Lead book review

Intoxicated with ink

One of the charms and shortcomings of biography is that it makes perfectly normal situations sound extraordinary. According to Michel Winock, Gustave Flaubert (1821–80), the author of Madame Bovary and L’Éducation sentimentale, contracted ‘an early and profound aversion to mankind’. To Gustave the schoolboy, man was nothing but a coagulation of ‘mud and shit… equipped

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Our collective attention spans may not be as short as is widely cited, but they are pretty short. Take the case of the art historian Kenneth Clark. If anyone remembers anything about him, it is as the presenter of Civilisation, a TV series of the 1960s that rocketed him to stardom, and the author of

A matter of life and death | 20 October 2016

Shades of The Master and Margarita haunt Rabih Alameddine’s sixth book, in which Jacob, a Yemeni-born poet with a day job in IT, battles with drugs, insanity, visions of the Devil and a variety of Christian saints while trying to come to terms with the fallout from the Aids crisis. As that crisis wore on,

In the company of queens

Steven Runciman, the historian of Byzantium, is a puzzling figure. He was an outrageous snob, once remarking that he would have enjoyed being the widower of a Spanish duchess, which would have made him a dowager duke in Castile. He particularly relished the company of queens (of the female variety), and he took the Queen

Apples for our eyes

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The passionate patriot

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Time is of the essence | 20 October 2016

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A bit player in the great drama

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