Faith and Hope in the United Nations

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Shortly before Christmas 1996, six people working for the International Committee of the Red Cross were shot dead in their beds in Chechnya. The turnout at their funeral in Geneva’s St-Pierre Cathedral was vast; and so was the sense of shock. For almost the first time in the history of the Red Cross its delegates, […]

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The Boat to Oslo

Posted on by David Gelber

Thousands and thousands of years ago, when I was an innocent and idealistic undergraduate, I spent a summer travelling alone in Greece. One evening, as I was making my way to a restaurant on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, I was accosted by a group of youths who wanted me to go dancing with them. […]

Off With Their Coronets

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Master Danny bounces in with his plucky Sony – the tenth muse – and asks us to jaw on about Eton. And we did, all forty of us, a brace of bishops, a pair of earls including a former Prime Minister and his brother the playwright, a trumpeter and a couple of chaps in films. […]

Let Him Eat Cake

Posted on by David Gelber

In the mid-1970s a mighty crisis shook the Conservative Party and all the people with property which it represents. The problem was not just that a Labour Government won two elections in 1974. The victories were narrow, and the Labour politicians were as soft as ever. The cause of the crisis was the strength and […]

Ills of the NHS?

Posted on by David Gelber

Short and lively reflections about doctoring by Dr Donald Gould. Qualified in 1942, he saw the days before the NHS and the therapeutic revolution: even if you could afford a doctor, he could prescribe little more than sympathy and hot drinks. Dr Gould is now a writer and broadcaster and has had periods as an […]

Honour Thy Father

Posted on by David Gelber

Hitler’s Children began as a series of interviews conducted with the children of eight prominent National Socialists, plus two others. ‘I knew that several books had studied the children of concentration camp survivors,’ Posner explains, ‘but . . . I was not aware of any attempt to study the children of the perpetrators.’ And so […]

Not Hip Despite the Hype

Posted on by David Gelber

This book’s unprepossessing title and cover lend it an unfortunate resemblance to the interminable books sometimes written by Labour MPs but more often ‘ghosted’ by their researchers, which have all the charismatic appeal and thrilling unpredictability of an English weather forecast. If they’re not wet, they’re bound to be windy. The prospect of a book […]

Franciscan Values

Posted on by David Gelber

Always be suspicious when politicians use a quotation from a source you are certain they have not read personally. Thatcher told us earlier this year how affectionately she remembered that postwar chart-topper, ‘How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the wagg-ely tail.’ I dare say that, if pressed, she could repeat […]

Must Be A Romantic

Posted on by David Gelber

I have always feared that Michael Foot and I have at least one weakness in common. Both of us find it almost impossible to accept Oliver Cromwell’s advice and at least consider the possibility that we might be wrong. So it is not surprising that, having been on opposite sides of what Foot calls the […]

Espionage is So Much More Amusing in French

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Count Alexandre de Marenches, and the French secret service which he headed for eleven years, are both great fun. The Count is 67, 6’1”, 15 stone, half American, trilingual and of ancient Burgundian lineage. This delightful and revealing book was written with Christine Ockrent, loved by every Frenchman as France’s most intelligent television journalist. She […]

They Must All Go Back to Potty Training

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘The God of the Germans’, wrote Jung in a notorious essay of 1936 which was said to lend support to Nazi anti-Semitism, ‘is not the Christian God but Wotan.’ Leo Abse agrees. The leitmotiv of his profoundly disturbing and compulsively readable book is that a destructive aggressiveness, a Wagnerian megalomania, lurks at the root of […]

Party Tricks

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When I first went to university I was determined to rebel against my middle-class Catholic parents. The only problem was that I wasn’t sure how. This was the early Eighties: the era of revolutionary politics was over; drugs and casual sex were frustratingly unavailable (to me, anyway). And then, unexpectedly, a brilliant solution presented itself, […]

If Prison Does No Good, What Can We Do?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

There are nearly one and a half million people locked behind bars in the United States. This is a threefold increase since 1980 and the numbers are rising by more than 8 per cent a year. Over 2,700 prisoners were under sentence of death in thirty–six states at the end of 1993. In that year […]

Learn, Damnit!

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The anthology wasn’t always the thing we know and publishers love . The first ever anthology was an epic undertaking, a collection of six thousand elegiac Greek poems, collated over the ages from 60 BC to the tenth century AD. By 1856 the anthology had shrunk to ‘A collection of the flowers of verse, ie […]

Filtered Feelings

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

African Women tells, ‘in their own words’, the harrowing yet ultimately uplifting story of the experiences of three generations of women from Mark Mathabane’s immediate family: Granny, now in her eighties, his mother, Geli, and his sister Florah. All three live in Alexandra township near Johannesburg, and each in her own time has endured overwhelming […]

They All Wanted Money

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

This book is the product of two different kinds of legacy. The first was in 1698, when a young man named Elias Ball, son of poor tenant farmers in rural Devon, learned that he had inherited – from an aunt he never met – a part share in a plantation in South Carolina, together with […]

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American Policy Which is Cruel and Vile

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

On the cover of Out of the Night is a weeping face. Or is it a wax death mask? At its edges pink drops fall towards a shadowy pillow, above which they float as if in some exquisitely painful dream. It seems the perfect metaphor for the death-in-life state of the condemned prisoner, which in […]

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Time Out Of Mind

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

  The Nuer compute time according to male maturity rites, whether events happen before or after the last incision ceremony.The Mayan calendar started at the time the rains came, then ran for 260 days – a human gestation period. The Trobriand islanders set their clocks by the palolo worm. When it comes to the surface […]

Two Little Hitlers

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

To mark the centenary of Adolf Hitler’s birth in April 1989, Desmond Seward has had the interesting idea of comparing his career with that of another ‘world-historic’ figure, Napoleon Bonaparte. Parallel lives à la Plutarch are difficult to bring off, but Seward has avoided most of the pitfalls. His chief problem is that Hitler is […]

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