- Now the talking really begins
Pope Francis wanted frankness and openness and that is what he got. But there is also the sense that the real debate in the Church about marriage and families is only just starting
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There were saltires in the streets of Paris almost 600 years ago. They were sported by the adherents of John, the “fearless” duke of Burgundy, who took the city from the count of Armagnac in 1418. Men caught wearing Armagnac’s rival white sash were massacred and their bodies were stacked up “like sides of bacon – a dreadful thing”, in the words of a Parisian chronicler.
Although very different in approach, content and format, these books constitute two of the most important recent publications on medieval Irish history. Both represent the coming to fruition of the work of a mature scholar who has engaged with their subject for decades, indeed since childhood – both credit a parent for introducing them to what has become their life’s work.
The second volume of Alan Johnson’s memoirs start where the first, the much-lauded This Boy, left off. Our 18-year-old hero leaves shelf stacking and takes a job as a postman, first in Barnes, west London, and then in Slough on the capital’s edge.
“Middle-class problems” are currently trending on Twitter, with tales of lattes containing too much foam, shops running out of quinoa and unsatisfactory skiing holidays. A bit unfair, probably, but it kept coming to mind as I read Samantha Harvey’s third novel.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. In 1773, under intense pressure from Catholic European monarchs, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the prestigious but also much maligned religious order “for the peace and tranquillity of the Church”.
The first fighting in the Second World War happened on Polish soil and continued there into April 1945. Poland was invaded first by Nazi Germany and then by Communist Russia.
John Boyne is the successful author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a story essentially for younger readers which made a compelling movie, starring David Thewlis as a beastly Nazi running a concentration camp and satisfyingly punished at the culmination of the film.
“I don’t belong to my era,” cried Olivier Messiaen in 1979, but he did, as we all do, whether he liked it or not. During his lifetime, biographers tended to take him at his own estimation.
Few dictators have filled the latter years of their rule with quite such a perfume of peace, prosperity and good governance as Augustus, whose second millennial celebrations have rumbled on throughout this year.
Bernardine Bishop died last year from a long illness, so it’s unsurprising that this posthumous novel is concerned with the themes of death and fate.
Spirit of place is a difficult essence to distil. Many excellent travel writers fail – for them the journey, the sensations of movement are paramount.
St thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae is a masterpiece of systematisation, universally acknowledged as the finest example of what was a relatively new literary form that had emerged in the late twelfth century.
How did she do it? Illegitimate, excommunicated, head of a disputed national Church, and, worst of all, a single woman – Elizabeth’s survival on the English throne for 45 years is one of the most remarkable political balancing acts of history.
In late 2012 the BBC ran in parallel two stories of major significance: the American presidential election and the emergence of the new Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.
Born in suburban Middlesex in 1931, the poet and classical scholar Peter Levi is somewhat forgotten today, which is a shame. His father, Bert Levi, had Sephardic ancestors who sold carpets in Constantinople. In 1928 his devoutly Catholic mother, Mollie, had persuaded Bert to convert.
Marilynne Robinson’s exquisite, peerless novels are about nothing and everything. There is no one quite like this American writer, or quite as good as her.
Queen Victoria is one of the figures from British history about whom most people know something but few people know very much. She has come to personify what is popularly regarded as a golden age of imperial glory and economic supremacy.
David martin does not believe in “religion”; that is, he does not think that religious belief, practice and speech can be reduced to a neat corpus of essentials that can be treated as a discrete form of human activity.
In general – and increasingly over the past four decades – scholarship has tended to view the Crusades as above all an important element of medieval European history.
It will drive you up the wall, but do try to read this cracking novel.
“Paths not works” was the motto Martin Heidegger chose for the collected edition of his writings, and he elsewhere remarked that “paths of thought bear in them the mystery that we can walk them forward and backward – indeed the way backward alone leads forward.”
Who better to write about forgiveness than Desmond Tutu, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, partially responsible for South Africa’s transition to peaceful racial co-existence after apartheid?