Philip Hensher finds Stephen Sondheim, in his later years, side-stepping from smartness into sincerity
Haruki Murakami’s latest tale of good and evil has a thrilling, broad sweep, but the delicacy of his early work is missing, says Philip Hensher
Philip Hensher welcomes this account of the moralist, but misses the humorist
Many saw disaster coming, including Philip Hensher, but no one did anything
A history of international French that makes one long for plain English
If not equal to his best novels, Kingsley Amis’s short stories are still wonderfully entertaining, says Philip Hensher
Philip Hensher rediscovers the rich complexities of The Divine Comedy
The King James Bible, while uniting the English-speaking world, gave birth to centuries of radicalism and Dissent. On its 400th anniversary, Philip Hensher examines the translation’s legacy
Philip Hensher recalls the costly Soviet adventure in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and compares it to the British involvement there in the 19th century and the present day
Philip Hensher recounts how a handful of British mercenaries in the 1960s, headed by the Buchanesque Jim Johnson (pictured above), trained a rag-tag force of Yemeni tribesmen to defeat the full might of the Egyptian army in a conflict that Nasser later referred to as ‘my Vietnam’
Philip Hensher examines the relatively new genre of classic writers themselves becoming the subject of fiction
Philip Hensher finds Flaubert’s scorn for his characters relieved by hilarity
Tolstoy’s legend is not what it was; but sometimes the world needs idealised versions of ordinary men, argues Philip Hensher
They were ‘soulmates’ according to people who knew both of them.
Philip Hensher salutes ‘Freedom’, Jonathan Franzen’s latest great American novel
We are not going to agree about Bruce Chatwin.
Though Lydia Davis probably first came to the attention of English readers through her translations, she has been making a substantial reputation for herself in America with sharp, inventive and demanding short stories.
Gustav Mahler is the most subjective, the most autobiographical, of composers.
Unexpected parallels between our age and another are a staple of the jobbing journalist’s trade.
David Mitchell’s fifth novel, an exotically situated romance of astounding vulgarity, has some things to be said for it.
To review some new books about Shakespeare is not to note a revival of interest, but simply to let down a bucket into an undammed river.
There ought to be more mileage than there is in stories of diplomacy.
Ahundred years ago, a character in a novel who was keen on music would, like E.M. Forster’s Lucy Honeychurch or Leo- nard Bast, be as apt to stumble through a piece at the piano as listen to it at a concert.
In 1564 a book was published calculating that there were 7,409,127 demons at work in the world, under the administrative control of 79 demon-princes.
These long anticipated literary mysteries never end in anything very significant — one thinks of Harold Brodkey’s The Runaway Soul, falling totally flat after decades of sycophantic pre-publicity, or Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers, emerging in fragments in 1975, after 17 years of non-work, to scandal but no acclaim.