“If space flight gets to the point that it’s like jet travel, I’m definitely there. It may just be we actually can’t get very far. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try." Michael Chabon
Contexts
On Silence

On Silence

How do you tell the story of Christian faith? The difficulty, the crisis, of believing? How do you describe the struggle? There have been many great twentieth-century novelists drawn to the subject – Graham Greene, of course, and François Mauriac, Georges Bernanos and, from his own very particular perspective, Shusaku Endo. When I use the...
That sinking feeling

That sinking feeling

If art’s mission is to change public perceptions or to transcend established practices, it can no longer be apolitical, unaware of social or economic currents. The creators of an exhibit that examines the “cultural afterlife” of taxidermised polar bears, nanoq: flat out and bluesome, by Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson, sum up a rather recent...
Measuring change – and holding onto it

Measuring change – and holding onto it

“You’ve come a long way, baby!” Such was the tagline of a US ad campaign launched in 1968 to sell Virginia Slims cigarettes. Images of women portrayed as hip, mod, and independent (all with cigarette in hand), were paired with historical depictions of drudgery and repression. Clearly, Madison Avenue wanted American women to believe they’d...
Reclaiming both past and future

Reclaiming both past and future

Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben ist barbarisch – it is barbaric to write verses after Auschwitz – is Theodor Adorno’s famous, massively quoted and frequently misunderstood 1951 declaration about the state, the potential and the responsibility of a life of the mind, of the voice of any spirit and intellect, after what Joseph Roth...
Berlin by twilight

Berlin by twilight

“Who in all the world goes to Berlin voluntarily?” wrote Joseph Roth in The Wandering Jews in 1926–27. For him, as for so many others who were acutely attuned to the particular dissonances of a global order in turmoil, Berlin represented the metaphorical and real space of a harrowing existential predicament: the new paradigm for...
Forever Neverland

Forever Neverland

Sally Cookson’s Peter Pan at the National Theatre is an exuberant steampunk pyjama party, exploring grown-up themes of abandonment, jeopardy, loneliness and despair. Cookson thrusts Wendy Darling (Madeleine Worral) centre-stage, as her story arcs from wonder to understanding and impending adulthood, while Paul Hilton’s petulant Peter, in his outgrown green suit and arrested adolescence, remains...
Electoral collage

Electoral collage

There is a form of mass hysteria sweeping the American populace at this moment. It’s something a bit like the Rage Virus, although those infected mostly stop short of physical violence and settle for just calling each other names and then blocking each other on Facebook. Watching it from across the Atlantic, I’d be terrified...
Waves of joy and doubt

Waves of joy and doubt

During the Second World War Astrid Lindgren, creator of Pippi Longstocking, was an aspiring writer living in Stockholm with her family, working in a top secret job at the Swedish Mail Censorship Office. Horrified and fascinated as world events unfolded, she kept a meticulous diary full of newspaper clippings (and occasional snippets from the letters...
Delusions of a terrorised conscience

Delusions of a terrorised conscience

“I desire to be humbled before God. It was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time. I did not do it out of anger, malice, or ill-will,” stated Ann Putnam in 1706. When only twelve or so, she had been one of the principle witnesses and accusers in the notorious...