Caroline Weber

‘The revolution,’ Baudelaire wrote in his notes on Les Liaisons dangereuses, ‘was made by voluptuaries.’ He was drawing attention to two paradoxes. One was the role that France’s free-thinking, pleasure-loving aristocrats – the real-life versions of Laclos’s characters – played in instigating this upheaval, undermining the system that upheld...


Becoming O’Brian

Christopher Tayler

C.S.Forester, the writer of the Hornblower books, died in California in 1966. His second wife inherited the bulk of his estate. His elder son from his first marriage, who inherited $5000, began to reappraise his relationship with his father. Years later, in a self-published biography, the son would depict Forester as a manipulative fabulist, a distant, self-centred parent, a cold-hearted...


Yiyun Li

Ange Mlinko

Lilia Imbody​ (née Liska), ‘from Benicia, California’, is the resident curmudgeon at Bayside Garden retirement community: ‘anyone sitting next to her fell into the category of the unwelcome.’ She’s also a specialist in mordant wisecracks:

Jane was complaining this morning that all she could remember were the things before she turned ten and after she turned...


Wholly Ulsterised

Colin Kidd

Was peace long delayed as a result of Protestant stubbornness? Unionist constipation should never be discounted, though it’s far from the whole truth to assert that they kept up an unthinking veto. While many of the mainstream leaders of Ulster Protestantism conformed to caricature as unimaginative defenders of their laager, others, including Desmond Boal, a close collaborator of the Democratic Unionist Party leader, Ian Paisley, were willing to explore the idea of a federal Ireland. Paisley was quick to retreat from this, but did not denounce his friend. (Indeed, Paisley’s reputation as an irreconcilable afforded him some opportunistic licence: he had briefly contemplated an all-Ireland deal with a de-Catholicised Republic shorn of its 1937 constitution.) Most imaginative of all were Ulster’s loyalist extremists, who in the 1970s considered the idea of an independent Ulster with a Bill of Rights for the Catholic minority. 


Are yez civilised?

Seamus Perry

When​ the posthumous Collected Poems of W.H. Auden appeared in 1976, Seamus Heaney wrote an appreciative review for the magazine Hibernia in which he told

a story about a Ballymena listener calling the BBC one morning in 1969, after the Northern Ireland news had given a lot of coverage to speeches by civil rights leaders the previous evening. ‘Tell us this,’ he said, ‘are...

Travels for the Mind

Travels for the Mind

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Shirley Hazzard

Michael Hofmann

ShirleyHazzard was born in 1931 in Australia, the daughter of immigrants from Scotland and Wales. Both her parents, it’s said, were involved in the construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge. She went on to live on three other continents: Asia, Europe and North America. As is sometimes the way with writers whose biographies are yet to be written (Brigitta Olubas is on the case),...


Boys’ Play

Marina Warner

Afewyears ago, while looking at some early examples of children’s books, I came across a richly coloured catechism listing dos and don’ts: good little children don’t pull the wings off butterflies, or tease their tabby cat, and – this was an expensive, finely printed volume from the early 19th century – a good boy doesn’t throw his footman out of the...


Along the Water

Rosa Lyster

The Nile as it arrives in Egypt has two main tributaries, which converge near Khartoum: the White Nile, rising in Lake Victoria, and the Blue Nile, rising in Lake Tana in Ethiopia. Exact figures are disputed, but almost everyone agrees that at least 80 per cent of the river’s water originates in the Ethiopian highlands. An academic who spent his career studying the hydropolitics of the Nile Basin until he was forced to leave Egypt told me I had to understand the psychological dimension to the country’s water issue. What I had to understand about Egypt and water was that Egypt didn’t have any. It all came from somewhere else, which meant that the upstream countries could, in theory, turn off the tap. People who grow up in the desert tend to think of rain as a big deal. Even in the cities, they celebrate a downpour when it happens. Farmers elsewhere look to the sky and ask for water, he said, but in Egypt they look to Ethiopia. While I was there I heard over and over again that Egyptians think of the Nile as their water, stored in other people’s countries.

Talking Politics: History of Ideas PLUS

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LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

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