Strange Apprentice

T.J. Clark

Lucien Pissarro​, Camille Pissarro’s eldest son, was barely into his teens in the mid 1870s when Paul Cézanne came to live nearby. Nonetheless he retained strong memories of the time, and many years later his brother Paul-Émile wrote down these sentences at Lucien’s dictation:

Cézanne lived in Auvers, and he used to walk three kilometres to come and work with...


We need to talk about Martin

Christopher Tayler

In​ Italo Calvino’s novel The Baron in the Trees, a boy climbs a holm oak to make a point. Fifty years later he’s still up in the treetops: he never touches the ground again. Martin Amis began a similar feat of heroic resolve in the 1970s, and whatever you make of his commitment to an all-consuming idea of style, you can’t say he makes things easy for himself up there. In...


At the Mexican Border

Carlos Dada

LastOctober I was in Mexico, near the border with Guatemala, investigating new migrant routes from Central America to the US. Donald Trump had been putting pressure on the Mexican government to secure its southern border and choke the flow of people heading up through the country: the newly created Mexican National Guard were duly deployed in their thousands along the frontier, and...


Three New Oresteias

Emily Wilson

These dense plays are concerned with a transition from a world of mystery to a world of history, from war to peace, from myth to reality, from aristocratic households to the democratic society of contemporary Athens. They describe the triumph of law over personal vendettas and revenge, and show the direct violence of the axe and the sword giving way to the buried structural violence of law and social institutions. They provide an implicit justification and celebration of recent Athenian history and the current political regime: in real life, the political and legal structures of democracy had replaced the old system of rule by tyrants, and there were still powerful aristocratic men in Athens who favoured oligarchy over democracy. But most fundamentally, the trilogy uses all these interwoven narratives to tell a story that justifies the triumph of men over women. The institution of the all-male democratic law court, presided over by its male-biased judge, is presented as the only possible solution to the endless violence of the earlier world.


Dandy Highwaymen

Andrew O’Hagan

Joanne Catherall and Phil Oakey of the Human League performing in 1982.

Iwas​ in Skegness the weekend Britain left the EU. It was raining, and a cold, hard breeze was blowing in from the North Sea. At Butlin’s, in a huge tent filled with burger bars and dayglo cocktails, the Brexiteers were dancing to 1980s pop music and getting excited. A number of drunk men were dressed as St...


The Rabbit-Breeder’s Hoax

Freya Johnston

‘How much are the Poor to be pitied, & the Rich to be blamed!’ the young Jane Austen exclaimed in a marginal note to Oliver Goldsmith’s History of England. Mary Toft, the notorious 18th-century ‘rabbit breeder’, was undoubtedly very poor. But was she to be pitied? Contemporary accounts of her hoax identified her as ‘poor’ in ways that combined...


Ali Smith calls it a year

Clair Wills

Mothers​ have a hard time in Ali Smith’s novels. I mean that Smith gives them a hard time, as well as acknowledging the hard time they’ve had already, just getting this far, in one piece. In Summer, the final novel of Smith’s seasons quartet, the harried mother is Grace. Grace gets good marks from the novel’s thirtysomethings for her resolve to live on easy terms...

Short Cuts

RBG’s Big Mistake

Frederick Wilmot-Smith

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died 46 days before November’s presidential election. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, almost immediately announced his intention to confirm a new justice. Just as immediately, he was accused of hypocrisy. Scalia died 269 days before the 2016 election and that, Republicans argued at the time, was too close to the election for it to be right to confirm a successor. What happened to the ‘constitutional principle’ invoked to block Garland’s appointment? There are various arguments. Ted Cruz claims that voters were drawn to Trump by his stance on the courts; Lindsey Graham invokes Democrats’ treatment of Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing. These ‘arguments’ go nowhere. McConnell, though, pointed to the fact that the Senate in 2016 was ruled by ‘an opposite party’ to the president’s. The real principle here is power: whoever has control of the Senate decides whether its advice and consent will be given. The Republicans were in charge in 2016 and they are in charge now: they can exercise their power as they wish.

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