I am in the process of moving this archive to a different platform. Please click through to www.hedleytwidle.com to find a more up-to-date site…


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A collection of my essays and creative nonfiction, just out.

Firepool launch


This is just a glimpse of my Experiences in an Abnormal World. I intend writing a Book if I ever have the opportunity, but medical attention is what I need at present.

 Demitrios Tsafendas, Letter from Pretoria Central Prison

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Perception of Doors

A wry and delicate novel about the ancient human fact of migration.


Journey’s End. Review of Mohsin Hamid, Exit WestFinancial Times, 25 February, 2017.

(Slightly) longer version below…

The tragedy of Europe today, Mohsin Hamid has suggested in his essays and journalism, is an inability to articulate a desirable future. Whether in Discontent and its Civilizations, his collected dispatches from New York, London and Lahore (the three cities he has called home), or his reflections on Britain’s response to refugees, he sees modern nation states as mired in an illusory nostalgia that forgets an ancient history of human wandering and scattering, of border-crossing and diaspora.

So what might the future look like if the free world extended real freedom of movement to the millions of people who choose to (or have no choice but to) leave their homes and seek a life elsewhere? This is the question that underlies his latest novel, Exit West, a thought experiment that pivots on the crucial figure of this century: the migrant. Continue reading

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The Sound of Islay

Introducing the Bodley Head / FT essay competition.


Financial Times | 11 November 2016.

Just before I turned 30 I was homeless for a while. Homeless is the wrong word, an exaggeration. But I was in Edinburgh with little money and nowhere to live – and the days were getting shorter. So I took myself off to the Scottish islands with a bike and two red waterproof panniers. The plan was to stay in bothies – stone cottages that shelter hikers and climbers, remote structures in the hills where you just arrive and take your chances.

I started in Oban on the west coast, then pedalled south to the ferry port on Loch Tarbert – one of the long fingers of ocean that reach deep and diagonally into Argyll. This was a mistake, since there was too much traffic on the mainland. Massive cold fronts broke in off the Atlantic, one after the other. I tried to cycle in the lulls between showers but was soaked through my Gore-Tex by rain and truck spray. I found myself unable not to take the headwind personally. I would burst regularly into tears on the hard shoulder – homeless, jobless, indebted and drenched. Continue reading

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Sea Power

From Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, and back again…

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A genre-busting book, Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard does a rare thing: it is non-fiction that breaks the mould of works that look in on the continent from the outside. It shows the ancient and complex connections that exist within and beyond African borders in emotional, historical, cultural and metaphysical ways that others shirk from. (Billy Kahora)

With photographs by David Southwood | Memory Card Sea Power.

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Where? What? Why?

Not sure about J. M. Coetzee’s Schooldays.screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-12-36-42-pm

New Statesman | 5 October 2016 | PDF.

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The Institute for the Less Good Idea

Visiting William Kentridge at his Johannesburg studio.


Profile for Financial Times magazine | 2 September 2016 | [PDF].

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-7-55-16-pmMy (longer) edit, with The Nose reinstated:

I knew I was at the right place because of the cats. Two sculpted, spiky creatures faced each other atop the gates in Houghton, one of Johannesburg’s wealthy, jacaranda-shrouded suburbs. I recognized them from drawings, etchings and films – in which cats emerge from radios (Ubu Tells the Truth), curl into bombs (Stereoscope), turn into espresso pots (Lexicon). Now they had become metal, swinging open to reveal a steep driveway and above it a brick and glass building perched on stilts amid foliage: the studio. A gardener directed me past some cycads to the right entrance and there an assistant ushered me in to meet William Kentridge. He was wearing a blue rather than a white collared shirt, but in all other aspects conformed to his self-appointed uniform: black trousers, black shoes, the string of a pince-nez knotted through a button hole, the lenses stowed in a breast pocket when they were not on his nose.

Continue reading

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