Book review – biography

A Kalash girl in traditional dress

Search for the Yeti at your peril

29 April 2017 9:00 am

This book, according to its author Gabi Martínez, is ‘a non-fiction novel’. It tells the story of Jordi Magraner, a…

Fighting talk — but little action — from Ernest Hemingway

29 April 2017 9:00 am

On 11 May 1937, at the Gare St-Lazare in Paris, Ernest Hemingway said goodbye to a friend who was leaving…

Tall tales from the Durrells of Corfu

22 April 2017 9:00 am

When I was at boarding school in the early 1970s, the Durrells, or at least Gerald, were immensely popular. My…

Leonora Carrington’s adventures in surrealism

15 April 2017 9:00 am

The surrealists’ muse and a distinguished artist in her own right, Leonora Carrington captivated all who met her, says Jane Rye

Self-portrait

David Jones – the 20th century’s great neglected genius

1 April 2017 9:00 am

When Stravinsky visited David Jones in his cold Harrow bedsit, he came away saying, ‘I have been in the presence…

‘Family Scene’, by Kahlil Gibran, c. 1914

Kahlil Gibran: from penniless refugee to universal Prophet

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Kahlil Gibran was 40 years old, a short — he was just 5’3” — dapper man with doleful eyes and…

Fantastic interpretations of the inkblots might imply either madness or high intelligence and creativity. Rorschach was convinced the tests could distinguish between the two

Could the Rorschach tests spot a Nazi?

4 March 2017 9:00 am

There may be something in the Rorschach tests, says Philip Hensher, but can it really be measured?

The star-struck Claretta, Mussolini’s last love. According to her diaries, he radiated a ‘god-like potency’ and a ‘bull-like’ magnetism

Seducing Mussolini

25 February 2017 9:00 am

As a child in fascist Italy, Clara Petacci (known as Claretta) was dutifully adoring of Benito Mussolini and the cult…

Simon Callow tries (again) to get inside Wagner’s head

18 February 2017 9:00 am

The dust cover features one of the best-known caricatures of Richard Wagner, his enormous head in this version opened like…

Ezra Pound as a young man

Was Ezra Pound mad?

18 February 2017 9:00 am

On 21 December 1945, Ezra Pound was confined to St Elizabeths hospital in Washington DC. He had broadcast for Rome…

‘The funeral of Shelley’ by Louis Edouard Paul Fournier, 1889

Why are ‘doomed’ poets considered the only good ones?

11 February 2017 9:00 am

In Deaths of the Poets two living examples of the species, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, retail the closing…

A frightened Bruno Hauptmann — dubbed ‘The Most Hated Man in the World’— awaits questioning by the FBI over the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby

Ludovic Kennedy — righter of wrongs

11 February 2017 9:00 am

I used to work for Ludo, as we all knew him on BBC2’s Did You See?, and was once thought…

Steven Spielberg directs Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple

How Steven Spielberg ruined the movies

28 January 2017 9:00 am

Back in 1978, a young and already successful Steven Spielberg told a bunch of would-be moviemakers at the American Film…

Bogdan Stashinsky: the inspiration for The Man with the Golden Gun

14 January 2017 9:00 am

As I read the last chapter of this book, news broke that the Russian ambassador to Ankara, Andrey Karlov, had…

Josette Day and Jean Marias in La Belle et La Bête, one of Cocteau’s most visually stunning films

Jean Cocteau: confessions of an opium addict

7 January 2017 9:00 am

All biography is both an act of homage and a labour of dissection, and all biographers are jealous of their…

How to make it as a female war correspondent

10 December 2016 9:00 am

In August 1939, Clare Hollingworth, a 28-year-old aid-worker, had been employed as a reporter for less than a week by…

Above and below: Quentin Blake’s illustrations for The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — not the happiest of pairings

The lonely genius of Beatrix Potter

10 December 2016 9:00 am

The story of the extraordinary boom in children’s literature over the last 100 years could be bookended with a ‘Tale…

Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler in the 1931 film Dracula

The grisly life of Dracula’s creator

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Legends cling to Bram Stoker’s life. One interesting cluster centres on his wife, Florence. She was judged, in her high…

Happy days: Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the late 1970s, photographed in the garden of Tversky’s house in Stanford, California

The great intellectual bromance of the last century — between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky

3 December 2016 9:00 am

Two brilliant psychologists in the 1970s changed our understanding about the way we think and the choices we make – with momentous consequences, says Steven Poole

Mrs Benson and her three sons, 1884

There were none so queer as the Bensons

12 November 2016 9:00 am

The Benson family was one of the most extraordinary of Victorian England, and they certainly made sure that we have…

Portrait of Jonathan Swift by Charles Jervas

Fierce indignation

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Dean Swift’s biting satire is as necessary today as it was 300 years ago, according to Daniel Swift (no relation)

Jan Morris — ‘the greatest descriptive writer of her time’

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Married as I am to an antiquarian book dealer, and living in a house infested with books and manuscripts, I’m…

His contemporaries regarded Alexander Hamilton as an ‘uppity’ half-caste who wanted to be a dictator

American politics at its most uncivil — in 1804

22 October 2016 9:00 am

To anyone complaining that American politics in 2016 is uncivil, consider this: in 1804, the vice president of the United…

Kenneth Clark: from the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublime

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Our collective attention spans may not be as short as is widely cited, but they are pretty short. Take the…

Steven Runciman with his parakeet, photographed by Cecil Beaton c.1923. Runciman was Beaton’s first photographic subject

Steven Runciman — historian, tease and professional enigma

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Steven Runciman, the historian of Byzantium, is a puzzling figure. He was an outrageous snob, once remarking that he would…