John Lanchester

John Lanchester’s most recent book is the collection Reality, and Other Stories.

As the Lock Rattles

John Lanchester, 16 December 2021

It is simple common sense that failing to lock down early enough or hard enough causes a longer, harder lockdown later – a bias towards liberty logically involves earlier lockdown. But that was, and is, too much for many Tories to grasp. ... It isn’t always possible to draw a straight line from someone’s personal life to their public works. Johnson’s private life is his business. But one thing you can say about a man responsible for at least nine pregnancies by at least four different women is that he is prone to wishful thinking. That wishful thinking is the common theme in the government’s failures from spring 2020 to autumn 2020 to now. Johnson doesn’t want certain things to be true, so he acts as if they can be ignored. That strategy has worked for him in domestic politics. It was at the heart of his advocacy for Brexit. But it doesn’t work in economics, and it doesn’t work in dealing with a pandemic.

How bad can it be? Getting away with it

John Lanchester, 29 July 2021

Of the very, very many things that make fans cross, nothing makes them crosser than penalties and sendings-off induced by simulation. We all know what it looks like: the faintest contact with a defender sending the grizzled pro to writhe in agony on the pitch, one eye on the referee, the other on next year’s Oscars. There was a beautiful example in Italy’s quarter-final match against Belgium, when the inappropriately named Immobile collapsed with an apparently career-ending injury after being breathed on by a defender, only to bounce sheepishly back to his feet and trot off to join the celebrations when Italy scored ten seconds later. The generic fan term for this kind of behaviour – which includes elaborate delaying tactics, shirt-pulling, winding up opponents and so on – is ‘shithousery’. Fouls are against the rules but within the ethos of football. They’re just a fact of the game and all players foul, some better – more intelligently and tactically – than others. Simulation and shithousery are against the rules but the question of whether they are within the ethos of the game is more complicated.


John Lanchester, 22 April 2021

When​ the Ever Given wedged itself into the side of the Suez Canal on 23 March, many, many people were annoyed and upset. The ship’s as yet unnamed captain and all-Indian crew, for a start: it’s going to be interesting to see what the inquiry concludes not just about the grounding, but also about the giant penis the Ever Given drew on satellite tracking before sailing into the...

Twenty Types of Human: Among the Neanderthals

John Lanchester, 17 December 2020

Our early forebears​ continue to be very good at getting in the news. In 2003, on the island of Flores in Indonesia, a team of archaeologists investigating the movement of humans from Asia to Australia found a nearly intact small skeleton of what turned out to be an entirely new kind of human being: Homo floresiensis. The fact that its body was diminutive caused it to be immediately given...

Diary: Getting into Esports

John Lanchester, 13 August 2020

Iremember, back at the start of lockdown, trying to draw up a rough mental ledger of things I would miss. The idea was to try and anticipate difficulties so as not to be blindsided by them. My list was heartfelt but unoriginal and consisted mainly, now I look back at it, of various blessings of city life that I had come to take almost entirely for granted. Seeing friends. Going for a walk...

Hong Pong: John Lanchester

Thomas Jones, 25 July 2002

First, let me declare a disinterest. John Lanchester and I are both involved, in different ways, with the London Review of Books, but otherwise have nothing to do with one another. Now...

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On the Run: John Lanchester

Adam Phillips, 2 March 2000

The name is ordinary, so the book announces itself as a book about no one special; though, of course, when men without qualities become the subjects of novels a certain gravity (if not grace) is...

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