"Lara Pawson has already written a non-fiction book about Angola's violent history - the Orwell prize-longlisted In the Name of the People. This is something different, a memoir partly about her time reporting on the country's civil war for the BBC, and partly about her life before it and afterwards. It is fast-moving, fragmentary and often aggressively candid. Pawson tells her story in isolated paragraphs that come at you with opening lines like a boxer's best left hooks: "Because I've been mistaken for a man so often..."; "I'm tempted to delete that paragraph, but there's more." As an examination of the realities and ethics of war reporting, the book says much about what exposure to violence can do to people, about the kind of person who would seek such experience out, and about what turning away from it does to you. Above all, it challenges the reader to examine their own beliefs and decisions closely as Pawson has examined hers. Brilliant and uncompromising." Jonathan Gibbs, The Guardian
"Lara Pawson's This Is the Place to Be is a start, compassionate and troubling text that summons a fragmentary autobiography, circling experiences from her growing up in England and her time as a reporter covering civil wars in Angola and Ivory Coast. She deals with big questions through an intimate mosaic of lived experiences - the blank, funny, awful, gentle shards that remain in memory years after events have taken place - returning her again and again to the themes of identity, violence, race, class, sexuality and the everyday lives of people across several continents.
The Simple form of the book belies a complex structure of association and contrast, point and counterpoint, in which the disconnected events of a life speak to and about each other across time and space, in illuminating ways. Reminiscent on a formal level to Edouard Leve's Autoportrait and the writing under constraint of Perec and the OuliPo group, Pawson's poetic recounting of facts also shares something of Kathy Acker and J. G. Ballard, in its attempt to write through both the extraordinary horror and extraordinary mundanity of trauma." - Tim Etchells.
s a life? Lara Pawson’s lucid, sudden and subtle memoir unpicks the spirals of memory, politics, violence, to trace the boundaries and crossing points of gender and race identity.’ Joanna Walsh
‘A crushingly honest memoir of war, war correspondence and personal mayhem … Her focus is direct, bleakly honest, and as a result full of hope.’ - M John Harrison