Kant Come Alive

Stuart Jeffries

Walter Benjamin praised Siegfried Kracauer as a fellow ragpicker, sorting through cultural trash for meaning. In writing about our bewitchment by ephemera, Benjamin wanted to shock readers out of consumer fetishism and raise revolutionary consciousness. Kracauer had no such pretensions. He was never as dedicated a Marxist, still less convinced that pointing out the fatuities of consumer capitalism would shake the masses out of their delusions.

 

Life as a Wife

Tessa Hadley

We could hardly expect George Meredith to be thankful for his humiliation at the hands of his too-lively first wife, who was insufficiently devoted to his greatness. But it’s possible now to see that Mary Ellen’s betrayal was the necessary irritant, the grit, that brought out his best work. He couldn’t leave her story alone – in novel after novel he returned to portraits of women dissatisfied with their lumbering males, who are always one step behind and too much in love with themselves to see anyone else clearly.

 

‘Lean Fall Stand’

Edmund Gordon

The steps along the way are at once depressingly small and forbiddingly vast. Learning to swallow again. Learning to match the word ‘cat’ with a picture of a cat again; learning to say the word ‘cat’ again. Learning to write his name again. When my father was at the start of this process, my wife and I took our two-year-old son to visit him in hospital. I watched as Dad struggled to say ‘hello’, encouraged by the child whose own recent breakthroughs in speech had been a source of uncomplicated pride.

 

Famine in Tigray

Alex de Waal

In Tigray​ in northern Ethiopia a famine is unfolding in the dark. Reporters and aid workers have been unable to access large parts of the region since war broke out in November. Satellite imagery and aerial photographs have shown that only a fraction of the land was ploughed in preparation for the summer rains. Children are dying of hunger. When villagers are spotted by Eritrean or Ethiopian soldiers they are told: ‘You won’t plough, you won’t harvest, you won’t get any aid. We’ll punish you if you try.’ Some news reaches me by phone. I recently spoke to a Tigrayan colleague who had experienced a previous famine. The elders in his village were saying that the situation now was as bad as it had been in the worst months of the 1980s. Even if a massive aid effort gets underway and the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, allows international agencies to reach people in need, it’s already too late for tens of thousands of Tigrayans, most of them children. Two months ago, aid agencies completed spot surveys of villages they could access and reported malnutrition of between 27 and 33 per cent among children under five.

At the Whitechapel

Eileen Agar

Francesca Wade

The​ Whitechapel’s ground-floor gallery is full of heads, not all of them with faces. At the entrance to this retrospective – her largest to date, showing until 29 August – sharp-bobbed Eileen Agar, 28 years old, looks out from Self-Portrait (1927) as if pondering her next move. In her autobiography, A Look at My Life, she described this as her ‘first successful...

Travels for the Mind

Travels for the Mind

Read the world's best writing - from some of the world's best writers. Subscribe to the LRB today for just £1 an issue.

 

‘Light Perpetual’

Adam Mars-Jones

LightPerpetual starts with a description of a V2 about to explode on a Saturday in 1944. The tone is one of uneasy technological rapture: ‘a thread-wide front of change propagating outward from the electric detonator, through the heavy mass of amatol’. Francis Spufford has written about rockets before, in his non-fiction, engaging imaginatively with the Russian space race in

Diary

Oxford by Train

Patrick McGuinness

Edward Thomas​ called the approach to Oxford by train ‘the most contemptible in Europe’. There’s no view to speak of, and the station is a big shed with lots of glass and cheap detailing: blue pillars and PVC fascias. The city’s relationship to the railway, like its relationship to the world, is arrogant but insecure, high-minded but petty. Oxford was offered a...

 

Ulsterism

Niamh Gallagher

Younger generations have no direct memory of the conflict and tend not to share the social conservatism of their elders. It is sometimes said that the South jumped straight from the 19th to the 21st century in a few decades: there has been a decline in religious observance, a growth in wealth, the incorporation of people of different ethnicities, and the passage of legislation allowing gay marriage and abortion. So why are we back to talking about the border?

Subject/Object: The Birds

A new, biannual series of short festivals from the London Review Bookshop, loosely tracing a theme through the archive of the London Review of Books with a week of books and arts events. The first theme is birds, and on this occasion all eight events will be online.

Read More

LRB Selections 2. Penelope Fitzgerald

Featuring pieces for the LRB on subjects including Stevie Smith, Alain-Fournier, Adrian Mole, girls’ schools, Wild Swans, wartime London and Anne Enright, half of which haven’t been anthologised before, by the Booker Prize-winning author of Offshore and The Blue Flower.

Read More

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.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences