From the next issue

To Serve My Friends

Jonathan Parry

Oliver Dowden​, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, appeared twice on the Today programme late last year. First, on 15 November, he answered questions about his party’s handling of the corruption allegations against the MP Owen Paterson, and then again on 17 December, he discussed the loss of Paterson’s North Shropshire seat at the by-election necessitated by...

 

Silences for Sebald

Michael Wood

The coroner​ decided, on the basis of a post-mortem examination, that the unnatural death had a natural cause: a heart attack. W.G. Sebald lost control of the car he was driving, and it crashed into an oncoming lorry. He died ‘before the impact’. Many of his friends thought differently: there had been too many earlier accidents in which Sebald had been distracted, too many...

 

England under Siege

Jessie Childs

ThomasHobbes used to tell people that the Spanish Armada was the reason he had been born prematurely. ‘My mother gave birth to twins,’ he said, ‘myself and fear.’ He never shook off the sense of dread. More than half a century later, having fled England for France, he wrote Leviathan, predicated on the view that fear is the chief driver of man. Hobbes would have...

From the blog

Double Fault

Arianne Shahvisi

11 January 2022

Ever the opportunist, Nigel Farage has become Novak Djokovic’s most vocal advocate. On the face of it, this is a little peculiar. Farage is not only a professed devotee of Australia’s immigration policy, in particular ‘its points-based system’, but has built his political identity out of racialising and vilifying Eastern Europeans. Ahead of Farage’s meeting with the Djokovic family in Serbia (who either did no research on Novak’s ‘friend’ or liked what they found), Andy Murray tweeted: ‘Please record the awkward moment when you tell them you’ve spent most of your career campaigning to have people from Eastern Europe deported.’ But Farage’s worldview is one of hierarchies and exemptions. He cites the ‘rule of law’ when it comes to borders, but flouted the Covid lockdown in May 2020 – as it happens, on the same day as the Downing Street garden party – to strike out into the English Channel on a fishing boat and film dinghies of asylum seekers.

 

Fragonard’s Abdications

Ewa Lajer-Burcharth

On a hotday in August 1806, Jean-Honoré Fragonard stepped into a café near the Champs de Mars to eat an ice cream, collapsed, and died later that day of ‘cerebral congestion’. He was 74 and by this time virtually unknown – a few lines in the daily papers were the only acknowledgment of his death. As an artist, Fragonard had often been at odds with the culture...

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Short Cuts

Nigerian Oil

Adewale Maja-Pearce

Nigeria pumps out​ 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, making it the biggest producer on the continent. The multinationals – Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell et al – in partnership with local firms and the state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, have made billions from it, and oil accounts for more than half of government income. But next to none of this money...

At the Swiss Institute

Rosemary Mayer

Francesca Wade

It’s tempting to read into these shapes, to see nuptials in the veils, cruelty in the hoops that cleave to the material like corsets, and more so when you consider the phrases Rosemary Mayer jotted on her drawings or in her notebooks: ‘a cracked egg’; ‘paint dripping thru broken skins’. But she insisted that ‘subject matter is extraneous – it is the materials & their properties that I love.’

 

‘Agent Sonya’

Malcolm Gaskill

In​ the summer of 1942, an Oxfordshire housewife began a series of brief encounters with a man who was not her husband. They met at a café in Birmingham and then in Banbury on the edge of the Cotswolds, where they strolled arm in arm, like lovers trying to forget the war. They had much in common: both were cultured Germans, refugees from the Nazis. But their secret meetings...

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