Anglo-America Loses its Grip

Pankaj Mishra

Neither Britain nor America seems capable of dealing with the critical challenges to collective security and welfare thrown up by the coronavirus. No less crushing is the exposure, as Rhodes finally falls, of the fact that the power and prestige of Anglo-America originated in grotesque atrocities and, as William James wrote in 1897, that ‘a land of freedom, boastfully so called, with human slavery enthroned at the heart of it’ was always ‘a thing of falsehood and horrible self-contradiction’. The moralising history of the modern world written by its early winners – the many Plato-to-Nato accounts of the global flowering of democracy, liberal capitalism and human rights – has long been in need of drastic revision. At the very least, it must incorporate the experiences of late-developing nations: their fraught and often tragic quests for meaningful sovereignty, their contemptuously thwarted ideas for an egalitarian world order, and the redemptive visions of social movements, from the Greens in Germany to Dalits in India.

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Insane after coronavirus?

Patricia Lockwood

My story​ will be that John Harvard gave it to me. ‘Who’s that?’ I asked, pointing at a bronze bust in the reading room where I had arrived to give my lecture, and was told that it was the university’s founder, John Harvard. ‘Damn,’ I said. ‘It never even occurred to me that Harvard was a guy.’ It was the night of 3 March, and travelling...


The Murdrous Machiavel

Erin Maglaque

‘Surely it is a great wonder’, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote to his friend Francesco Vettori in 1514, ‘to contemplate how blind human beings are in matters that involve their own sins.’ But it isn’t really very strange. Few of us have the strength to face our flaws. Machiavelli knew that he was the real wonder: a connoisseur of depravity; an atheist who...

Short Cuts

John Bolton’s Unwitting Usefulness

Mattathias Schwartz

One​ of the enduring mysteries of the relationship between Donald Trump and John Bolton, his third national security adviser, is how the two men ever came to terms in the first place. Bolton, an unreconstructed Cold Warrior, once canvassed for the arch-conservative Barry Goldwater and interned in the Nixon White House. He made his career talking up threats from Iran, North Korea and...

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An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett

Later on I went over to see Louisa. She still smokes so we adjourned to the end of the garden, and I said how nice Michael was being. She said, ‘They are at that age. Just before they take off. Ricky’s the same. I can’t look at him sometimes, I fancy him that much.’ And she laughs, as if this is the most normal thing in the world. I said, ‘Does he know?’ ‘That I fancy him? Course. I tell him. I tell him all the time.’ ‘And doesn’t he mind?’ She said, ‘No. It was him that said it, he caught me looking at him out of the bath and he said, “You fancy me, don’t you?” I said, “Don’t flatter yourself.” ‘But he was suited, you could see.’ ‘Michael wouldn’t be,’ I said. ‘Though he tells me everything.’ ‘No, he doesn’t, love. They never do.’ Coming away, I wish I hadn’t said anything. She makes it seem so dirty. I could never tell him. Only I have to tell somebody.

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Smells of Hell

Keith Thomas

Ionceasked the great historian Richard Southern whether he would like to have met any of the medieval saints and churchmen about whom he wrote so eloquently. He gave a cautious reply: ‘I think they probably had very bad breath.’ He may have been right about that, but it would be wrong to infer that this was something which didn’t bother them. The men and women of the...

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The Soho Alphabet

Andrew O’Hagan

Ifirstwalked along Brewer Street when I was 13. I was looking for a shop that sold film posters. It’s a long story, a four-hanky number, and it started in Glasgow the previous summer when I bumped into a busload of visiting Californians. I’d got talking to a woman who told me her friend had once been Marilyn Monroe’s nurse – I’m not making this up – and...


Victor Serge’s Defective Bolshevism

Tariq Ali

MexicoCity, 6 July 1946. Victor Serge had a year to live. He had spent the morning, as he sometimes did, with Trotsky’s widow, Natalia Sedova. They had been writing a joint memoir of Trotsky; in it Natalia recalls her husband pacing up and down in his study at Coyoacán, engaged in heated imaginary conversation with old dead Bolsheviks, arguing about Stalin, and how and why they...

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Talking Politics: History of Ideas

After each episode of the new Talking Politics podcast, brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, continue your exploration of the history of ideas in our unrivalled archive of essays and reviews, films and podcasts.

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LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

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Good news from Bury Place!

We are delighted to announce that the London Review Bookshop has reopened its doors! For further details of how socially distanced browsing will work, visit the bookshop website. You can phone them on 020 7269 9030 to place a pre-paid order for collection, and they are once again talking orders via email or phone for international mail order. You can also order from a selection of booksellers’ favourites and lockdown picks online, via the London Review Book Box website. The Cake Shop is also back, for takeaway only, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Stay tuned for news of upcoming digital events, and we hope to see you very soon. Thank you for your support.

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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