Separation by Symmetry

plan-of-bethlehem-hospital

Plans of the 1815 New Bethlem Hospital in Southwark included in the Richard Dadd exhibition at the Watts Gallery, Compton, show complete segregation between male and female inmates. The ground plan consisted of two identical halves, except for the outlying women’s criminal building, which was considerably smaller than the men’s. There could be no chance meetings between men and women in a secure home for the ‘criminally insane’. More »

Osbonomics

stalin2A new five-year plan is always a landmark event in the life of the people. The chancellor has acknowledged the deviationist errors of the past. He has re-educated himself since the 2012 budget which tried to VAT meat pies, a staple of the worker’s diet. He has learned how to do glottal stops so he can tell the people how it is in a language they understand. He is the economy’s friend. He knows that a friend to the economy is a friend to the worker, the powerhouse of the land. More »

Soft-Moving, Bright-Eyed Wild Thing

'Dancer' by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1913).

‘Dancer’ by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1913).

‘There are few things more difficult than to appraise the work of a man suddenly dead in his youth,’ Ezra Pound wrote in his book about Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, the sculptor killed in the trenches at 23 whose work Pound had tirelessly helped to promote. Gaudier was mercurial, and many found him difficult to fathom: one friend wrote that he was ‘more like a dagger in the midst of us’; another that ‘it would need but little to set him murdering instead of hugging me.’ He found a protector in Pound, who described him on first meeting as a ‘soft-moving bright-eyed wild thing’. More »

At Cemetery Junction

A still from 'Riding on Air' (1959).

A still from ‘Riding on Air’ (1959).

When Vittorio De Sica was looking for funding to make the film that became Bicycle Thieves, the story goes, David O. Selznick offered to put up the money on condition that the lead would be played by Cary Grant. Film historians tend to take this as an instance of Hollywood crassness, though maybe it should be classed as one of cinema’s lost opportunities. More »

At the French Institute

Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud came out in English translation last month. The plaudits in the UK and US have a rare ring of authenticity: Daoud’s book is a dazzling appropriation of L’Etranger, sceptical, impatient, yet full of admiration for a canonical little fiction. He is The Outsider’s nerdiest insider. He knows every line (and occasionally quotes or tweaks them in his ‘own’ novel): he has inhabited the text and argued with it for years. Edward Said published Culture and Imperialism in 1993, as the war between Algeria’s Islamists and the ancien régime – still in power today, after half a century – was getting under way. That’s over. But so is the age of postcolonial condescension, a confident, proscriptive age, which threw out Camus’s best work along with a lot of his high-minded anguish. Daoud has reopened the conversation about an interesting novel. More »

1-800-mossad

In a cafe in Ramallah recently, an interesting page in Arabic popped up on my computer while I was reading the news. ‘The chance of your life’, it said. There were scrolling photomontages of a man with an earpiece, an intelligence room, an aerial picture of a targeted assassination; wads of dollars; a handshake, between two piles of passports; a man wearing a hoodie, his face obscured, in a virtual tunnel of binary numbers. I carried on reading:

Do you have any information? We can help you!

[Call] 1-800-800-319 More »

Whose Borges?

In 2009, the Argentinian writer Pablo Katchadjian published a short book called El aleph engordado, which he made by adding 5600 words to Jorge Luis Borges’s 4000-word story ‘The Aleph’. A Quixotic enterprise, you might think, or at least a Menardian one, if not quite a Borgesian one. More »

Read Everywhere

This summer you can take out a year’s joint subscription to the LRB and the Paris Review for one low price. And if you take a picture of yourself (or a stand-in) reading one or other magazine (or both) and post it on social media with the hashtag #readeverywhere, you’ll have a chance to win an Astrohaus Freewrite smart typewriter, among other fabulous prizes. Last year’s winner was a pelican.

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Ten Days in Honduras

Ten days in Honduras: a TV reporter and a cameraman, a radio reporter, a trade union leader, the head of an indigenous community fighting forest destruction, two transsexual activists, two bodyguards of the director of the agrarian reform institute and a lawyer were all murdered. The daily political killings are rarely investigated. Even if they lead to arrests, there is a backlog of 93,000 criminal cases awaiting trial. More »

At Sotheby’s

Manet’s oil sketch for A Bar at the Folies-Bergère was auctioned last Wednesday night at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art summer sale. The large Salon painting has been at the Courtauld since 1934, but the privately owned sketch was last on sale 21 years ago, when it went for £4 million. This year, its value was estimated at between £15 and 20 million. It was sold in a few seconds for £15 million, plus £1.9 million in fees. (The overall total for the night was £178,590,000, twice as much as last summer’s sale.) Auctions have been described as ‘tournaments of value’ but there was no jousting; the sale was settled between the seller, the buyer and Sotheby’s before the bidding began, and the auctioneer brought down the hammer after just one bid. More »

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