Christopher Prendergast

Christopher Prendergast is a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge.

Pirouette on a Sixpence: Untranslatables

Christopher Prendergast, 10 September 2015

On​ the face of it a Dictionary of Untranslatables looks like a contradiction in terms, either self-imploding from the word go, or, if pursued, headed fast down a cul-de-sac in which it is doomed to end by putting itself out of the business of dictionary-making. Strictly speaking, all the definitions of the listed terms would have to be blanks, a new version of Flaubert’s dream of the...

Short Cuts: Student Loans

Christopher Prendergast, 6 January 2011

A ‘progressive’ system means, broadly speaking, that some people pay more than others for the same benefit, on the grounds that they can afford to, just as some pay more taxes, both absolutely and proportionally, to fund government services. There can be no doubt that the Coalition policy on student debt is ‘progressive’ in the sense that some will pay (back) more than...

Short Cuts: Sarah Palin’s Favourite Frenchman

Christopher Prendergast, 2 December 2010

Hands up who knows that a major source of Tea Party ideological fervour is a long-forgotten 19th-century French economist – French no less (it wasn’t so long ago that John Kerry was derided for being ‘a bit French’). Indeed, hands up who has even heard of Frédéric Bastiat. The name, canonical and talismanic in Tea Party circles, means nothing to most...

I am old enough to remember the Maigret series on television, with Rupert Davies in the starring role. To the accompaniment of a mildly haunting theme tune, a portly figure would appear onscreen, drably but comfortably dressed in raincoat and hat, strolling through the damp, mist-laden streets of Paris, pausing on a bridge to light his pipe and look over his shoulder, the whole scene held in...

Diary: Piss where you like

Christopher Prendergast, 17 March 2005

My parents were militantly radical Dubliners working in Belfast when their first-born – me – came along. My mother, Celia, was vivacious, highly strung, something of an actress, both metaphorically and literally: she had had a brief career with the Unity Theatre in Euston and played the part of Ethel Rosenberg in a play whose title and author I can’t remember. She also...

Why is luck good or bad, an incentive to gambling, while chance seems weirdly neutral? And what was it like in the old days when Fortune played a larger role in ordinary consciousness, taking up quite...

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The Thing: Versions of Proust

Michael Wood, 6 January 2005

What was it Proust said about paradise? That all paradises are lost paradises? That the only true paradise is a lost paradise? That it isn’t paradise until it’s lost? That paradise is...

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Unreal City

Michael Wood, 7 October 1993

Baudelaire’s city is swarming with people and full of dreams, a place of daylight ghosts. Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves Où le spectre, en plein jour,...

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I am a Cretan

Patrick Parrinder, 21 April 1988

The story goes that, on the day when William Empson moved into Magdalene College, Cambridge, to take up a fellowship, his suitcases (as was the custom in those days) were unpacked by one of the...

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