"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
Contexts
'La lengua': interpreters the colonial age

‘La lengua’: interpreters the colonial age

In August 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain, hoping to find a westwards trading route to Asia. With him were two interpreters, fluent in various European and Middle Eastern languages. Columbus himself, who was originally from Genoa in Italy, also spoke several European languages. Even within Spain, a multitude of languages coexisted, many of...
A grammar of emotions

A grammar of emotions

“Tragedy as a collective historical fact is at the core of Salvadoran identity,” wrote Horacio Castellanos Moya for the World Policy Journal in 2018, citing “the tragedy of the Civil War, the tragedy of the 2001 earthquake, and the current and most perverse tragedy of them all: the gangs, or maras.” More than thirty years...
The rhinoceros in the room

The rhinoceros in the room

In one of the most famous duels of elephantine minds, Bertrand Russell would challenge Ludwig Wittgenstein to concede that there was no rhinoceros in the Cambridge room that served as their legendary battleground (in a different version of the story, Russell claimed that the pachyderm to be located was a hippopotamus). The question, under ongoing...
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,...
A clandestine Christmas

A clandestine Christmas

One day I went with the general 1 to the Swedish Legation to get some protective passports for his daughters. I met there a young man – one of the most handsome young men I have ever seen – in the garb of a Catholic priest. I looked at him,then looked again, and sure enough,...
"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...
Limelight's shadow

Limelight’s shadow

A neuroscientist by trade, Rachel Genn draws from a deep well of jargon to fill her novel What You Could Have Won. The two words that stick in my head for much of the time I’m reading it aren’t too obscure: Toxicity and Tragedy. It’s no wonder: the novel’s main character Astrid spends a good...
"Grab 'em by the pussy"

“Grab ’em by the pussy”

In a 2005 Access Hollywood videorecording, bankrupt businessman, soft-core porn film actor, and reality show star Donald Trump can be heard using objectifying and body-chopping language which escalates to airing his views on his expectation that he can sexually assault women. “Oh, nice legs, huh?” Trump says, eyeing a woman. “I did try and f—...
Absolute Bedlam

Absolute Bedlam

It was the week before Christmas. The place that I worked was closing down; offices shut up, people disbanded. The lunchtime buffet, part Christmas cheer, part farewell, was still going on late into the dark afternoon, but I wanted to see an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond. I snuck away...
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...