The Current Issue

November 2021, Issue 502 Oliver Ready on Dostoevsky * Robert Douglas-Fairhurst on H G Wells * Anthony Pagden on peace in Europe * Charles Darwent on Magritte * Thomas Kielinger on Angela Merkel * Edward Vallance on witches in New England * Anne Sebba on Rothschild women * Norma Clarke on linocuts * Daniel Rey on Pope Benedict XVI * Jonathan Rée on rationality * Sara Wheeler on Athens * Roderick Bailey on Albania under communism * Peter Marshall on Zwingli * Michael Pye on Burgundy * Richard Canning on James Ivory * Ian Critchley on Rose Tremain * Paul Bailey on Anthony Veasna So *  and much, much more…

Charles Darwent

Magritte: A Life

By Alex Danchev, with Sarah Whitfield

I can think of few artists who benefit as much from overexposure as René Magritte. This was, in a sense, bound to be. A poster of The Son of Man (1964) or Golconda (1953) was de rigueur for the school study wall of any fifteen-year-old of my generation with distant claims to sensitivity, a mark of difference from the hearties on either side, with their tennis-player-scratching-her-bottom posters. The oddity and graphic crispness of Magritte’s work made for a winning combination, his bowler-hatted hommes moyens sensuels raining like so many male Mary Poppinses from an all too clearly Belgian sky. The instant recognisability of Magritte’s work has its roots not in his training at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from 1916 to 1918 but in his postwar work as a draughtsman ... read more

More Articles from this Issue

Oliver Ready

The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky, a Crime and Its Punishment

By Kevin Birmingham

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with taking one’s Crime and Punishment neat, without footnotes, introduction or weighty biography, sans everything except Dostoevsky’s incandescent text (as recast by your pick of fourteen translators). Countless readers, and all good formalists, have done just that, not least because the old translations tended to have no notes. Why interrupt the spell, the morbid giddiness... read more

Norma Clarke

Sybil & Cyril: Cutting Through Time

By Jenny Uglow

Two 1930s prints hung in Jenny Uglow’s home as a child: The Eight by Cyril Power and Bringing in the Boat by Sybil Andrews. It never occurred to her to wonder about them, and then it did. The result is this marvellous book. The prints were linocuts. Between the wars linocutting, ‘a small yet significant corner of avant-garde art’, became a craze. It’s probably still true, as Sybil reflected at the end of her long and productive career, that few people understand... read more

Thomas Kielinger

The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel

By Kati Marton

For much of her sixteen years in office as Germany’s chancellor, Angela Dorothea Merkel, née Kasner, has been ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, to quote Churchill’s famous dictum on the Soviet Union. Her meteoric rise defied all rational explanation. A woman from East Germany, a scientist with an inbuilt aversion to straddling the political stage and mounting the bully pulpit: how could she succeed in a country with... read more

Roderick Bailey

Hoxha's Long Shadow

‘You’ll never understand what Albanian communism was like,’ begins one testimony in Margo Rejmer’s Mud Sweeter Than Honey. ‘Somewhere on the edge of Europe there was a North Korea, a bunker state, a fortress state … you can’t describe life in a country that was a prison.’ Albanians lived and died under communism for forty-six years. It was a period of prolonged human suffering, of which the outside world still knows little. Even in... read more

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