The Current Issue

July 2021, Issue 498 John Adamson on the fall of Robespierre * Tim Stanley on Richard Nixon * Julian Baggini on kindness to animals * Tanya Harrod on Sophie Taeuber-Arp * Cal Flyn on retreating from daily life * A J Lees on opium, caffeine and mescaline * Daniel Swift on poets in Mussolini's Italy * Suzi Feay on Nico * Michael Burleigh on statues * Carole Angier on W G Sebald * Patricia Fara on time * Daisy Dunn on Horizon * Anthony Cummins on Adam Mars-Jones * Paul Bailey on Mircea Cărtărescu * Laurel Berger on David Diop *  and much, much more…

John Adamson

The Fall of Robespierre: 24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris

By Colin Jones

So momentous an event was the French Revolution, so labyrinthine its evolution and so far-reaching its consequences for the whole of Europe that it seems the purest folly to imagine that anything useful can be said about the subject in a book devoted to a single day. Yet, however improbably, that is exactly what this book sets out to do. Still more eccentric is the book’s organisation. Traditional chapters are abandoned entirely. Instead we get five lengthy ‘parts’, each subdivided into a series of ever-faster-paced scenes, the shortest only a few paragraphs long. Each is headed merely by a simple indication of time and place: ‘10:45 am: Robespierre’s lodgings, 366 Rue Saint-Honoré’; ‘11:00 am: Tuileries palace... read more

More Articles from this Issue

Julian Baggini

How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World

By Henry Mance

You might think me eccentric for feeding my cat the highest-quality pet food, made with free-run chicken and turkey, freshwater fish and cage-free eggs. But I should not be considered the weird one. It is bizarre that in a supposedly animal-loving country, where half of all households have a pet, so many feed them on other animals that have lived miserable lives in factory farms. Walk down your supermarket pet food aisle and you’ll be hard pressed to find... read more

Cal Flyn

Retreat: The Risks and Rewards of Stepping Back from the World

By Nat Segnit

What are we searching for when we turn our backs to the world and look inwards? Nat Segnit’s first non-fiction book attempts to answer this question. Retreat is an investigation into the quest for solitude and silence across time periods, cultures and religions – and it is a sharp and lively one at that. It explores the undertaking in its various guises – as a spiritual practice with philosophical or religious underpinnings and in the context of secular... read more

Tanya Harrod

Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Full of Spikes & Fish Bones

This year, Tate is hosting four exhibitions devoted to women artists: Paula Rego, Lubaina Himid, Yayoi Kusama and Sophie Taeuber-Arp (a further show devoted to Magdalena Abakanowicz is in the pipeline). Opening on 15 July at Tate Modern, the exhibition ‘Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction’ comes with an excellent catalogue, which includes sixteen essays that survey her remarkable range. This Swiss artist, born in Davos in 1889, created textiles, beadwork bags and ... read more

Tim Stanley

King Richard: Nixon and Watergate – an American Tragedy

By Michael Dobbs

Does the world need another history of the Watergate scandal? If it’s this good, yes. Michael Dobbs’s tense facto-thriller covers the first hundred days of Richard Nixon’s second administration, from the triumph of re-election to the moment when things ‘fell apart’ in mid-1973. Dobbs stalks the president around the White House, watching and listening – much like the taping system Nixon installed to... read more

A J Lees

This is Your Mind on Plants: Opium – Caffeine – Mescaline

By Michael Pollan

Despite its unappealing, formulaic title (the even more hackneyed Your Brain on Plants had already been taken), Michael Pollan’s intertwining of reportage, citizen science and historical scholarship is a delightful and informative read. A censored version of the first section of the book, devoted to opium, appeared in Harper’s Magazine in April 1997, at the height of the US government’s ‘war on drugs’... read more

Anthony Cummins

Batlava Lake

By Adam Mars-Jones

Adam Mars-Jones’s previous novel, Box Hill, was a devilishly unsettling sex comedy narrated by Colin, a train driver who looks back to how, on turning eighteen in 1975, he stumbled into a submissive relationship with Ray, an older man whose domination of Colin seems – at least to the reader – indistinguishable from abuse. Colin, for his part, recalls the affair fondly. The energy of the novel lies in how it dares us to dismiss his chatty testimony in a manner akin... read more

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