“Only connect”

This week I wrote a short piece for the Royal Society of Literature‘s online series, “Only Connect” which is sent out by email three times a week and has provided a connection to the RSL community throughout the pandemic. In each edition, a member of the community introduces a recording or article from the RSL’s library that means something to them. My piece, #OnlyConnect276, takes the theme of exile and is reprinted below with the RSL’s permission. The link to the complete series is here, and well worth exploring for further recommendations.

Today’s Only Connect comes from writer and researcher, Ann Kennedy Smith, who has chosen our 2017 event, ‘The Art of Non-Fiction’ with Hisham MatarLara Feigel and Deborah Levy, chaired by RSL Vice-President, Lisa Appignanesi.

“Listening to this wonderful RSL recording brought back the pleasure of attending it in 2017, and the happy anticipation of more such events in 2022. It made me think about the exciting possibilities of non-fiction, ‘as various certainly as the great mansion of fiction’, as RSL Vice-President Lisa Appignanesi says. She brings her expertise as a non-fiction author to chair this lively discussion that ranges from questions of style to the layered nature of the ‘I’ as narrator, with RSL Fellows Deborah Levy, Lara Feigel and Hisham Matar. Towards the end, Matar, who previously won the RSL Ondaatje Prize for his novel, In The Country of Men, reads from his 2016 memoir, The Return. It’s a moving and resonant reminder of how so many people, recently forced to leave Ukraine, now face a life in limbo: ‘What do you do when you cannot leave and you cannot return?'”

Where I’m Writing From…

Ann Kennedy Smith is a freelance writer, RSL member, and researcher, with essays and reviews in the TLS, Guardian and Slightly Foxed. She’s working on a book about women at Cambridge – her blog ‘The Ladies’ Dining Society 1890-1914‘ can be found here and she tweets at @akennedysmith. She enjoys writing in the ‘stacks’ of the University Library (especially at sunset with its views of Cambridge spires) and is currently reading Lennie Goodings’ fascinating memoir A Bite of the Apple: A Life with Books, Writers and Virago (OUP), and re-reading F.M. Mayor’s The Rector’s Daughter (Persephone). It’s a ‘forgotten’ gem from 1924 that fortunately keeps being rediscovered.

There are still lots of pieces in the RSL’s Library to be written about and contributions are welcome from all. If you would like to write for Only Connect, please contact keira.brown@rsliterature.org