Rilke, To Me

Michael Hofmann

One​ doesn’t think of Rainer Maria Rilke writing poems on subjects that might otherwise appear in newspapers and books of social history – on anything like emigration or poverty or unemployment. Even by the standard of unworldly poets, he is like one of those cabinet ministers who doesn’t know the price of milk. To some extent, this is a misapprehension. An early book of...

From the blog

In Beirut

Loubna El Amine

21 January 2021

Structural conditions – the protections afforded by kin groups, the weakness of state institutions, the state’s being shored up by the international community – make it reasonable to wish for a secular state but to turn to one’s sectarian group for protection, to believe in the law but circumvent it as necessary, to long for change but reject all existing alternatives to the status quo.

 

The Masks of Doom

Niela Orr

Paul Laurence Dunbar​’s poem ‘We Wear the Mask’ was published in 1895.

We wear the mask that grins and lies,It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, –This debt we pay to human guile;With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,In counting all our tears and sighs?Nay, let them only see us, while   ...

 

The Limits of Caste

Hazel V. Carby

The racial imaginaries rooted in colonisation are not only historical but geopolitical in character. After the Abolition Act of 1833, the British repurposed slave ships to transport more than a million indentured labourers from India to work on plantations in their colonies around the globe, resulting in the complex entanglements of caste and race in British Guiana, Jamaica and Trinidad. Isabel Wilkerson sees caste as both cause and symptom of a Manichean division between black and white in the early days of North American colonisation, but this division tells us little about the effects of gender and class, and can’t account for indigeneity. If we broaden our understanding to include the history of racial geographies across the Americas, rather than uncritically accepting national boundaries established long after the European invasions, encounters with indigenous inhabitants become central to any attempt at making sense of the classification and division of humanity.

At the British Museum

Tantra

James Butler

It began​ with the beheading of a god. In a dispute over theological primacy, Brahma – traditionally identified as the creator – insulted Shiva. The offended deity poured all his anger into the creation of a new god, Bhairava, who emerged wreathed in fire and shining like the god of death. He tore off one of Brahma’s heads, which immediately attached itself to his hand in...

 

Reading Bones

Gavin Francis

IanHamilton once recounted in the LRB (22 October 1992) that ‘when William F. Buckley Jr sent a copy of his essays to Norman Mailer, he pencilled a welcoming “Hi, Norman!” in the index, next to Mailer’s name.’ The index discloses a lot about the nature of a book, and the passions of its author, more than is sometimes realised (‘acknowledgments’ are...

 

Surely, Shirley

J. Robert Lennon

About a third​ of the way into Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death in Her Hands, the protagonist, Vesta Gul, walks into a library, fires up a web browser and clicks on a page entitled TOP TIPS FOR MYSTERY WRITERS. The rules she scrolls past – ‘create a three-dimensional world’, offer ‘a clear and convincing motive’, ‘try to surprise the reader at the end, but...

 

News from No One

Jane Miller

I’ve​ had several official letters recently (including two in one week) telling me to look out because I’m a ‘clinically extremely vulnerable person’. They’re signed by ‘Matt’, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Another government minister, Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, signs them too,...

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