“There is no centre anymore. We live in a multipolar world, and culture reflects that." Fatima Bhutto
Contexts
The future of Palestine

The future of Palestine

It is of more than passing interest that, during the premiership of Herbert Henry Asquith, the British did not seek to acquire Palestine. It was certainly not the government’s priority. Palestine was a land of relative insignificance that could be dealt with once the war was over. Under Asquith, the prevalent official British view was...
Dim background figures

Dim background figures

Among the bold colours and radically liberating shapes that conjured up so indelibly the world of the Bloomsbury Group painters, between the layers of meaning and style of the new women writers, under the shadows or glaring light of history, and at a tantalising distance, both flirtatious and cautionary, from the figures who dominated early...
The next best death

The next best death

Death came for Eiolf early one bright summer morning. Before he had got as far as his office. Before he had got as far as putting on the water for his coffee and dumping his heavy shoulder bag. As usual, he was one of the first to arrive. It was the last time he would...
Write what you want to forget

Write what you want to forget

What do you do with the things that cannot be expressed? Where do you put the things you cannot say? What do you do when words don’t work? In the opening pages of The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson cites Wittgenstein: “the inexpressible is contained – inexpressibly – in the expressed.” This is, she says, why she...
Trying to tell a stranger about rock ’n’ roll

Trying to tell a stranger about rock ’n’ roll

Before I start in on Mark Radcliffe’s romp through pop history Crossroads: In Search of the Moments that Changed Music, I need to make a confession: prior to reviewing this book, I had never heard of Mark Radcliffe. I know it’s wearing pretty thin to use the excuse “I’m new here” after thirteen years living...
Home at the asylum

Home at the asylum

In the nineteenth century Roosevelt Island, then known as Blackwell’s Island, was crowded with more than a dozen prisons, a smallpox hospital, workhouses, and even a home for “wayward girls.” Municipal leaders in the growing metropolis across the river decided that Blackwell’s Island would be the perfect place to lock away the criminal, the indigent,...
Don't hurry over them

Don’t hurry over them

John Gaskin (he likes to write his first name with a soupçon of Hellenic omega in its spelling) is a rather extraordinary man. A banker quickly turned philosopher and academic, he has been lecturing and writing prolifically on almost all things ancient for more than half a century. Revered for his scholarship and mellifluous paeans...
More than itself

More than itself

More than a poet, Rilke, one might argue, is a supreme embodiment of a Platonic idea of the artist, a sublime abstraction of the power of art and of words to haunt us and to grant us life. Even when alive, he was less a person than he was a persona, a complex yet intangible...
Let there be light

Let there be light

Tatyana Tolstaya lives a double life. A fiercely postmodern, vibrant writer of the here-and-now, an indulgently larger-than-life presence in Russian letters and culture at home and abroad, she is also a ghost – a rather hard-to-miss, palpably material ghost, but a ghost of Russian and Tolstoyan past, nonetheless. Her latest collection of short stories, Aetherial...
Passion and compassion

Passion and compassion

In the opening chapter of Regina Porter’s The Travelers, a small dozing girl drifts into the deep end of a pool whilst her grandfather is preoccupied. She doesn’t drown in the end, just as Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom’s granddaughter didn’t drown in John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest. Porter has nonetheless managed to compress a span of...