Outside the National Gallery

Rembrandt: The Late Works will open at the National Gallery on 15 October. It has been described as the first major show focused on the artist’s later years. The curators say it will ‘illuminate his versatile mastery by dividing paintings, drawings and prints thematically in order to examine the ideas that preoccupied him’. The gallery’s workforce meanwhile are preoccupied by plans to outsource security and visitor services to a private company. More »

In Carthage

Earlier this month a double celebration took place at Carthage, once the greatest city in the Mediterranean, destroyed by the Romans at the end of the Punic Wars and now a seaside suburb of Tunis. The anniversary of Hannibal’s defeat of the Roman army at Cannae in southern Italy on 2 August 216 BCE could be commemorated on the same day (2/8) as the beginning of the 2828th year since the foundation of the city by the Tyrian princess Dido in 814 BCE. Scholarly talks on Carthage and its heroes were followed by a carnival, including a parade from the acropolis to the amphitheatre with Carthaginian and Roman soldiers.

The Tunisian embrace of Dido, Hannibal and their city might seem surprising. The Phoenician colony of Carthage was as much a foreign power in North Africa as Rome was, even if Dido is supposed to have won over the local population with trickery rather than war: promising to live on no more land than she could cover with ox-hide, she cut the animal skin into such thin strips it could encircle the entire hill on which she then built her city. But its earliest known invader has helped to define the nation of Tunisia since independence from France in 1956. More »

The Responsible Face of Stonerdom

A couple of years ago I went to the 25th annual Cannabis World Cup in Amsterdam. The cup, organised by High Times magazine, part trade-show and part awards ceremony, has been held in Amsterdam since 1987. In a large dank hanger in an old shipyard in the east of the city, hundreds of young men gathered under a thick fug of smoke. They discussed marijuana cultivation and argued about the terroir of their favourite strains of hashish. There were ‘cooking with weed’ demonstrations and lectures on the history of cannabis. Stands sold seeds and smoking paraphernalia. One man was pushing his stealth smoking pipes disguised as asthma inhalers. More »

Boris Johnson’s Great and Glorious Future

The mayor of London riding sidecar to the Polish foreign minister

The mayor of London riding sidecar to the Polish foreign minister

The text of Boris Johnson’s speech at Bloomberg headquarters on Wednesday has the following helpful subheadings: ‘The European Nightmare’, ‘The Solution – Reform and Referendum’, ‘But Be Prepared for a New Future’, ‘The Dream’. The first part of the speech is devoted to the nightmare of EU health and safety regulations (truck drivers must not drive for more than nine hours a day etc), but Britain could have ‘a great and glorious’ future if it leaves the EU. London is already ‘the America of the European Union’ (because it’s a place of ‘massive opportunity’, not because it’s one of the most unequal cities on earth). More »

Gallows Humour

Stupidity knows no bounds, especially when fuelled by narcissism and a tongue laced with demagogy. There is no other way to describe George Galloway’s absurd and offensive suggestion that Bradford should impose a total ban on Israeli tourists. Statistically it would be interesting to see how many tourists from any country visit Bradford (even after Galloway’s election as the Respect MP, an election that some of us welcomed at the time). More »

Read Everywhere

Now that you’ve taken out a joint subscription to the LRB and Paris Review (you haven’t? click here), you can enter a photo competition to win a heap of fabulous prizes. Full details on the Paris Review blog.

Humanitarian Missions

Will Vladimir Putin order direct military intervention in Ukraine? Russia already enables a free flow of Russian volunteers and mercenaries to fight against government forces in eastern Ukraine. It is supplying the rebels with weapons, vehicles and ammunition. It is shelling and rocketing Ukrainian territory daily, and promotes the portrayal of the Kiev government as cruel, illegitimate fascists in Russian-language media. The key leaders of the rebels, like Igor Strelkov, Alexander Borodai, Igor Bezler, Nikolai Kozitsyn and Vladimir Antyufeyev, are Russian citizens or Russian nationalists from ex-Soviet territories under Russian control. More »

At the Islamic University in Gaza

We pulled up to the shining blue facade of the main hall of the Islamic University in Gaza in the summer of 2012. The Palestine Festival of Literature was running a seminar and an afternoon of workshops with students from the Arabic and English departments. Jamal Mahjoub, Selma Dabbagh and Amr Ezzat spoke to a packed auditorium of around 200 students, mostly young women, all veiled. The university enforces a dress code. Someone smiled at me from the crowd and it was a full three seconds before I recognised my friend and colleague Rana. She is not normally veiled. But this is the university with the best facilities. More »

Salmond v. Darling

At eight o’clock yesterday evening, Alan Titchmarsh: Love Your Garden aired on ITV in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scottish TV broadcast a two-hour live debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow. Billed as an evening that would decide the future of the United Kingdom, the first televised debate ahead of next month’s independence referendum was available only to viewers in Scotland. (The STV live stream, accessible throughout the union, reportedly crashed early on.) More »

In Paraty

Paraty, midway between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, was a place of periodic trade booms in the colonial era, variously dominating Brazil’s gold-mining industry, cachaça distilling and (briefly) coffee exports. Since 2002, it has hosted Flip, the Paraty International Literary Festival, modelled on Hay-on-Wye. Once reliant on exports, the city now depends on the import of culture. More »

Advertisement Advertisement