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1968 and all that

Roger Scruton has called Les Orphelins by Louis Pauwels the best French novel since the 1939-45 war. Since it seems unlikely that even Professor Scruton has read all the good French novels of the last 60 years — after all, who among us has read all the good English or American ones? — this really

Not a decent book

What is the point of this book? This isn’t a rhetorical question — and it isn’t meant to be a sneer. It’s one that needs answering. We have an extremely full biography of Kingsley Amis. We have an accomplished memoir by Martin Amis. Do we need either a joint critical study of these two unalike

But what about justice, fairness and honesty?

There is growing unease at the contemporary proliferation and inflation of human rights. Not only do undeserving cases benefit from over-generous or quixotic judicial interpretations of Labour’s Human Rights Act, but there is a booming business in ascribing rights to groups. Peoples, nations, races, ethnic, cultural and religious groups are now perceived to have rights

Two were barking

Julia Blackburn has written about Goya, about the island of St Helena, about the naturalist Charles Waterton, about a talking pig; and she has turned her attention to other strange and various things besides, but she has never written a dull sentence. It is clear from the first few lines of this book that The

Through Western eyes

‘Why have we come here? The Directory has deported us,’ grumbled the heat-stricken and exhausted soldiers of Napoleon’s Army of the Orient, having travelled for days across the desert to a spot just west of Cairo. There, at what would later be called the Battle of the Pyramids, they would face the forces of the

Cities of the coast

In the days when English counties were untouched by the dead hand of central government rationalisation, odd little chunks of them used to fetch up in neighbouring shires, appearing as little green or brown blobs, defiantly labelled ‘part of Leicestershire’ or ‘part of Somerset’. The Mediterranean sometimes seems like a larger version of this topographical

The robots are coming

If you think that you or anyone else knows anything for certain about the universe, or stack of universes or whatever it is, you are probably wrong. I say probably because it is impossible in this world to be certain about anything. The firm ground of reality that progressive thinkers once expected to discover through

Poles apart

With more Poles in Britain than at any time since the second world war, when the 17,000 remnant of the Polish army arrived after the fall of France, this book could not be more pertinent. Nor could it have been written by anyone better. Douglas Hall (b. 1926) was the first Keeper (indeed the Alfred