"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
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...
Big brothers

Big brothers

Since my teenage years, I have been fascinated by the works of Orwell, while casting a critical and selective eye over them. I have always considered that his great masterpiece is Animal Farm; I was always less engaged by 1984. The idea behind 1984 was undeniably powerful; but, as so often with novels that expound...
Bread and circuses

Bread and circuses

Historians say that during the fourteenth century Europe lost one-third of its population in seven years. The roads were strewn with unburied corpses. In the worst times of famine and despair, people used their ingenuity to grind anything they thought could replace grain, flour and bread. In their endeavour to keep making bread, they did...
Distant echoes of a mighty paean

Distant echoes of a mighty paean

Readers long spellbound by Elena Ferrante’s Valhalla-like worlds of the Italian South, her redoubtable skills as a writer, the swarming opacity of the mystery that enshrouds her, her ‘voice’, defying every categorisation, or even personification, will instantly pick up the familiar echoes and sounds of her previous books as they leaf through the pages of...
Survivor rage

Survivor rage

David Hare succumbed to Covid-19 last March, as the UK government continued to dither over following the rest of Europe into lockdown. He contracted it in the confines of a cramped Soho editing room, and was soon experiencing a shortage of breath followed by complex symptoms he describes as “kicking around like I’ve swallowed a...
The Fiume Endeavour

The Fiume Endeavour

In existence: 1919–20 Population: 60,000 Languages: Italian, Hungarian, German, Venetian Cause of death: tails Today: part of Croatia In the aftermath of World War I, the Big Four powers redrew the map of Europe with the (100 per cent successful) aim of preventing any more trouble in the Balkans. The largely Italian-speaking Fiume ended up...
Crossroads to the past

Crossroads to the past

“From time to time, God causes men to be born – and thou art one of them – who have a lust to go abroad at the risk of their lives and discover news – to-day it may be of far-off things, tomorrow of some hidden mountain.” Rudyard Kipling, Kim The great twelfth-century traveller Ibn...
Truth in sculpture

Truth in sculpture

Sometime between the 4th and the 3rd century BC, Poseidippus of Pella wrote the following epigram on the art of breathing life into stone, as he describes the statue of the poet Philitas of Cos by Hekataion: He fashioned the elderly pedant using all his craft, and in accordance with the proper rule of truth....
Love on the beat

Love on the beat

Singer Roxanne Fontana tells a story about her first visit to New York’s CBGBs nightclub in the fall of 1976. Having read in a music magazine about the bourgeoning rock scene on the Bowery in Manhattan, Roxanne took a subway into the city and visited the club in the middle of the day (being underage,...
It's about time

It’s about time

Periods of calmness and peace are often likened to infinity; when the passage of time is blissfully suspended, or sublimely extended beyond the limits of human reckoning or reason. Times of crisis, on the other hand, such as war, are characterised by the particular effect they have on the very notion and substance of time....