A London Address

Hear all thirteen podcasts from A Room for London's octagonal library.

Listen using the links below or download the mp3s to your phone or iPod.

Log book in the octagonal library. Photograph by Charles Hosea

"There is a sense of fiction about this situation. The improbable perch, the contrast of vessel and setting – exactly wrong... It’s a place for reflection, from which to view London, liberated from familiarity." (Fiona Banner)

Artangel invited a group of international writers and thinkers to spend up to four nights on board A Room for London with its Conrad-inspired deçor and high Thames view. At the end of their stay, each writer made an audio recording of the material they had written.

These pieces are available to listen to for free on this page. Click below to play or download.


January: Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 17m 54s)

"Our favourite novels are like buildings we know well: who lives where, where do which stairs lead, how to reach the basement."


February: Jeanette Winterson

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 12m 27s) 

"It is 2:15am. The police-boat passes."


March: Sven Lindqvist

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 22m 41s)

"Tell me what will happen when the majority of mankind has become technologically superfluous."


April: Caryl Phillips

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 18m 45s)

"I had anticipated endless lines of people shuffling across bridges to the left and to the right with, as Eliot suggests, each man fixing his eyes before his feet and silently going about his business."


May: Maya Jasanoff

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 14m 49s)

"When Joseph Conrad joined the British merchant marine in the 1870s, Europeans had charted the coastlines that had eluded them just a century or two before. Nobody any longer rendered California as an island, or left off the western half of Australia."


June: Michael Ondaatje

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 23m 41s)

"Now and then the ship I was writing about would dock at Aden or Port Said, and the talk in those ports would be not so much the language of the country but a language based on commerce and transport."

(Lines from T. Shanaathanan's The Incomplete Thombu, Julius Caesar, Joseph Conrad, and the Mohandas Gandhi fan-historian website were used in this piece, with thanks.)


July: Alain Mabanckou

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 20m 11s)
Right click to download mp3 in the original French (duration: 15m 58s)

"I’m lying down, holding a copy of Heart of Darkness in French, because it’s difficult for me to understand all the English nautical terms used by the author. Conrad isn’t far, as he watches me turn the pages."


July: Geoff Dyer

Right click (or ctrl + click on a Mac) to download mp3 (duration: 18m 34s)

"Like Death in Venice or The Great Gatsby, Heart of Darkness is not just a book but a modern myth – everyone has read it, even if they have not done so personally. The actual book is far stranger than accounts of it sometimes suggest."


August: Teju Cole

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 15m 04s)

"The faint hiss of champagne being poured. The clink of glasses. Far below us was the muttering obscurity of the East River and beyond it, the borough of Queens, glimmering in the dark."


September: Ahdaf Soueif

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 13m 07s)

"How English do I feel, I’m asked. And the answer is, not at all. But I feel comfortable."


October: Kamila Shamsie

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 13m 51s)

"Is it strange - or not at all strange - that travel writing has traditionally been so strongly associated with women but exploration is seen as a man’s game? On this ship going nowhere, as I write, I am aware of two women who grew up in purdah, and first left that world of seclusion behind in order to travel."


November: Adonis

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 17m 54s)
Right click to download mp3 in the original Arabic (duration: 19m 02s)

"The Thames rolls, rolling roped to its myths."


December: Colm Tóibín

Right click to download mp3 (duration: 26m 31s)

"We had tied up at Deptford at the usual place close to the small culvert, having come in an hour earlier than expected."