Versions of Wittgenstein

A.W. Moore

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the only book he published during his lifetime, is one of the greatest philosophical works of the 20th century. It might have been expected, when it first appeared in 1921, to have limited appeal. It is very much the work of a philosophers’ philosopher, forbiddingly technical in places and esoteric throughout. Yet it has gone...


On Gaslighting

Sophie Lewis

In​ the TV drama Bad Sisters, set in Dublin, four sisters conspire to murder their brother-in-law John Paul, an abusive monster who is married to their beloved sister, Grace. The dynamics of the marriage are clear from the pilot. It’s Christmas Day and tradition has it that the siblings meet at Forty Foot – a swimming spot just south of Dublin – for a dip. But John Paul...


At the Republican National Convention

Andrew O’Hagan

There was​ lightning in the sky over Chicago, and I was waiting at the airport. An announcement echoed across the departure gate: there was going to be a delay. I hadn’t looked at the book in front of me in more than thirty years – Norman Mailer’s Miami and the Siege of Chicago, his two convention pieces from 1968 – and just as my phone began to buzz my eye landed on...


Anti-Fascists United

Gabriel Winant

In​ 1963, June Croll and Eugene Gordon took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Gordon was African American, raised in New Orleans; Croll was Jewish, born in Odessa at the beginning of the 20th century. Both fled their home cities as children to escape racial violence: Gordon, the Robert Charles riots of 1900, in which a mob of white Southerners murdered dozens after an...


Three Imperial Wars

Christienna Fryar

In the early​ 2000s, a trend emerged among historians of the British Empire. Many of them began to consider their own childhoods in mid-20th-century Britain and the extent to which the empire had featured in them. Catherine Hall opened Civilising Subjects (2002) by describing her Baptist upbringing in Leeds. Missionaries and African students often passed through the home: ‘The sense of...


Nato’s Delusions

Tom Stevenson

Natos cheerleaders like to call it the most successful multinational alliance in history. Part of that is down to its longevity. It turned 75 this year, and has now overtaken the Delian League between Greek city-states, formed in 478 BCE, which survived for 74 years. The Egyptian-Hittite ‘eternal treaty’ was in place for longer, though it included just two states, where...

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Sartorial Diplomacy

Nicola Jennings

Clothes​ have rarely mattered more than they did at the Spanish court in the 17th century. Portraits were already key to the game of sartorial diplomacy and one-upmanship. When the itinerant Charles V was struggling to establish his rule over the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, he sent the Spanish court Titian’s copy of his portrait, originally painted by Jakob Seisenegger, in...


On Monica Youn

Stephanie Burt

Monica Youn’s​ fourth book of poems, From From (Carcanet, £14.99), is her first to dwell at length on her Korean American background, and on the history of Asian America more generally. It’s also her first to rely primarily on long prose poems, or lyric essays, advancing sparely perspicuous, caustically disillusioned arguments about myth and history, cravings and reactions,...


Being Barbara Bodichon

Jonathan Parry

In​ 1863 extracts from the journal of the Hon. Impulsia Gushington were published under the title Lispings from Low Latitudes. Impulsia had joined the fad for Egyptian travel and enjoyed an English lady’s usual adventures with camels, pyramids and cunning Orientals. Finally, she fell for the charms of a French aristocrat, Monsieur de Rataplan, and a sequel was promised that would...

Short Cuts

Bonapartism, Gaullism, Macronism

David Todd

‘Citizens, you are dissolved.’ With those words General Joachim Murat dispersed the Council of Five Hundred in November 1799 and ended France’s first experiment with parliamentary democracy. The scene was the culmination of the 18 Brumaire coup, which enabled Napoleon Bonaparte to seize power. A British cartoon mocked ‘the Corsican crocodile dissolving the council of...


Two Appalachias

Oliver Whang

In​ 1917, the United States Coal and Coke Company established a mining camp named after the company president, Thomas Lynch, just north of the Cumberland Gap in eastern Kentucky, at the foot of Black Mountain, the highest peak in the state. By the start of the Second World War, more than ten thousand people were living in Lynch, and the mines, which employed four thousand, were among the...


Real Romans

Michael Kulikowski

The title​ of Michael Moorcock’s novel Byzantium Endures, published in 1981, captures with one verb the conventional picture of a whole civilisation. Byzantium’s antiquity and grandeur are timeless and static – Yeats’s ‘monuments of unaging intellect’. The future lies elsewhere, in the rise of a West from which Byzantium is excluded. As with most things...

At the Museum Ludwig

Roni Horn’s Conceptualism

Brian Dillon

EnteringGive Me Paradox or Give Me Death, Roni Horn’s retrospective at Museum Ludwig in Cologne (until 11 August), you’re flanked by 96 photographs of her niece Georgia. The two grids of 48 seem to match until you’ve swivelled back and forth a few times and started noting certain fine disparities. Georgia’s grin slips, her head tilts, she peers at us through...


Neel Mukherjee’s Pessimism

Adam Mars-Jones

Promoting​ literary fiction can seem like a mug’s game at the best of times, with all those writers perpetually at the peak of their powers, but there’s a special reason for the whistling-in-the-dark tone of the cover copy for Neel Mukherjee’s fourth novel, Choice – ‘breathtaking and devastating’ it says, as a placeholder, on the proof, though the...

From the archive

Bad Times for Biden

Christian Lorentzen

The debate​ last month between Biden and Trump was painful to watch because it reminded us that someday we’ll all die. In retrospect Biden’s advanced age was a political asset in 2020. By contrast with the sneering and erratic Trump, given to mocking the disabled and insulting anyone unlucky enough to be in his vicinity, here was a kindly and familiar old man who had suffered...

Close Readings 2024

In our pioneering podcast subscription, contributors explore different areas of literature through a selection of key works. This year it’s revolutionary thought of the 20th century, truth and lies in the ancient world, and satire.

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Partner Events, Summer 2024

Check back for seasonal announcements, including centenary events for Kafka and James Baldwin, screenings at the Garden Cinema and more. 

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