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ISBN 978-1-909585-21-8
First published September 2016; 136 pp; paperback with flaps; 198 x 129 mm
Click here to read a pdf excerpt.
Lara Pawson lives in east London. Her previous book is In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgetten Massacre (IB Tauris, 2014).
Lara Pawson  This Is the Place to Be


Shortlisted for the 2017 PEN Ackerley Prize
Shortlisted for the 2017 Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing
Shortlisted for the 2017 Gordon Burn Prize
Chosen as a New Statesman Book of the Year 2016

‘It is elegant, profound, candid, affecting and funny. Taxonomically speaking, though, I have no idea what it is.’
    – Houman Barekat, Times Literary Supplement

‘Brilliant and uncompromising.’
    – Jonathan Gibbs, The Guardian

‘It’s so compulsive I couldn’t stop reading it, loving almost every line. It’s an act of generosity …  I cannot recommend it more highly. It’s just wonderful.’
    – Neil Griffiths

‘What makes 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

‘Just finished Lara Pawson’s This Is The Place To Be, wanting it to go on & on. But it didn’t so I have to start it again. More please.’
    – Adrian Searle

‘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

This Is the Place To Be is principally a moving meditation on whether [the author] can trust her sense of belonging at the time or her sadness afterwards and on whether the violence of war can be separated from a strain of violence that seems more endemic to human life.’
    – Lara Feigel, Times Literary Supplement

‘A small literary grenade.’
    – Penny Schenk, blogger

‘Lara Pawson’s This Is the Place to Be is a stark, 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 of Edouard Levé’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 the extraordinary mundanity of trauma.’
    – Tim Etchells

‘Distinctly original.’
    – Cristina Rios, Peace News

‘This is an explosive book encapsulating the kind of innovation that is characteristic of the contemporary small press scene. Despite her assertion that “I don’t feel brave, I feel angry”, Pawson demonstrates a courageous lack of self-censure and an unflinching desire to reveal all, resulting in an intensely powerful and compelling read.’
    – Becky Danks, Contemporary Small Press

‘Reflecting on her time covering the Angolan Civil War, [Pawson] writes: “It was an incredibly intense experience, one that influenced me radically. For a long time, I tried to work out how I could retrieve it. I wanted a repeat, like that absurd sensation you get when you first take certain class-A drugs.” We might expect English diffidence to kick in at this point; this is the sort of admission that normally takes the form of a fleeting disclosure, duly followed by a vague sense of shame and a swift changing of the subject. But the theme resurfaces again and again in the many disparate fragments that comprise this small but powerful book …
    ‘The personal anecdotes and childhood vignettes that are interspersed among the wartime reminiscences occur in such locales as Sheen and Weybridge – middle-class suburban towns in the South East of England. The juxtaposition is jarring, the distance impossible to bridge. Pawson bemoans the suffocating compromises of professional journalism, the necessity of reducing everything to a hackneyed sound bite and the impossibility of transcending the limits of the format. She writes, for example, of her frustration at not finding a way to convey anything about the nature of the Angolan sense of humor in her dispatches from Luanda: “Today I don’t believe that objectivity is a useful goal. It’s false and it’s a lie and it doesn’t help people to mentally engage in events.”

   ‘For all its personal candor, the spare laconicism of Pawson’s prose – even when recalling harrowing acts of violence – militates against any sense of intrusiveness or therapeutic excess. The result is a sense of intimacy lightly worn; we are told a lot, but it doesn’t feel like a lot. This is particularly important to an English readership, for we are delicate in the face of earnestness and cannot handle too much of it. Give it to us by stealth, though, and we will gladly have it.’

      – Houman Barekat, Los Angeles Review of Books

‘This original and challenging book is poetic in its structure and layering of ideas. Pawson challenges herself, our notion of the truth, history and memory, as she blends fragmented episodes of personal memoir with her time as a journalist, most notably as a war reporter in Angola.’
    – Bernardine Evaristo

‘Pawson leaps with poetic ease from life’s more mundane episodes to the harrowing, exposing the power of each detail and its residual effects on the psyche.’
    – full interview with Rebekah Weikel at 3:AM

‘In our conversations it has seemed to me that one of your impulses in the writing was effectively to humanise war – to deal in some way with its ordinariness and its banality, or to stress the persistence of the everyday (boredom, trivia, laughter, sexual desire) even in the fearful environment of war.’
    – full interview with Tim Etchells

‘I’m interested in the overlap between war and peace.’
    – full interview with Rhys Tranter



An earlier, shorter version of This Is the Place to Be was commissioned as a sound installation for the 2014 London International Festival of Theatre programme After a War. It was directed by Tim Etchells and performed by Cathy Naden.

Praise for Lara Pawson’s In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre (IB Tauris, 2014):


Longlisted for the Orwell Prize, shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing and the Political Book Awards Debut Book of the Year, and nominated for the Royal Africa Society Book of the Year.


‘a bomb of a book’ – Claire Armitstead, Guardian

‘unflagging intelligence, fearlessness and compassion’ – Teju Cole

‘A brilliant piece of sleuthing . . . I greatly admire this book’  – Paul Theroux

‘engrossing and disturbing’ – Cassie Werber, Wall Street Journal