The Spectator

17 November 2018

The all-seeing state

The dark side of China’s high-tech society


‘Bishop Bernardo de’Rossi’, 1505, by Lorenzo Lotto

Lead book review

Books of the year – part two

A further selection of the best — and sometimes worst—books of 2018, chosen by our regular reviewers

Saul Bellow, photographed in Paris in 1982. Extraordinary literary intelligence saw him through the mess of his own life


Saul Bellow: love the work, if not the man

His children suffered the misery of several divorces and he fought one wife for a decade in court. But he’s incapable of writing a dull paragraph

Alexander Chee. Credit Bloomsbury Publishing


Does an autobiographical novel really count as fiction?

Alexander Chee explains the mysterious process by which the chaotic facts of an abused childhood became his elegant debut novel, Edinburgh

‘Attack on the Sealkote mutineers by General Nicholson’s Irregular Cavalry, 1857.’ Illustration by Charles Ball


The Lion of the Punjab: the short, brutish career of John Nicholson

Was he a hero and imperialist psychopath? And how could the cultish worship of him in India have lasted into the 21st century?

A river of green topiary cascades down the terrace steps at West Dean. Cotoneaster horizontalis covers the wall on the right


Top topiary: the year’s best gardening books

An appreciation of West Dean is one of the year’s highlights, together with John Brookes’s A Landscape Legacy

Kurt Eisner and friends plan a brave new world. Credit. Getty Images


Dreams of utopia before the Nazi nightmare

During a brief lull in Germany at the end of the first world war, a group of idealistic young writers planned a brave new world

David Garrick in Shakespeare’s Richard III, painted by Francis Hayman


What was the celebrated Garrick really like as an actor?

Norman S.Poser argues that the naturalistic style of acting we take for granted today was born in the mid-18th century. But on what grounds?


Japanese puzzle: how can an advanced, dynamic country function with such an ancient population?

When, in 2020, Tokyo hosts the summer Olympics, will one of Japan’s 70,000 centenarians carry the flame?