Leszek Kolakowski’s Modernity On Endless Trial

Leszek Kolakowski came of age under the Nazi occupation of Poland, when the usual Polish school system was suspended and an underground network of tutors and impromptu teachers took on the responsibility of educating Poland’s youth and passing on Polish […]

Philip Roth’s American Pastoral

Philip Roth passed away late last month, some six years after officially retiring from fiction writing, and the deluge of tributes and commentary, reflections and reminiscences, give some indication of what his life meant for American letters. America in the […]

Edward St. Aubyn’s At Last

The fifth and final book in the Patrick Melrose quintet takes place on the day of Patrick’s mother’s funeral. Up to this point, he has survived: being raped and abused, repeatedly, by his father; a lengthy heroin addiction, followed by […]

Edith Wharton’s The Age Of Innocence

In attempting to explain the sexual morality of the contemporary world to older family members – for whom Facebook and YouTube are mysteries, not to mention Tinder or Snapchat – I have often declared, in exasperation, that the dating world […]

Mordecai Richler’s Belling The Cat

My only personal connection to literary greatness is with Mordecai Richler, via my grandparents, who were friends and neighbours of his in the Eastern Townships, Anglophone Montreal’s quondam country retreat. As a child, I read personalized copies of his celebrated […]

J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting For The Barbarians

With the passing of William H. Gass late last year, there is a vacancy in my heart for the title of best living English writer, but with Waiting For The Barbarians, first published nearly 40 years ago, South Africa’s J.M. […]

Edward St. Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk

Time passes even more quickly for Patrick Melrose, the eponymous hero of Edward St. Aubyn’s justly celebrated Patrick Melrose quintet of novels, than it does in real life. When we first met him, he was just five years old, an […]

Carlos Fuentes’ This I Believe

There is an entire sub-species of autobiography, generally written in the twilight of a man’s life, when he knows that the best is behind him and all that remains is the terrifying silence of death. Nothing focuses the mind quite […]

Chantal Delsol’s Icarus Fallen

The French philosopher Chantal Delsol, in the first of her books to appear in English translation, presents us with an arresting metaphor for the condition of 21st century man, caught between the certainties of the past and the uncertainty of […]

Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Early Years

We end at the beginning. The third and final volume of Reiner Stach’s ambitious biography, Kafka: The Early Years, takes a look at the period between birth and early adulthood, encompassing Kafka’s childhood struggles for recognition within his family, his […]