From the blog

Eric Hobsbawm in the ‘London Review’

Richard J. Evans

9 April 2021

Eric Hobsbawm, the subject of a new documentary film by Anthony Wilks, wrote 24 pieces for the London Review of Books, the first in April 1981, the last in April 2012, a few months before his death at the age of 95.



Diane Williams

He is a figure I once engaged with for years, amid scenes with nearly religious significance attached to them.

And by chance, this Saturday, I had witnessed him stepping away from a park path and stooping beneath the leaf cover – only to put his hand against the tree trunk.

He smiled when he saw me, but when I reached him he was speechless and sour, and then he proceeded on his way...

From the archive

Philip’s People

Anna Della Subin

‘Don’t​ talk about God – be it! Find the place, the formula … Ah, Larry, it isn’t that life is so short, it’s that it’s everlasting!’ Henry Miller wrote to Lawrence Durrell in 1959. The formula, if one were to look to history for clues, seems fairly simple. Be white, male, fairly imposing in stature, and in possession of a large ship and...


Versions of Meritocracy

Stefan Collini

We are asked to believe in a world in which individual agents are in full possession of undivided selves, unshaped by social determinants, and able to realise outcomes simply by willing them strongly enough. It is assumed that there is an uncomplicated thing called ‘talent’ or ‘ability’, and that some people have more of it than others. It is also assumed – pretty much as a fact of nature, it seems – that some people will make more ‘effort’ and work ‘harder’ than others. Meritocracy proposes to rearrange the world (shouldn’t take long) so that, for those who combine ability and effort, every day is Christmas Day. At the same time, in much recent social science, unmasking the sham of ‘equality of opportunity’ has become a familiar five-finger exercise. Study after study suggests that where people get to in life is largely determined by where they start. But the very fact that it is so easy to assemble the evidence for this truth gives the literature on the topic a slightly tired, stale character.



Harry Strawson

When I ask my friends, they don’t remember their early raves either – just the venue, perhaps (a warehouse somewhere near the eastern end of the District line; a splinter of wood­ land beside a busy road in Hackney Wick; a squat with a full­-size skate bowl off Brick Lane); and what drugs they took (ecstasy and mephedrone), but not, in any concrete sense, what happened or what music was playing or who was playing it. No one had an answer when I asked: ‘What was your first rave really like?’ This is the question that Rainald Goetz and his cast of narrators set out to answer in Rave.



Gill Partington

In​ 1988 the veteran conductor Nicolas Slonimsky, having built a career on the most experimental of repertoires, sat at the piano to record a ditty about a constipation remedy. The music was his, but he had lifted the words – verbatim – from an advertisement that had appeared many years earlier in the Saturday Evening Post. ‘Children cry for Castoria!’ Slonimsky...


A Masterpiece and a Disaster

Joe Dunthorne

There​ are few suicide notes more ecstatic than those of Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel, who died together on 21 November 1811. ‘May heaven grant you a death even half as joyous and inexpressibly cheerful as mine,’ Kleist wrote to his sister. He was ‘blissfully happy’, he told his cousin, and looking forward to this ‘most splendid and pleasurable of...


On Charles Wright

Matthew Bevis

CharlesWright’s Oblivion Banjo – published in advance of his 85th birthday (Farrar, Straus, £20) – is somewhere between a Collected and Selected and begins with a homage to Ezra Pound:

Today is one of those daysOne swears is a prophecy:The air explicit and moist,As though filled with unanswered prayers

This sounds like the day everything started for Wright. After...

Talking Politics: History of Ideas PLUS

Turn the second series of David Runciman’s acclaimed talks on the most important thinkers and ideas behind modern politics into your own personal masterclass, while bolstering your bookshelves with some of the foundational works of political theory and philosophy!

Read More

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.

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences