J.M. Ledgard is that rare writer who elevates hard reporting with unexpected language. Of the tallest building in the world, he observes that it is like a "glorious hypodermic needle". About ants, he muses, "As primitives we ate them, they were our crunch, and now they are lodged in our subconscious." As for exploring the depths of the sea, he suggests that unlike space travel, which "offers a sighted journey towards infinity", ocean descent involves "a blind journey towards finitude".
Based in Nairobi as The Economist's East Africa correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Intelligent Life magazine, with features about Africa's digital revolution (for which he recently won a Diageo Africa business reporting award), ants and E.O. Wilson, and the ocean's eerily remote floor, among others. Given his affection for the unique turn of phrase, It is perhaps unsurprising that he is also a novelist. "Submergence", his second novel, now out from Jonathan Cape, is a story about a British secret agent who is held hostage by jihadist fighters in Somalia; a woman who has become a leading researcher of ocean life; and their brief love affair, memorable and remote. This is a thrilling work, written with a literary, Sebaldian flair.
Here at More Intelligent Life we are fans of Ledgard and excited about his book. For a better sense of what "Submergence" is about, listen to this interview between Ledgard and Fiammetta Rocco, The Economist's books and arts editor: