Should We Intervene?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

It’s not always predictable just what will bring monstrosities to widespread attention. In Afghanistan, unnoticed horror has been piled upon horror for years, most recently under the government of the Taleban, a gang of despotic and brutal men calling themselves Islamic. Consider this: in the middle of 1998, the Taleban massacred about 8,000 people in […]

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He Promised Her the Nobel Prize

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The mistitling of this book reveals the problem of scientific biography. Albert Einstein was in love with one thing – physics. Everything else was secondary, which is why his relations with women and his children were so painfully skewed. If a man’s thoughts are absorbed in calculating the gravity of all the mass and energy […]

The Art of Collaboration

Posted on by David Gelber

Recalling his first impressions of the work of his long-term collaborator E H Shepard, A A Milne confessed to having remarked to the art editor of Punch magazine, ‘What on earth do you see in this man? He’s perfectly hopeless.’ It is not unusual for writer–illustrator partnerships to begin inauspiciously, but few go on to […]

Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan & Nazli Ilıcak

Posted on by David Gelber

In February 2017, I wrote here about Ahmet Şık, a Turkish investigative journalist who had recently been arrested at his home in Istanbul. Şık is well known for his courageous reporting in the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet. He was accused of producing terrorist propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and FETO, the government’s name […]

Grappling with Grief

Posted on by David Gelber

Kit de Waal’s second novel, The Trick to Time, begins with Mona, a sixty-year-old Irish immigrant, standing by her window in the middle of the night. She notices a man in the building across from her and raises her mug in mock salute. This is the first of many late-night acknowledgements, until one day she […]

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Witch & Famous

Posted on by David Gelber

Circe, minor goddess and powerful witch, is a compelling but mysterious figure in classical mythology. In Book X of The Odyssey she holds Odysseus not entirely against his will in her palace on the lion-infested island of Aiaia, where his men are briefly turned into swine by her enchantments. In Ovid’s The Metamorphoses she transforms […]

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Reader Beware

Posted on by David Gelber

If breaking the fourth wall signifies a shattering of the traditional interface between character and audience, Curtis White has not only broken it but also taken a sledgehammer to the remaining three and is now perched, filing his nails, atop the wreckage. While applying dramaturgical terms to fiction may irk you, reader, in this case […]

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City Lit

Posted on by David Gelber

‘The literary name and fame of the city of Berlin, if not the idea of modern city literature altogether, are founded on the novel in your hands,’ Michael Hofmann tells us in his afterword to his new translation of Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz. While the first part of that statement is a matter of taste, […]

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It’s a London Thing

Posted on by David Gelber

In Nick Drake’s song ‘Time Has Told Me’, the singer reminds himself that time has taught him ‘not to ask for more’. Diana Evans’s sparkling third novel, Ordinary People, is full of characters asking for more, while undervaluing the gifts life has bestowed upon them. Focusing on two couples – Michael and Melissa, and Damian […]

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A Single Woman

Posted on by David Gelber

As Territory of Light opens, the unnamed narrator is newly separated from her husband, Fujino, and looking for an apartment. But she can’t break the habit of deferring to Fujino, who drags her around to more and more expensive places. She feels utterly defeated: ‘If I could live with my husband I didn’t care where, […]

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Ages of Anxiety

Posted on by David Gelber

It is relatively unusual for an emerging author to make their breakthrough with a book of short stories, but the thematic unity of Chris Power’s debut collection gives it a sense of wholeness almost on a par with a novel. The writing in Mothers is meditative and controlled: the average sentence rarely exceeds one and […]

Suffering Artist of the Floating World

Posted on by David Gelber

I live in Fussa, a bland dormitory suburb about forty kilometres from central Tokyo. The place has two claims to fame: it is the site of the American base where US presidents touch down on their visits to Japan and home to a livestock research centre that produced TOKYO-X, a superior crossbred pig incorporating genetic […]

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Deb’s Distress

Posted on by David Gelber

A keen, intelligent face, not pretty but with the potential for beauty, heavy eyebrows, a long nose: the portrait of Ellen Palmer at the age of about fourteen in black schoolroom clothes, perhaps by her governess, is probably the most revealing image of her to have survived. The recent discovery of more of Ellen Palmer’s diaries […]

Snow Problem

Posted on by David Gelber

On the first day of spring, 1 March, much of England ground to a halt due to snowfall. Days later, supermarkets remained eerily empty of produce, the shelves laid bare by panic buyers, while trains ran a skeleton service and children enjoyed days off from schools closed for health and safety reasons. The collapse of […]

Behind the Stethoscope

Posted on by David Gelber

Caroline Elton is a chartered psychologist. The larger part of Also Human relates to her work as head of the careers unit responsible for supporting trainee doctors in London. Prior to taking up this position, she spent some time shadowing senior clinicians on ward rounds as part of an initiative to ‘challenge outdated models of […]

Due South

Posted on by David Gelber

After some twenty books on India, Charles Allen says his latest will be his last. It certainly has a valedictory ring to it, with enough echoes of his earlier works to suggest a summation. In seeking to rehabilitate some scholarly but obscure British officials, Coromandel recalls Allen’s Plain Tales from the Raj (1975), a spin-off […]

Lone Star Study

Posted on by David Gelber

As a New Yorker subscriber, I have learned to separate articles into three categories, for time is precious. Some are utterly compelling – for example, a recent investigation into how a Trump-branded hotel in Baku came to be refinanced by an Azeri bank that has, allegedly, close relations with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The second group […]

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