"Money won’t save us. Things won’t save us. We’ve failed our moral responsibility to be stewards of this planet. I hope this epiphany arrives, and I hope it leads to change." Rumaan Alam
Author Archive
Travels around one's father

Travels around one’s father

Carlo and Renzo Piano’s Atlantis: A Journey in Search of Beauty is an audaciously ambitious, unfailingly beguiling book. It is intimate and deliberately public all at once, vigorously peripatetic and languidly philosophical, a complex offspring of the tradition of ancient travelogues of ignorance and knowledge after the model of Herodotus, Pausanias, Ptolemy, Scylax and Hanno,...
"We can fight with the mind"

“We can fight with the mind”

Sybil Oldfield’s The Black Book: The Britons on the Nazi Hitlist is, at first sight, an anthology of lives under terrible threat – a breathless, deeply personal, yet unflinching account of an impressive array of the many biographical journeys, the individual circumstances and diverse fates that earned 2,619 men and women an uncoveted place on...
On the matter of eternity

On the matter of eternity

The past few years have seen the explosive emergence of a highly fetishised and merchandised cult of the home: as a fiercely protected private space of explicitly public (voyeuristic) visibility, as the locus of a redefined, globalised community of purported ecumenical camaraderie, as the shrine of high-design spirituality, and as a new status symbol of...
Before the beginning of years

Before the beginning of years

A chorus from Swinburne’s 1865 play Atalanta in Calydon was once an almost self-standing poetic topos, the expression perhaps of a particular moment in the progression of the human psyche – or of the temporal course of eternity, to fiddle with T.S. Eliot’s famous take on the pastness of the past and its presence. Before...
Distant echoes of a mighty paean

Distant echoes of a mighty paean

Readers long spellbound by Elena Ferrante’s Valhalla-like worlds of the Italian South, her redoubtable skills as a writer, the swarming opacity of the mystery that enshrouds her, her ‘voice’, defying every categorisation, or even personification, will instantly pick up the familiar echoes and sounds of her previous books as they leaf through the pages of...
Truth in sculpture

Truth in sculpture

Sometime between the 4th and the 3rd century BC, Poseidippus of Pella wrote the following epigram on the art of breathing life into stone, as he describes the statue of the poet Philitas of Cos by Hekataion: He fashioned the elderly pedant using all his craft, and in accordance with the proper rule of truth....
It's about time

It’s about time

Periods of calmness and peace are often likened to infinity; when the passage of time is blissfully suspended, or sublimely extended beyond the limits of human reckoning or reason. Times of crisis, on the other hand, such as war, are characterised by the particular effect they have on the very notion and substance of time....
Dante's nose

Dante’s nose

Early in the morning of September 1321, Dante died of malaria in Ravenna. Looking at the images (pictorial or sculptural) that we have of him, and considering the corpus of his work, especially the impact he was to have on our understanding of European culture in the centuries to come, one would think this would...
Modern fiction

Modern fiction

Reading Andrea Marcolongo’s The Ingenious Language: Nine Epic Reasons to Love Greek in certain ways lives up to its English title in providing an epic experience (the Italian original’s simpler 9 ragioni… emphasises the more light-heartedly catchy, yet didactic underpinnings of the text, rather than its epic claims, significance or proportions). As Marcolongo reminds us...
The dream of Norway

The dream of Norway

In 1920, two years after the end of WWI, the League of Nations officially began its work of rebuilding the world. It was a grand scheme, a tremendous dream, a triumph of a reconstituted modernity, and the legacy of enlightenment humanism over militarism, colonialism, barbarity and tribalist divisionism. It should have been idealistic. It has...