Faked Editions

Gill Partington

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’sSonnets, a pamphlet of just 48 pages, was once the holy grail of book collectors. Copies that came to light were, to quote one biographer, ‘literally worth … more than their weight in gold’: at auction on Madison Avenue in 1930 one fetched $1250 (around $23,000 in today’s money). The book’s value was due not only to its...

 

Rachel Cusk's 'Parade'

Ange Mlinko

Is Rachel Cusk’s​ new book a novel, a series of essays or a philosophical inquiry? Parade sends the coin spinning on its edge every time you flip it. It’s the most musical work she has written, a punctus contra punctum, made up of stories that invert themselves in a dialectical fashion, propelled by a set of antinomies: male and female, parents and children, hardness and...

 

What about consciousness?

Anil Gomes

Mydaughter has Pauline Baynes’s map of Narnia hanging above her bed. It’s a lovely object, produced in 1972 as a promotional poster for Puffin Books. One of its pleasures is tracing the way locations from the different stories fit together into a whole. There’s the island they sail to in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; and those are the marshes they cross in The Silver...

Diary

At Cammell Laird

Tabitha Lasley

‘Imagine a roll of barbed wire, but this big.’ Billy Albertina spreads his arms out, gesturing to a brick building near the entrance to the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead. In the summer of 1984, Albertina and his colleagues occupied a half-built gas rig and a Type 42 destroyer, HMS Edinburgh, in protest at proposals to make almost a thousand workers at the yard redundant....

 

Labour’s First Government

Malcolm Petrie

Thefirst Labour government assumed office in January 1924 after a general election a month earlier resulted in a hung Parliament, with the Conservatives the largest party. In the previous decade British politics had changed in ways that might have been expected to assist the Labour Party, most obviously with the decline of the Liberal Party, the dominant progressive political force until...

 

Translating Raymond Queneau

Dennis Duncan

‘Si tu t’imagines,’ Juliette Gréco sang. ‘If you imagine.’ It was her first time singing in public, on 22 June 1949, at the Boeuf sur le Toit cabaret, the beginning of her seven-decade reign as the first lady of French chanson. Both the venue and the song were selected by Gréco’s unlikely svengali, Jean-Paul Sartre. François Mauriac, three...

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At the Royal Academy

On Angelica Kauffman

Brigid von Preussen

In​ 1807, Angelica Kauffman’s body was carried in state to her funeral at the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte in Rome. A small army of priests, artists and dignitaries accompanied the coffin. Above the mourners, amid a sea of candles, two of her paintings were carried aloft in triumphal procession – a theatrical touch that echoed another funeral three centuries earlier,...

 

Israel’s Descent

Adam Shatz

When Ariel Sharon​ withdrew more than eight thousand Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, his principal aim was to consolidate Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank, where the settler population immediately began to increase. But ‘disengagement’ had another purpose: to enable Israel’s air force to bomb Gaza at will, something they could not do when Israeli...

Short Cuts

Labour or the SNP?

Rory Scothorne

This time​ ten years ago, Scotland was gearing up for its first, and as yet only, independence referendum. The ‘Yes’ campaign was noisy, lively, inventive – a ‘political carnival’, as Lynn Bennie, James Mitchell and Robert Johns describe it in their new book, Surges in Party Membership: The SNP and Scottish Greens after the Independence Referendum (Routledge,...

At the Movies

'The Dead Don't Hurt'

Michael Wood

The opening scenes​ of Viggo Mortensen’s new film, The Dead Don’t Hurt, are like an essay in montage or a puzzle for students of Sergei Eisenstein and André Bazin. A knight in armour rides a horse through a forest. A woman lies in bed. There is a shoot-out in a small Western town. How are we to put these pictures together? Mortensen is not going to help us. He gives us...

 

My Dame Antonia

Patricia Lockwood

An eldest sister​ was born in the North, daughter of a judge who never lied and a scholar who always did. That was A.S. Byatt. Christened Susan, what on earth, she was later known as Dame Antonia. Byatt wrote about sugar and snails and sex cults and the dead children of children’s book authors. She wrote about William Morris and Mariano Fortuny. She wrote about Cambridge, where she and...

 

Generation Anxiety

William Davies

In the​ 1980s the term ‘anxiety’ was almost eliminated from the lexicon of American psychiatry. The infamous DSM-III (the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) took an axe to various legacies of psychoanalysis that had dominated psychiatric thinking in the postwar decades. Among them was a preoccupation with anxiety. Anything and everything...

 

Good Riddance to the Tories

Tom Crewe

Short-termthinking has been the fatal tendency of the Conservative governments to which Britain has been subjected since 2010. David Cameron’s declaration in January 2013 that, if the Conservatives won the next election, they would offer a referendum on membership of the EU – which wasn’t a significant concern, never mind a priority, for British voters – is a fine...

 

On Getting the Life You Want

Adam Phillips

What is the reward for knowing the worst?

Donald Barthelme, Snow White

When Richard Rorty​ wrote, in one of his many familiar pragmatist pronouncements, that the only way you can tell if something is true is if it helps you get the life you want, it sounded either like a provocative assertion or another advertisement, masquerading as epistemology, for consumer capitalism. How one feels about...

From the archive

Women in Wartime

Azadeh Moaveni

On 4 March,​ the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, held a press conference to brief reporters on the attacks of 7 October. A team from her office had spent two weeks in Israel and the West Bank, at the invitation of the government, examining what had happened that day, but Patten was expected to make, at most, a short press statement. Her...

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.

Read more about Close Readings 2024

Partner Events, Summer 2024

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

Read more about Partner Events, Summer 2024
Events

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