The author of this new study of Niccolò Machiavelli’s life, times and thought, Erica Benner, teaches at Yale University. In her preface, she draws our attention to what every close reader of Machiavelli immediately spots: namely, that it is very difficult to say with any certainty what political philosophy he is advocating.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the bold protest against the trade in indulgences, when Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on a church door in Wittenberg. This possibly apocryphal historical event has become permanently etched in the Western imagination.
With the very first line, this novel sets up its emotional world with remarkable efficiency. “The day I met Jean Culver was also the day I stopped drinking,” writes the narrator Kate Lambert. We know that Jean is going to be important. We know that Kate has suffered.
Given the caution about meeting one’s heroes, should a similar warning attach to their biographies? Ever since the spectacular success of Good Behaviour, the extravagant, blackly comic novel which eviscerated the toxic double standards of Ireland’s Protestant Ascendancy, many have prized the work of Anglo-Irish novelist and playwright Molly Keane.
In 1949, George Orwell published his dystopian novel 1984, depicting a bleak future with mandatory submission to the tyrannical cult of Big Brother, little or no personal life choice and dire punishments for anyone who breaks the rules.
The new Eve Premium02 March 2017 | by Sarah Jane Boss
Two books about the Virgin Mary investigate the earliest history of devotion to her cult, and consider her alongside visionaries of the last century
Dormitory stories Premium23 February 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Boarding schools, as J.K. Rowling can attest, are an excellent means by which the writer of children’s fiction can dispose of parents.
Behold the man Premium23 February 2017 | by Henry Wansbrough
The coincidence of and difference between these two small books, each aimed at the general reader, is in itself fascinating.
Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul are only three of many names for a city whose combination of sanctity with sensuous allure has seized the world’s imagination: the New Rome, the New Jerusalem, the “armpit of Greece”, the “bone in the throat of Allah”, the “World’s Desire”, Tsargrad and Miklagard.
An Irish century Premium16 February 2017 | by Mary Kenny
John Bowman is a much-respected broadcast journalist in Ireland, the author of an award-winning book about De Valera and the Ulster question.
A young woman, Sally Brody, goes to visit her younger brother Steven in Brighton, at the start of this first novel by Miranda Gold. He lives in a seedy boarding house where she hopes to stay three days but, in the event, she goes back home to London the following morning.
Faith against the odds Premium16 February 2017 | by Simon Scott Plummer
The story of Christianity in Japan is a gripping mixture of missionary zeal, political calculation, cowardice and heroism under persecution and, in numerical terms, ultimate failure.
Eyewitness history Premium09 February 2017 | by William Eichler
Describing the power vacuum left when a king dies and no one assumes the throne, the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci wrote: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
Jungle book Premium09 February 2017 | by Nocholas Murray
Can fiction mend the world? Clearly that is the view of Peirene, hitherto acclaimed publishers of translated contemporary European fiction, now making a bold transition into fiction written in English with a new series Peirene Now!
Sins of the father Premium09 February 2017 | by Paul Routledge
Brilliant, enigmatic John Beckett, a rising Labour star in the 1930s who turned to Oswald Mosley’s Fascists, was a hero from literature “looking for a Father Brown and eventually finding him”.
The father of the Holocaust? Premium02 February 2017 | by Peter Marshall
In the reckoning after the Second World War, reproachful British and American commentators drew a straight line between Martin Luther’s hostility towards the Jews and the greatest crime of European history. Unrepentant Nazis acknowledged the connection.
Forgery or mystery? Premium02 February 2017 | by Robert Carver
“I will prove to the world that the black magic of the Middle Ages consisted in discoveries far in advance of twentieth-century science,” proclaimed Wilfred Voynich to The New York Times in 1916.
Mango-yellow sunlight Premium02 February 2017 | by Lynn Roberts
When Van Gogh was painting Félix Rey, the young hospital doctor who cared for him after the ear incident, he apparently declared, “there are only two colours, red and green”.
The boredom of nihilism Premium02 February 2017 | by Patrick West
Gerard Reve, who died in 2006, is considered one of the greatest post-war Dutch authors and his debut novel, The Evenings, published in 1947, is regarded as a masterpiece in his native land and continues to be taught in schools.
Power writing Premium25 January 2017 | by Denis MacShane
Is the political memoir dead? The answer is “No”, to judge from how many are published. But perhaps the market is going down. David Cameron got only a quarter of the advance that Tony Blair did for his memoirs.
There is something fascinating and repellent in equal measure about those who claim to be the reincarnation of Jesus. As a case study in both the power of charisma and the damage done by collective religious delusion, Anne Hamilton-Byrne takes some beating.
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