Books

‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’, 12th century, from St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt. (This image and one below from Chromaphilia, by Stella Paul). akg-images/Erich Lessing

Moody blues (and pinks and greens): how colour influences our emotions

18 March 2017 9:00 am

When Australia imposed generic packaging in its war on cigarettes, there was consumer research into the most deterrent colour. Pantone…

According to Luke

18 March 2017 9:00 am

This is an odd one, not least because it claims to be a novel, which it isn’t. Emmanuel Carrère, writer…

Forbidden love and the beautiful game

18 March 2017 9:00 am

Nowadays, most of us living in the liberal West agree that there can never be anything morally wrong with love…

Watercolour sketch of Jane Carlyle by Karl Hartmann (1850)

How Jane Carlyle survived a miserable marriage

11 March 2017 9:00 am

Jane Carlyle found comfort in her miserable marriage by ‘splashing off’ whatever was on her mind in letters to friends – which became famous in her own lifetime, says Frances Wilson

A mother and child, refugees from Raqqa, wait to cross into Turkey in September 2014

The brutality and barbarism of everyday life in Raqqa

11 March 2017 9:00 am

In my work as a reviewer, a small, steady proportion of all the books publishers send me concern the Holocaust.…

Is there any such thing as nothing? In search of the cosmic void

11 March 2017 9:00 am

Nothing will come of nothing, said Lear, because he wasn’t familiar with quantum physics. According to our current best theories,…

How to survive grief — and be of comfort to others

11 March 2017 9:00 am

If a single book could help you to be kinder and more compassionate, could expand and deepen your understanding of…

Paris-born Pearl Witherington led a force of over 1,500 maquisards in the summer of 1944

Six of the best female spies in Nazi-occupied France

11 March 2017 9:00 am

‘Women,’ Captain Selwyn Jepson, SOE’s senior recruiting officer, once wrote, ‘have a far greater capacity for cool and lonely courage…

Sam Miller’s life with two fathers

11 March 2017 9:00 am

No disrespect to any of the present incumbents, but Karl Miller (1931–2014) was a literary editor in an age when…

Abraham Lincoln is plagued by ghosts of the past

11 March 2017 9:00 am

On 5 February 1862, the night Abraham Lincoln and his wife gave a lavish reception in the White House, with…

Portrait of Persia’s Prince Abbas Mirza, c.1820. From his bailiwick near the Russian border he dispatched educational missions to Europe, sponsored translations of key European works and imported metal casting techniques and the printing press. (Getty images)

When Islam was synonymous with knowledge and erudition

11 March 2017 9:00 am

Christopher de Bellaigue, a journalist who has spent much of his working life in the Middle East, has grown tired…

Fantastic interpretations of the inkblots might imply either madness or high intelligence and creativity. Rorschach was convinced the tests could distinguish between the two

Could the Rorschach tests spot a Nazi?

4 March 2017 9:00 am

There may be something in the Rorschach tests, says Philip Hensher, but can it really be measured?

Denton Welch with baroque angel at Hadlow Road, Tonbridge, 1937

The embarrassing love letters of Denton Welch

4 March 2017 9:00 am

On the Whitsun weekend of 1935 an art student called Denton Welch was knocked off his bicycle by a car…

The latest short stories are far from sweet

4 March 2017 9:00 am

Like his Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel, The Sympathisers, the stories in Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees are set largely among…

Do Daniel C. Dennett's memes deserve to survive?

4 March 2017 9:00 am

The greatest of Bach’s 224 cantatas is BWV 109, ‘Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben’. Its subject — the…

An 18th-century engraving of Praetorian guards by Jacques Grasset de Saint Sauveur and L.F. Labrousse

The double-edged sword of the Praetorian Guard

4 March 2017 9:00 am

The history of an army is essentially the history of its deeds. The history of an army within an army…

Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream is unforgettable

4 March 2017 9:00 am

In Delmore Schwartz’s story ‘In Dreams Begin Responsibilities’, a young man dreams he is watching his father and mother’s engagement…

Pomak Muslims still live in Greek and Bulgarian villages. Left: a bride embarks on her two-day winter wedding in Ribnovo, 210 km from Sofia

The long tragedy of Europe's borderland

25 February 2017 9:00 am

The border between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey has long been a flashpoint. Now, more than ever, says Simon Kuper, it’s a hazardous transit realm for the homeless

The star-struck Claretta, Mussolini’s last love. According to her diaries, he radiated a ‘god-like potency’ and a ‘bull-like’ magnetism

Seducing Mussolini

25 February 2017 9:00 am

As a child in fascist Italy, Clara Petacci (known as Claretta) was dutifully adoring of Benito Mussolini and the cult…

Thick as thieves in Georgian London

25 February 2017 9:00 am

‘To get a confession from a proud male factor, it is always better to call for a poet than a…

George Mackay Brown appears part-inspiration forAnnalena McAfee’s fictional poet Grigor McWatt

It’s a long slog Hame with Annalena McAfee

25 February 2017 9:00 am

Alex Salmond, former first minister of Scotland, once claimed that he could always tell Scottish fiction from English. Novels, he…

China Mieville’s counterfactual novel is a chilling, surreal caprice

25 February 2017 9:00 am

At the start of this novella the protagonist, Thibaut, is ambushed by Wehrmacht soldiers between the ninth and tenth arrondissements.…

John Burnside treads sacred ground in Ashland & Vine

25 February 2017 9:00 am

John Burnside is the author of an impressive bookshelf of elegant novels and slim, precise volumes of poetry, and like…

Was A.A. Gill just an outrageous show pony?

25 February 2017 9:00 am

When A.A. Gill died last December, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth across the nation. I must admit this…

Jess Phillips — like a clever, funny friend telling you what gets her goat

Harriet Harman and Jess Phillips: poles apart in the sisterhood

25 February 2017 9:00 am

We’re told not to judge books by their covers, but faced with these two it’s hard not to. Harman’s is…