"There is no centre anymore. We live in a multipolar world, and culture reflects that." Fatima Bhutto
Contexts
Why do birds sing?

Why do birds sing?

It was around midnight when J. and I arrived. The location seemed at first glance unpromising. A snarl of train tracks, interspersed with islands of undergrowth, just outside Warsaw West Station. Neck-high grasses and thistles, less than two miles from the park. It was right here, amid the stink of heated railway sleepers, that a...
The accidental activist

The accidental activist

‘‘To say that Rob Bilott is understated,’’ his colleague Edison Hill says, ‘‘is an understatement,’’ reported Nathaniel Rich in the New York Times Magazine article that inspired Mark Ruffalo to snap up the film rights to story of the mild-mannered corporate defence lawyer who went rogue and took on the might of DuPont. Shortly before...
The Mourners' Kaddish

The Mourners’ Kaddish

Sometimes it is very hard to put words to experiences. In Adorno’s much used (and misused) own words, “there can be no poetry after Auschwitz”; the human soul and mind can conceive of no recreation of experience, no seamless relating to, or of, life through words alone, once the humanity of meaning has been so...
This great horse-faced bluestocking

This great horse-faced bluestocking

There are books that have transformed the world; stories that have changed the course of lives. For more than 150 years now, the novels of George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) have done just that for an unwavering and undiminishing succession of readers: they have stopped them in their tracks almost midway, literally nell mezzo del...
Moving on from murder

Moving on from murder

“Massacre at White House Farm: Suicide girl kills twins and parents,” screamed the front page of the Daily Express on 8 August 1985. Throughout the British press, the horrific events left no room for doubt. “A farming family affectionately dubbed ‘the Archers’ was slaughtered in a bloodbath yesterday,” continued the Express. “Brandishing a gun taken...
From In the Dream House

From In the Dream House

An engrossing and wildly innovative account of love gone bad, Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House traces the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman. In a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse, smashing the stereotype of lesbianism as safe and utopian, each chapter...
After all that we were, what shall we be?

After all that we were, what shall we be?

The war that would slash modern history, our contemporary awareness of humanity, into before and after, leaving a gaping void between the two states, seems not to have happened at all in the opening pages of Annette Hess’ ambitious and complex debut novel The German House. It is 1963, the year of Hitchcock’s The Birds,...
Not quite the way to the stars

Not quite the way to the stars

“O, it is excellent / To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous / To use it like a giant.” Shakespeare certainly knew his Romans; even though the lines that capture so brilliantly – and devastatingly – the allure of power and its raw brutality come from Measure for Measure, they could well have...
In Fleabag's head

In Fleabag’s head

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag gave us the best TV comedy entrance in living memory and much more besides, and the great news is there’s now a brand new way to binge on the entire show as Fleabag: The Scriptures collects the full shooting scripts from series 1 and 2, together with new insights and comments from...
From heaven to earth

From heaven to earth

One of the most striking characteristics of Socrates, as we know him from Plato, Plutarch, Xenophon, Cicero or Diogenes Laertius, and the numerous, yet exasperatingly fragmentary sources that survive, was his talent for convincing his interlocutors of his utter ignorance of any subject – his signature style was to present himself to the unwary as...