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It leads to everything

Patricia Fara: Heat and Force, 23 September 2021

Einstein’s Fridge: The Science of Fire, Ice and the Universe 
by Paul Sen.
William Collins, 305 pp., £20, April, 978 0 00 826279 2
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... chief apocalyptic risks are still nuclear destruction and climate change.In Einstein’s Fridge, Paul Sen exhorts us to study thermodynamics so that we might make better-informed decisions about how to save the world. The study of thermodynamics began in the 17th century with attempts to create a vacuum inside a glass globe – the subject of Joseph ...

Did we pass?

Robert Cassen, 23 May 1985

Resources, Values and Development 
by Amartya Sen.
Blackwell, 584 pp., £25, October 1984, 0 631 13342 9
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... According to legend, when Paul Samuel-son left the room after his PhD oral, one of the reputed economists examining him turned to the others and asked: ‘Did we pass?’ A reviewer confronted with this collection of papers by Amartya Sen is likely to feel much the same. The author has a mind like a search-light, illuminating his material with an intense lucidity; he has a gift for looking at assumptions his colleagues have long taken for granted, and finding them defective ...

Who Lives and Who Dies

Paul Farmer: Who survives?, 5 February 2015

... and stunting. In An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions, Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen consider the plight of hundreds of millions of Indians who still live in poverty, often as a consequence of class, caste and gender inequality, without ready access to education, credit or any sort of social safety net.3 One of the questions Drèze and ...

Human Welfare

Paul Seabright, 18 August 1983

Utilitarianism and Beyond 
edited by Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 521 24296 7
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... be too far off when we hear no more of it,’ has bowed to the inevitable and edited, with Amartya Sen, this substantial collection of essays by philosophers and economists. And although the title and the balance of the contributors’ sympathies might lead one to suspect a last psychotic attempt to kill the theory off for good, its overall effect is to leave ...

Famine and Fraternity

Amartya Sen, 3 July 1986

Is that it? 
by Bob Geldof and Paul Vallely.
Sidgwick, 352 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 0 283 99362 6
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... The death of somebody one loves is unbearable not only because of its devastating impact on one’s life, but also because it is excruciatingly difficult for one to accept the victim’s own loss of everything he or she had. If one feels lacerated and burnt, this partly reflects the primitive agony of seeing the victim’s incomparable tragedy. The ‘self-regarding’ element in one’s grief at the death of a loved person is thus supplemented by an ‘other-regarding’ element concerning that loved person, even though the two elements may be extremely hard to disentangle ...

Café No Problem

Victor Mallet, 28 May 1992

The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War and Revolution since 1945 
by David Chandler.
Yale, 396 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 300 04919 6
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... installed by the Vietnamese and led by the former Khmer Rouge commander and ex-monk Hun Sen – one of the four main factions under the peace plan – have abandoned the thankless task of running the country and decided to make money instead. They sell government houses for dollars and watch with resignation as hardwood trees are chopped down by ...

Our Lady of the Counterculture

Marina Warner: The Virgin Mary, 8 November 2012

... an eclectic group of heroes, prophets and saints – Jesus and Muhammad, Julius Caesar, Sun Yat-Sen, Joan of Arc and Victor Hugo (the last two again exhibiting French colonial influence). The press corps in Saigon used to hang around the veranda of the Hotel Continentale, waiting for a lead, and one day in June 1972 they (we) were at a loose end, and I ...

Who were they?

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: ‘Thuggee’, 3 December 2009

Stranglers and Bandits: A Historical Anthology of ‘Thuggee’ 
edited by Kim Wagner.
Oxford, 318 pp., £22.99, January 2009, 978 0 19 569815 2
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... invent the term. Wagner begins with excerpts from articles by the Indologists Wilhelm Halbfass and Paul Dundas, suggesting that the word thaka or thaga can be found at least as early as the medieval Jain textual tradition to mean a cheat, swindler or slippery character. The British simply shrank the term semantically, to give it a specific meaning. They also ...

Tropical Storms

Blake Morrison, 6 September 1984

Poems of Science 
edited by John Heath-Stubbs and Phillips Salman.
Penguin, 328 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 0 14 042317 6
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The Kingfisher 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, April 1984, 0 571 13269 3
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The Ice Factory 
by Philip Gross.
Faber, 62 pp., £3.95, June 1984, 0 571 13217 0
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Venus and the Rain 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Oxford, 57 pp., £4.50, June 1984, 0 19 211962 1
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Saying hello at the station 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 48 pp., £2.95, June 1984, 0 7011 2788 0
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Dreaming Frankenstein and Collected Poems 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 159 pp., £2.95, May 1984, 0 904919 80 3
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News for Babylon: The Chatto Book of West Indian-British Poetry 
edited by James Berry.
Chatto, 212 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 9780701127978
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Human Rites: Selected Poems 1970-1982 
by E.A. Markham.
Anvil, 127 pp., £7.95, May 1984, 0 85646 112 1
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by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 79 pp., £3.95, July 1984, 0 571 13180 8
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... We are used to hard words from Belfast and the impingement (even in so wry and oblique a talent as Paul Muldoon) of uncomfortable sectarian truths. But McGuckian is like Denton Welch, whose war-diaries make no mention of the war: we can only just make out this century, let alone her own particular time and place. In a recent Muldoon poem which turns his fellow ...

Libel on the Human Race

Steven Shapin: Malthus, 5 June 2014

Malthus: The Life and Legacies of an Untimely Prophet 
by Robert Mayhew.
Harvard, 284 pp., £20, April 2014, 978 0 674 72871 4
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... thousand. Famines still happen, and an unconscionable number of people are hungry, but, as Amartya Sen has powerfully argued, modern mass starvation tends to result not from a shortage of food but from people’s lack of access to it. There are also less cheering things that Malthus didn’t foresee: water made scarce, and a stable climate made fragile, with ...

Flailing States

Pankaj Mishra: Anglo-America Loses its Grip, 16 July 2020

... The abyss of history​ is deep enough to hold us all,’ Paul Valéry wrote in 1919, as Europe lay in ruins. The words resonate today as the coronavirus blows the roof off the world, most brutally exposing Britain and the United States, these prime movers of modern civilisation, which proudly claimed victory in two world wars, and in the Cold War, and which until recently held themselves up as exemplars of enlightened progress, economic and cultural models to be imitated across the globe ...


Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine, 30 July 1998

... in the town in 1946. I knew some of these people: Dan Bolger, for example, whose grandfather, Paul, had donated money in 1846. Dan Bolger had a shop in the town. It was hard to think of him, or any of these people, having grandparents who knew ‘bitter hunger, starvation and death’. Most of them had inherited property and exuded a certain ...

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