Kindness backfires: Sufferance, by Charles Palliser, reviewed

Charles Palliser’s Sufferance tells us what happens to one family in an occupied country during wartime. What sets it apart is that all the characters are unnamed. The country, region and historical period also remain unspecified. This indeterminacy lends the novel enormous power. The father of the family decides to take in a young girl from a minority ethnic group who has become separated from her own family. ‘I felt for her as if she was my own child,’ he says. Yet his motives are not entirely altruistic, since he believes he will be financially rewarded for looking after the girl. He is a lowly accountant working in the public

How ‘kindness’ became big business

In those moments when I most fear that the West is on the skids, I find it helps to make a list of end-time signs, phenomena that indicate decay, like sparks along a piece of faulty wiring. So far my list goes like this: NFTs; babyccinos; liver-flavoured ice-cream for dogs; the fashion for encouraging children to cut off their genitals; the fact that Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, thinks it deeply wrong to talk them out of it; freak shakes; Heinz ‘pink’ sauce; gannets dead all down the North Sea coast; swearing six-year-olds still in nappies (says my teacher friend in the North-East); risking nuclear war over Ukraine; the

My Parkinson’s diagnosis has shown me how kind society really is

Like Ozzy Osbourne, I was last year diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the degenerative condition that impairs the functioning of the body. In a series of recent interviews, Osbourne has spoken frankly about the impact of the neurological disorder. ‘That thing has knocked the shit out of me,’ he said, Brummie-style. I’m with Ozzy. It’s done the same to me. My difficulties began about 18 months ago, when my left leg developed an involuntary twitch, which soon extended to my other limbs. My gait became increasingly awkward, alternating between a strange quickstep and a longer, more laboured shuffle, complete with stoop and limp. The effect was like a cross between John