John Williams’ Nothing But The Night

My infatuation with John Williams continues, this time with his first novel, Nothing But The Night, written when he was just 22 years old, stationed in Burma during the Second World War. Even that statement downplays the conditions of its […]

Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God

A gulf has opened up, within the Western world, between those who believe that religion ought to have a role in determining the political ends pursued by a nation, and those who have done everything in their power to restrain […]

Ryszard Kapuściński’s The Emperor

Who was Ryszard Kapuściński? The small biography appended to the end of The Emperor is admittedly terse: “Ryszard Kapuściński was born in 1932. During four decades reporting on Asia, Latin America, and Africa, he befriended Che Guevara, Salvador Allende, and […]

Mircea Eliade’s A History Of Religious Ideas (Vol.1)

In my continuing effort to shore up the glaring gaps in my education, I arrived at the work of Mircea Eliade, perhaps the 20th century’s most famous scholar of religion. Born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1907, Eliade manifested an early […]

Victor Sebestyen’s Lenin

Every year, some two million people visit Moscow’s Red Square, in the very centre of the city, to gaze on the preserved corpse of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his adopted name: Lenin. This ghastly presentation was a fate […]

Alexander Herzen’s My Past & Thoughts

By a happy accident, I began reading a modern biography of Vladimir Lenin, architect of the Soviet Union, just as I was finishing up the memoirs of another Russian revolutionary, Alexander Herzen, and the similarities and dissimilarities between the two […]

John Gray’s Straw Dogs

John Gray is an English philosopher, and the former “School Professor of European Thought” at the London School of Economics. He came to my attention thanks to his very public spate with Steven Pinker, conducted over the course of years, […]

Charles D’Ambrosio’s The Dead Fish Museum

Prior to reading The Dead Fish Museum, Charles D’Ambrosio was to me only a name, vaguely familiar but with the unreality of rumour. I had read nothing he had written, nor seen him recommended by the writers and critics I’m […]

W.H. Auden’s Forewords And Afterwords

Of all writers, poets have the poorest prospect of earning a living by their work alone. The market for verse is very small, and shrinking, and the patrons of yesteryear – the Roman general, the medieval monarch, the Church – […]

Salman Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands

Thirty years ago this month, a fanatical cleric in a foreign country openly called for the murder of a British citizen, a humble novelist born in Bombay, for the “crime” of blasphemy. The author was Salman Rushdie, the cleric the […]