Books

Gilgamesh, Michael Schmidt’s ‘life’ of a poem

12 October 2019 9:00 am

In the mid-19th century, around lunchtime, a pale young man with an enormous beard could be seen in the British…

A thought-provoking work of ‘moral atonement’ and ‘comparative redemption’

12 October 2019 9:00 am

No nation’s defeat is ever quite straight-forward, and sometimes downfall can bring its own kind of posthumous victory. By the…

Betrayal in Berlin – a small but important part of the Cold War story

12 October 2019 9:00 am

The Berlin Tunnel was an Anglo-American eavesdropping operation mounted against Russian-controlled East Berlin in 1955–56.  It was a technical and…

Donald Hoffman’s The Case Against Reality is hard to get your head around

12 October 2019 9:00 am

Vibrations, chemicals and light-waves exist in the world; sounds, tastes, smells and colours only seem to. ‘Many sensations which are…

Patti Smith had a bad year in 2016

12 October 2019 9:00 am

In the Chinese zodiac, 2016 was the year of the monkey, a trickster year full of the unhappy and the…

Man’s first instinct has always been to return to the sea

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Even before the ancient Greeks, men rejoiced in the sea as a source of food, trade, adventure, conquest and plunder, Horatio Clare discovers

Ian McEwan’s anti-Brexit satire is a damp squib

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Kafka wrote a novella, The Metamorphosis, about a man who finds himself transformed into a beetle. Now Ian McEwan has…

Where are Yeats, Eliot and Plath in a new survey of 20th-century poetry?

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Shelley famously and optimistically proclaimed that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Adorno famously and pessimistically declared that…

Jessie Burton’s The Confession is, frankly, a bit heavy-handed

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Jessie Burton is famous for her million-copy bestselling debut novel The Miniaturist, which she followed with The Muse. Now she’s…

Is the judiciary really so bad at judging character?

5 October 2019 9:00 am

When I had a cough last week, my son Joe,  who has autism, shouted at me and covered his ears.…

Visiting the world’s masterpieces is a quixotic undertaking

5 October 2019 9:00 am

From his base in London, Martin Gayford has spent much of his career as an art critic travelling. He has…

A frank description of dementia is a searing, suffocating read

5 October 2019 9:00 am

In Annie Ernaux’s The Years — her extraordinary act of collective autobiography —the ‘I’ disappears. Her memoir becomes the memoir…

A dog’s life is infinitely superior to our own — so let’s embrace it

5 October 2019 9:00 am

The Dominican friar Henry Suso was once carving Jesus’s name in his chest with a knife when he noticed a…

Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House is even better on second reading

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Having a saint in the family is dreadful, They’re often absent, either literally or emotionally, and because they’re always thinking…

A ménage à trois that worked: Ivan Turgenev and the Viardots

5 October 2019 9:00 am

If we still bemoan a world of mass tourism, the mid 19th century, Orlando Figes reminds us, is where it…

Round North Korea with Michael Palin in rose-tinted spectacles

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Michael Palin in North Korea, a two-part documentary in which the Python is given a tightly choreographed tour of that…

It’s easy to forget how undemocratic Europe was 50 years ago

5 October 2019 9:00 am

The subtitle of Simon Reid-Henry’s substantial work indicates its thesis: ‘The remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971–2017.’…

As Lyra grows up, Philip Pullman’s materials grow darker

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Two years after Philip Pullman published La Belle Sauvage, the prequel to His Dark Materials trilogy, we have its long-awaited…

Why have the Swedes been incapable of finding Olof Palme’s murderer?

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Any Swede old enough to remember knows where they were when their prime minister Olof Palme was assassinated. On 28…

For millennials, pre-Thatcher Britain must seem another — quite mystifying — country

28 September 2019 9:00 am

No other political leader would have dared send the Task Force to the South Atlantic, says Charles Moore. But for Margaret Thatcher, daring and winning went together

Everything you always wanted to know about classical music but were afraid to ask

28 September 2019 9:00 am

Novelist, essayist, painter, poet, composer. Oh yes, and pianist: Stephen Hough does all of these things very well — and…

Gales and Gaels — sailing solo from Cornwall to the Summer Isles

28 September 2019 9:00 am

This is the story of a solo voyage in a 31ft- wooden sailing boat called Tsambika. Philip Marsden pilots his…

An uncanny gift for prophecy — the genius of Michel Houellebecq

28 September 2019 9:00 am

The backdrop of Michel Houellebecq’s novel is by now well established. In this — his eighth — the bleak, essentially…

In praise of Tove Ditlevsen — the greatest Danish writer you’ve never heard of

28 September 2019 9:00 am

Pick up a Penguin Classic from a cult Danish author who ‘struggled with alcohol and drug abuse’ and took her…

Compassion fatigue is as damaging to a doctor’s health as to a patient’s

28 September 2019 9:00 am

Medical training is a process of toughening up: take iron that’s vulnerable to rust, add carbon and make steel. That’s…