Books

Author Margaret Drabble (Photo: Getty)

Margaret Drabble squares up to old age

5 November 2016 9:00 am

A preoccupation with death is felt from the start of Margaret Drabble’s new novel, which opens with Francesca Stubbs, in…

‘Too much caviar, Rita, too much caviar.’ The Aga Khan is seated beside his fourth wife and opposite Rita Hayworth at the reception following her wedding to his son Prince Aly Khan

The French Riviera — a sunny playground for nitwits

5 November 2016 9:00 am

‘Oh the Mediterranean addiction, how we fall for it!’ So sighed Sybille Bedford, who spent the 1920s and 1930s in…

The Duckingstool by Charles Stanley Reinhart : An accused witch on trial (Photo: Getty)

The trials and tribulations of Salem's Judge Samuel Sewall

5 November 2016 9:00 am

Richard Francis’s new novel covers ostensibly familiar ground. Set in and around Boston in the 1690s, it tells the story…

Portrait of Jonathan Swift by Charles Jervas

Fierce indignation

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Dean Swift’s biting satire is as necessary today as it was 300 years ago, according to Daniel Swift (no relation)

Anna Shilova and Aleksandr Masliakov on ‘Song of the Year’, 1977

The comic relief of Soviet Central Television

29 October 2016 9:00 am

In the opening chapter of her history of Soviet Central Television, Christine E. Evans observes two Russian televisual displays of…

Ken Clarke arrives in Downing Street (Photo: Getty)

Ken Clarke: the best prime minister we never had

29 October 2016 9:00 am

It always used to be said that, if it had been up to Guardian readers, Ken Clarke would certainly have…

‘Little Dorrit and the Turnkey’, by Arthur A. Dixon

The best of times and the worst of times — in debtors' prison

29 October 2016 9:00 am

The Marshalsea was the best and worst place for a debtor to be imprisoned. From 1438 until its closure in…

Writer and historian Jan Morris (Photo: Getty)

Jan Morris — ‘the greatest descriptive writer of her time’

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Married as I am to an antiquarian book dealer, and living in a house infested with books and manuscripts, I’m…

Fallen idol: Mercia dela Querra, the caretaker of Orania’s Verwoerd museum, sits beside the bronze head of the founder of apartheid

Orania: the desert of Afrikaner dreams

29 October 2016 9:00 am

South African democracy has not, on the whole, been kind to the Afrikaner. During Nelson Mandela’s benign oversight of the…

Patients in the tuberculosis convalescent home at Paddington, London, 1942 (Photo: Getty)

Cries and whispers in the TB sanitorium

29 October 2016 9:00 am

If you are 70-plus, the shadow of TB will have hung over your childhood and youth, as it did mine,…

Sea Ice

Button up your overcoat before settling down with Ed O’Loughlin

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Brrrrr, this is a chilly book. Each time a character put on his sealskin kamiks, muskrat hat, wolfskin mittens and…

Beef hanging

Why is it OK to eat insects but not little furry animals?

29 October 2016 9:00 am

I’m writing this in the Highlands. Through the window I can see Loch Maree, being ruffled into white-tipped skirls by…

A drone hovers between two tower blocks

A new look at cities — from the top down

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Most of us just live in cities, or travel to see them and take them pretty much as they come,…

flaubert

Flaubert — the writer’s writer par excellence — is a real challenge to write about

22 October 2016 9:00 am

If only Flaubert had spent less time writing — and sitting in his summerhouse fuming at man’s stupidity — his life wouldn’t seem such a trudge, says Graham Robb

Astrid Lindgren during the second world war. By 1945 she was suffering from depression and insomnia

Astrid Lindgren’s second world war diaries make for crisp, painful reading

22 October 2016 9:00 am

There’s a glorious scene in Astrid Lindgren’s first Pippi Longstocking book in which her fearless, freckled heroine strides to the…

Wings

Rabih Alameddine’s desperate protagonist is plagued by Death, the Devil and the ashes of former lovers

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Shades of The Master and Margarita haunt Rabih Alameddine’s sixth book, in which Jacob, a Yemeni-born poet with a day…

Rugged coast under the night sky.

It’s time Christopher Priest’s devout congregation extended beyond sci-fi enthusiasts

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Christopher Priest, now 73, has been quietly turning out oddly mesmerising fiction for nearly half a century but, like the…

His contemporaries regarded Alexander Hamilton as an ‘uppity’ half-caste who wanted to be a dictator

American politics at its most uncivil — in 1804

22 October 2016 9:00 am

To anyone complaining that American politics in 2016 is uncivil, consider this: in 1804, the vice president of the United…

Art historian Kenneth Clark (Photo: Getty)

Kenneth Clark: from the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublime

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Our collective attention spans may not be as short as is widely cited, but they are pretty short. Take the…

Harvesting apples, illustrated in the medieval handbook Tacuinum Sanitas — which stresses the fruit’s medicinal properties

Apples of discord in today’s supermarkets

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Apple Day, on 21 October, is a newish festival, created in 1990, by the venerable organisation, Common Ground. Intended to…

Steven Runciman with his parakeet, photographed by Cecil Beaton c.1923. Runciman was Beaton’s first photographic subject

Steven Runciman — historian, tease and professional enigma

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Steven Runciman, the historian of Byzantium, is a puzzling figure. He was an outrageous snob, once remarking that he would…

Being adored by Middle England as cosy and harmless drives Alan Bennett mad

Alan Bennett: one of the sharpest, funniest writers in the English language

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst reveals that, far from being a cuddly, mild-mannered teddy bear, our national treasure has sharp claws — and a gimlet eye

ALEJANDRO ZAMBRA

The novel as examination paper: experimental fiction reaches new extremes

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Doorstoppers, slim volumes, loose leaves stacked in a box, bound pages fretworked with holes, epistolary exchanges, online postings, palimpsests…. Fiction…

The Treaty of Versailles — which made the second world war inevitable

The Treaty of Versailles made the second world war inevitable

15 October 2016 9:00 am

In 1919 the economist and sometime prophet John Maynard Keynes left the glittering ballroom of Versailles feeling profoundly despondent. The…

Why did Manet slash this portrait of himself and Suzanne by Degas — and why did Degas keep it?

The paint fights of eight great artists

15 October 2016 9:00 am

When the old curmudgeon Edgar Degas died in 1917, a stunning trove of works by Edouard Manet — eight paintings,…