Albert camus

The identical twins who captivated literary London

The dazzlingly beautiful identical twins Mamaine and Celia Paget were born in 1916 and brought up in rural Suffolk – not the greatest springboard, you would think, for lives at the intellectual heart of the mid-20th century. Yet the list of their friends reads like a roll call of literary notables: Dick Wyndham, Peter Quennell, Cyril Connolly, Bertrand Russell, Sacheverell Sitwell and Laurie Lee. Between them, the twins were proposed to by, among others, Arthur Koestler and George Orwell; had liaisons with Albert Camus and the formidably clever Oxford philosopher Freddie Ayer; quarrelled with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir; and received love sonnets from the historian and poet Robert

Claire Messud helps us see the familiar with new eyes

The title of this collection of journalism is a problem. Not the Kant’s Little Prussian Head bit, which, though opaque, is explained in the text. It’s from Thomas Bernhard’s novel The Loser and is quoted by Claire Messud in the title essay: ‘We study a monumental work, for example Kant’s work, and in time it shrivels down to Kant’s little East Prussian head.’ As a novelist, she explains, she strives to resist that shrivelling — to avoid being condensed into a ‘little American head’, to retain and convey all the detail of life. The problem is with the claim that this is an autobiography through essays. It isn’t. It’s a

My pronouncement on the BBC

Radio 4 recently ran an adaptation of Albert Camus’s The Plague in which the protagonist, Dr Bernard Rieux, was transformed into a woman. A woman who was enjoying a lesbian ‘marriage’. Of course they did, you will be muttering to yourself. If the BBC can transgender a rabbit in Watership Down they can certainly put a lesbian in The Plague. The boss of BBC audio drama, Alison Hindell, explained that the masterpiece had been altered to provide ‘contemporary resonance’. Does it resonate with you? Drama invites us to suspend our sense of disbelief for a while but needs to have at least a slender connection to reality. The original story