Hugh Thomson speaks with George Miller about the importance of a sense of humour to the travel writer, the erotic pottery of the Moche people, the challenge of writing about his own country, and the importance of the vodka mule in archaeological expeditions.
Ian Thomson’s mother and her best friend both left Soviet Estonia as children in the 1940s. One found refuge in England, the other was deported to a Russian prison camp. At the very end of the Soviet era, the writer travelled to Tallinn to seek out his mother’s childhood friend.
The distinctive culture created by African-Americans in the shadow of slavery and segregation has deep influence right across the world. Playwright and hip hop artist Jonny Wright, who grew up in Yorkshire, claims that culture – and its politics – as his own.
As a transracial adoptee, Katharine Quarmby wondered if her family stories – Yugoslav, English, Iranian – really belonged to her. Looking back, she asks herself which stories were real and which imagined, and concludes that adoption ‘cannot make you a writer, but it can help’.
Deep in the enchanted forest, tucked between Europe and Asia, people have gathered for centuries: Dionysian revelers, Orphic mystics, fire worshippers, Stalinists, anarchists and animalists. Kapka Kassabova is there to witness a Catholic ritual. But the forest’s pagan ways keep intruding: saints blend with sun gods, and historical time gives ways to the romance of eternal return.