"The narrow alleys of pestilence and poverty run along the walls of the very richest in the land… in our current times, as the gap between rich and poor widens, there are many resonances across centuries to unearth.” Lucy Jago
Contexts
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...
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...
The duty of disobedience

The duty of disobedience

Twenty-five years after its inception, ten years since the last instalment in the series, and with over 4 million copies sold to date, Penguin Great Ideas is back with a brand new selection of 20 titles. Bringing to readers the works of the many great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas have shaken civilisation and helped...
Bees can teach us a great deal – but what?

Bees can teach us a great deal – but what?

From antiquity and until very recently bees were likened to exemplary subjects in a perfect monarchy. It was taken for granted that they were ruled by a king because Aristotle had said so in the fourth century B.C.E. and his word – not just about bees but almost everything else as well – would remain...
Spreading their wings

Spreading their wings

I’d like to travel back through time and tell my schoolgirl self that, one day, I’d consider poetry to be a magic carpet. (Although, I suspect she would have looked up from wrestling with a knotty slice of D.H. Lawrence only to roll her eyes!) To me now, though, there is no more efficient escape...