"There is no centre anymore. We live in a multipolar world, and culture reflects that." Fatima Bhutto
Contexts
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...
Disciplines of disobedience

Disciplines of disobedience

‘Let’s do this copper bastard over.’ These are the words my father was accused of saying before his arrest on the anti-Vietnam War protest of 30 March 1968 as it progressed towards Grosvenor Square, then site of the American Embassy. The officer who testified to overhearing him say these words in one of the many...
Nowhere, or wherever you are

Nowhere, or wherever you are

I wanted to be a writer when I was little. There was no question of it; I knew loads of words, and it hadn’t crossed my mind that there was anything more to it than putting them together on a blank (or blank-ish) surface. I was a writer. I wasn’t prepared to wake up one...
Capital Crime: Debut festival of the year

Capital Crime: Debut festival of the year

Like so many of life’s wonders, Capital Crime was conceived in the back of a New York taxi cab. The idea came to David Headley and Adam Hamdy while they were attending Thriller Fest. A world-class city like London needed its own high-profile crime fiction festival and they were going to be the ones who...
Corsets of conventionality

Corsets of conventionality

Zofia Nałkowska (1884–1954) was one of the most important Polish writers of the first half of the twentieth century, prominent in public life and a figure of European significance, whose major works have been translated into English only since 2000. She was a pioneer of psychological modernism. Apart from novels, short stories and plays, Nałkowska...
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...