LRB Cover
Volume 41 Number 10
23 May 2019

LRB blog 17 May 2019

Benjamin Markovits
Power Plays

16 May 2019

Gillian Darley
Drawn from Life

15 May 2019

James Butler
Safe, Solid and Unquestionable


24 May 2018

Sally Rooney
An Irish Problem

4 April 2019

Jon Day
Pigeon Intelligence

29 July 1999

John Lanchester
Hannibal by Thomas Harris

In the next issue, which will be dated 6 June, Michael Dobson on Shakespeare’s last plays.

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Jacqueline Rose

Trauma and Justice in South Africa

Where is trauma meant to lodge itself when the mind, like the body, in shreds or shot to pieces, is no longer anything that might remotely be called home? The very persistence of horror in South Africa tells us that thinking about trauma in relation to language, circling endlessly around the question of whether or not it can be spoken, which has tended to dominate academic discourse, is not enough. More

Ian Jack

Who is hoarding the land?

The notion of idleness is important to the argument: land cannot be allowed merely to sit there minding its own business – it needs somehow to be put to work, to be efficient. As for surplus, that can be created by various ruses, not least by setting targets, such as those that drive up occupation densities in civil servants’ offices from 14.5 square metres to ten square metres (and in some recent cases to six square metres) per full-time employee; or by establishing a minimum area for playing fields determined by the number of pupils at a school, and declaring anything above that figure surplus to requirements. Public land becomes surplus, in other words, as the result of the state’s determination to shrink itself. At the heart of this project lay a brazen deceit. More

James Wolcott

Mr Trendy Sicko

Will Bret Easton Ellis learn anything from this debacle? Of course not. It would be out of character and borderline disappointing if he did. A sudden onset of empathy would neutralise the snot factor so integral to his persona and voice. Upsetting the maximum number of people with the minimal amount of effort is a gift and a curse, akin to Jonathan Franzen’s earnest genius for getting on everyone’s nerves. The ability to bring out the energised best and worst from reviewers and fellow writers with even so middling, muddling a book as White – to provoke them into haughty erasure – testifies to an arch-nemesis quality that might be put to better purposes than the paltry sport of weenie-roasting millennials. More

Rosemary Hill

Darwin and the Europeans

Among scientists perhaps only Stephen Hawking has given his admirers such a strong feeling that they knew him personally. Strangers wrote with random queries, such as why do pigeons fly in circles, and anecdotes of animal behaviour: R.M. Middleton of West Hartlepool explained how he had managed to house-train his parakeet. Not all the letters were answered, but an impressive number were. Only once, on a letter from the Prague-born astronomer Anton Schobloch, who wanted to know ‘how is it possible, that there are hemaphrodits’ [sic] did Darwin go so far as to write ‘fool’ at the top in blue crayon. More

Mary Wellesley

Living in Her Own Grave

The cell was the size of a large cupboard. There wasn’t enough room to lie down. I’d come late on a winter afternoon; the light was seeping away. What light there was came through the ‘squint’ – the small window that looked onto the sanctuary. It was a cruciform shape and through it I could see a single candle standing on the altar. I turned on the torch on my phone. In front of the squint was an oak shelf with a dark circle on its edge where the wood had been rubbed smooth. Above it was a notice that read: ‘Please put nothing on the ancient sill. This was the prayer-desk of the anchorites for several centuries.’ I knelt in front of it. More

Short Cuts
Deborah Friedell

At the Royal Academy
Nicholas Penny


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