Seeking the transcendent Premium

29 June 2016 | by Lucy Beckett
Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung is an extraordinary work of art. It is also extraordinarily demanding. Four evenings in the opera house are occupied with an introductory piece in a long single act, Das Rheingold, and then three huge music dramas of three acts each: Die Walküre, Siegfried and finally Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods).

Last things Premium

29 June 2016 | by Julian Hughes
The memory of one particular Saturday shortly after I had qualified as a doctor is seared into my mind. An elderly lady who had undergone several major operations in the previous weeks had taken a turn for the worse.

Chapter and verse Premium

29 June 2016 | by Henry Wansbrough
There is hardly enough murder to justify the title, but murder there was – that of William Tyndale, the noble first translator of the Bible into modern English, kidnapped and later garrotted and burnt at the stake for his heretical, Lutheran tendencies.

Reformed character Premium

23 June 2016 | by Brad S. Gregory
More has been written about Martin Luther than anyone else in history except Jesus Christ. More is forthcoming as we approach the quin­centenary of the year Luther’s 95 Theses took Germany by storm, the start of an improbable sequence of events that catapulted an obscure Augustinian friar and university professor into the spotlight as Europe’s first-ever celebrity author and the unlikely originator of the movement we call the Protestant Reformation.

Aid under fire Premium

23 June 2016 | by George Gelber
Is it possible to intervene militarily in conflict zones and supply humanitarian assistance at the same time? More in ­sorrow than in anger – though there is anger too – the journalist and broadcaster Peter Gill describes the gradual shrinking of the space which once allowed humanitarian aid agencies to navigate their way safely between warring enemies, and laments the growing disinclin­ation of some agencies, increasingly dependent on government funding, even to attempt to assert their neutrality.

Grief in close up Premium

23 June 2016 | by Suzi Feay
Carys Bray’s acclaimed debut novel, A Song for Issy Bradley, shone a light on the unfamiliar world of British Mormons. Bray drew on her Lancashire upbringing to give a hearteningly affectionate account of the faith’s eccentricities, faults and strengths.

Family misfortunes Premium

23 June 2016 | by Anthony Gardner
The parents of a genius are seldom remembered for their own achievements: the vast majority have to make do with “mother of” or “father of”. It was a formula Oscar Wilde’s mother hated, and with good reason: as Emer O’Sullivan argues, both Jane and William Wilde would be far more celebrated if their son had not first outshone them and then become one of the most derided figures of the Victorian era.

You can’t say that! Premium

16 June 2016 | by Christopher Howse
Timothy Garton Ash makes no small claim for the 10 principles of free speech around which he builds his book: “If everyone everywhere followed them, everyone everywhere would be better off.

Learned disciple Premium

16 June 2016 | by Margaret Atkins
Cardinal Francis George, Arch­bishop of Chicago, died on 17 April 2015 after several years of treatment for cancer, only a few days after he had completed the introduction to this collection of eight essays.

Out of tune Premium

16 June 2016
This is Rose Tremain’s fortieth year as a published author, and she is marking it with a perceptive and beautifully realised novel of unrequited and misplaced love. It’s set in Switzerland, beginning just after the end of the Second World War, when Gustav is a small boy.

Queen of hearts Premium

16 June 2016 | by Sue Gaisford
Medieval English kings had a ­penchant for French princesses, fetching them willy-nilly to our chilly island from the sunnier realms of Aquitaine, Angoulême and Provence. King Edward II did even better than his forebears by securing the hand of the beautiful Isabella, daughter and sister of the Kings of France.

The long view Premium

09 June 2016 | by Denis MacShane
When I studied history at Oxford the subject was neatly divided into “British history” and “European history”. This division between us and them lies deep in our psyche. There is something called “Britain” and there is something called “Europe”, and the latter is “over there”, foreign, menacing, full of Catholics or Communists who threaten our tranquil island life.

Soaring value of Monet Premium

09 June 2016 | by Mark Stocker
Until his run for the presidency was bumped off the rails by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz’s senior foreign policy adviser, Dr Victoria Coates, briefly looked as if she might become the world’s most famous art historian.

End times Premium

09 June 2016 | by Caroline Jackson
?Do not be deterred. Fair warning, before you embark on the following few paragraphs and start to suspect, life being short, that Zero K may be too tricksy and impenetrable – aka “postmodern” – for a novel about that most medieval of preoccupations, death.

Where the dead speak twice Premium

09 June 2016 | by Pól Ó Muirí
An odd thing indeed: one novel; one publisher; two translations. Yale University Press published The Dirty Dust last year. It was the first translation into English of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s greatly admired novel, Cré na Cille, a work of tremendous imagination and intimacy set among the dead in a country graveyard.

China’s Great Terror Premium

02 June 2016 | by Sarah Hayes , Simon Scott Plummer
Launched 50 years ago this month, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was the third of the disasters visited on China by Mao Zedong. First came land reform, rammed through by the Communists after their seizure of power in 1949.

Thirties somethings Premium

02 June 2016 | by Timothy Brittain-Catlin
English country houses have provided a genre of their own in architectural history, a tradition of writing led by some of the finest architectural historians Britain has ever seen: Mark Girouard and Clive Aslet are the two outstanding and very much still active examples.

Elizabeth speaks Premium

02 June 2016 | by Julian Margaret Gibbs
We all know Pride and Prejudice, if not from reading it at least from the several films and the 1995 BBC television series when Colin Firth, playing the handsome, haughty Fitzwilliam Darcy, made a swooningly sexy appearance in a drenched shirt.

Life in abundance Premium

02 June 2016 | by Teresa MOorgan
Here is a collection that brings together essays written for a variety of audiences over more than 25 years. Some address individual texts; others treat themes which underlie most or all of Augustine’s writings.

Plugging the God-shaped hole Premium

26 May 2016 | by Nicholas Murray
Terry Eagleton’s readers are the grateful beneficiaries of what might be called “The Eagleton Paradox”. On the one hand he has mastered the field of literary theory and squeezed the last drip of dullness out of even the most deadening Marxist or theoretical tract.

Born again Premium

26 May 2016 | by Carmody Grey
Some readers might rush to label The Revolution of Tenderness as one of those books that divide the history of the Church into the “bad old days” before the Second Vatican Council - when reading the Bible was the preserve of the clergy, the laity were voiceless, and Catholicism tended to be formulaic and infantilising – and the less deferential and more participative and theologically enlightened period since.

Treachery and snobbery Premium

26 May 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
The hugely entertaining account by John Preston of the Jeremy Thorpe affair is a strange tale of furtive liaisons, fraudulent deals, blackmail plots and conspiracy to murder, rendered more extra- ordinary by the the man at the centre being, for a while, leader of the Liberal Party.

On the way out Premium

19 May 2016 | by Alvin Jackson
Remarkably few political issues in modern British history have generated thoroughly widespread popular passion and sustained public engagement. The 2014 referendum on Scottish independence was one such episode: so, too, was the great crisis over Irish Home Rule, whose centenary coincided with the Scots debate.

Blood brothers Premium

19 May 2016 | by Anthony Gardner
Is there such a thing as a clear-cut crime? Kate Summerscale’s enthralling account of a murder which became a cause célèbre suggests not. Apparently indisputable facts are called into question; social attitudes, scientific theories and politics all muddy the waters.

Holy excesses Premium

19 May 2016 | by Sarah Hayes
Nicola Barker usually picks her casts of huge, bizarre characters from odd corners of contemporary ­southern England. In her new novel she travels to Bengal during the back end of the nineteenth century, in pursuit of a legendary “one”: a guru, saint, madman and irritating relative with exceptionally long arms.

Performer in exile Premium

12 May 2016 | by Fergus Kerr
Yves Congar, the French Dominican scholar who played a key role in drafting texts for the bishops at the Second Vatican Council, died in June 1975 in the Hôpital des Invalides, the hospital in Paris for disabled war veterans. A few months earlier, he had been made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II – “Trop tard”, as Congar reportedly said.

Journey’s end Premium

12 May 2016 | by Michael Glover
Seamus Heaney suffered a long, long haunting by the ghost of Virgil, and especially by one particular book from the Aeneid , of which this is a translation on which he was still working when he died in 2013. In an introductory note, he refers to the fact that the compulsion to render the entire thing seized hold of him in 2007, when he wrote a sequence of poems entitled “Route 110”.

Frozen north Premium

12 May 2016 | by Patrick West
Set between the swarming, dingy alleys of late-eighteenth- century Copenhagen and the craggy, windswept wilderness of Greenland, this vast, visceral tale relates the efforts of a Danish exped­ition to bring civilisation to the uncivilised – and challenges us to tell the difference between the two.

Arabian knights Premium

12 May 2016 | by Marcus Tanner
For most Britons, the First World War is synonymous with Flanders mud – that or Verdun – while Australians and New Zealanders remember Gallipoli as a defining moment in their history. The Ottoman front is largely forgotten here. It is Flanders that our war poets wrote about and where our ancestors died – almost half a million at the Somme.

The infernal genius Premium

05 May 2016 | by Ian Thomson
People of all faiths and backgrounds are moved by Dante Alighieri’s medieval epic of sin and salvation, the Divine Comedy. Samuel Beckett, an avowed atheist, kept a copy by his bedside as he lay dying in a Paris hospice in 1989.

Found in translation Premium

05 May 2016 | by Ian Bradley
When a religion is transmitted beyond its homeland and its beliefs are translated into another language, new “passwords to paradise” have to be issued.

Clever is as clever does Premium

05 May 2016 | by Selina Mills
I wondered if the first novel by a distinguished retired writer and the author of acclaimed studies of Mary Wollstonecraft, Aphra Behn and Jane Austen might be a daunting read.

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