Marina Warner

Marina Warner's ‘unreliable memoir’ about her parents in Cairo in the years after World War Two, Inventory of a Life Mislaid, is out now.

Multiplying Marys: On Mary Magdalene

Marina Warner, 22 February 2024

Almostevery woman in the story of Jesus is called Mary. Sometimes the writers of the gospels got round this by adding a patronymic or a husband (Mary Salome, Mary of Cleophas, Mary Jacobi). The Virgin Mary has a stable identity as the mother of Jesus, but at least one document (attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem) bundled all the Marys into one. More commonly, the Marys have combined and then...

Diary: Carmen Callil’s Causes

Marina Warner, 15 December 2022

When​ Carmen Callil chose the name Virago for the publishing house she founded in 1973, she was daring all comers in a spirit of defiant wit (with an accompanying gleeful cackle). Grasping an insult and wearing it as a badge of honour was Carmen’s approach to life and whatever life threw at her. A small woman, she towered in others’ perceptions, and her reputation for ferocity...

I ain’t afeared: In Her Classroom

Marina Warner, 9 September 2021

In​ 1945, 21-year-old Beryl Answick graduated with a first class diploma from the teacher training college in Georgetown, capital of what was then British Guiana. Guyanese education at the time was rigid and the (tamarind) rod much in evidence: ‘Children … were expected to know certain facts, the relevance of which did not always matter,’ she remembered. Chafing at these...

Men are just boys: Boys’ Play

Marina Warner, 6 May 2021

Afewyears ago, while looking at some early examples of children’s books, I came across a richly coloured catechism listing dos and don’ts: good little children don’t pull the wings off butterflies, or tease their tabby cat, and – this was an expensive, finely printed volume from the early 19th century – a good boy doesn’t throw his footman out of the...

Name the days: Holy Spirits

Marina Warner, 4 February 2021

In​ the insistent and repetitive rhythm of lockdown, one month melts into another, but the monotony is shot through with dread that comes and goes with terrible intensity. The combination of plague-stricken suspension – the new Covidian temporality – and uncertainty about what’s still in store has made me wonder about old forms of timekeeping. Did they serve to make the...

There can be no new reader, and therefore perhaps no wholly new reading of the collection of stories known as The Arabian Nights. Not because they have been exhausted by retelling and...

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A memorable image in Robert Musil’s Man without Qualities likens the impact of a certain character to that of a powdery avalanche. The effect of reading Marina Warner’s magisterial...

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Some Evil Thing

James Davidson, 18 February 1999

Marina Warner’s No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock is an impossible book. It circles around monsters and the frightening of children, but it also has chapters on the...

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Once upon a Real Time

Wendy Doniger, 23 March 1995

If women are the ones who tell fairy tales, why do fairy tales paint such ugly pictures of women? Or, as Marina Warner puts it, ‘If and when women are narrating, why are the female...

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Fear of Rabid Dogs

Margaret Anne Doody, 18 August 1994

In his last days, the exiled and ageing Aristotle wrote to a friend: ‘The lonelier and the more isolated I am, the more I have come to love myths.’ We may puzzle over what Aristotle meant. Did he love...

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Sea Changes

Patrick Parrinder, 27 February 1992

The British, a nation of Sancho Panzas, like to dream of governing an island. The majority of ideal states both ancient and modern have been imaginary cities rather than sea-girt lumps of rock,...

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Making and Breaking

Rosalind Mitchison, 21 December 1989

Nobody could call Frank Honigsbaum’s book ‘user friendly’. Some reasons for its indigestibility are inherent in the topic: the moves, some effective, most frustrated, by civil...

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Let’s get the hell out of here

Patrick Parrinder, 29 September 1988

Here, in these three novels, are three representations of the state of the art. In The Satanic Verses the narrator, who may or may not be the Devil, confides that ‘what follows is tragedy....

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The nude strikes back

John Bayley, 7 November 1985

The psychologist John Layard – ‘Loony Layard’, as he is affectionately termed in one of Auden’s early poems – is said to have told a submarine officer that he had...

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John Sutherland, 6 May 1982

A new novel by Günter Grass invites comparisons of a national kind. If a British writer of fiction wished to engage with the big stories of the day – the kind of thing Brian Walden...

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Joan and Jill

V.G. Kiernan, 15 October 1981

In 1870, Daumier drew a cartoon of soldiers filing past a monument of the fatherland, with the caption: ‘Ceux qui vont mourir te saluent.’ Wandering about quiet French churches, one...

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