Lead book review

How a fraudulent experiment set psychiatry back decades

In January 1973, Science (along with Nature, the most influential general science journal in the world) published an article that immediately captured major media attention. David Rosenhan, a Stanford social psychologist, reported that eight pseudo-patients had presented themselves at a variety of mental hospitals, 12 in all, complaining that they were hearing voices saying ‘hollow,

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Rembrandt remains an enigma

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–69) is not only the presiding genius of the Dutch golden age of painting, but one of the greatest painters of all time. His work — as painter, draughtsman and etcher — continues to fascinate and move us like none other. He has been the subject of innumerable books, from novels

The Pearl Harbor fiasco need never have happened

It is sometimes said that intelligence failures are often failures of assessment rather than collection. This is especially so when the intelligence is unwelcome or unfashionable. MI6’s first report of prewar Germany’s secret U-boat building programme was withdrawn from circulation at the request of the Foreign Office, reluctant to alarm Whitehall’s appeasers. Action Likely in

Dreaming of the desert: my life in the Sahara, by Sanmao

Travel writing is ‘the red light district of literature’, as Colin Thubron aptly put it, a space where anything goes. Like punters to the other red light districts, we tend to stick to what we know we like, to our own kind. We travel vicariously with voices that are familiar, or at least intelligible, whose

The wanderings of Ullis: Low, by Jeet Thayil, reviewed

Jeet Thayil’s previous novel, The Book of Chocolate Saints, an account of a fictional Indian artist and poet told in a multiplicity of voices, was a tub filled with delicious things. It also contained quite a lot of bran. His follow-up, Low, is slimmer and more condensed, its scope just a few days rather than

How did the infamous Josef Mengele escape punishment?

The atrocities of the concentration camp at Auschwitz–Birkenau are now universally known, but it is still almost beyond belief that Auschwitz could exist in modern Europe. The history of the camp is a comparatively recent one: construction began in April 1940, less than 80 years ago, and the first victims died there, or were killed,