Book and Arts Reviews

Stranger and Stranger

May 30, 2015

The Merusault Investigation by Kamel Douad.

 

When Albert Camus published his best-known work, "L'Etranger," in 1942, Algeria was still a colony of France, and the "Arab" killed by the book's anti-hero, Meursault, had no name. Read more

Crime and Punishment

October 9, 2015

FOR nearly a century and a half, Scotland Yard has kept secret a chilling gallery known colloquially as the "Black Museum". This collection of some 2,000 weapons and other bits of evidence used in Britain's more notorious crimes was created as a training ground for detectives from London and around the world. But since its inception, this hidden, presumably grisly trove has tantalised the public. Read more

New fiction: See Naples and die

October 5, 2013

The Story of a New Name. By Elena Ferrante; translated by Ann Goldstein

 

Elena Ferrante may be the best contemporary novelist you have never heard of. The Italian author has written six lavishly praised novels. But she writes under a pseudonym and will not offer herself for public consumption. Full review

Blood Sport

Aug. 10, 2013 The Economist

 

The Son. By Philipp Meyer. 

 

PHILIPP MEYER was justly acclaimed for his first novel, “American Rust”, about the decline of the country’s industrial heartland. For his new book he has turned to an earlier rise and fall: the blood-soaked history of the American West. In this retelling of the story of the American frontier, the settlers are not heroes and the natives are not victims. Both sides are equally violent, and anyone weak enough to object is swiftly destroyed. Full Article

Not Ticking

Aug 4, 2013 The Economist Online

 

THE shadow of a giant second hand sweeps in silent arcs around a sundial’s shaft, patterning the floor. It lengthens, then reverses, crossing tracks with shorter stripes that represent the minute and the hour. In the industrial vault of London’s Roundhouse theatre, an artificial sun illuminates this enormous clock, a metal spider with three rotating light-tipped arms. Conrad Shawcross, a young British sculptor, calls this light installation "Timepiece", yet it thwarts anyone who hopes to use it to tell the time. Full article

Divided Soul

Jul. 13, 2013 The Economist

 

They Divided the Sky. By Christa Wolf. Translated by Luise von Flotow. 

City of Angels: Or, the Overcoat of Dr Freud. By Christa Wolf. Translated by Damion Searls. 

 

IN HER last years Wolf, who died in 2011, was branded an opportunist who not only failed to blow the whistle on a corrupt dictatorship, but enjoyed all the privileges doled out to a “state poet”. Now a brace of new translations—of her first novel, and her last—offer English speakers a more generous reading of her literature and life. Full Article

 

Real Time Magic

Jun. 21, 2013 The Economist Online

 

A PAIR of teen lovers flees a father’s death threat. A jealous husband drugs his wife to force her to have sex with an animal. Expect the hashtags to erupt across the internet: such wanton stories are the stuff of instantaneous reaction on all online platforms. With this slight difference: our lovers here are called Hermia and Lysander, the feuding couple Oberon and his fairy Queen Titania, who is made to love an ass. Full article

A Fresh Way of Looking

May 14, 2013 The Economist Online

 

IN 2000 Tate Britain scandalised the art world by rearranging its unrivalled collection of British art. Instead of grouping works by schools and movements, the London museum chose to display the art by theme (eg, "war" or "city life"). Now it has decided to upend convention once again by rehanging its permanent collection chronologically. The happy result of this unorthodox approach is an electrifying ramble through 500 years of British art. Full article

 

Modern Art From The Middle East

Apr. 24, 2013 The Economist Online

 

IN 2010, when curators from the Tate Modern in London stepped into the Beirut home of Saloua Raouda Choucair, a Lebanese artist, they were amazed. The house and studio of the woman they would come to call “a pioneer of modernism in the Middle East” was crammed with so many sculptures that some pieces doubled as furniture. Yet hardly any of the hundreds of abstract works, in stone, wood, metal and fiberglass, along with early paintings, had ever been seen in public. Full Article

Writing to Survive

Apr. 6, 2013, The Economist

 

The Book of My Lives. By Aleksandar Hemon. Essays on Exile.

 

IN LATE 1991 Aleksandar Hemon was at his family’s mountain cabin above Sarajevo, immersed in literature, when the Bosnian Serb nationalist and eventual war criminal Radovan Karadzic appeared on television. When Mr Karadzic prophesied the “annihilation” of Bosnia’s Muslims, Mr Hemon writes in a new book of essays, it surpassed anything his then 27-year-old “humanist imagination” could conceive. Full article

Dancing Around Duchamp

Feb. 15, 2013 The Economist online

 

MARCEL DUCHAMP, a French artist credited with inventing conceptual art, was in his late 50s when he met John Cage, a composer, and Merce Cunningham, a choreographer, in New York. Duchamp had fled the war in France and turned to playing chess; Cage and Cunningham were a generation younger, partners in love and work, experimentation and movement. Still, the impact of the elder artist on the pair—and then on their painter friends Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns—was profound. Full article

 

Slightly Off

Jan. 26, 2013  The Economist

 

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales. By Yoko Ogawa. A haunting introduction to the work of an important Japanese author.

 

AN ELDERLY man who curates a museum of torture. A landlady who grows carrots shaped like hands. A woman who buys a birthday cake for her dead son. The odd stories of Yoko Ogawa, a Japanese author, irrupt into the ordinary world as if from the unconscious or the grave. Full article

 

 

The Self Stripped

Jan. 19, 2013, The Economist

 

THE confessional tale of depravity redeemed goes back at least to St Augustine. Sheila Heti, a Canadian writer, plays with this legacy in “How Should a Person Be?” out now in Britain following a rapturous reception in America. A novel masquerading as memoir, it is a sharp and unsentimental chronicle of what it is like to be 20-something now. Full article

 

The Hobbit: An unexpected disappointment

Dec. 11, 2012  The Economist online

 

In the hands of the director of the wildly successful Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Tolkien’s shorter, picaresque tale takes on the bloated dimensions of a mountain troll. Full article

 


Same as it ever was

Rediscovering music with Talking Heads’ front man

 

October 6, 2012, The Economist

 

How Music Works. By David Byrne. McSweeney’s

DAVID BYRNE is the rock star who vanished. The mesmerising front man of Talking Heads, a cult American band of the 1970s and 1980s, he disappeared into the jungles and deserts of world music after the band dissolved acrimoniously in 1991. But Mr Byrne, a Scottish-born New Yorker, never stopped making music, or sense. Full article

 


More than just a pretty swatch

 

September 22, 2012, The Economist

 

The textiles of William Morris were one of the first global brands. His densely patterned floral papers and chintzes have graced bourgeois interiors since the 1860s; they remain instantly recognisable signs of taste and wealth today. Full article


Stories from elsewhere

 

July 2, 2012, The Economist online

 

At a recent literary event aboard a barge on the River Thames in London, Pia Juul, one of Denmark's leading poets and writers, conversed with Ali Smith, a British novelist. Ms Juul's voice was nearly drowned out by nearby diners and music playing upstairs. The symbolism was apt. Full article

 

The city beckons

 

June 30, 2012, The Economist

 

What Winston Churchill called “the vast mass of London” can be overwhelming. Help is at hand, in a new digital wonder-box released in time for the Olympics. “London: A City Through Time” is neither coffee-table book nor guide nor map, but a nearly endless fusion of all three in an app. Full article

 


Gold in white and black

 

June 16, 2012, The Economist

 

Sugar in the Blood: A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire. By Andrea Stuart. When next you visit one of England's Tate museums, think about the slaves on whose backs the Tate & Lyle sugar empire originally rose. The British empire itself owed its existence, and much of its wealth, to a scatter of Caribbean islands dedicated to the exploitation of “white” and “black” gold. Full article

 


England, my England

 

May 13, 2012, The Economist online

 

Writing Britain”, the summer exhibit at the British Library, is something of a gift to foreign visitors arriving for the Olympic Games. It is an attempt by curators to take us by the hand and lead us back into these hallowed places, seeing them once more through the eyes of those who wrote about them first. Full article

 

 

Just "a humble Negro printer"

 

March 20, 2012, The Economist online

 

Amos Paul Kennedy, junior was a successful computer programmer for AT&T when he saw a printing press at colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, and stopped in his tracks. At age 40, he decided that his corporate life was over. Full article

 


Fast Forward

 

June 24, 2010, The Economist

 

 The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. By Nicholas Carr. A blogger and card-carrying member of the “digerati”, Nicholas Carr is worried enough about the internet to raise the alarm about its dangers to human thought and creativity. Full article

 

Magnificent Maps

 

May 13, 2010, More Intelligent Life

 

The hundred or so maps on view at the British Library reveal the perennial human obsession with finding one's place in the world, writes Alix Christie ... Full article