Books

The two works of fiction I re-read annually

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Long ago, I interviewed Edmund White and found that the photographer assigned to the job was the incomparable Jane Bown…

Theseus kills the Minotaur at the centre of the labyrinth. On the left, Ariadne gives him a ball of thread so that he can find his way out.

Amazing mazes: the pleasures of getting lost in the labyrinth

28 July 2018 9:00 am

Ian Sansom finds the latest books on labyrinths and mazes genuinely amazing

Galileo before the Inquisition in Rome, by Cristiano Banti

The Inquisition on trial: the ordeals of Giordano Bruno and Galileo

28 July 2018 9:00 am

If you go to the Campo dei Fiori in Rome on 17 February every year, you’ll find yourself surrounded by…

A suffragette sequel: Old Baggage, by Lissa Evans reviewed

28 July 2018 9:00 am

Lissa Evans has had a good idea for her new novel. It’s ‘suffragettes: the sequel’. She sets her story not…

Portrait of an American childhood: A Long Island Story by Rick Gekoski reviewed

28 July 2018 9:00 am

Success as a rare books dealer, academic, publisher, broadcaster and author of several non-fiction books — at 70, Rick Gekoski…

David Sedaris, the current king of humorists, is often not funny at all

28 July 2018 9:00 am

Since the 17th century, a ‘humourist’ has been a witty person, and especially someone skilled in literary comedy. In 1871,…

Born again: My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh, reviewed

28 July 2018 9:00 am

The new novel by the author of the 2016 Booker shortlisted Eileen is at once a jumble of influences —…

Bruce Lee in a scene from Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee: weird, gruesome and oh-so-cool

28 July 2018 9:00 am

Every cinema-loving person has a favourite Bruce Lee moment. My own comes towards the end of Enter the Dragon, the…

Mandela revisits his prison cell on Robben Island in 1994 [Getty]

What Nelson Mandela really craved in prison: Pond’s Cold Cream

28 July 2018 9:00 am

So much rubbish has been written over the years by those who feared, revered or pretended to know Nelson Mandela…

Shades of the Mitfords: After the Party, by Cressida Connolly, reviewed

28 July 2018 9:00 am

At the beginning of After the Party, Phyllis Forrester tells us she was in prison. While inside, her hair turned…

A cold archaeological gaze: In the Garden of the Fugitives, by Ceridwen Dovey, reviewed

28 July 2018 9:00 am

Visiting Pompeii, it is hard to miss the garden of the fugitives. It is on every other postcard in the…

Adam Smith circa 1775; medallion by Tassie

Adam Smith analysed human behaviour, not economics, says Simon Heffer

21 July 2018 9:00 am

Jesse Norman unpicks the many myths of Adam Smith – a ‘behavioural scientist’ even more than an economist, says Simon Heffer

Kyoto’s Yasaka Pagoda and Sannenzaka Street with cherry blossom in the morning

Kyoto is all that is left of Japan - more’s the pity

21 July 2018 9:00 am

‘Much of what I say may turn out not to be true.’ Hardly the ideal beginning to a guided tour.…

Who needs a plot? asks Anne Tyler

21 July 2018 9:00 am

Willa Drake’s second husband calls her ‘little one’, even though she is over 60 and the mother of two grown…

‘T’ is for Trotskyite

21 July 2018 9:00 am

Varlam Shalamov’s short stories of life in the Soviet Gulag leave an impression of ice-sharp precision, vividness and lucidity, as…

A man of many handles: Flann O’Brien in Dublin

A melancholy talent with a genius for send-up - Flann O’Brien was his own worst enemy

21 July 2018 9:00 am

It is tempting to compare two highly intelligent, learned and gifted young Dublin writers, suffering under the burdensome, Oedipal influence…

Two valuable new books about technology that are a bummer to read

21 July 2018 9:00 am

All good non-fiction writing shares certain characteristics: consistent economy, upbeat pace and digestible ideas that logically flow. Tech writers have…

Can a paedophilic relationship ever be excused?

21 July 2018 9:00 am

Sofka Zinovieff’s new novel, Putney, is an involving, beautifully written, and subtle account of an affair in the 1970s between…

‘Old Glory’ flowing through Natchez, Mississippi

Travel literature

21 July 2018 9:00 am

Jonathan Raban was largely responsible for changing the nature of travel writing. Back in the 1970s when he began, the…

‘Departure from Lisbon for Brazil, the East Indies and America’, by Theodore de Bry, 16th century

Portugal’s entrancing capital has always looked to the sea

14 July 2018 9:00 am

Lisbon has always ventured out to sea, bringing new worlds back to ours, and therein lies its charm, says Nicholas Shakespeare

Is Anuradha Roy India’s greatest living novelist?

14 July 2018 9:00 am

‘Myshkin’ wants ‘a tiding ending’ to his life and has settled down to write his will. An ageing Indian horticulturalist,…

George Sand listening to Chopin play the piano (Adolf Karpellus, private collection)

Chopin’s Piano is an eclectic trip through 19th-century romanticism

14 July 2018 9:00 am

It is easier to say what this book is not than to describe what it is. It is not a…

Cease to strive! Now!

14 July 2018 9:00 am

There is a long and noble history of books about doing nothing. In the 5th century bc the sage Lao…

First Novels

14 July 2018 9:00 am

Katharine Kilalea is a South African poet who has written a startlingly good first novel. OK, Mr Field (Faber, £12.99)…

Caryl Phillips’s new novel manages to make Jean Rhys boring!

14 July 2018 9:00 am

The problem with writing about writers — and a particular blight on the current vogue for autofiction — is that…