Redux: Marks of Feathers



Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.

Chinua Achebe.

This week at The Paris Review, we’re scribbling, scratching, and reading about manuscripts and notes. Read on for Chinua Achebe’s Art of Fiction interview, Umberto Eco’s short story “The Bible,” and selections from Elizabeth Bishop’s notebooks.

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Chinua Achebe, The Art of Fiction No. 139
Issue no. 133 (Winter 1994)


I once heard your English publisher, Alan Hill, talk about how you sent the manuscript of Things Fall Apart to him.


That was a long story. The first part of it was how the manuscript was nearly lost. In 1957 I was given a scholarship to go to London and study for some months at the BBC. I had a draft of Things Fall Apart with me, so I took it along to finish it. When I got to the BBC, one of my friends—there were two of us from Nigeria—said, Why don’t you show this to Mr. Phelps? Gilbert Phelps, one of the instructors of the BBC school, was a novelist. I said, What? No! This went on for some time. Eventually I was pushed to do it and I took the manuscript and handed it to Mr. Phelps. He said, Well . . . all right, the way I would today if anyone brought me a manuscript. He was not really enthusiastic. Why should he be? He took it anyway, very politely. He was the first person, outside of myself, to say, I think this is interesting. In fact, he felt so strongly that one Saturday he was compelled to look for me and tell me. I had traveled out of London; he found out where I was, phoned the hotel, and asked me to call him back. When I was given this message, I was completely floored.


Photo: JLPC / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.


The Bible
By Umberto Eco
Issue no. 126 (Spring 1993)

I must say that the first few hundred pages of this manuscript really hooked me. Action packed, they have everything today’s reader wants in a good story. Sex (lots of it, including adultery, sodomy, incest), also murder, war, massacres, and so on.


Photo: Sembazuru / CC BY-SA (


By Elizabeth Bishop
Issue no. 174, Summer 2005

Hannah A.

Of former birds who rested
on ice-floes, who resisted
dragons, who nested
by the streams of lava
where they lived alone,
where marks of feathers can
be seen upon the stone
or in the crumbling tufa,

which although weathered
still is deeply feathered
where the dry claws slithered
[on the ……………………….scales]
of those who wore fur then,
or the inelegant pin—
feathers that marred the skin,
or dressed in scales …


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