The World Goes Bust

Adam Tooze

Once you lose control all the options are bad: shut down the economy for an unforeseeable duration, or hundreds of thousands die. Trump hasn’t mastered the challenge; instead, he expresses through his vacillations and erratic utterances the impossibility of doing so by any means that won’t cause a lot of pain. In the guise of Trump the economy appears not so much as a superego laying down the law, but as an irrepressible impulse that insists we satisfy its demands regardless of the cost, a symptom not of realism but of derangement. Trump thus personifies something that is in fact common to Europe and the US: a lack of leadership at the level appropriate to dealing with a pandemic. Instead, the job has devolved to regional governors in the US and national governments in Europe, to desperately overstretched medical services, on the one hand, and the technicians of economic policy and social relief, on the other. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of individuals and their families cope as best they can. As with climate change, we are left praying for a deus ex machina in the form of a scientific breakthrough.

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A nice girl like Simone

Joanna Biggs

Almost​ from the moment she published The Second Sex in November 1949, Simone de Beauvoir was asked why she’d never written a female character who lived a free life, the sort she imagined in her final chapter, ‘The Independent Woman’. If the mother of 20th-century feminism couldn’t imagine a free woman, who could? At first she would answer brusquely. ‘I’ve...


How to set up an ICU

Lana Spawls

You need a good electrical supply with lots of sockets for all this equipment; even the bed needs to be plugged in so you can nurse patients in different positions. There are other logistics to consider. Secure and well-stocked drug rooms are required; a huge range of drugs is used in the most complex cases, including those critical to maintaining blood pressure, in addition to more common drugs such as antibiotics (for those with a bacterial infection on top of Covid-19), sedation, pain relief and fluids. The facility will also need to be able to run blood tests; other blood tests will have to go to a lab and doctors will want results within an hour. There needs to be a portable X-ray machine to assess the lungs and check whether ET tubes and lines are in the correct position. And so radiographers have to be on hand to perform the X-rays, as well as porters to fetch and carry blood samples, and technicians to run the lab. It has to be possible to support any other organs that are failing; in the case of the heart this might mean medication such as inotropes and if the kidneys are failing a dialysis machine. Providing all of this in an entertainment venue is a big ask.


The Arrestables

Jeremy Harding

The Red Brigade in London, October 2019

London, April 2019.​ Police have confined supporters of the environmentalist movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) at Marble Arch after more than a week of protests. The activists decide to disperse, but a mural remains at the site: a young girl with a spade has just planted a sapling; she is holding a plant label with the XR logo, an hourglass in a...

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Follow the Science

James Butler

Tory politicians have been keen to emphasise that their policy has strictly followed the science, rather than being dictated by any other concern; one of the justifications for the extraordinary powers granted by the Coronavirus Act was that they would be used only if they became genuinely medically and scientifically necessary. Both the constructive disagreement intrinsic to science and the adversarial scrutiny necessary to politics disappear in this invocation of science as the ultimate authority – this trick will become familiar in the coming months. An extraordinary emergency requires extraordinary powers; no one disagrees with that. But it is politics, not science, which grants these powers legitimacy. How long will they endure? The law provides a mechanism for six-monthly renewal, though it is unclear how effective a means of restraint or scrutiny that is. Few believe Johnson is an Anglo-Orbán, eager to use the crisis to institute rule through decree; but it would be unwise to trust to his libertarian disposition.

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Conrad Jumps Ship

Fredric Jameson

Recently​ a happy accident put me in possession of a rarely seen film by Andrzej Wajda, Smuga cienia, from 1976. It is an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s short, openly autobiographical novel The Shadow-Line (1916). Wajda conceived the film as a modest docudrama based on Conrad’s last mission at sea. The British government, in the thick of the First World War, had enlisted the...

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You can’t prove I meant X

Clare Bucknell

William Godwin’s​ attack on aristocratic oppression in the Enquiry concerning Political Justice didn’t pull its punches. ‘Each man,’ he wrote, ‘should be wise enough to govern himself, without the intervention of any compulsory restraint; and, since government, even in its best state, is an evil, the object principally to be aimed at is, that we should have as...

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Diverted Traffic

A newsletter and online collection from the LRB, featuring one piece from our archive per day, chosen for its compulsive, immersive and escapist qualities, and also for its total lack of references to plague, pandemics or quarantine.

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LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

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What’s new?

‘The London Review of Books is something new,’ the LRB’s founding editor Karl Miller wrote in our first ever issue, 40 years ago. ‘This, for the first time, is it.’ Now, for the first time in a decade, the same can be said of our website.

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Notice from Bury Place:

Like most other businesses, we have taken the decision to close both the London Review Bookshop and the Cake Shop until further notice. All events and late shopping evenings due to be held in March and April have been postponed indefinitely. We will be announcing new bookselling and digital publishing initiatives to provide diversion in the coming months. Stay tuned, and thanks.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

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