January 2019


30 January 2019

In Zimbabwe

Leila Sinclair-Bright

The latest government crackdown in Zimbabwe is not wholly surprising, but it is still shocking in its brutality. The people who took to the streets two weeks ago to protest against fuel prices and the rising cost of basic commodities have been beaten, arrested and raped. The state has also attacked anyone suspected of having the potential to protest, i.e. those living on the breadline, the only people desperate enough to risk it. The protests were sparked by the overnight doubling of fuel prices, but the anger and frustration have been building for months. When I visited Zimbabwe in December – I left on 11 January, just before the recent violence – people’s budgets were stretched to breaking point. There were twelve-hour queues at petrol stations. Friends asked me to bring them cooking oil for Christmas.


29 January 2019

Perfection is not an aim

Isabel Stevens meets Lorenza Mazzetti

Lorenza Mazzetti now runs a puppet theatre for children in Rome. But in London in the 1950s, when she was in her early twenties, she begged, borrowed and stole camera equipment to film K, an adaption of Metamorphosis, in a storage space in Notting Hill and a fabric shop in Soho with no script and a non-professional cast who had never heard of Kafka. Her next project, Together, the first publicly funded British fiction film directed by a woman, portrays the friendship between two dockworkers. Both characters are deaf; there’s no dialogue. Filmed in the streets, wharfs, pubs and fairgrounds of the bombed-out East End in 1956, Together woke British audiences up to a different kind of cinema.


28 January 2019

New Sounds

Adam Shatz remembers Joseph Jarman

In an interview with a French journalist, Joseph Jarman compared the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the avant-garde jazz quintet to which he belonged, to ‘a cake made from five ingredients: remove one of the ingredients and the cake no longer exists.’ Jarman, who died earlier this month, at 81, after a long illness, was the ingredient that made the band one of the most aesthetically adventurous groups of its era: he put the 'art' in Art Ensemble.


26 January 2019

Where are the protesters?

Isabelle Mayault

In a world where the 26 richest people own as much as the poorest 50 per cent, you might have expected to see massive protests outside the Kongresszentrum in Davos this week. Over the past ten years, however, the once thriving mobilisation against the World Economic Forum has lost steam. ‘We’ve witnessed a slump,’ Mélinda Tschanz told me. She belongs to the Swiss chapter of ATTAC, an ‘alter-globalisation’ organisation founded in 1998. ‘“What happened?” is a question we’ve been asking ourselves a lot lately.’


23 January 2019

Tolstoy in Essex

Gillian Darley

You could look very hard in Purleigh and not find any physical evidence of the Tolstoyan anarchist community that was founded there in 1897. The experiment, near Maldon, Essex, was short-lived, and the core settlers soon moved west, to Whiteway Colony on a (then) bleak Cotswolds plateau. It is there still, now comfortably huddled and well treed, its continued existence due in part to a decision by the founding colonists to destroy their title deeds, leaving the settlement to be held perpetually in common.


22 January 2019

Border Traffic

Jessica Loudis

Click here to read an expanded, updated version of this piece in the latest issue of the paper. While in Washington, DC, negotiations over a border wall remain at an impasse, a case is unfolding in a federal district courtroom in Brooklyn that casts President Trump’s ambition in a new light. Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman stands accused of running Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, and trafficking billions of dollars’ worth of drugs into the United States.


21 January 2019

At Friedrichsfelde

Harry Stopes

On the second Sunday in January every year there is a march to the Friedrichsfelde Cemetery in Berlin to commemorate Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.


14 January 2019

Academic Freedom

Sophie Smith

A group of Oxford students are petitioning to have John Finnis, emeritus professor of law and legal philosophy, 'removed from his academic position' on account of his 'discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people'. In his published writings, Finnis has claimed that gay sex is an 'immoral sexual act' akin to bestiality, that being gay should count ‘at least as a negative factor, if not a disqualification’ for adopting children, and that governments should 'discourage' citizens from homosexuality. The petition has its problems.


11 January 2019

Spurs and Anti-Semitism

Leo Benedictus

You won’t hear the word ‘yid’ sung at most Tottenham Hotspur matches. You’ll hear it sung at all of them. If you know which tunes to listen for, you’ll hear it whenever Spurs are on TV. The club has been Jewish-owned since 1982, and its Jewish associations go back to the 1920s. Most Spurs fans aren’t Jewish, but the story goes that when rivals began to target the Jewish minority with ‘yid’ songs in the 1960s, the rest ‘reclaimed’ the word on their behalf. Since then, every Spurs fan, and player, has been ‘a yid’. (I support Spurs and I’m not Jewish, although my father is.) Last week, the World Jewish Congress condemned football fans for using ‘yid’, ‘either as a self-designated nickname or as a slogan against rivals’, because it carries ‘a distinctly pejorative and anti-Semitic message’. It doesn’t always carry it, obviously. The WJC statement itself uses the word seven times.


9 January 2019

Goodbye, HMV

Conrad Landin

On Christmas Eve 2011, I was laid off as a seasonal sales assistant at HMV. I’d been employed just a few weeks before for the Christmas rush at the chain’s flagship Oxford Circus store, and expected to work until January or beyond. But in December 2011 the company reported losses of £40 million, and ‘extra capacity’ was now considered superfluous. As a ‘special’ gesture, the manager told me, I could work until 31 December. Other casuals – many were migrant workers hoping for a permanent post – got no notice at all: a young Frenchwoman was told she could take an ‘extended holiday’ from the following day.


8 January 2019

They are here because we are there

Aaron Bastani

Over the last seven weeks more than 230 undocumented migrants have crossed the English Channel, with forty completing the journey on Christmas Day alone. In the first ten months of 2018, only 220 people made it. The recent spike coincides with increasing numbers of Iranians arriving in Calais. According to one estimate, 40 per cent of the 500 refugees who sleep rough in the town come from Iran.


7 January 2019

Reporting the Kingdom

Oliver Miles

Eleven people have gone on trial in Riyadh, accused of murdering the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate-general in Istanbul in October. The defendants have not been named, but they do not include Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, generally believed to have ordered the killing. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said the trial is ‘not sufficient’. According to an opposition report on Twitter, the prisoners are being difficult: some mutinous, some suicidal. One unpredictable consequence of the affair has been a radical change in the way all things Saudi are reported in the media, above all the mainstream US media.


3 January 2019

Memories of Heinz Pagels

Jeremy Bernstein

Reading Elaine Pagels’s new book, Why Religion? A Personal Story, brought back memories of my friendship with her husband Heinz Pagels. I met him in 1966 when he arrived at the Rockefeller University. I had no knowledge of his work but he struck me as a golden boy. He was very handsome and looked more like someone who might sing folk songs for a living than a theoretical physicist. He had been born in New York City in 1939 and attended Princeton. He then went to Stanford for his graduate work and took his PhD in 1965 under the direction of Sidney Drell. I recently looked at the paper they published and it still holds up. Heinz then spent a brief time at the University of North Carolina. I do not know how he found his way to the Rockefeller but there he was.


2 January 2019

To Ultima Thule and Beyond

Chris Lintott

In the early hours of New Year's Day, billions of miles from any Earthly celebrations, the New Horizons space probe swung by a small and extremely distant lump of ice and rock. It’s known to cataloguers as (486958) 2014 MU69, but the New Horizons team call it 'Ultima Thule' after the ancient expression for a place at the edge of the known world.


1 January 2019

A ‘Country Life’ Cut-Up

Adam Smyth

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