Literary criticism has all but lost the meagre niche it once occupied in the general books market: attention to literature has been crushed by the juggernaut of biography. But the appetite can return on occasion, prompted by some imaginative repackaging of great works that manages to rekindle a dormant fascination. Fifteen or more years ago, Alain de Botton pulled it off in How Proust Can Change Your Life; more recently it has been Montaigne’s turn, thanks to Sarah Bakewell’s fêted How to Live, ostensibly a biography but more like an illuminating guide to the Essays. It is nigh impossible to predict where the next flash of interest might occur. We can guess at some of the necessary (but not sufficient) conditions: recent editions or new translations of the original works, perhaps; maybe a cluster of popular critical works trying something similar, some floating, some sinking (de Botton and Bakewell were not the only ones to write about their chosen authors); and, if possible, a background noise of innovation and iconoclasm among academics researching that writer. Certainly, the critic who strikes
Follow Literary Review on Twitter
‘He has become a kind of global guru, public intellectual and consultant to the great. He is the ultimate geopolitical gerontocrat.’
From July 2022: Piers Brendon on Henry Kissinger.
Piers Brendon - Margaret Thatcher As I Knew Her
Piers Brendon: Margaret Thatcher As I Knew Her - Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy by Henry Kissinger
‘Even setting to one side the historically neuralgic relationship with ... Ireland, Britain’s insular periphery has from at least the time of the Romans presented difficulties for authorities wishing to centralise.’
Peter Marshall on Britain's islands.
Peter Marshall - Notes from the Atlantic Archipelago
Peter Marshall: Notes from the Atlantic Archipelago - The Britannias: An Island Quest by Alice Albinia
Offer ends soon! Take advantage of our best ever Black Friday offer and get a year's subscription for £29.99.