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Diary of a Film

On sale

18th February 2021

Price: £9.99

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Selected: ebook / ISBN-13: 9780349700724

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‘Niven Govinden’s Diary of a Film, his sixth novel, is also his best yet. Smart, sexy and cinematic (in many senses), it is a love letter to Italy and to film’ Observer

‘Immersive . . . This is a wise and skilfully controlled novel that can be read in an afternoon, but which radiates in the mind for much longer’ Financial Times

‘A beautiful, poignant novel of love and longing’ Telegraph

An auteur, together with his lead actors, is at a prestigious European festival to premiere his latest film.

Alone one morning at a backstreet café, he strikes up a conversation with a local woman who takes him on a walk to uncover the city’s secrets, historic and personal. As the walk unwinds, a story of love and tragedy emerges, and he begins to see the chance meeting as fate. He is entranced, wholly clear in his mind: her story must surely form the basis for his next film.

This is a novel about cinema, flâneurs, and queer love – it is about the sometimes troubled, sometimes ecstatic creative process, and the toll it takes on its makers.

But it is also a novel about stories, and the ongoing question of who has the right to tell them.


Saskia Vogel
Diary of a Film is an achingly intimate novel--tender and wise like Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet through the lens of Luca Guadagnino. Govinden drops us into the fray of an Italian film festival only to reveal a secret garden of quiet and stolen moments with a director whose film is about to premiere. In hotel rooms, abandoned buildings, and in a whisper in front of the international press corps, joy blooms, ideas are born, liberties are taken. Trust holds it all afloat. A stunning meditation on the art of creation and the nature of the artist
Stephen Kelman, author of Pigeon English
Diary of a Film is about how art ravages and redeems. It is about the responsibility artists bear both for their art and the world that must contain it; about the imperative to create something substantial in a world that moves too quickly to capture beauty to one's satisfaction; it is about living an ideal, committing to a principle whatever the potential cost, leaping into love and trusting that it will hold you
Paul Mendez, author of Rainbow Milk
Vicariously I experienced again the freedom to travel and visit a European city just to catch an exhibition, go dancing or merely escape the mundane for a weekend. Diary of a Film is about seeing the familiar in new ways, finding friends wherever we are and coming to terms with the past being the past. Set amongst the gourmet surroundings of a Northern Italian film festival, it reads like an elegy for a just-gone era
Nikesh Shukla
A wonderful mediation on why we tell stories, and who gets to tell those stories - and the grief of your masterpiece belonging only to its audience once it's finished. Sentence by sentence, one of the most beautiful novels I've read all year
Keith Ridgeway
A meditation on film-making, art, grief and privacy. Constructed with the skill of a watchmaker, with a precise, consistent pitch of intensity
Max Porter
Precision engineered European modernism from a master stylist. It walks us into a luminous and loving conversational drama, rich with complex erotics and interwoven private agonies. He writes exquisitely about art making, about obsession and responsibility. It's a gorgeous novel
Andrew McMillan
Govinden has created a work of taut and enveloping beauty, which gets to the heart of what it is to live an artistic life caught in the never-present of the piece just made and the piece as yet uncreated
Preti Taneja
A serious, elegant and elegiac novel: an evocative tribute to the lost world of high cinematic glamour and a lament for the artists' struggle towards greatness. When the time comes again, this is the book I'll carry to read during days spent wandering around the grandeur of a city, moving from cafe to cafe, dreaming of the beautiful life
Okechukwu Nzelu
I truly fell in love with this book. It gifts the reader, offering complex human relationships, beautifully-written; I felt a genuine sadness when each scene ended. Reading Diary of a Film, I was powerfully reminded of the depth of the human heart, and of the work which proceeds from it
Sarah Hughes, i newspaper
Immensely talented
Alex Preston, Observer
Niven Govinden's Diary of a Film, his sixth novel, is also his best yet. Smart, sexy and cinematic (in many senses), it is a love letter to Italy and to film
One for literary fiction fans, Niven's prose is intoxicating
Financial Times
Immersive . . . This is a wise and skilfully controlled novel that can be read in an afternoon, but which radiates in the mind for much longer
The i
Govinden's prose flows with the smooth lilt of a moving camera . . . an outstanding, luxurious novel
The Skinny
Fall into its rhythms, and a few nights at a film festival will become an existential exploration of the creative process
Tim Robey, Telegraph
A beautiful, poignant novel of love and longing . . . This tale of a director beguilingly captures the agony of making a film - and letting the public see it
A sophisticated and sensitive book about storytelling and queer kinship
Elegant . . . In a strong, clear tone that's unfettered by hyperbole, Govinden allows us access to the narrator's mind as he muses on love, work and who should tell whose stories
Colin Grant, The Guardian
A beguiling exploration of artistic obsession
Literary Review
It is a book about the dysfunctions of grief and about what rights the artist has to take liberties with somebody else's story. Gorgeously written, Diary of a Film is a book quite ripe, fittingly, for film adaptation
Financial Times
Because this is a novel of introspection - the narrator ponders his relationship to his lead actors, themselves embarking on a relationship with one another, and his life's work - its tone is one of intimacy and shared confidences that draws the listener ever further inwards
Deborah Levy, New Statesman
What a pleasure it is to read this love letter to art and to human connection (fragile, powerful, transforming), at a time when we're masked and lonesome and can't kiss our own hand without washing it afterwards
Preti Taneja, New Statesman Book of the Year
Stole my heart . . . it captures a sense of the fragility and intimacy of human endeavour, but also the silence and resilience needed to survive as a woman, a man, as lovers and as artists in a market-driven world.
i News, Best Books of the Year
A passionate director goes to an Italian film festival for the premiere of his latest work. He meets a young woman. They share a cigarette, talk for hours about coffee and gentrification, before she takes him to see a painted mural in an empty apartment block. If Diary of a Film is filmic in spirit, it is not a straightforward paean to art. The book continually returns to the inadequacy of art at representing real life, which, as the narrator realises, "would continue to burn long after the life of the film". Govinden handles it all with great subtlety, posing probing questions but never letting dogma get in the way of what is an outstanding, luxurious novel
Paul Mendez
Niven Govinden's sixth novel is an unequivocal triumph; everything in his practice has come together . . . With great subtlety, Govinden helps us see we are on a journey of discovery ourselves, as to who owns stories, and who has the right to tell them.