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Jeremy Harding goes to Beirut to meet the novelist Elias Khoury

Jeremy Harding: ‘Before everything else, a writer of stories’, 16 November 2006

... Shatila is a short car journey out of Beirut and a few minutes on foot down a street full of market stalls. You pass a refuse heap where goats browse and small children smash up polystyrene packaging, duck into any of the narrow alleys to your right and enter one of the oldest refugee camps in the world. It was established by the Red Cross in 1949 on behalf of Palestinians herded from their villages the previous year ...

In Däräsge Maryam

Jeremy Harding: The East Wall of the Maqdas, 23 January 2014

... You might think you’re looking at an advent calendar, but there is no Nativity in this stunning set of paintings from the church of Däräsge Maryam in northern Ethiopia. The church was built by order of Webe Hayla Maryam, an energetic Amhara warlord, in the 1850s. By then Webe’s conquests had taken him as far as Tigray and the Red Sea port of Massawa in his bid to become emperor of a unified state ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: France’s role in Rwanda, 6 May 2004

... France has been struggling with its image abroad on several counts. First, there’s the rise in anti-semitism and the corresponding exodus of French Jews. Second, there is Le Pen’s success in the first round of the presidentials two years ago, which still sends a chill through the most rosy-cheeked francophiles, whether they’re British trenchermen or Latin American bellettrists ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: ‘Magnum Contact Sheets’, 2 August 2012

... In 1974 Ian Berry won a bursary from the Arts Council to photograph ‘the English’. He’d already made his name in South Africa as the only photographer to record the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. Two years later Cartier-Bresson invited him to join Magnum. He went on to work in Vietnam, Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland and Ethiopia; he was in Czechoslovakia in 1968 ...

At the British Museum

Jeremy Harding: The African Galleries, 10 May 2001

... Objects from Africa displayed in galleries leave us bemused. We hesitate to use the word ‘art’ – this is not Giorgione or the Barbizon School or Howard Hodgkin – and hedge our bets with polite words like ‘artefact’ or ‘decoration’. African narrative and music have done better. World-music impresarios can market the virtuoso kora players of the western Sahel; we have the kitsch academic term ‘orature’ to soothe our anxieties about the fact that the greatest story-telling and poetry from this vast continent had nothing to do with pen and paper ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: France’s foreign policy, 3 April 2003

... One of the oddities about France’s permanent membership of the Security Council is that its instincts are those of an influential player in the General Assembly. This in turn has to do with its skills in what you might call ‘decline management’ – the steady, negotiated passage from imperialism to mere nation status, with Great Power privileges flapping like ragged ensigns in the wind ...

At the Barbican

Jeremy Harding: Pilger pictures, 23 August 2001

... Work by 18 of the photographers with whom John Pilger has collaborated over the last thirty or forty years is on show in Reporting the World, at the Barbican Gallery until 30 September. The exhibition is a record of events we remember – vaguely or clearly – having followed and others that we didn’t follow, even if we tell ourselves now that we did ...

At the Royal Academy

Jeremy Harding: Botticelli, 5 April 2001

Botticelli's Dante 
Royal Academy, 360 pp., £48, March 2001, 0 900946 85 7Show More
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... Illustrators of the Divine Comedy find it hard to graduate from Hell, easy going for all the arts, to Paradise, which can look dreary by comparison. The Inferno, after all, is of the earth – an interesting place – aligned with the loins of Lucifer, the gigantic armature which holds the damned in their place. Dante’s Paradise is about unmitigated light, before it drains through the spheres to the earth ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: On commemoration, 6 March 2008

... For societies that decide to memorialise victims of persecution (genocides, invasions, civil wars, military dictatorships, police states), notions like deterrence and aversion come quickly into play. But they are the poor cousins of ‘memory’, an almost mystical concept in these circumstances and crucial to any discussion as to why the world is caught up in a ‘global rush to commemorate atrocities’, as Paul Williams puts it in Memorial Museums (Berg, £19 ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Nautical Dramas, 15 July 2021

... surrounded by all the technical gear you need to stay afloat. Breton caps à la Lenin (and Jeremy Corbyn) and ‘Ensign beanies’, a strong seller, were also on show. But the pullovers are the real stuff of legend. The Beerenberg is made from ‘black Welsh mountain wool’ and named for the world’s most northerly volcano: ‘high in the Arctic ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The benefits of self-censorship, 23 February 2006

... The row over the cartoons of the Prophet has pitted freedom of speech against the concept of blasphemy and looks at first sight like a head-on clash of secular and religious traditions. This is pretty much how the French press came to see it once the trouble erupted again, following the reprints in France Soir. It’s the kind of problem that crops up from time to time, said Charb, a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo, and the best solution is for offended parties to go to law ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Erratic Weather, 11 April 2013

... It’s hard to think of a culture that doesn’t keep an eye on the weather, yet we imagine it to be a thoroughly British habit. The painters are among the best observers, and Turner the grandest. Shortly before he died he was discovered on the floor of his sickroom in Cheyne Walk, having tried to reach the window and a view of the Thames. His doctor recalled how ‘the sun broke through the cloudy curtain which for so long had obscured its splendour, and filled the chamber of death with a glory of light ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: David Jones’s War, 19 March 2015

... Last year​ – year one of the Great War centenary – David Jones’s In Parenthesis, a long prose-and-verse evocation of his first months as a soldier, got a decent outing. The poet Owen Sheers drew on the text for his play Mametz at National Theatre Wales in the summer; Faber reissued the book with T.S. Eliot’s introduction in its series Poets of the Great War; and in Poetry of the First World War (2013), Tim Kendall chose a fine sequence of extracts – sticking to the verse where he could – even though he reckoned that Jones is ‘by far the most difficult [poet] to anthologise ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The Wyatt Continuum, 20 November 2014

... Robert Wyatt​ is one of the last survivors of the 1960s pop music scene in Britain. He has been recording for nearly half a century. He was said to be reckless and unfocused for most of his life, but he’s also the best sort of slow-burner moving along at his own pace. Having gone for it late in the day, he hung on to his ‘tankie’ party card – Communist Party of Great Britain – beyond the call of duty, but only because he’d steered his very own Centurion into a deep thicket, opened the hatch and taken a lengthy breather before deciding the game was up ...

At the RA

Jeremy Harding: Richard Diebenkorn, 7 May 2015

... Three years or so​ before his death, Richard Diebenkorn illustrated an elegant volume of Yeats’s poems from Arion Press in San Francisco, introduced by Helen Vendler. Vendler had already done an edition of Ashbery’s ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror’ for Arion, printed on roundel pages – wheels of paper 18” in diameter – with work by several artists, including Willem de Kooning and Jim Dine, as well as a selection of Wallace Stevens with a frontispiece by Jasper Johns; 1992 saw an edition of Kaddish, White Shroud and Black Shroud with lithograph portraits by Kitaj ...

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