The Spectator

17 November 2018

The all-seeing state

The dark side of China’s high-tech society


‘He strikes me dumb with admiration.’ Van Gogh on Howard Pyle’s pirate illustrations

Arts feature

The facts – and fiction – of piracy

The greatest pirate ever was Ching Shih. With more than 1,500 ships she controlled more of the South China sea than the PRC does now

‘The Laden Table’, c.1908, by Édouard Vuillard


A charming celebration of Vuillard’s muse – his mum: Barber Institute’s Maman reviewed

The recognisable figure of Maman sews, cooks, cleans, dishes out advice – a domestic goddess worshipped by her son

RLPO and the NDR Radiophilharmonie performing Britten's War Requiem in Liverpool Cathedral. Photo: Liverpool Philharmonic / Mark McNulty


Britten’s War Requiem almost sounded like a masterpiece – but it isn’t, is it?

Despite the best efforts of Manze and the RLPO, Britten’s work remains classical music’s answer to Blackadder Goes Forth – simultaneously unchallengeable and troublingly simplistic

Games without frontiers: a scene from Red Dead Redemption 2


What does the commonplace cruelty of Red Dead Redemption say about our times?

Every era has its western. Ours happens to be a game of such attritional violence that it will stop those not totally inured in their tracks

The Somme battlefield today. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images


Radio 3 had the most simple yet effective way of reflecting on war’s impact

Plus: BBC Sounds may be diverting money away from programme-making but it’s also shedding light on old gems from the archives

‘Portrait of a Young Man with a Book’, c.1524–6, by Lorenzo Lotto


Lorenzo Lotto’s 16th century portraits come startlingly close to photography

In his realism, and the anxieties and melancholies of his subjects, Lotto’s spirit is very contemporary, as this marvellous new National Gallery exhibition shows

King David with his musicians: a page from the Vespasian Psalter, 8th century


To say this is a 'once in a generation' exhibition seems absurdly modest

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at the British Library is perhaps the most significant display in recent times

The whole narrative of Dynasties was too suspiciously shapely. Image: BBC NHU


How does David Attenborough know what the monkeys are thinking?

Plus: the master diplomats of the foreign office deliver a masterly lesson in not telling us very much in Inside the Foreign Office

The Listener

The ideal album for getting rid of guests over Christmas: Yoko Ono’s Warzone reviewed

Trust me, they’ll be gone even before Yoko has observed that there are ‘cats on the hill, ready to kill’


A mess: Fantastic Beasts reviewed

J.K. Rowling’s plots are now so labyrinthine she makes your average John le Carré look like Noddy

Lee Evans in Pinter Three. Photo: Marc Brenner


Lee Evans’s acrobatic clowning is the best thing about Pinter Three

Plus: a Don Quixote for the under-tens at the Garrick Theatre