In Nagorno-Karabakh

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

When one nation asserts that its history has primacy over its neighbour’s, disputes arise over who has the rightful claim to a territory. Each mountaintop, river or valley can mean different things to different peoples. Or, as one Azerbaijani I know says: in Karabakh each rock has two names. In both Armenia and Azerbaijan, writers constructed an ethnonational narrative that aspired to negate the existence of the other country, or at least to assign it the role of newcomer in the region. This approach would eventually provide the justification for the violence in the streets. Armenian writers pointed to Armenian churches and monasteries in Karabakh as proof of an uninterrupted presence in the area. They dismissed the term ‘Azerbaijan’ as a modern political label and exaggerated Turkish influences: although the Azerbaijani language is Turkic, the people are predominantly Shia with heavy Persian influences. But Azerbaijani Shiism is much milder than the Iranian variant, tempered by 170 years of Russian and then Soviet secular rule.

 

Four Moptop Yobbos

Ian Penman

The rubble had been cleared away, but strange grasses and wild herbs had sprung up where the war-demolished houses had been.

Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington

Onthe opening page of Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four, Brian Epstein and his personal assistant, Alistair Taylor, behold the Beatles for the very first time. It is November 1961, in a ‘dank and damp and smelly’...

 

On Muhammad

Tariq Ali

The​ most stimulating, balanced and sympathetic secular biography of the Prophet of Islam was written by a left-wing French Jewish intellectual in 1961. Maxime Rodinson’s Life of Muhammad was a formative influence on my generation. It seemed to be the first real attempt to come to terms with a culture that could not be understood through sacred texts or works of exegesis alone....

 

Life as a Wife

Tessa Hadley

Another​ report from the front line of the sex war. New York Review Books has reprinted a clever little book, published in 1972, about the first Mrs George Meredith, which is nothing so crude as a blow struck in battle: it’s a poignant needling, deflating the male creative genius – not ungenerously – and providing yet another plausible case of a wife abused by posterity....

 

LA Non-Confidential

Lucie Elven

When Eve Babitz​ was growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s, ‘the only thing in the county art museum that was the least bit alluring to me and my sister was the Egyptian mummy, half unwrapped so you could see its poor ancient teeth. As children, we both decided this would be the way to go, petrified and put in a museum, immortal.’ Babitz thought she’d die at thirty;...

Travels for the Mind

Travels for the Mind

Read the world's best writing - from some of the world's best writers. Subscribe to the LRB today for just £1 an issue.

 

Ulsterism

Niamh Gallagher

Younger generations have no direct memory of the conflict and tend not to share the social conservatism of their elders. It is sometimes said that the South jumped straight from the 19th to the 21st century in a few decades: there has been a decline in religious observance, a growth in wealth, the incorporation of people of different ethnicities, and the passage of legislation allowing gay marriage and abortion. So why are we back to talking about the border?

Short Cuts

Friend or Threat

William Davies

The​ slow reopening of the British hospitality sector over the past few weeks signals a re-emergence from the great closures of the last year and a half – hopefully, this time, a permanent re-emergence, though who knows? No economic sector has been hit harder by Covid-19 than hospitality, a category that officially designates hotels, restaurants and pubs, but which bleeds into other...

 

Gender Renegades

Sharon Marcus

JamesAllen was working for a London shipwright when he was killed by a falling piece of timber in 1829. He had been married to his wife, Abigail, for more than twenty years. The medical students who performed the autopsy declared Allen’s body anatomically female, but the coroner continued to call the deceased ‘he’ because ‘I considered it impossible for him to be a...

Subject/Object: The Birds

A new, biannual series of short festivals from the London Review Bookshop, loosely tracing a theme through the archive of the London Review of Books with a week of books and arts events. The first theme is birds, and on this occasion all eight events will be online.

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LRB Selections 2. Penelope Fitzgerald

Featuring pieces for the LRB on subjects including Stevie Smith, Alain-Fournier, Adrian Mole, girls’ schools, Wild Swans, wartime London and Anne Enright, half of which haven’t been anthologised before, by the Booker Prize-winning author of Offshore and The Blue Flower.

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