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Only slightly under the influence

‘The Age of Russia,’ according to the doom-fraught speculations Oswald Spengler published in 1918, would succeed ‘the Decline of the West’. For a while, it looked as if he was right. Russia’s non-western credentials became part of the rhetoric of Soviet foreign policy. Hailed as ‘the future which works’, Russia was earnestly copied by escapers

A palpable hit

If you happen to be one of those maddeningly quick-witted or sideways-thinking readers who can spot at a glance that ‘potty train (4)’ means LOCO, that ‘Where reluctant Scotsman lives (7)’ is LOTHIAN, or even – a lovely one, this – that ‘Amundson’s forwarding address (4)’ is MUSH, the pages of Sandy Balfour’s memoir will

Looking – and looking away

Sebald is perturbed by the almost complete failure of German writers to describe the devastation of their country by British and American bombers during the second world war. Here, one might have thought, was an inescapable subject, a reality which confronted anyone who was in Germany during or after the war. About 600,000 civilians were

Homage to A. B. Roger

Woodruff, you have not come to Oxford to take examinations, you have come to learn. The whole purpose of Oxford is learning. Buoyed up by the instant success of the first volume of his autobiography, William Woodruff and his English publishers have understandably decided to cash in on the Nab End brand in this, the

Why is a birch-tree like a melon?

This is the time of year for armchair gardening. The cold, dark days give one the chance to ignore the muddy plot outside and to sit by the fire with a heap of catalogues. As one reads the thrilling descriptions, next summer’s garden comes to life in the mind’s eye. There are no rabbits, mice,

She fashioned her future

Judging by her own ideals of beauty and drama, Diana Dalziel’s arrival in the world must have been a bit of a let-down. That her Scottish father’s lineage merely went back to 834, or that her mother was part of the narrow 1890s New York society, was not half as picturesque as she’d have liked.

Articles of faith

Richard Dawkins loves fighting. More precisely, he loves winning. To be Dawkinsed, as this selection from his essays of the past 25 years makes painfully clear, is not just to be dressed down or duffed up: it is to be squelched, pulverised, annihilated, rendered into suitably primordial paste. Those who incur this treatment have one