Book review

What exactly was the CIA up to in Laos in the 1960s?

27 May 2017 9:00 am

I once spent an evening, back in the mid-1980s, with William Colby, the legendary spy and director of the CIA.…

Maipure Indians, inhabitants of the Upper Orinoco, grill the limbs of a dead enemy (Italian engraving, 1781)

Eating people is rare (and very unhealthy)

4 February 2017 9:00 am

The subject has been popularised from Homer to the Brothers Grimm, but, mercifully, human cannibalism has always been rare, says Philip Hensher

Attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941

All at sea at Pearl Harbor

4 February 2017 9:00 am

On 7 December 1941, without declaration of war, 350 Japanese carrier-borne aircraft struck at the US Pacific Fleet at anchor…

Moses has a formidable authority, with the physique of a bodybuilder and a beard that cascades like Niagara Falls

Michelangelo’s grave miscalculation

4 February 2017 9:00 am

‘How often’, wrote Sigmund Freud in 1914, ‘have I mounted the steep steps from the unlovely Corso Cavour to the…

An inmate of Auschwitz in the early 1940s

A singular horror

28 January 2017 9:00 am

How did the Holocaust happen? What lessons can be learned from it? Philippe Sands wonders whether anything similar could happen again

‘Snow scene in the Garden of a Daimyo’. Triptych by Hiroshige and Uagawa Kunisada

The terrible beauty of snow

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Here is William Diaper in 1722, translating Oppian’s Halieuticks (a Greek epic poem on the loves of the fishes): As…

The secret of the Bolshoi style will always be safe

10 December 2016 9:00 am

In 2013, Pavel Dmitrichenko, disgruntled principal dancer of the Bolshoi, exacted a now infamous revenge on the company’s artistic director,…

A toast to centuries of champagne colonialism

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Cometh the hour, cometh the book, and so Christmas brings us once again a tidal wave of titles relating to…

Julie Harris in the 1963 film The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson, high priestess of horror, finally gets the recognition she deserves

3 December 2016 9:00 am

A film critic friend, astonished that I had never heard of Shirley Jackson, told me to go and read her…

Is Jonathan Safran Foer having a midlife crisis?

10 September 2016 9:00 am

For Jonathan Safran Foer fans and sceptics alike, Here I Am comes as a wonderful gift, a truly painful, honest…

The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha: engraving of a drawing by Gustave Dore (1833–1883)

Cervantes was a genius, yes – but the inventor of fiction?

18 June 2016 9:00 am

Sam Leith admires a smart, thoughtful book with a big idea at its heart – marred only, perhaps, by its ambitious claims for Don Quixote

Addlands: where the new nature writing meets the novel

18 June 2016 9:00 am

There have been a number of attempts to graft the style of the so-called new nature writing onto the novel:…

‘The ring upon thy hand’, illustration for ‘Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods’, Arthur Rackham (private collection)

How to get more out of Wagner's Ring

18 June 2016 9:00 am

The political trigger for the Ring was the 1849 Dresden uprising, when the young freedom fighter Richard Wagner financed the…

‘Venetia, Lady Digby, on her Deathbed’, Anthony van Dyke, 1633 (oil on canvas), Dulwich Picture Gallery

Joe Moshenska tells the story of Sir Kenelm Digby’s piratical Mediterranean voyage...

18 June 2016 9:00 am

There is a wonderful portrait of Kenelm Digby by Van Dyke. He is dressed in black. His hand is on…

Umberto Eco really tries our patience

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Colonna, the protagonist of Umberto Eco’s latest novel, is the first to admit he is a loser. A middle-aged literary…

Ferdinand Porsche, the inventor of the Doodlebug and the Panzer tank, was treated with rare deference by Hitler, bordering on idolatry

Ferninand Porsche: from the Beetle to the Panzer tank

7 November 2015 9:00 am

The aggressive character of the famous German sports car, in a sort of sympathetic magic, often transfers itself to owner-drivers.…

Superforecasting could spark a revolution in politics

3 October 2015 9:00 am

Forecasts have been fundamental to mankind’s journey from a small tribe on the African savannah to a species that can…

Marcus Tullius Cicero: our guide to ‘the most tumultuous era in human history’

How the world's first great republic slipped into empire and one-man rule

3 October 2015 9:00 am

Marcus Tullius Cicero was the ancient master of the ‘save’ key. He composed more letters, speeches and philosophy books than…

Patrick deWitt is a literary original but he needs to BE MORE FUNNY

3 October 2015 9:00 am

Patrick deWitt is a Canadian writer whose second novel, a picaresque and darkly comic western called The Sisters Brothers, was…

A portrait of a gay boxer

3 October 2015 9:00 am

I don’t like boxing. If I ever get into a boxing ring, I’ll be in the corner with the governor…

Why on earth did Jeanette Winterson agree to retell Shakespeare's Winter’s Tale?

3 October 2015 9:00 am

It is fair to say that Jeanette Winterson is not Shakespeare, though I cannot imagine why any authors would accept…

A book that rattles like a pressure-cooker with anger, outrage, frustration and spleen

3 October 2015 9:00 am

‘You understand, Lenú, what happens to people: we have too much stuff inside and it swells us, breaks us.’ The…

Hughes in 1986: Bate simply fails to make the case his book stands on – that the poet was a sadist

An unauthorised, and unconvincing, biography of Ted Hughes

3 October 2015 8:00 am

Craig Raine says that Jonathan Bate’s unauthorised biography of Ted Hughes gets it wrong on every level

Another ‘big book’ — with big problems — from Jonathan Franzen

29 August 2015 9:00 am

Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, Purity, comes with great expectations. Its author’s awareness of this fact is signalled by a series…

The end of the world: an illustrated guide

4 July 2015 9:00 am

At the heart of the eschatological ideology of the Islamic State is the belief that when the world ends (and…