Zadie Smith gets the knives out

Colin Burrow

You’vegot to love Zadie Smith. When The Fraud arrived I did what no self-respecting reviewer should ever do. I flipped the book open and peeked at a random chapter. I know, I know. Never peek. It can spoil Christmas. But sometimes it’s just too tempting, and sometimes knowing what’s under the wrapping paper can make it even more fun to tear it off when the big day comes....


‘Capitalism and Slavery’

Christopher L. Brown

Awhile ago​ a row erupted in Brooklyn over the naming of a new basketball arena. In 2007 Barclays Bank agreed to pay $400 million over twenty years to sponsor what is now known as the Barclays Center. Politicians who opposed the project, and some who supported it, denounced the partnership because, they argued, Barclays had profited from the Atlantic slave trade, and therefore had no...


Aldine Aesthetics

Erin Maglaque

Aldus Manutius​ is the bibliophile’s bibliophile. Between 1495 and his death in 1515, Aldus issued from his Venice press more first editions of classical texts than had ever been published before, and more than anyone has published since. With his punchcutter, Francesco Griffo, he designed an elegant new typeface for printing in Greek (a serious technical challenge) as well as the...


Rwanda Redux

Tom Hickman

In the end,​ the government lost its appeal to the Supreme Court in the Rwanda case hands down. In a unanimous ruling on 15 November, the court held that asylum seekers transferred to Rwanda faced a real risk of being wrongly returned to their countries of origin. The court could have said simply that there was no legal error in the Court of Appeal’s assessment of the evidence. But it...


Traces of the GDR

Neal Ascherson

Astate​ can suddenly vanish, leaving familiar streets under new flags. All Europeans know that. But how can a country’s smell vanish? East Germany had its own unique and unmistakeable niff, its Staatsduft, if you like. It enfolded you as soon as you entered the frontier controls: Chinese cigarettes, the fumes of two-stroke cars, the smoke of brown coal briquettes, the whiff of the...


Myths about Monet

Julian Barnes

Early in​ 1971, Robert Hughes, recently appointed as Time magazine’s chief art critic, was ripping out his loft apartment at 143 Prince Street when he received an unexpected visitor. This was Henry Geldzahler, curator of modern art at the Metropolitan Museum. Hughes, probably the most macho and combative critic in his profession, was, by his own account, sweaty, foul-tempered,...

Delightfully Distracting

Delightfully Distracting

This Christmas, give them a gift that lasts all year

At the Movies


Michael Wood

Much of​ Ridley Scott’s Napoleon feels like an unintended essay on the art of cinema. The good bits, and there are quite a few, make up a silent film with some noise. The terrible bits are over-simplified soap opera, where people talk and are supposed to have feelings. Critics and scholars have complained about ‘historical inaccuracies’, but the most interesting deviations...


Aboriginal Voices

Rosemary Hill

Just west​ of Alice Springs is a turn-off marked ‘Flynn’s Grave’. It leads to a blunt stone plinth with a round boulder on top and a plaque commemorating John Flynn (1880-1951), a Presbyterian minister who was sent by his church to the Northern Territory in 1912 to investigate conditions in the bush. His report was grim, describing poor communications and scant healthcare....


Consent in Shakespeare

John Kerrigan

How does​ Shakespeare look, after #MeToo and Black Lives Matter? Scenes of sexual coercion, from Richard III to Pericles, have become more immediate. In Measure for Measure, Isabella’s predicament – should she agree to sleep with Angelo, corrupt deputy to the Duke of Vienna, in order to save her brother from execution? – gets audiences on her side. Shakespeareans now...


Friend or Food?

Alexander Bevilacqua

Under​ what circumstances would you eat your pet? For Jean de Léry, a 16th-century French missionary, this wasn’t a hypothetical question. During a treacherous Atlantic crossing from Brazil to Europe, with supplies running low, some of his fellow passengers killed and ate their monkeys and parrots when hunger struck. Others waited until they had almost starved before putting...


On Scholastique Mukasonga

Kevin Okoth

The Hutu authorities​ in Rwanda, Scholastique Mukasonga writes in The Barefoot Woman, portrayed the Tutsi as ‘inyenzi, cockroaches, insects it was only right to persecute and eventually exterminate’. The term inyenzi evoked images of an enemy that could survive anywhere, no matter the conditions, a pervasive force which had undermined Hutu civilisation. Mukasonga’s...


Brutalist Paris

Madeleine Schwartz

Few people​ visit Paris for its modern architecture. But away from the Haussmannian buildings lining the boulevards of the city centre, the less regulated banlieue was a zone of architectural experimentation in the 1960s and 1970s. The Choux de Créteil – Gérard Grandval’s ‘cabbages’ – rise beside the highway, each tower with curved balconies that...

Short Cuts

Javier Milei’s Agenda

Tony Wood

On​ 10 December, the far-right libertarian economist Javier Milei takes office as Argentina’s president. To say that his victory in November’s elections was a shock would be an understatement. A few months ago, people who thought that Milei might become the next occupant of the Casa Rosada were largely dismissed as delusional. Widely known by the nickname ‘El Loco’...


On Yevonde

Susannah Clapp

When​ Yevonde made the new case for colour in photography, she also made the case for women behind the camera, controlling the views. ‘Photography without women would be a sorry business,’ she wrote. Who better to advance the art and push colour into a black and white world than those who wore red lipstick and scarlet nail polish?

Born Yevonde Philone Cumbers in 1893 (John...

From the archive


David A. Bell

France, it has often been said, is a democracy with the manners of an absolute monarchy. Think of the ceremonial splendour with which French presidents surround themselves, the haughty, distant style they tend to adopt, or the way relationships within their entourages tend to mimic, with delicious self-consciousness, patterns of favouritism and intrigue developed long ago at the court of...

New Courses for 2024

Close Readings Plus, the LRB’s pioneering podcast subscription, is back in 2024, with new series on satire, revolutionary thought in the 20th century and truth and lies in the Ancient World. Subscribe now and spend a year in the company of leading LRB contributors and vital literary works.

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‘A Series of Headaches’ limited edition print

To mark the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, we have produced a limited edition LRB print, replicating as closely as possible the processes used in 1623, with varying degrees of success.

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