Werner Herzog’s Visions

David Trotter

The only reason​ Werner Herzog hasn’t yet made a film about the Ancient Mariner may be that, having already inadvertently incorporated so many elements of the poem into his own work, he has become him. Herzog certainly shares Coleridge’s interest in the physical and spiritual toll taken by epic voyages into uncharted waters. There are several rafts as well as a phantom schooner...


When I Met the Pope

Patricia Lockwood

The invitation​ said ‘black dress for Ladies’. ‘You’re not allowed to be whiter than him,’ my husband, Jason, instructs. ‘He has to be the whitest. And you cannot wear a hat because that is his thing.’

We are discussing the pope, who has woken one morning, at the age of 86, with a sudden craving to meet artists. An event has been proposed: a...


Rescuing Lord Byron

Clare Bucknell

Byron​ knew just how good Don Juan was. Part way through the poem’s ninth canto, drafted in Pisa in the summer of 1822, he takes a break from a digression on Pyrrhonian scepticism to assess how things are going:

’Tis time we should proceed with our good poem,    For I maintain that it is really good,Not only in the body, but the...

Short Cuts

War Crimes

Conor Gearty

International law​ takes a special interest in war. Where there is an armed conflict or an occupation it is not enough to hope vaguely that human rights will be respected and for the UN or a special rapporteur to issue a cross report if they are not. War warrants a much fiercer international response, and in recognition of this, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002,...


‘You made me do it’

Jacqueline Rose

In response​ to the destruction of Gaza, it seems to be becoming almost impossible to lament more than one people at a time. When I signed Artists for Palestine’s statement last month, I looked for mention of the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli Jews on 7 October, and then decided to settle for the unambiguous condemnation of ‘every act of violence against...


Heliogabalus’ Appetites

Michael Kulikowski

When​ Gabriele D’Annunzio’s personal secretary likened his employer to Heliogabalus, that short-lived emperor was still a byword for florid decadence. He died at eighteen, but the Syrian boy’s appetites were monstrous from the start. He favoured every kind of sex that Romans deplored, cunnilingus most of all. He had himself shaved all over, like a eunuch, and chose his...

Delightfully Distracting

Delightfully Distracting

This Christmas, give them a gift that lasts all year


Rarities and Marvels

Helen Pfeifer

On one page,​ a bee, meticulously painted, down to the individual hairs; on another page, a diagram of planetary motion, glittering with gold leaf; on another, the soft-legged men of Zanzibar, who live in trees and propel themselves forwards by dropping onto the shoulders of passing travellers. These disparate images confront readers of one of the most successful natural histories of...


Hizbullah’s War

Zain Samir

On a warm afternoon​ in October, the streets of the southern Lebanese town of Aalma El Chaeb were deserted. The petrol station, the grocer, the bakeries and the church had all been shut down. In the middle of town, three grey herons sifted through weeks-old bags of rubbish, oblivious to the monotonous whine of an Israeli drone flying somewhere overhead. On a ridge opposite, outside the...


Resistance in Myanmar

Francis Wade

KZaWin seemed to know how his life would end. ‘Before the Revolution opened out,’ he wrote in ‘Skulls’, his final poem, ‘a bullet blew someone’s brains out.’ Eight days later, on 3 March 2021, security forces opened fire on a group of protesters in the city of Monywa, in central Myanmar. K Za Win was among them. A bullet hit him behind the ear....



Alex Harvey

Amit Chaudhuri​ visited Europe for the first time at the age of eleven. In 1973 the world felt steady; it had ‘a kind of wholeness to it’. The co-existence of capitalism and communism seemed permanent. Forty years later, visiting Berlin, he felt the need ‘to grasp fleetingly, what one had lost’. He had grown up in non-aligned India, which balanced democratic...


On N.K. Jemisin

Francis Gooding

MC​ Shan really shouldn’t have done it. By common consent, hip-hop didn’t start in Queens, it started in the Bronx. So when Shan, on his 1986 track ‘The Bridge’, put Queensbridge Houses at the centre of his potted history of rap without so much as mentioning the Bronx, there was going to be pushback. It duly arrived with ‘The Bridge Is Over’, from Boogie...


A National Evil

Jonah Goodman

Asfar as the archivist knew, the 48 box files locked in an attic above the Institute for the History of Medicine at the University of Bern had never been opened. They contained a mass of handwritten letters, glass-plate negatives, annotated offprints, minutes of meetings, and piles of press clippings almost too fragile to touch. Gothic newsprint hailed victory over a ‘national...


On the March

Georgie Newson

On​ 11 November, Armistice Day, some 800,000 people, a crowd larger than the population of Manchester, congregated in Central London to march in solidarity with Palestine. Measuring the exact size of demonstrations on this scale is difficult. In 2019, the Met said that it didn’t ‘have the expertise’ to make accurate calculations and would no longer release estimates. That...


Spurious Ghosts

Dinah Birch

‘Aren’t you tired​ of them? One hears nothing else nowadays.’ The peevish Mrs Snowdon, a character in Mary Louisa Molesworth’s ‘The Story of the Rippling Train’ (1887), is grumbling about the popularity of ghost stories. Nevertheless, she is gripped by the one that follows. Accounts of the supernatural proliferated in the 19th century, as the certainties...

From the archive

How to make a Greek god smile

Lorraine Daston

‘Wonder,’ Descartes wrote, ‘is a sudden surprise of the soul,’ reserved for what is rare and extraordinary. In his classification, it is the first of the passions, the only one unaccompanied by fluttering pulse or pounding heart. Disinterested but not indifferent, wonder is a cool passion that fixes on objects for what they are, instead of what they are for us. The wonder of wonder consists in the paradox of a cognitive passion: it has all the force of other passions like love or hate, but it helps rather than hinders reason. It is the passion aroused by anomalies, and the anomaly among the passions.‘

New Courses for 2024

Close Readings Plus, the LRB’s pioneering podcast subscription, is back in 2024, with new series on satire, revolutionary thought in the 20th century and truth and lies in the Ancient World. Subscribe now and spend a year in the company of leading LRB contributors and vital literary works.

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‘A Series of Headaches’ limited edition print

To mark the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, we have produced a limited edition LRB print, replicating as closely as possible the processes used in 1623, with varying degrees of success.

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