Ian Thomson

Italo Calvino’s essays, Collection of Sand, is a brainy delight

Maxima in minimis — for the author the smallest facts are the most significant

Death of Sardanapalus, Eugene Delacroix, 1827 (Picture: The Art Archive / DeA Picture Library / J. E. Bulloz)

The Japanese are sometimes said to suffer from ‘outsider person shock’ (gaijin shokku) when travelling abroad. Recently in London we had a lodger from Hiroshima who wanted to practise his karate routines in our back garden. Concerned to see him chopping at our apple tree in full combat gear, a metropolitan police helicopter hovered in close to take a look.

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