From the next issue

‘Shuggie Bain’

Christian Lorentzen

‘Above​ all,’ Douglas Stuart writes in the acknowledgments to Shuggie Bain, his first novel, ‘I owe everything to memories of my mother and her struggle.’ The American cover has a black and white photograph of a boy and a woman in bed, their foreheads touching in a maternal embrace. (On the British cover, a boy sits on a post that looks not unlike a...

 

To Die One’s Own Death

Jacqueline Rose

What is left of the inner life when the world turns more cruel, or appears to turn more cruel, than ever before? When it reels from inflicted blows – pandemic, war, starvation, climate devastation or all these together – what happens to the fabric of the mind? Is its only option defensive – to batten down the hatches, to haul up the drawbridge, or simply to survive? And does that leave room to grieve, not just for those who have been lost, but for the broken pieces and muddled fragments that make us who we are? Barely six months after the outbreak of the First World War, on Christmas Day 1914, Freud wrote to Ernest Jones to lament that the psychoanalytic movement ‘is now perishing in the strife of nations’ (the two men were on opposite sides in the war). ‘I do not delude myself,’ he wrote. ‘The springtime of our science has abruptly broken off . . . all we can do is to keep the fire flickering in a few hearths, until a more favourable wind makes it possible to light it again to full blaze.’ At a time of pandemic like the one we are living in today, is there room for anything like the complex reckoning with life and with death that is the unique domain of psychoanalysis?

 

The End of the Plantocracy

Pooja Bhatia

The​ movement for Black liberation made its world-historical debut in August 1791 when ten thousand slaves in the north of Saint-Domingue rose up and laid waste to sugar plantations. Within three months, the numbers involved in the insurrection had grown eightfold. Sugar production almost ceased. Fortunes burned. Planters fled, and some were killed. By 1794, the rebels had compelled France...

From the blog

‘The fish rots from the head’

Musab Younis

13 November 2020

It might seem bizarre to blame the murder of the French schoolteacher Samuel Paty on a nebulous conspiracy of leftist academics, given that the perpetrator, Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, was an 18-year-old who had never been to university. But earlier this month in Le Monde, 100 French academics gave their backing to Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, when he responded to the murder with a flood of invective against universities. ‘Islamo-leftism is wreaking havoc,’ he said. Paty’s murderer had been ‘conditioned by people who encourage’ a type of ‘intellectual radicalism’ and promote ‘ideas that often come from elsewhere’, i.e. from across the Atlantic. ‘The fish rots from the head,’ he added darkly. Blanquer was following the example of the president of the republic.

Collection

See you in hell, punk

Writing about how (not) to stage a coup by Hilary Mantel, Thomas Jones, Perry Anderson, Patricia Beer, Christopher Hitchens, Ella George, Bruce Ackerman, Alexandra Reza, James Meek and John Perry.

At the Pace Gallery

Trevor Paglen

Daniel Soar

The​ usual four white walls, but in each corner a screen, surveilling the gallery. Normally the display is pale pink but at times it flicks to grey, indicating that someone somewhere is watching. It could be you, at home, clicking on the website for Octopus (2020), the installation project by Trevor Paglen that allowed the stay-at-homes, the voyeurs, the disabled, the bored, the ill, the...

 

Danez Smith and Jericho Brown

Kevin Okoth

Danez Smith​’s prose poem ‘Dear White America’, published in Don’t Call Us Dead (2017), brought Allen Ginsberg’s ‘America’ into the present and gave it a more urgent register: ‘we did not build your prisons (though we did & we fill them too). we did not ask to be part of your America … i can’t stand your ground. i’m sick...

Diary

Alone in Venice

Colm Tóibín

Suddenly,​ there was nothing to complain about. No cruise ships went up the Giudecca Canal. There were no tourists clogging up the narrow streets. Piazza San Marco was often completely deserted. On some bridges a few gondoliers stood around, but there was no one to hire them. Instead, dogs and their owners walked the streets, with no one pushing them out of the way. People greeted one...

Close Readings

Podcast

Close Readings

Seamus Perry and Mark Ford’s ‘revolutionary … ★★★★★’ (The Times) podcast about British and American poets from the long 20th century.

Poem

‘Oh What A Night (Alkibiades)’

Anne Carson

Plato’s Symposium prelude.A symposium was usually a gentleman’s drinking party. This is an unusual one. It has been going on for hours with no drinking. The participants agreed at the outset to forego wine in favour of entertaining one another with speeches in praise of love. Phaidros, Pausanias, Eryximachos, Aristophanes and Agathon have spoken; Sokrates is just subsiding to...

 

Eclectic Imitators

Tobias Gregory

Writers​ imitate their precursors, consciously or not. Nobody starts from scratch. Even the Homeric poems had traditions behind them. To write is to enter a conversation, to make your own reading into a usable past, to choose the literary company you seek to join, or to beat. A writer, Saul Bellow said, is a reader moved to emulation. The question is not whether to imitate, but what to...

 

The Breadwinner Norm

Susan Pedersen

Fathers sat down to a kipper or a boiled egg at breakfast (and gave one fav­oured child the top); their dependants ate porridge. Kind fathers sometimes shared tidbits; others avoided the whole drama and ate alone. It’s true, of course, that many men were doing hard manual labour: they needed those hearty meals. But these be­ haviours were also about status. Even men in sedentary jobs ate eggs and bacon while their children ate bread and dripping.Mothers were different. Mothers fed you, sent you to school, decided when you’d go to work – and, if you were a girl, pulled you out of school when you were needed at home. Mothers ruled every aspect of your life.

Talking Politics: History of Ideas

After each episode of the new Talking Politics podcast, brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, continue your exploration of the history of ideas in our unrivalled archive of essays and reviews, films and podcasts.

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LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

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Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

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