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Books

Michael Palin performs on the closing night of 'Monty Python Live (Mostly)'

The hell of being Michael Palin

Books

A review of Travelling to Work: Diaries, 1988-98, by Michael Palin. He leads a charmed life that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody

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If you don’t think this novel is practically perfect, I’ll send you a replacement

Books

A review of Lila, by Marilynne Robinson. A book that makes you feel newly in love with the world

Jonathan Powell gives evidence At The Iraq Inquiry, 2010

Why Jonathan Powell thinks we'll have to negotiate with al-Qa’eda

Books

A review of Talking to Terrorists: How to End Armed Conflicts, by Jonathan Powell. He makes much of Blair’s success in Northern Ireland – but not all disputes are so soluble

All too briefly together: Esmond and Jessica working behind a bar in Miami in 1940

Jessica Mitford and Esmond Romilly – crusaders, chancers, spongers

Books

A review of Churchill’s Rebels: Esmond Romilly and Jessica Mitford, by Meredith Whitford. Esmond’s bravery and Jessica’s wit make them riveting subjects

Paul Rosenberg with a Matisse painting in the 1930s

Picasso’s dealer

Books

A review of My Grandfather’s Gallery, by Anne Sinclair. A portrait of an exceptional moment in French art – and its tragic unravelling

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David Nicholls’ Us: Alan Partridge’s Grand Tour

Books

A review of Us, by David Nicholls. The novel’s comedy is the secret of its success

Vladimir and Véra: in love for life

Nabokov’s love letters are some of the most rapturous ever written

Books feature

After the publication of The Original of Laura, Nabokov’s last and most disappointing novel in a very sketchy draft, you might have been forgiven for thinking there wasn’t much left to discover in the great novelist’s writings. If the posthumous… Read more

In the dialogue in front of Raphael’s ‘Madonna della Sedia’, Martin Gayford takes the lead

This former head of the Metropolitan finds Rembrandt boring

Books

A review of ‘Rendez-vous with Art’, by Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford. It’s a minor miracle that this book doesn’t lapse into self-indulgent meandering

Paul Merton. Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Paul Merton’s is the most boastful autobiography in years

Books

A review of ‘Only When I Laugh: My Autobiography’, by Paul Merton. He writes candidly about his psychiatric incarceration but, elsewhere, there’s too much swanking

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Ottolenghi’s tomato and pomegranate salad

Yotam Ottolenghi: the Saatchi brothers of vegetable PR

Books

A review of ‘Plenty More’, by Yotam Ottolenghi. If you can make sense of this cook’s unpronounceable ingredients, you should have a delicious meal

Comforting domesticity: Alan Johnson with his stepdaughter Natalie and daughter Emma

Boy, can Alan Johnson write

Books

A review of ‘Please, Mister Postman’, by Alan Johnson. This second instalment of the former minister’s autobiography takes us from the urban jungle of Notting Hill to the cusp of political power

The end of The End of History. Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images

What’s that I hear? Francis Fukuyama back-pedalling frantically

Books

A review of ‘Political Order and Political Decay’, by Francis Fukuyama. This excellent volume of comparative history and political science should be read by politicians and public alike

Dr Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, waits to greet the Pope in 2010. Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Rowan Williams has been reading too much Wittgenstein

Books

A review of ‘The Edge of Words: God and the Habits of Language’, by Rowan Williams. Atheists have nothing to fear from this attempt to find a proof for God in linguistic philosophy

A figure of envy for much of male Middle England: Michael Rudman, with Felicity Kendal

I’m disappointed this director didn’t plunge the knife into Dustin Hoffman

Books

A review of ‘I Joke Too Much: The Theatre Director’s Tale’, by Michael Rudman. Despite the dearth of score-settling, there’s a good laugh on almost every page

Edmund Burke. Scruton argues, like him, ‘that a society is ‘a partnership… between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born’. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Passion, authority and the odd mini-rant: Scruton’s conservative vision

Books

A review of ‘How To Be A Conservative’, by Roger Scruton. He ends with a passionate, romantic appeal on behalf of western society

October 1984:  Firemen inspect the shell of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, destroyed by an IRA sleeper bomb which was intended to kill Margaret Thatcher. Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images

Hilary Mantel’s fantasy about killing Thatcher is funny. Honest

Books

A review of ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories’, by Hilary Mantel. There’s a lot of horror, plenty of wraiths and a fair bit of humour in these contemporary short stories

Tennessee Williams on the stage set of A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)

Confused, unbalanced, brilliant: the Blanche Dubois of Tennessee Williams biographies

Books feature

Anyone for Tennessee? At a best guess, the answer to that’s yes. There’s scarcely a moment these days when there isn’t a Williams play on somewhere in the West End or along the Great White Way. One reason for this… Read more

John Gielgud, left, as Raskolnikov in a production of Crime and Punishment. (Photo by Alex Bender/Denis De Marney/Getty Images)

This new translation of Crime and Punishment is a masterpiece

Books

A review of ‘Crime and Punishment’, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Oliver Ready. It sheds new light on an old classic

Oliver Cromwell opening the coffin of Charles I, by Paul Delaroche

Rebellion without a cause: Peter Ackroyd's curious Civil War

Books

A review of ‘Civil War’, by Peter Ackroyd. There is a fascination in watching the construction of a narrative that accommodates so little analysis

Georges Simenon aged 30 (left) and Jean Gabin (right) in the 1958 film Maigret Tend un Piège — to be shown as part of a season of Maigret films at the Barbican, London (4–26 October). For details visit www.barbican.org.uk.

A salute to Georges Simenon

Secondary Feature

One hundred years ago an 11-year-old boy called Georges Simenon was getting accustomed to the presence of the German army in Liège. Together with his mother and his younger brother he had been forced to hide in the cellar of… Read more

The first suicide bomber was probably Samson, who died while pulling down the temple of the Philistines

Religion does not poison everything - everything poisons religion

Books

A review of ‘Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence’, by Karen Armstrong. The former nun makes a convincing case that religions are corrupted by success

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Hugo Williams. Photo: Getty Images

Hugo Williams's new poems confirm his national-treasure status

Books

A review of ‘I Knew the Bride’, by Hugo Williams. A marvellous, memorious collection drawn to the second world war and family heartache

Bobby Moore in 1966 — so far the only Englishman to lift the World Cup

‘Like Superman stopping a runaway train’: when Bobby Moore tackled Jairzinho

Books

A review of ‘Bobby Moore: The Man in Full’, by Matt Dickinson. Moore was born to be England captain

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Going for a Song, by Bevis Hillier - extract

Books feature

  On the Bust of Helen by Canova In this beloved marble view, Above the works and thought of man What nature could and would not, do, And beauty and Canova can! Beyond imagination’s power Beyond the Bard’s defeated art,… Read more

Always a better novelist than her husband: Pamela Hansford Johnson in 1949

Literature's least attractive power couple

Books

A review of ‘Pamela Hansford Johnson: Her Life, Works and Times’, by Wendy Pollard, which takes this spiky novelist – and her dreadful husband, C.P. Snow – at their own inflated valuation

Cambridge spy Kim Philby giving a press conference at his mother's home after his name was mentioned in the House of Commons in connection with the Burgess and Maclean affair. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Hugh Trevor-Roper: the spy as historian, the historian as spy

Books

A review of ‘The Secret World’, by Hugh Trevor-Roper. The future Lord Dacre's early work for MI6 shaped the rest of his life