“You have one body and one life to live and you only get this one shot – and that reality can drive you crazy.” Ottessa Moshfegh
Author Archive
Man the measure

Man the measure

Back in the roaring Sixties and Seventies, literary criticism and especially the philosophy of literary aesthetics and of socio-political analysis through literary texts acquired a distinctly ‘cool’ status. At last, academia was coming out of the dusty cupboards, climbing down from its ivory towers and marching into the streets arm in arm with the most...
A paean to the death of Central Europe

A paean to the death of Central Europe

Józef Wittlin, like Homer’s Odysseus whom he so much admired, was a man of many minds, human experiences, geographical and national homes. Born in Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he would come to be hailed as one of the most important voices of a new-born independent Poland. A Jew by birth, a Christian...
Visions and monsters

Visions and monsters

The Monstrous Child, which has just completed a very successful run at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre, is one of the first and most audacious examples of a new genre: highly evocative classical opera especially written for teenage audiences. Adapted from the YA novel of the same name by Francesca Simon with music by...
You didn't understand...

You didn’t understand…

In May 2016, Gresham College in London hosted a symposium on the subject of ‘Cultural Heritage and War’. Chaired by Professor Tim Connell, it featured Sir Derek Plumbly, speaking on British and American policy and the temporal lapses between historical awareness and political action, Dr Elisabeth Kendall, discussing ‘poetry as war’, ‘poems as swords’, and...
Love, judgement and forgiveness

Love, judgement and forgiveness

“Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them”, said Lord Illingworth to Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance. It is perhaps one of Wilde’s most chilling aphorisms, as much a witticism à clef, as it must have felt like a presentiment and...
"I remember a macabre joke..."

“I remember a macabre joke…”

“The witnesses of the Holocaust are old and nearing death. The murder of 6m Jews… will soon be history, not memory… The new horror is that this Everest of evidence [that now exists on Nazi Germany and the Final Solution] may not be working as a warning,” wrote Bryan Appleyard on 20 January 2019 in...
New directions of our past

New directions of our past

It used to be that as a year came to a close and a new one began, an unwritten law beyond remembrance or time also called for acts of similar closure and commencement on our part. A little before, or perhaps slightly after the virtual timekeeping of our humanity went through its annual rites of...
Kingly reads and mistletoes, yule logs, childish games and silent nights

Kingly reads and mistletoes, yule logs, childish games and silent nights

As the year 2018 draws to a dumbfounding or resounding close, the words to speak the tales of both tragedy and joy become perhaps the most precious of gifts. Especially for young – or not so young – ears and eyes searching for a meaningful narrative, a thread of sense through a life whose text...
The sins of our future

The sins of our future

Many years ago, a young boy from an affluent Egyptian family was travelling with his parents by train to their summer house somewhere deep down the valley of the River Nile. This was a journey he had made many times as he grew older. Each time, the curtains of their first-class carriage were pulled tightly...
The mountain king

The mountain king

In the popular imagination, German history, culture and even reality closes down in 1918 with the end of WWI, the end of the German Empire and its Central European logic, the end of all order based on the authority of hereditary power, received structures, hierarchies, even typography. A strange, fantastical interlude begins, officially called the...