Lead book review

Has Salman Rushdie become his own pastiche?

If there were ever a Spectator competition for the best pastiche of the opening words of a Salman Rushdie novel, a pretty good entry might be: ‘On the last day of her life, when she was two hundred and forty-seven years old, the blind poet, miracle worker and prophetess Pampa Kampana completed her immense narrative

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How the Muppets went to Moscow as ambassadors for democracy

In this engaging memoir, Natasha Lance Rogoff recounts the experience of bringing Sesame Street to Yeltsin’s Russia. A Russo-phile who changed her name from Susan to Natasha as a teenager, Lance Rogoff had been working in Moscow for more than a decade as a reporter and documentary filmmaker when she was approached to be the

Nursing grievances in the Crimean War

Most people know something about Florence Nightingale’s nursing expedition to Scutari and the Crimea during the Crimean War, and the ‘kingdom of horror’ that she and her nurses found there: unsanitary conditions in the hospitals, a broken-down supply system and British soldiers dropping like flies from disease rather than battle wounds. However, as Terry Tastard

The lost world of Jewish Rhodes

Janet Malcolm’s formulation that a ‘journalist is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse’ comes to mind on page two of the darkly refulgent One Hundred Saturdays. That’s when the author Michael Frank mentions it was his idea to accompany his new

Cold-blooded murder in Amazonia

Around dinner time on 21 November 2000, a nervous 19-year-old man knocked on the door of Maria Joel Dias da Costa’s house, located in the backcountry Amazonian town of Vila Rondon. The unknown man asked to see her husband Dezinho, a union leader, but he was out. She invited the visitor to wait, which he

The vexing problem of ancient Greek mathematics

The most important thing to know about ancient Greek mathematics is how little anyone knows about it. The scant evidence available today is tremendously indirect: reconstructions from unrepresentative survivals of fragments of translations of transcriptions of commentaries on compilations of summaries of allusions to refutations of excerpts of documents produced as part of an oral

Cosmo Landesman has no time for feel-good-grief memoirs

‘This is a book about how you don’t get over it,’ You Are Not Alone begins. If you’re new to bereavement, looking for a way through the death of a loved one, perhaps this doesn’t scream of optimism. But Cariad Lloyd’s warmth, generosity and gentle pragmatism makes her book one of the most reassuring I