Jonathan Gibbs

Jonathan Gibbs reviews books for The Independent and elsewhere. His novel Randall, about the contemporary art world and the fate of the YBAs, is published by Galley Beggar Press. He blogs on this aspect of his writing at

Friday Book Design Blog: Nairn’s London

All book design – like all craft, all art – is a shuttling negotiation between tradition and experiment, the way it was and the way it might be. As a result, it might sometimes seem as if this blog is fixated with the retro mode in design, with books that look more than a little like books used to be, in the ‘good old days’.

Iza's Ballad by Magda Szabo, trans. George Szirtes, book review: A

Madga Szabó was one of Hungary's pre-eminent novelists, suppressed during the Stalinist years, but hugely popular once the stranglehold of Socialist Realism had been relaxed in the late 1950s. Szabó is best known in translation for her 1987 novel The Door, which has now been followed with this, originally published in 1963 under the title Pilátus, which for the life of me I can't parse. Is it something to do with Pontius Pilate: washing your hands of guilt? Corrupt authority?

Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated by Anne

Enrique Vila-Matas's newly translated novel begins quite badly, but by the end of it I was fully seduced by its self-portrait of the artist as a young writer undergoing an exemplary apprenticeship in Paris. Vila-Matas is a much-garlanded Spanish novelist, and his books are some of the most bookish around. They feature scribblers and publishers as characters, and abound in references to writers both well- and lesser-known.

Orfeo by Richard Powers, book review: Music, germs and a touch of

Richard Powers has written about classical music before (in The Time of Our Singing and The Gold Bug Variations) and about genetics (in Generosity, and Gold Bug again). Yet it would be rash to say that this new novel is his most complete exploration of those themes, if only because he will probably go ahead and write an even more complete one.

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Review: Secrecy, By Rupert Thomson

This hallucinatory historical novel brings 17th-century Florence to life – despite a macabre plot full of life-like figures and murder victims

The Barbarian Nurseries, By Héctor Tobar

The problem with State of the Nation novels is that, if you're going to be fair to all your characters and not just satirise them into the ground, and you're also hoping for a decent amount of dramatic intensity, then you're going to have a very delicate task in terms of making things happen.