In the latest issue:

The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

The Home Life of Inspector Maigret

John Lanchester

Story: ‘Have a Seat in the Big Black Chair’

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

In Beijing

Long Ling

Princess Margaret and Lady Anne

Rosemary Hill

At the Movies: ‘Arkansas’

Michael Wood

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen

At Home

Jane Miller

The Ottoman Conundrum

Helen Pfeifer

Poem: ‘Muntjac’

Blake Morrison

Piketty’s Revolution

Geoff Mann

Short Cuts: In Tripoli

Jérôme Tubiana

Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

PrologueTom Paulin
Close
Close

Koba is in a country
no a wilderness province
the size of Scotland
– nine months of ice and snow
they live in caves where his fellow
exiles fear the hard glints
in his eyes his yellow
smoky eyes that hex his comrades
and will them toward the shades
summer’s hot – they move to shacks and tents
– the tents sailcloth the shacks tarred
always aloof and solitary
he imagines becoming the metal Shah
the steel Tsar I mean
of all the Russias
gravedigger hangman knotting his rope
the hardest of hard cases
he will one day forge – yes forge
a new a rigid Europe
but for this stretch he’s on the far mar-
gins of a wrinkled no not a withered state
that’s broken at the head and hips
alone on the taiga
– a clanging bird somewhere –
he places a juniper berry on his lips
sucks then rolls it on his tongue
a tiny bit of gunge
it tastes quite deliciously bitter
now with one
one as yet undreaded hand
he scratches his head for a long long
time like a patient tiger
though in his best and worst dreams
this drunken shoemaker’s son
is Caesar inside a nutmeg or an almond
the king of infinite space
with the power to bring the world to an end
though all these four long years
he knows he has pitched his tent
upon a grain of sand

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