Getting away with it

John Lanchester

Of the very, very many things that make fans cross, nothing makes them crosser than penalties and sendings-off induced by simulation. We all know what it looks like: the faintest contact with a defender sending the grizzled pro to writhe in agony on the pitch, one eye on the referee, the other on next year’s Oscars. There was a beautiful example in Italy’s quarter-final match against Belgium, when the inappropriately named Immobile collapsed with an apparently career-ending injury after being breathed on by a defender, only to bounce sheepishly back to his feet and trot off to join the celebrations when Italy scored ten seconds later. The generic fan term for this kind of behaviour – which includes elaborate delaying tactics, shirt-pulling, winding up opponents and so on – is ‘shithousery’. Fouls are against the rules but within the ethos of football. They’re just a fact of the game and all players foul, some better – more intelligently and tactically – than others. Simulation and shithousery are against the rules but the question of whether they are within the ethos of the game is more complicated.


ACT UP grows up

Adam Mars-Jones

At first glance​ the title of Sarah Schulman’s remarkable history of the Aids pressure group ACT UP in New York has a cool authority at odds with the turbulent energy of the group itself, although justified by the meticulousness of her scholarship. Let the Record Show was also the title of a 1987 agitprop artwork devised by a collective that later called itself Gran Fury, and...


What if she’s a witch?

Clare Bucknell

To Hans Kepler, the Imperial Mathematician, trying to defend his mother by taking an analytical view of the situation, Leonberg is like a depressing morality play; its population a typical collection of sinners. ‘This one had always been envious; that one had always been willing to lie for personal gain. This one had denied his mother Communion. That one was known to be violent.’


Spinsters and Clerics

Alison Light

In the summer​ of 1934, after finishing her English degree at Oxford, Barbara Pym drafted a comic novel. Sending up her closest friends, she cast the arrogant fellow graduate she was in love with as a self-centred cleric, Archdeacon Hoccleve, given to complaining loudly about his wife and numbing his congregation with abstruse sermons. Pym and her sister, Hilary, became Belinda and Harriet...


On Paul Celan

Michael Wood

Paul Celan​ was born in 1920 and died in 1970. The symmetry of these dates, arranged around the end of the Second World War, seems cruelly freighted, as does the fact that Celan chose to end his life on Hitler’s birthday. Celan – he gave himself the name by inverting the order of the syllables of his original surname, Antschel – grew up in Czernowitz, then part of Romania,...

Away with Words

Away with Words

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In Baltimore

Gary Younge

When​ Black Lives Matter demonstrations erupted across the United States and then the world last year, their target was not Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd. Floyd’s murder resonated so widely because Chauvin’s brutality signified something deeper and more pervasive. The video footage of Floyd’s death offered evidence of both an...



Nicholas Penny

In​ her new book, Rosemary Hill characterises the achievements of more than thirty antiquaries of the late 18th and early 19th century whose records of mysterious inscriptions, stone circles, monastic chronicles and ruined abbeys, and whose collections of rusty weaponry, stained glass and old ballads, provided new ways by which the past could be recovered – and also, of course,...


The Mani Olive Harvest

Patrick Leigh Fermor

‘Where are you off to? Sit down.’ One of the two cheerful old men, who were smoking crosslegged under the branches, patted the ground beside him. Silvery vistas of gnarled and half-hollow olive trees opened fanwise all round them and there was a cicada grinding and scraping on every branch. A donkey under a wooden saddle grazed a little way off, trailing his long rope through the...

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