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Selected highlights from the December 2013 / January 2014 double issue:
Daniel Pick on Sigmund and Anna Freud's letters
'Have you read that cholera has already reached Naples? Will you be giving it a wide berth?' So wrote Anna Freud (aged 14) in September 1910 to her father, then travelling in the south. Anna was Sigmund's youngest child and the only one of his six to train as a psychoanalyst. She became a custodian of his movement, a pioneer of child analysis, and co-founder of the Hampstead Nurseries, which offered refuge to homeless families during the Second World War. She was well known for her fierce quarrels with Melanie Klein, whose ideas were to have a profound impact on British psychoanalysis. Anna also proved influential in this country and to a still greater extent in the United States. She never married, nor did she ever permanently leave her parental home. After she died in 1982, her - their - residence in London became the Freud Museum. Sigmund called Anna his 'Antigone', which captured something of her unswerving dedication. Read more.
Frances Wilson on the lessons fictional heroines can teach us
THE SCHOOL OF HARDBACKS
Samantha Ellis is a dramatist and bibliomaniac. Her mother, an Iraqi Jew, was persecuted and imprisoned before escaping from Baghdad and arriving in London, where she met and married Ellis's father. Growing up with stories of her family's heroic past, Ellis dreamed of having adventures of her own and of one day escaping from the small, contained north London Jewish community in which she was raised. As soon as she could read, she absorbed herself in the lives of other - fictional - heroines, whom she used as signposts to her freedom. Read more.
Lloyd Shepherd on the scourge of book piracy
THE PIRATE SECTOR
How damaging is book piracy? It depends whom you ask. An author who's just stumbled across an illicit copy of her work will be upset and full of anger. Over time these individual anecdotes of loss and outrage coalesce into generally received wisdom: that piracy is aggressive and pervasive and that it is bringing the book trade to its knees. Piracy is theft. Piracy is killing publishing. Piracy is taking food out of my children's mouths. How can I stop it happening to me? Read more.
Dominic Sandbrook on Presidents Roosevelt and Taft
TEDDY & TAFT
On 14 October 1912, the former US president Theodore Roosevelt went to Milwaukee to give a speech. Although TR had retired from the political front line almost four years earlier, he had now decided to launch a comeback and was running for president on the independent Progressive Party ticket. Everywhere he was greeted by large, enthusiastic crowds and Milwaukee was no exception. But, as TR was leaving his hotel for the auditorium, a madman called John Flammang Schrank raised a pistol and fired, hitting the former president in the chest. Read more.
Bernard Porter on Gandhi's life and work in South Africa
Gandhi's years in South Africa were the making of him and could be said to mark the beginning of the unmaking of the British Empire. Ramachandra Guha's fine new book examining this time is the first of two projected volumes that will eventually cover the whole of the Mahatma's life. Usually this period is treated by biographers simply, and relatively sketchily, as a prelude to the much more important events that happened after his return to India in 1914. Guha thinks this does 'injustice to both man and place'. If he had been killed then, rather than in 1948, he would still have left a huge mark. Gandhi himself, when informed of an assassination plot against him in Johannesburg in March 1914, told a nephew that, if it succeeded, it would 'be welcome and a fit end to my work'. Read more.
Bharat Tandon on the fictional lives of Philip Roth
HIS LIFE AS A NOVELIST
On the surface, it might seem an odd decision for a critic to cleave faithfully to the grain of Philip Roth's life and works, since so much of both has been defined by conflict, if not downright contrarianism. After all, Roth's career can be traced as a relief map of oppositions, from the outraged reactions to his 1959 New Yorker story 'Defender of the Faith', famously reworked in The Ghost Writer (1979) as Judge Wapter's 'TEN QUESTIONS FOR NATHAN ZUCKERMAN' ('Can you honestly say that there is anything in your short story that would not warm the heart of a Julius Streicher or a Joseph Goebbels?'), to his ongoing struggles, over the years, with various misconstructions of his work and with that 'anti-Roth reader' which he once conjured for Hermione Lee... Read more.
Frances Spalding on Paul Cézanne's illustrated correspondence
UPSETTING THE APPLE CART
This might be a book of Paul Cézanne's letters, but the various self-portraits and photographs of the painter dropped into the text are no less revealing than his writings. Take, for instance, the photograph of him setting out to paint in the landscape near Auvers, around 1874. He stands mid-stride, resting on his stick, with painting box and folded easel on his back. Those gimlet eyes, beneath his straw hat, and the thick beard that obscures the lower part of his face immediately convey character and purpose. This is no Sunday painter but a man ferociously committed to the task in hand. 'Pictor semper virens', he added after his name in a letter to Marius Roux, the author of The Substance and the Shadow, a novel in which a character based on Cézanne ends his days a ruined man. The professional signature acted as a riposte: unlike his fictional alter ego he, the pictor ('painter'), was semper virens ('evergreen') - in other words, vigorously alive. Read more.
Elif Shafak on the position and power of Muslim women
LIFTING THE HEADSCARF
When I was six years old my parents got divorced and in order to offer me a fully fledged egalitarian holiday they asked me to spend half the summer with my paternal grandmother and the remaining half with my maternal grandmother. In the former house, I learned to fear Allah. Grandma N opened my suitcase and regarded with distaste every dress and pair of shorts that I had brought, finding them inappropriate for girls. She told me that because of my sex I had to be extra-careful and pray night and day so as not to err and end up inside the boiling cauldrons of Hell. By mid-July, more pious and timid than before, I returned to Ankara, where my maternal grandmother was waiting for me. Grandma F took a look at the new clothes I had brought along and found them too thick and too long. 'In this heat, you should be wearing dresses and shorts, for God's sake!' When I questioned her about Hell and what particular torments awaited us there, she said, 'You shouldn't be thinking of such things. Think about God's love instead. He is rahman and rahim. The words mean merciful and womb. So it shows us that in the eyes of Allah we women are much loved, much blessed.' Read more.
John Banville witnesses Maigret's resurrection in print
AN INSPECTOR CALLS
To start with, appropriately, a confession of guilt. Although there could be no greater admirer than I of Georges Simenon, I had not until now read a single one of his Maigret novels. The Simenon I know and revere is the author of such extraordinary fictions as Dirty Snow, Monsieur Monde Vanishes and The Strangers in the House. These are examples of what he called his romans durs, or 'hard' novels, and they represent the achievement he was most proud of, and rightly so. Yet many readers are unaware of these works; for them, Simenon is notable solely as the creator of one of the most famous, most believable, most enduring and endearing fictional sleuths, Detective Chief Inspector Jules Maigret of the Paris Flying Squad. Read more.
Michael Burleigh on the many-limbed organisation that is Hezbollah
FOLLOW THE MONEY
During the month-long Israeli incursion into Lebanon in 2006, various useful idiots in Britain declared, 'We are all Hezbollah now', while the former Labour MP George Galloway pronounced that Hezbollah was not a terrorist organisation. More seriously, the UK government still refuses to join many others in condemning Hezbollah tout court as a terrorist entity, reserving that designation solely for its 'military wing'. Read more.
Christopher Hart considers the creative daily rituals of writers, composers and artists
RISE AND SHINE
Erik Satie may have worn chestnut-coloured velvet suits, eaten thirty-egg omelettes and founded the Church of Jesus Christ the Conductor, but this was just bohemian decoration. He also walked 12 miles into and out of Paris every day, composing all the way. In his introduction to this wonderfully entertaining little book, Mason Currey quotes V S Pritchett: 'Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.' Read more.
Elspeth Barker on Collected Stories by Bernard MacLaverty
Bernard MacLaverty's collected stories span thirty years, the most recent ones published in 2006. Although the author refers in his introduction to the earlier writings as 'stories of an inexperienced young man', many of them are as accomplished as the latest and share their preoccupations, always artfully suggested and often apparent only and suddenly, towards the end. Read more.
Lucian Robinson on The Dig by Cynan Jones
One of the most startling moments in The Mabinogion, the Welsh medieval prose epic, comes midway through the tale of 'Peredur son of Efrawg'. Peredur, an aspirant knight errant, spent after killing several earls, takes shelter in a hermit's cell for the evening. 'The next morning', we read... Read more.