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Here at Litro, we believe that emerging writers are just as important as the old vanguard – in fact, they’re often more important. Literature is constantly in a state of flux, adapting to social changes, new technologies, even the latest reality TV show. Books are – and always have been – part of a larger cultural conversation, one that isn’t destined to end any time soon. Each generation finds new ways to express itself, new challenges to overcome.
It’s for this reason that we started Litro Represents, our bespoke agency dedicated to discovering and nurturing new talent. It’s also why we run the IGGY and Litro Young Writers’ Prize each year, for writers aged 13-18. And it’s why we’ve dedicated Litro 135 to writers under the age of 35, whose voices are just starting to be heard in the literary arena. The stories here also have a theme in common – a foreignness, a sense of travel – but nothing binds them together as much as their novelty. These are writers who are just starting out on their journey.
The issue opens with a special introduction by Rory MacLean, the seasoned writer of such bestsellers as Under the Dragon and Berlin: Imagine a City. Rory has travelled more than most, and his insights into writing – and the importance of stepping over the border – act as a blueprint for the voices that follow. Aspiring writers could do a lot worse than to follow his advice “to trust strangers, to watch the sky, to follow my nose and to make a lot of notes.”
In ‘Til God, Polis Loizou writes about his Cypriot home, presenting a story set against the backdrop of a real life miracle. Next, Alona Ferber describes a lonely sojourn overseas in her story Berlin, October 29 – and the unlikely relationship that grows out of it. Then William Pittam looks back over Three Years in Arkansas, putting his own experiences as a stranger in a strange land under the microscope, examining the discoveries and the frustrations of repatriation. Sohini Basak watches the world from an apartment window in Suddenly the Garden, before Martin MacInnes takes us To the Border in a triptych of ill-fated journeys.
Finally, we talk to Monisha Rajesh, author of Around India in 80 Trains, and one of the most exciting new voices to have emerged on the travel writing scene. She discusses her work and the experience of returning to her Indian ‘homeland’, only to discover that it was no longer a home at all.
If literature is an ongoing conversation, then these are the newest voices to join the discussion, the freshest faces at the table. Our current Litro Book Club summer read is The Spring of Kasper Meier by Ben Fergusson, a debutant whose work would feel just as at home in this issue. In our interview with him, Ben told us that “I would advise anyone to travel and live overseas… It changes the way people think about themselves and the world.” It’s no coincidence that his novel is set in Berlin, the same as Rory MacLean’s latest book – and Alona Ferber’s story collected in this issue. The German capital knows all too well the importance of stepping over borders, of knocking at the gates of history.
If the past belongs to the established pillars of the literary world, then the future is the domain of writers as yet unheard. We’ll meet you somewhere over the border.