered science fiction. However, science fiction really took off with the dawn of the Age of Reason and the emergence of modern science. Isaac Asimov, famous for his Three Laws of Robotics, considers Johannes Kepler’s novel Somniumto be the first real science fiction story. Read More

Joining the “Globals” and the “Locals” to Build a World Fit for Purpose

Project Neighbours

In England, I used to work in an office with thirty members of staff. Every day, we’d arrive at roughly the same time, and for about twenty minutes, we’d stand in the kitchen chatting about holiday plans and last night’s TV before migrating to our respective desks.

Throughout the day in an open-plan office, we progressed projects chatting about each other’s pets and occasionally revealing a neighbor’s deathbed confession. At eleven and three o’clock, someone made tea for everybody on the floor. By five in the afternoon, with many tasks ticked off, we said goodnight and turned off the lights.

Around ten o’clock on Fridays, I would go into the meeting room and wait for the green light on the phone to flash at the full hour. I’d pick up and say my name before the person on the other end said, hi, great to hear from you. Read More

Playwright of Refugee Life – George Tabori


Today or tomorrow, I shall be taken to the camp.

May God help me to overcome this too.

—Regina Kandt, Last Letters from the Holocaust: 1941

Courtesy of Getty Images

The theatre’s nature is one of bringing people together, which makes it an apt medium to fuel collective memories. The type of theatre that best depicts the Holocaust is one that can provoke mourning for the victims and, at the same time, force the spectator to look within himself and ask himself if there is in him something of an executioner or of his accomplice. This is what George Tabori beautifully accomplishes in his plays The Cannibals, Mein Kampf and My Mother’s Courage.


Hungarian by birth, a writer in English, and a director (with occasional spouts of acting in German), Tabori combined his experience of British and American life with the cultural traditions of central Europe. What makes him so exceptional is not his widely known work as a translator and adapter of Bertolt Brecht, nor is it his screenplays of several Hollywood films, including the ones directed by Alfred Hitchcock—it is his experience. Would-be writers are often advised to rely on their own experiences when looking for a fresh subject matter. But there are a few writers that have as much rich material to draw on as George Tabori. His father was a prominent journalist who was arrested by the Nazis and was later killed in Auschwitz. His mother, however, managed to talk her way out of deportation to Auschwitz. Her story is told in Tabori’s play My Mother’s Courage and in the fiction film with the same name, directed by Michael Verhoeven (in which Tabori appears on screen through much of the film). Read More

Review: The Clandestine Poems by Roque Dalton

It is the 10th of May 1975, in San Salvador. The People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP) executes Vilma Flores, Timothy Lúe, Jorge Cruz, Juan Zapata, and Luís Luna. Five deaths, but only one body. These five young people were, in reality, the five identities of Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton; they were the protagonists of his last and most memorable collection, Clandestine Poems.

The collection consists of five chapters, each containing the poems of one of his identities. Dalton conjures these personalities from the distilled ethos of ideal Marxist soldiers in the war against “oppressive capitalism.” The roots of this history run deep in each of his personas. Take, for instance, Flores—the law student turned textile worker turned freedom fighter. Channeling Dalton’s own experience as a Law student in Chile, Flores epitomizes Dalton’s struggle to relate the revolutionary movement to women (who were the least educated at the time). Hence, the poems of Flores are the most humanistic and least intellectual, with examples like, “The woman’s domestic functions/ create time for the man/ for socially necessary work,” and “no one disputes/ that sex is a domestic condition/ …where the hassles begin/ is when a woman says/ sex is a political condition.” Read More

17th Edition Cecile’s Writers Magazine: Lost Identities

Many characters in this edition struggle with their identities or with finding their way. Who am I? Where do I belong? What is my place in society?

Some can’t face the reality they live in. Others don’t understand what’s happening around them. We see the situation objectively, like the flaws in their train of thoughts that sometimes lead to disastrous consequences.

Happy reading!

Cecile, Samir, Sofia & Vanessa