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Litro 168: Translating India

Translating India is Litro’s newest body of captivating stories from the subcontinent, shrugging off Salman Rushdie’s assertion that Indian writers in English are proving more interesting*. And sidestepping Amit Chaudhuri’s riposte as to whether this could possibly be true**.

Translating India is so language neutral as to include a photo story. LA-based celebrity photographer Dani Brubaker briefly turns her back on Leonardo Di Caprio, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Ciara. Travelling to Jodhpur, India, she draws us intimately into lives there, for a shoot exclusive to Litro.

Author and politican Shashi Tharoor introduces the issue, and will be bringing the work to the world’s largest literary festival in Jaipur next week, which also attracts the likes of Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding and Tom Stoppard.

Mangoes, banyans, jasmine, heat and jostling envelop us

Anita Goveas presents us with language and cultural dilemmas in Fragments as a drunk Bollywood co-star confuses his English with, “Make sure that kipstick is lissproof.”

A cloying PR asks, “Oh, is that Hindi? It’s one of my languages but you speak so fast here. My Tamil is better.”
“It’s Marathi. I said, I think you’ve got lipstick on your teeth.”

Where the starlet, “sees her chance and squeezes between a sunshine-yellow rickshaw and a man waving at his cow that’s decided to sit in the middle of the road… the traffic patiently waiting for the cow to make up its mind.”

And where, at the beach in Mumbai, she contemplates a crowd gathering around a dancing monkey, “It moves slowly and deliberately, in contrast to its bright red fez, gold waistcoat and the bangra music coming from a radio held by a tall, scrawny man.”

In Sabotage, Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay considers the impact of mafia-killings over valuable land, equally regretting the intrusion on domestic culture of her apartment complex’s modernity, “Even the smoke from an incense stick sets off the fire alarm in the lobby…”

She speaks to her temporary neighbor, from another part of India, in broken English, ruing also the intrusion of cameras watching her always in her own apartment, installed by her husband.

In Solapur, by Benyamin, a protagonist, lower caste couple, “had to wait for the bus under the tree on which bats were practising sleeping yoga.”

They have been told, “When I see the common people like you stepping into the new age, the dream of digital India seems not too far.” But the mobile phone proves to be a new sickening instrument of abuse by upper castes.

Ominously, KR Meera writes, in The Moles of the Angel, “Outside, the desolate day wrapped the transparent wedding gown of the rain – stained with Angela’s blood – around itself.”

Susmita Bhattacharya’s widow in The Taste of Onion on his Tongue has “nowhere to go…”

“…I wait by the window, and watch other people. Especially him. His window is opposite mine. Just a sliver of street separates both our worlds.”

Farzana in Manisha Kulshreshtha’s story, The Abode of Seasons Remain Vacant, is contemplating suicide… “The earlier distraught sky was calm and poised after the heavy downpour.

“Hi, Farzana!” Rita called out from the neighbouring balcony. “You are glowing today in this pink kurta. Any plans?”

Vivek Shanbhag’s Nirvana explores the problem of identity in a population of one billion, as two businessmen spend the evening together, believing wrongly that each is someone they know.

Paul Zacharia’s memoire Sinning in Mysore explains, “We understood no word of the Hindi lyrics but we needed to know nothing. We only needed to hear.”

And further on the subject of language, “I was just learning to speak English, though on the writing of it I had some claims. I slowly realised that literature was not only about reading yourself into an ecstasy, that it had a premeditated form, purpose and plan, that it was possible to create literature if you tried.”

With Litro, the word, originating in whatever language, might be expected to win out, as Perumal Murugan’s Byepass Road sends his character Kumaresan into a quandary about the morality of his earnings.

“Should he drop it in a beggar’s bowl?… Should he send it to an orphanage?… It was best that he dropped it off in a temple hundi. But he did not quite believe in God. At least not that much. After thinking about it for a long time, he decided at last to use the money to buy a book that he had long wanted.”

There is of course no simple summary for the complex beauty of Indian stories, possibly best presented here in the final words of Mansari’s The Rite of Passage, “It’s humanly impossible to tie up all the loose ends, I told myself, and took unflappable comfort in the irrefutable justification of that argument. After all, we are only human!”

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Litro 166: After Dark

Litro Magazine’s November 2017 issue is filled with stories about what goes on after darkness has fallen, when we think no one’s watching, or after-hours, when everything’s shut. Secrets and shady stuff, illicit activity, or things more magical: the store mannequins come to life, elves appear to do the poor shoemaker’s work (but not the poor writer’s, alas) .. or scarier stuff, too: the vampires and ghouls and zombies and werewolves come out to play, and to eat us all up.

Featuring: Robin Dunn, Viviane Vives, Chinwe O’Brien, Regi Claire, Lucie Britsch, Allyson Fairchild.

Litro 165: Latin America | Breaking Borders

We are living at a time when borders and frontiers dividing lines of all sorts, both geographical and ideological, form part of everyday discourse. It is a time of mass migration and countless individual ones. In Latin America, a continent composed of many countries, some borders are more fraught than others. Here we invite authors to write about their own experience of boundaries, real and imagined, in a bold array of poetry, fiction, and essay.

Featuring: Chloe Aridjis, Claudia Salazar Jiménez, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Lina Meruane, Muchel Laub, Antonio Xerenesky, Guadalupe Nettel, Fernanda Torres, Natalia Toledo, Yoss & more.

Litro #164: Senses

begin again-Anna Martin (Cover Artist)
‘Taiki-chū no chinmoku (The Silence of Waiting)’ – Alison McBain (FICTION)
“They’re Just … Here” – Douglas J. Ogurek (FICTION)
cure me, xenobiotic, se.cure, mindful.heart – Anna Martin (ART SERIES)
‘Night on the Hill’ – Sherry Mendelson [ESSAY]
‘Oasis’ – Amy Crosby [FLASH]
‘Desensitized’ – Trevin Wyant (ART)
‘The New Victorians’ – Charlie Keyheart (FICTION)
‘Animal’ – Brianna Bjarnson (ESSAY)
Ice on the Lake – Lilian Faschinger, Translated by Geoffrey Howes (FICTION)
Two Objects in a Storm – Ashley Parker Owens (ART)

Litro #163: Alternative Facts

“Writing in the Realm of Alternative Facts” – Calder G. Lorenz (ESSAY)
“Hard Sell” – Brent van Staalduinen (FICTION)
“Trump in B&W” – Amy Gilvary (ART)
‘The Inaugural Address” – Adjie Henderson (NONFICTION)
“The Last Brown Rat of Nagasaki” – Victoria Briggs (FICTION)
“The Operation” – Q. Lei (FICTION)
“The Storyteller” – Suchana Seth (FICTION)
“Tigre” – M. René Bradshaw
“Con Artists” – Claire Polders (ESSAY)
“Again and again” – Sarah Kaizar (ART)

Litro #162: Literary Highlife

Every year, Litro publishes international editions focusing on a different parts of the globe. In 2016, we had an issue dedicated to Cuba, and one highlighting South Asian writing in English; we featured young voices like Aatish Taseer alongside established writers and artists like Shehan Karunatilaka and Coco Fusco.

As 2017 marks Ghana’s sixtieth birthday, our latest World Series installment, Literary Highlife, seeks to celebrate Ghana by inviting its neighbour Nigeria to join the party – we explore the literary and cultural landscape of both countries.

Our issue’s title comes from ‘highlife’, a kind of popular music from Ghana that began early in the twentieth century and blended traditional Akan musical rhythms with European military band instruments imported under colonialism. It spread, and still influences current Ghanaian and Nigerian afrobeats, and other forms of music, today.

We can’t dedicate an issue to celebrating Ghana’s sixtieth year without taking a look into its past. In 1957, Ghana – till then the Gold Coast – became the first British African colony to be granted independence, ending centuries of colonial rule. It was a peaceful transition, and inspired other states to follow suit, with the federation of Nigeria forming just three years later. Today Ghana is peaceful, free from the civil strife and terrorism that affects it neighbours.

Ghana had been at the centre of the slave trade until it was abolished in the early 1800s. It was called the Gold Coast, of course, because of the huge amounts of gold found there. This gold was protected by forts, built by the Dutch and British along the five-hundred-kilometre coastline between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, that served as trading posts as well as keeping the foreign settlers safe from their rivals and from threats from the African population. The forts were carefully placed as links in the trade routes, and were attacked, taken over, exchanged, sold and finally abandoned during the almost four centuries of struggle between European powers for domination over what would one day be Ghana.

In the 1500s, as demand grew for human labour in the New World, the focus shifted from the gold to the people. After being built to store gold, ivory and other such plunder, the forts now imprisoned slaves before they were transported across the Atlantic – human beings reduced to just another commodity to be bought, sold, used. Ghana’s breath-taking coastline

St George’s castle

was lined with dark dungeons, overflowing with misery and despair, right up until the slave trade was eventually abolished. It’s estimated that up to six million slaves had been shipped to other countries.

Today these coastal castles have been transferred to the Ghana Museum and Monuments Board, and they are among the most well-visited historical sites in the region. President Barack Obama chose Ghana for his first official visit to Africa.

In keeping with our ethos of giving a platform to emerging international writers, I invited the poet Inua Ellams to team up with me in editing this issue – which covers topics such as the underlying rivalry between Ghana & Nigeria- and how that rivalry is perceived by others.
We first published Inua’s work in November 2010, in Litro #93, the Climate issue, which sought to explore the place of story, even of fiction, in debates about climate – sadly a conversation that seems to have spiralled backwards, with the most powerful leader of the so-called free world denying climate change’s very existence, despite the backdrop of seasoned scientists and thinkers attesting otherwise.

From Climate Change to History – the story, and in fact fiction, will always continue to have a place in our cultural zeitgeist.

We’ll continue to use fiction and the story to explore the many pressing topics of our times. Litro’s next issue, themed on Alternative Facts, has suddenly become even more topical than it already was with Theresa May’s – cynically opportunistic? You think? – snap general election on 8 June, but we follow that in July with what might be a more soothing, sensual issue of heady summer stories, themed on The Senses. The Senses issue, and all those following it, are still open for submissions of short stories and creative nonfiction – see our website for guidelines. After the August break we’re back in September with a trip south of that grotesque promised wall, to Latin America, and then in October, in time for Halloween, we take a look at what goes on After Dark, After Hours: secrets and shady stuff, or things more magical – the store mannequins come to life, elves appear to do the shoemaker’s work… Things get political again after that – as if they’re ever not – in our Protest issue in November, because these are for sure the times to make our voices heard, to speak truth to power. And finally we’ll wind up the year in December with a look into Faith & Faithlessness of all different sorts – is this a time for belief, or for scepticism?

Lastly, while it is obviously impossible for a small selection of this kind to represent the diverse voices writing in Ghana and Nigeria today, it is interesting to note that, months after the selection for these pages was made, first time novelist Ayobami Adebayo was shortlisted for an important literary prize Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction – with a winner yet to be announced.

We will be celebrating the editions launch with a special weekend extravaganza 25th – 28th May taking over Waterstones Piccadilly London & it’s Tottenham Court branch, I hope you will join us to help in celebrating this special edition. Further details can be found here.

Litro #160: Changes

Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
We have a resistance to change, whether it’s beneficial or not – we are programmed to resist change. People fear the unknown and would rather stick to the status quo, even if it’s harmful. The suffering may provide a meaning or purpose for one’s life.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Staying the same is a comfortable choice, even when change is necessary. As a result we become comfortable in our misery. Many have attributed the current political shift to the right and the embrace in many countries of national¬ism as a resistance to globalization and the changes that come with it. Rather than low¬ering borders and embracing the changes required, the western world is currently shift¬ing back to the dark old days of fear and nationalism. What with Brexit, the rise of Trump and the alt-right (where “alt” is code for neo and “right” for Nazi), etc., it doesn’t look a whole lot like things will be changing for the better any time soon. We all too of¬ten fear change which – along with nation¬alism, sheer racism, whatever – driving a lot of anti-immigration feeling.

This month’s collection of stories are not explicitly political – though there is a distant glimpse of the States’ current pres¬idential plight in Taylor García’s “Wheel of Fortune”. Change is what fiction – usually, traditionally – deals in: personal, psycholog¬ical change – a fictional character is meant to come out of the other end of a story slight¬ly different from what he or she was at the start, through some modest epiphany or mo¬ment of truth, some kind of emotional arc. Change is also tied to time – you can’t re¬ally have one without the other – and the biggest change, of course, coming to each of us far sooner than we’d like – final, total, the end of our personal time – is death. We could easily have made this an issue themed entirely on Death. Kathy Stevens’s “Ol¬ives” deals with loss, and Nancy Ludmer-er’s “A Bohemian Memoir” offers a unique perspective on the changes that time can bring. Both time and death figure in Eden Summerlee’s strange sort of science-fiction fable, “ootd” – set in the distant but may¬be not-distant-enough-for-comfort future, when everything’s changed, while still re¬flecting our own changeable reality.


Taylor García – “Wheel of Fortune”
Nancy Ludmerer – “A Bohemian Memoir”
Kathy Stevens – “Olives”
Jenny Bhatt – “The Prize”
Eden Summerlee – “ootd”

Emily Wildash – “Growing Younger” (essay)
Lindsay Hicks – “Remembrance” (essay)

Photography – Dax Ward



Litro #159: First Dates

Xanthi Barker, Laura Tansley, Peter Jordan, Sarah Evans, C. R. Resetarits, Allison Smith, Ingrid Norton, Ian Kelly

Photography Louis Dazy

Litro #158: Reflections

Cover Art: by Andrew Smith


Letter from the Editor Eric Akoto

Apis by Jeanne Panfely

Desi Girl by Namrata Verghese

What Do You Carry And How Are You Keeping by Laura Tansley

Tidelines by Giselle Leeb

Giant by Dakota James

Kulfiwala by Hema Pedhu

I Wanted to Catch a Whale by Alaina Isbouts

My Wife’s Novel by Michael Lapointe

Welcome! to The Reflection issue Litro#158.

 Litro’s mission is to find the best and most exciting new voices in fiction and non-fiction and give them a platform for their work. To read work from other writers to watch, get our All-Access membership for subscription to our print magazine and unlimited online access.

Litro #157: Nightmares!

Litro #156: India