Simone Weil’s Way

Toril Moi

Faced with communism, fascism, war, invasion and concentration camps, Weil’s extremism – her asceticism, her saintliness, her thought – was a response to extreme times. If she strikes me as more relevant than ever, it may be because we are beginning to realise that we too live in extreme times. What sacrifices and what heroism will the climate crisis demand of us?

 

Inspecting the Troops

Tom Stevenson

It is one thing to station military forces around the world to maintain your empire, but quite another to do so for someone else’s. It’s not a new observation that those in power in Britain have become more culturally militarist as the UK has been shorn of actual global military influence. It’s harder to explain the persistence of imperial lackeydom after Iraq. Part of the reason is a refusal, in most parts of society, to confront the reality of the post-9/11 wars. An aphakic view of the British military’s role in the world persists. The UK remains a country in which the phrase ‘east of Suez’ is used without irony. A country that claims having soldiers in 46 countries is necessary to keep its citizens safe. A country where professing a willingness to use nuclear weapons is considered a precondition for political office. A country that passes legislation to protect itself from prosecution for torture and war crimes (the new Overseas Operations Bill was criticised by the UN special rapporteur on torture as ‘one of the most corrupt ideas the UK has come up with in modern times’). 

 

What did Ethel know?

Deborah Friedell

No one​ thought that Ethel Rosenberg would be executed. At the time of her trial in 1951, no federal judge had sentenced a woman to death in nearly a hundred years. She hadn’t been accused of murder or of being an accomplice to a murder or of conspiracy to commit a murder. These, it seems, were the only crimes for which the American government might kill a woman. Female traitors during...

 

Kagame after Karegeya

Adewale Maja-Pearce

Kagame has successfully deflected criticism, partly thanks to Western guilt over the genocide (a recent report commissioned by Macron said that France bears an ‘overwhelming responsibility’) and partly by implying that criticism is a vestige of colonial condescension. But Western opinion may be starting to turn against him, at least if Michela Wrong’s book – and the favourable reception it has received – is anything to go by. And Kagame’s standing isn’t helped by his economic record. The supposed miracle he has worked over the last twenty years has turned out to be a sham. Officially, the Rwandan economy has been growing at a rate of 7 per cent a year, but according to an anonymous statistician in the Review of African Political Economy only South Sudan has experienced ‘a faster increase in poverty’. Two-thirds of the population now lives below the poverty line, an increase of 15 per cent in a decade. Wrong’s book is a record of exhaustive research into ‘a small, tight-knit elite ... whose vaunting Shakespearean ambitions happened to shape the destiny of Africa’s Great Lakes region’. But we barely glimpse the huge numbers of Rwandans swept up in the tumult as one conflict succeeds another.

 

Poe on the Moon

Mike Jay

On​ 25 August 1835, the New York Sun ran a sensational scoop: the ‘Great Astronomical Discoveries, Lately Made by Sir John Herschel, L.L.D., F.R.S., &c, at the Cape of Good Hope’. Herschel – former president of the Royal Astronomical Society and son of William Herschel, the discoverer of Uranus – had sailed from Britain to South Africa two years before with a...

Travels for the Mind

Travels for the Mind

Read the world's best writing - from some of the world's best writers. Subscribe to the LRB today for just £1 an issue.

 

David Storey in the Dark

Andrew O’Hagan

It’soften the minor characters in British literature who appear as workers, usually larger than life, like music hall artistes. Dickens, of course, could see the public entertainer in just about anybody, but he was unusual in making people expressive of their jobs, and his novels display a panorama of the gainfully employed. In his fiction, there are twelve merchants and twelve...

 

Sweat or Inky Fingers?

Erin Maglaque

According​ to Jeremias Drexel, who published a guide to notetaking in 1641, reading well was as effortful as goldmining – and potentially as enriching. His book, the Aurifodina, was illustrated with a frontispiece showing two kinds of work. On the left, miners raise picks high over their heads, chipping gold from the rock. On the right, a scholar bends over his desk, carefully...

 

Compañeras

Lucy Delap

On​ 21 January 2017, five million people gathered in more than six hundred locations around the world to demand an end to impunity for harassers and abusers of women. The Women’s March was a response to Donald Trump’s comment about grabbing women ‘by the pussy’, but the protests weren’t confined by their Trumpian origins. Women marched in Bangalore as part of...

Subject/Object: The Birds

A new, biannual series of short festivals from the London Review Bookshop, loosely tracing a theme through the archive of the London Review of Books with a week of books and arts events. The first theme is birds, and on this occasion all eight events will be online.

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LRB Selections 2. Penelope Fitzgerald

Featuring pieces for the LRB on subjects including Stevie Smith, Alain-Fournier, Adrian Mole, girls’ schools, Wild Swans, wartime London and Anne Enright, half of which haven’t been anthologised before, by the Booker Prize-winning author of Offshore and The Blue Flower.

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Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

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