Against the Origin Story

Hazel V. Carby

History​ is written by the victors, but diligent and continual silencing is required to maintain its claims on the present and future. It is a mistake to believe that white supremacy is something nurtured and reproduced by extremist organisations and ‘bad apples’ in the armed forces and police. White supremacy is ubiquitous in the US. It operates in the most mundane aspects of daily life; in the economic order that decides who has what and how they get it; in the historical amnesia that makes some stories disappear; in the language we use to speak and name the past. Central here is the uncritical regurgitation of the mythologies of European settlement, the origin stories of the nation that are institutionalised at all levels of local, state and federal history and cultural memory. In Exterminate All the Brutes, Raoul Peck discusses his own refusal to affect the pose of the ‘restrained, moderate, balanced, judicious and neutral’ filmmaker. I too have broken with the conventions of intellectual neutrality in my work.


On the case for civil war

James Meek

Though​ Barbara Walter frames her book as a warning to America, her staccato forays into recent civil wars in dozens of countries only gradually accustom the reader to her habit, after recounting a number of fratricidal horrors, of pointing a dreadful finger at the United States. Beware! You too may one day poke your cellphone through the curtains to film shaky clips of fires and explosions...


‘Wild Thought’

Francis Gooding

‘Ihave a neolithic kind of intelligence,’ Claude Lévi-Strauss remarked in Tristes Tropiques (1955), his luminous reminiscence of anthropological fieldwork in Brazil. He didn’t mean he was a caveman. His own gloss was that his intellectual affinities were closer to the people anthropologists usually studied than to the people doing the studying. But there’s an...


Europe’s Monsters

Jan-Werner Müller

In​ 1990 the heavy metal band Scorpions released ‘Wind of Change’, a song celebrating the end of the Cold War: ‘The future’s in the air/Can feel it everywhere.’ It also contained the hopeful lines: ‘Let your balalaika sing/What my guitar wants to say.’ It turns out, though, that they had it the wrong way round: it is Putin who calls the tune to which...


At Sandymount Strand

Anne Enright

I pass Sandymount Strand on the train into town. I might think of Joyce and Nora, but more often about Stephen’s encounter with the tide. I might also briefly consider eternity – it is hard not to, given the stretch of the view – or the drowned man at the end of ‘Proteus’, with the tiny fish darting in and out of his buttoned trouser fly. 

Travels for the Mind

Travels for the Mind

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Short Cuts

Limping to Success

James Butler

Earlyresults matter in politics. The news on the morning of 6 May seemed to confirm a familiar story. Labour had taken two totemic Tory councils, Wandsworth and Westminster, piling on metropolitan voters but failing to ignite the electorate outside the cities. Tory losses were bigger than expected, and by the end of the day looked very bad indeed: the cumulative loss was 485 seats; before...


Diamond Fields

Rosa Lyster

Diederik  De Beers took full control of the distribution channels, setting prices and constraining supply to ensure that diamonds remained aspirationally expensive even as the astonishing output of the South African mines showed that they were not particularly rare. It would be a perfect story for explaining the concept of monopoly to a child. 


At Mars Avenue

Rosemary Hill

In January​, when the 1921 census became available, I decided to look for my father. He was six months old in the summer the census was taken and children are usually easy to find in the records. They don’t move independently and rarely change their names. I didn’t expect much from the search because I already knew where he was born, but it was an excuse to play with a new...

LRB notecards

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That Year Again

Collected pieces from the LRB on the year 1922, now available online and at the LRB bookshop. Featuring Helen Vendler on T.S. Eliot, Michael Wood on Nosferatu, Lewis Nkosi on the Harlem Renaissance and poems by Don Paterson and Anne Carson.

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