Books

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The end of the world is nigh: the latest short stories reviewed

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Only Helen DeWitt would start a book with an epigraph of her own pop-culture mash-up poetry and end with an…

The Khazret Sultan Mosque in the sparkling new city of Astana, built at a breathtaking pace to replace Kazakhstan’s former capital Almaty

Kazakhstan is about the size of Europe — but we know almost nothing about it

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Kazakhstan, say signs by the side of the road in this vast Central Asian country, is ‘a land of unity…

Faux-Gothic spires and the sound of leather on willow: a cricket match in 2007 at Charterhouse, one of the original ‘great nine’ English public schools

Our public schools now resemble five-star hotels — with a Russian and Asian clientele

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Deplore it or revere it, you cannot but respect the private school industry’s wart-like survival in modern Britain. Has any…

Credit: Ian Hill

The Australian James Joyce: the novels of Gerald Murnane reviewed

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Gerald Murnane is the kind of writer literary critics adore. His novels have little in the way of plot or…

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Where would we be without crime’s heavies? Muscle, by Alan Trotter, reviewed

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Let’s hear it for the heavies, the unsung heroes of noir crime fiction on page and screen. The genre would…

Detail of Miao embroidery from south-west China. Motifs, inspired by ancient Miao songs and legends, are handed down from generation to generation

Spinning yarns: uplifting stories told through needlework

2 February 2019 9:00 am

In this unusual book, part memoir, part history, Clare Hunter offers a personal meditation on the textile arts. Sewing and…

The frightened teenager Herschel Grynszpan, photographed in a Paris police cell. After his transportation to Berlin, he realised that he was being kept alive — ‘the safest Jew in Germany’ — to appear as star defendant at a grotesque Nazi show trial

The hot-headed youth who played straight into Hitler’s hands

2 February 2019 9:00 am

On 7 November 1938, the 17-year-old Herschel Grynszpan walked into the German embassy in Paris. Claiming to have secret papers,…

Maggie Gee. Credit: Nick Rankin

Cycle of violence: Blood, by Maggie Gee, reviewed

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Maggie Gee has written 14 novels including The White Family, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s…

Map of West Africa, c.1547, depicting the trading fortress of São Jorge da Mina on the African Gold Coast.

The scramble for Africa goes back many centuries

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Anthony Sattin is fascinated by the rich history of West Africa – the kind not taught in schools

A 17th-century Kabbalah amulet. The seven-branched candlestick is made up of words

Will we ever unravel the mysteries of Kabbalah?

26 January 2019 9:00 am

In an age where ‘authenticity’ is prized above all things (even if what this actually means is that — like,…

Auberon Waugh when standing for the Dog Lovers’ Party against Jeremy Thorpe in the 1979 general election. Credit: Getty Images

Auberon Waugh — a demon on the page, an angel off it

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Auberon Waugh was happy to admit that most journalism is merely tomorrow’s chip paper but, of all the journalists of…

The internet was never intended to spy on us

26 January 2019 9:00 am

There is a trend in non-fiction — in fact my editor has been on to me about this lately —…

Hemingway with Martha Gellhorn on a shooting expedition, c.1940

The unimportance of Ernest Hemingway: why should we bother reading him anymore?

26 January 2019 9:00 am

What is the most repulsive sentence in English/American literature? Even as a 12-year-old American boy, I cringed when reading, in…

Warehouses were converted in 1918 to keep patients suffering from the flu pandemic in quarantine. Credit: Getty Images

One hundred years on, could we cope with a new flu pandemic?

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Do you remember the swine flu panic a decade ago? Jeremy Brown, the author of this book, describes it here.…

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Beware the female stalker: Dream Sequence, by Adam Foulds, reviewed

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Adam Foulds’s fourth novel, Dream Sequence, is an exquisitely concocted, riveting account of artistic ambition and unrequited love verging on…

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The ghostly Thames: Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield, reviewed

26 January 2019 9:00 am

While its shape is famous — prominent on maps of London and Oxford — the Thames is ‘unmappable’, according to…

The Death Railway: the line built by prisoners of war in Burma at the cost of thousands of lives

Train journeys may be losing their romance — but there are other adventures still to be had

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Monisha Rajesh wrote lovingly about the Indian railways in her previous book, Around India in 80 Trains; but her new…

Life at the Globe

26 January 2019 9:00 am

    IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE PRINCIPAL PARTNERS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE’S 2019 SUMMER SEASON I quoted last week that rather…

Ernst Jünger in Paris in 1941

Ernst Jünger — reluctant captain of the Wehrmacht

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Ernst Jünger’s journals are full of insights into the the second world war, but reading this cool, calculating captain of the Wehrmacht can be dispiriting, according to Alex Colville

How Enoch Powell fancied himself Viceroy of India — and other startling revelations

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Interviews, like watercolours, are very hard to get right, and yet look how steadily their art has become degraded and…

Rorke’s Drift: a desperate brawl at a mission station up there with the great battle honours of the British army

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat: the story of Rorke’s Drift

19 January 2019 9:00 am

On 22 January last year, the entrance whiteboard at London Underground’s Dollis Hill carried a brief factual statement: On this…

Steel Pulse perform at a concert organised by Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League at Victoria Park, Hackney in 1978.

How Eric Clapton’s racism sparked a musical revolution

19 January 2019 9:00 am

On 13 August 1977, a demonstration by the National Front was routed in the streets of Lewisham by thousands of…

Teffi’s satire was always on target, but she balanced it with compassion

The best way to defeat totalitarianism? Treat it as a joke

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Is there anything one can never laugh about? A question inevitably hanging over humour writing, it’s best answered by the…

Is the threat of capital punishment really the foundation of good behaviour?

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Richard Wrangham embraces controversy, and appears to enjoy munching apples from carts he upsets himself. While his new book seems…

Lost in allegory: The Wall, by John Lanchester, reviewed

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Dystopian fiction continues to throng the bookshelves, for all the world as though we weren’t living in a dystopia already,…