Bats on the Ceiling: The Gospel of St Karen

James Lasdun, 24 September 2020

Certainly one wants at times to shake off this clammy individual, to say: pah, sociopath, case closed, not interesting. But something about this artful, artless wife-of-Jesus scheme of his, spreading out...

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Whatever Made Him: The Bauman Dichotomy

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 10 September 2020

Do we need biographies of public intellectuals? Is knowledge about a scholar’s life relevant to an understanding of their work? The Polish-Jewish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman thought not, and sedulously...

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Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley, 16 July 2020

The poet​ and songwriter Sydney Carter – remember ‘Lord of the Dance’? – wasn’t the only observer to notice that the 1950s British folk song revival was being...

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Cultural conservatives aren’t trying to protect language from politics; they are simply sanguine about the politics that language already has. 

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It isn’t wholly fanciful to envisage an aggressive Parliament determining that a judge who has stood up to the government on an issue of legal principle has failed to behave well, and using its majority...

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Becoming homeless is easily done

David Renton, 7 May 2020

Early on it became clear that millions of workers were employed on contracts their employers regarded as temporary. Employers were perfectly willing to dismiss these workers, in some cases even refusing...

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Twelve years after she published The Second Sex in 1949 she was still receiving letters from women who told her that it had ‘saved me’; psychiatrists, she heard, gave it to their patients....

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Surplusage! Walter Pater

Elizabeth Prettejohn, 6 February 2020

Few authors​ of such historical importance have so high a proportion of their writings forgotten or neglected as Walter Pater. I used to think his essays on ancient sculpture the least studied...

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Short Cuts: Life on Licence

Harry Stopes, 19 December 2019

The game, for four players, begins with their release from prison. One character is released to his own home, two to a hostel, one to homelessness. ‘We had a lot of discussion about how much to factor...

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Autumn in Paris: Autumn in Paris

Musab Younis, 5 December 2019

On​ 11 October, Julien Odoul, an official from the Rassemblement National, formerly the Front National, interrupted a French regional council session to ask a woman in the audience either to...

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Thriving on Chaos: After al-Baghdadi

Patrick Cockburn, 21 November 2019

For a brief, astonishing period, this reborn caliphate governed, in brutal but well-organised fashion, a population of ten million, claiming divine inspiration in its pursuit of true Islamic principles....

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Wittgenstein wasn’t particularly impress­ed by Bertrand Russell’s adoration. If his philosoph­ical capacities were as exceptional as Russell seemed to think, then this was a curious...

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In Court: The Prorogation Debacle

Stephen Sedley, 10 October 2019

For at least​ four centuries the courts have contested the claims of monarchs to untrammelled authority. ‘The king,’ Chief Justice Coke said in 1611, ‘hath no prerogative but...

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Justice eBay Style

Frederick Wilmot-Smith, 26 September 2019

The​ Shield of Achilles, as described in the Iliad, portrays two cities. One of them is at war, circled by ‘a divided army/gleaming in battle-gear’. In the other, there is a promise...

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Jonathan Sumption throughout the Reith Lectures takes it as given that the UK is a parliamentary democracy. Nowhere does he speak of what the UK actually is, a constitutional monarchy. The irony is that...

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Framing​ a constitution for a country undergoing political upheaval is a messy and dangerous business, and it is by no means guaranteed to succeed. We think of South Africa in the early 1990s...

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Enemies on All Sides: Masada

Josephine Quinn, 12 September 2019

Highway​ 90 follows the Great Rift Valley from Jerusalem down to Masada alongside what’s left of the Dead Sea, making it the lowest road on earth. On the right, sheer cliffs hide the...

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Who kicked them out? St Patrick’s Purgatory

Diarmaid MacCulloch, 1 August 2019

What​ do we know about St Patrick? Most people could probably place him in Ireland, amid every short cut to Irishness – shamrocks, Guinness, lots of green things – while a little...

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