Published by Salt in 2021 Elephant is about Pushkin’s idea of unselfish and redemptive love, personified as an elephant. It is about shifting our ideas away from ourselves and seeing the world again through the prism of all creation, if we want to survive. In a country house in England a precocious teenage exile from revolutionary Russia sets down his adventures on paper, beginning with his first ball in St Petersburg and how he frees a huge African elephant from a cruel circus.
A hundred years later, an American academic begins receiving the manuscript from an anonymous sender, one chapter at a time, and seeks to uncover the truth behind the boy’s extraordinary life.
“What Elephant provides to the reader is a gloriously absorbing story about storytelling, as rich in suspense and vitality as it is in incidents and imagery that dare you to disbelieve them. An ice-bound Russian lake is filled with the frozen bodies of neatly dressed office girls. A zeppelin appears above Wentworth Woodhouse, equipped with a harnessed undercarriage that can carry a fully-grown Indian elephant away from imminent danger. The central story – that of the boy and the possibly imaginary elephant – is a delight.” Miranda Seymour, Financial Times.
“At the centre of Pickering’s meticulously researched narrative is the gigantic female elephant, a metaphor for lost innocence and uncorrupted simplicity the fast-industrialising capitalist world feels apprehensive of. Alexei’s dream about ‘the river of dark fire’ is actually an echo of Schopenhauer’s account of ‘the anarchic, artistic Wille, the raw power behind creation’. The elephant, as Natasha fails to convince the émigrés, ‘is a counter to the inhumanity of our digital age’’—Bhaskar Roy, Outlook Magazine.
“Elephant leaps across all boundaries of imagination – historical, humanist and humour. Unputdownable. A winner.” – Novelist Balraj Khanna.
“I enjoyed Elephant hugely. Such an original and beguiling story. It is, like the best fiction, simultaneously so precise and particular, while yet resonating with so many contemporary universals… An intensely readable and stirring novel.” Stephen Fry.
Over the Rainbow
A story of unrequited love, espionage and the Wizard of Oz set in present day Afghanistan, researched by walking alone across the east of the country. Published 2012, by Simon & Schuster, Over the Rainbow is a tale of an impossible affair that, often comically, questions our ideas of truth and existence through storytelling. The tectonic shift from west to east underpins this anti war novel which has already been compared to Naipaul.
“Paul Pickering’s tragic novel about contemporary Afghanistan combines realistic detail with the kind of picturesque invention more usually associated with comedy … this is a heady work of unashamedly writerly fiction” —Phil Baker, Sunday Times. “A tragi-comic portrait of Afghanistan. There is violence and kindness, fear and comfort, guns and explosions and mountain ranges and animals and children. At times, the novel is heartbreaking, at others ridiculous, and this mixture of gravity and absurdity is intoxicating and bewildering. This territory has been traversed by Graham Greene many times but the implied homage to his intelligent but out-of-their-depth heroes only improves our enjoyment of the novel … A memorable novel about what might well be one of the strangest places on the planet.” —Kathy Watson, The Tablet.
The Leopard’s Wife
A tale of love, war and a piano in the Congo, inspired by a trip down the Congo River. Published in 2010 by Simon & Schuster, “Part thriller, part Heart of Darkness,” Mansfield Journal. “The Leopard’s Wife is full of surprises. In his atmospheric and evocative new novel, Paul Pickering weaves Congolese politics, suspense and classical music into an exotic tapestry.” Eugene Drucker, author of The Savior. “The Leopard’s Wife can be highly recommended. Pickering takes on some of the biggest themes of all – love, war, art –with a boldness that puts most novelists to shame. The Africa he has drawn leaps four-square from the page, at once beautiful and terrifying.” Max Davidson, Mail on Sunday. “Brilliant,” Kate Saunders, The Times.
A fabulist attack on organised religion published in 1991 by Random House US and banned in the UK. “Another masterpiece of controlled madness…at times reminiscent of Don DeLillo,” William Wharton. “Scamp at play,” The New York Times. “Paul Pickering’s brilliant novel challenges our fondest preconceptions…genuinely subversive…all Pickering’s work is truly subversive,” J.G. Ballard.
Winter’s Tales, No 5
Published by Constable in 1989 and edited by Robin Baird-Smith. Paul Pickering’s short story, Dream Kitchen, among others by Graham Greene, William Trevor, Laura Kalpakian, Muriel Spark, Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy-Casares, A.L. Barker, Lawrence Scott, Paul Sawyer, Damon Galgut, David Updike and Georgina Hammick.
The Blue Gate of Babylon
A black comedy set in ’60s Berlin, published in 1989 by Chatto & Windus and Penguin in the UK, and Random House in the US. A diplomat is told by British Intelligence to set up a brothel and tries to prove that the war is really over. Paul Pickering named as one of Top Ten Young British Novelists by WH Smith. Book becomes a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Booker long list.“Brilliantly exploits the fluently headlong manner of Evelyn Waugh’s early black farces,” The Sunday Times. “Superior Literature,” The New York Times.
Set in Nicaragua during the Contra war, a story of how the best intentions can go horribly wrong. Based on experiences as an Internationalista and published in 1986 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson and Flamingo in the UK.“Wickedly funny,” Maureen Freely, The Observer. “Brilliant,” Fiction Magazine. “Reminiscent of the early Waugh,” Irish Times. Number two on Book Club best seller list. Booker long list.
Wild About Harry
Pickering’s debut novel published in 1985 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson and Flamingo in the UK, and Athenaeum in the US. In Paraguay an English Major is guarding a war criminal and in his efforts to protect him becomes like his charge. “This is a hilarious, inventive black comedy that inverts all values and mocks the religious spy thriller set in exotic parts in the world of ‘cloak and stagger’ … The black comedy of the year,” Andrew Sinclair, The Times. “A tremendous first novel,” Victoria Glendinning, The Sunday Times. “Altogether, this is a smashing debut from a new comic novelist of terrific promise,” Valentine Cunningham, The Observer (Professor of English, Oxford). “Is it as good as Graham Greene? Yes, it is, and in some ways better,” Marghanita Laski, The Listener. “Comedy is at the heart of the English novel from Fielding and Sterne and Swift in the 18th century through Austen and Dickens and Trollope in the 19th up to and including Paul Pickering,” Winston-Salem Journal. Booker long list.
(1994, New Grove Theatre) “Ortonesque,” The Standard, “Brio, panache and dexterity,” Harold Pinter.
Walk Her Home
(Louvre, Paris, 2001) A play involving moving sculpture and, accidently, the real Paris riot police. Six people were arrested. “Stirring stuff,” Richard Morrison, The Times.
Coming Home – Whose game is it anyway?
(Rehearsed reading with audience, 2020, Playground Theatre, London) “Splendid play! Really impressed by the language, the structure, the constant shifting in the power dynamic, especially in the final act, and the basically good story.” Margaret Casely-Hayford, Chair, The Globe Theatre. “An exciting dramatic voice,” The Royal Court.
Pickering has also acted and directed, the latter in his first two plays. Acting includes Everyman (lead) and Other Men Look To Their Tools at Leicester University Theatre and in The Women at The Old Vic, directed by Maria Aitken (1985). Pickering performs his poetry with Soho Poets and is working on his first collection.
The Blue Gate of Babylon. After writing a treatment and partial script the project was green lighted by Orion to star Meg Ryan. Unfortunately in 1991 Orion collapsed. The project may be revived with the success of the German TV series, Berlin Babylon.
A Fairy Tale. Commissioned script for Spirit Media Films. Principal photography was scheduled for Spring 2020.
The Leopard’s Wife and Over the Rainbow are both in development with a Swiss producer.
Conversation with a Lion, 2021. Working on a second script about a haunted transexual soldier and the fissile nature of sexual difference. Oscar winning Philippe Carcassonne (The Father)liked the first draft script and wants to see a second.
All links, reviews and references are on the News page of this website as is a link to a contextualising thesis of the works listed: Sympathy for the Devil: Faust, History and Poetics in my novels, by Paul Pickering (2020).