LRB Cover
Volume 41 Number 12
20 June 2019

LRB blog 14 June 2019

Matthew Porges
In Bir Moghrein

13 June 2019

Liam Shaw
The First Flying Bomb

12 June 2019

Asmaa Waguih
In Khartoum


6 September 2001

Rory Stewart
Walking across Iran

30 September 1999

Christopher Hitchens
Diana Mosley

19 March 1987

Richard Wollheim

In the next issue, which will be dated 4 July, James Wood on his Eton education.

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Tom Stevenson

How to Run a Caliphate

The horrors of IS rule are well known: the killings of Shia; the choice offered to the Christians of Mosul (conversion, ruinous taxation or expulsion); the slaughter of polytheists; the revival of slavery; the massacre of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. Less well known are the thousands of mundane regulations instituted by the caliphal bureaucracy. The claim to be a state, not just another band of zealous militiamen, was central to what IS stood for. In support of its statehood it operated marriage offices, a telecommunications agency, a department of minerals and a central birth registry. Its department of alms and social solidarity redistributed wealth to the poor. Its department of health brought in sanitation regulations that stipulated more frequent bin collections than in New York. More

Ian Penman


One evening recently I was in the local supermarket, which always has a surprisingly tasteful collection of old pop and soul hits on its playlist. ‘Raspberry Beret’ came on and I just couldn’t help it: I was instantly transported, singing along and showing out, right there in Aisle 3. It still sounded so good: those unexpected violins, the slightly ‘off’ backing vocals (a white girl sound, reversing the usual formula where a so-so white male lead is vamped by phenomenally good black female singers), the down-home cornbread of the song’s narrative queered by tiny splinters of subtext that black listeners would immediately flash on (Prince’s store-owning boss ‘didn’t like my kind/cuz I was way too leisurely …’). Was there really ever such a phantasmagorically odd pop hit as this, or was it all just a dream? More

Lili Owen Rowlands

Daddy Lacan

In Sibylle’s recollection, their father – she refers to him simply as ‘Lacan’ – would appear in his overcoat, a ‘silhouette in the doorway’, at the family apartment on rue Jadin, where he would come to lunch once a week with Sibylle and Thibaut – ‘the little ones’ – along with their big sister, Caroline, and their mother, Marie-Louise, known as ‘Malou’. He took the children on holiday to Brittany, Saint-Tropez, Italy and to his country house at Guitrancourt; he bought them ‘superb’ birthday presents, even if he probably didn’t choose them himself. ‘We knew we had a father but apparently a father was something that wasn’t there,’ she writes. More

David Runciman

The Myth of the Strong Leader

Wanting to be Margaret Thatcher is tempting some prime ministerial hopefuls to flirt with being Donald Trump. Trying to be Trump is likely to mean that they end up as Theresa May: full of purpose, empty of product. Maybe there are some out there with a surer understanding of what made Thatcher’s successes possible in the first place. It was a mix of astonishing luck, political pragmatism and an eye for the path of least resistance, all dressed up as implacable resolve. Thatcher was also a stickler for the rules, sensing that they were her best protection against the devious men who were determined to thwart her if they got the chance. More

Short Cuts
Kathleen Jamie

At the Biennale
Daisy Hildyard


AUDIO Heaney Overheard

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Perry and Mark Ford discuss the work of the Nobel laureate. Listen  »

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AUDIO This place is pryson

Mary Wellesley

Mary Wellesley enters an anchorite’s cell. Listen  »

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