Lead book review

Sam Leith

The first celebrity

It’s quite a scene to imagine. A maniacal self-publicist with absurd facial hair takes off in what’s thought to be the biggest hot-air balloon the world has ever seen. Adoring crowds gather to watch the launch. He rises rapidly and sails off towards the clouds — but in due course the whole thing goes arse-up

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During the military dictatorships of the 1970s, exile for many Latin American writers was not so much a state of being as a vocation. Some were given early warning of what might befall them if they stayed. The polemicist Eduardo Galeano remembered receiving an evening telephone call from the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance: ‘We’re going to