The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from Vol. 294, No. 9168, 2004

A Bungled Case for the Prosecution
A bungled case for the prosecution THE BURNING TIGRIS: THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE by Peter Balakian Hinemann, £18.99, pp. 473, ISBN 0434008168As the Western world knows all too well, collapsing empires are lethal. Hundreds of thousands of people trudging...
Aesthetic Appeal
British visitors sometimes encounter a certain frostiness when they take their seats in a bullring; the locals understandably assume that we are tourists come to gawp. Once they see that we are applauding and jeering at the right moments, they warm up...
A Failed Kiss of Life
A failed kiss of life CHAUCER: BRIEF LIVES by Peter Ackroyd Chatto, £12.99, pp. 144, ISBN 0701169850For a writer or critic to describe something as 'interesting' is, of course, neither revealing nor interesting. Which is a shame, for Peter Ackroyd is...
A Hiding to Nothing
A hiding to nothing INSIDE HITLER'S BUNKER by Joachim Fest Macmillan, £16.99, pp. 190, ISBN 0405045906The story of Hitler's last days in his bunker has been told and retold many times, perhaps most famously and certainly first by Hugh Trevor-Roper, an...
A Life in Suitcases
Exhibitions 2A life in suitcasesAt the time of year when we may be planning a summer holiday, Peter Greenaway's installation of suitcases is perhaps an apt subject for the opening exhibition at Compton Verney in Warwickshire. Luper at Compton Verney...
Ancient & Modern
A personal catastrophe strikes, and the cry goes up 'Why me?' and 'Not fair'. The ancients knew all about this, and the 5th-century BC Greek historian Herodotus supplies an answer - of sorts. But first, back to Pronto.Marcus Cornelius Pronto (c. AD 95-166),...
A Roving Ambassador for Culture
A roving ambassador for culture FOREIGN STRANDS: A BRITISH COUNCIL JOURNEY by Stephen Alexander Merriotts Press, 174 Long Ashton Road, Bristol, BS41 9LT, tel: 01275 392347, £10, pp. 262, ISBN 0952676311'The pay was good, you had a nice house and you...
A Tale of Suspense
A tale of suspense THE HANGED MAN by Robert Bartlett Princeton University Press, £16.95, pp. 168, ISBN 06911117195This account of a public execution in Wales is a delightful book. Beautifully designed, it is by that rare bird, an academic who not only...
A Voracious Collector
A voracious collector JOHN FOWLES: A LIFE IN TWO WORLDS by Eileen Warburton Cape, £25, pp. 510, ISBN 0224059513'The only novelist now writing in English whose works are likely to stand as literary classics . . . who has the power, range, knowledge, and...
Bearded Folly
KabulIn Nairobi I bumped into a friend who was home from running a safari camp for anti-terrorism troops in Kabul, which is where I was headed myself. He wore a mullah-style beard. 'Have you gone native or what, men?' I asked. 'Christ no, men,' he said....
Cataclysmic Sound
OperaCataclysmic soundThe Dwarf; La Vida BreveOpera North, LeedsThe Barber of Seville; The Marriage of FigaroSavoy OperaOpera North's season of 'Eight Little Greats' got off to a tremendous start with Zemlinsky's The Dwarf and de Falla's La Vida Breve....
Churchill for Dummies
Soon after the installation by the Republican-majority Supreme Court of George the Second of the House of Bush, the American people learned that they had a new Founding Father: Winston Churchill. President George W. Bush let it be known that he had placed...
Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint Alban!
This is the time of year when we stop complaining for a moment about the dreadful spring weather and start complaining about the neglect of England's patron saint, St George. Our grumbles go something like this: we don't know what to do to mark his feast...
Cultural Globalisation
China is the future, or so many people say these days. Personally, I feel that I've heard that one before about other Far-Eastern places (weren't Japan, and then the tiger economies, going to overhaul and dominate the West?). But there's no doubt that...
Dark Deeds on the District Line
Dark deeds on the District Line A METROPOLITAN MURDER by Lee Jackson Heinemann, £12.99, pp. 320, ISBN 0434012297In 1863, the London underworld was revolutionised - not the crime statistics, but the literal underworld, when the first underground railway...
Diary
As I lead a life of more or less untroubled serenity and I am in perfect health (except for a slight cough), it was unsettling to learn that I had cancer and that it looked inoperable. It wasn't, thankfully, and a most delightful surgeon cut it out....
Don't Worry: The 'Tabloid Revolution' Is Not Going to Carry Everything before It
It is becoming a commonplace that the 'tabloid wars' between broadsheet titles are transforming the newspaper market. There is a widespread belief that in producing tabloid editions the Independent and, to a lesser extent, the Times have stolen a brilliant...
Extremism in the Defence of Liberty
'I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy,' said the Duke of Wellington of his troops, 'but, by God, they terrify me.' I feel much the same way about some of those who purport to be on our side in the so-called Global War on Terror...
Good Old Africa Hand
Good Old Africa Hand EVERY MEAL A BANQUET, EVERY NIGHT A HONEYMOON by Peter L. Younghusband Jonathan Ball Publishers, South African Rands, 139.95, pp. 347, ISBN 1868421678Peter Younghusband is among the legendary foreign correspondents, collectively...
I Can't Take the Strain Any More, So I Am Learning to Drive
I don't know how come the train companies lost me, but they have. And if they've lost me there can't be many people left still travelling by train. I can't drive, for a start. Sitting in a car makes me feel like I feel when I watch Peter Mandelson on...
Italian Connection
JazzItalian connectionYou might think the damp and overcast weather of recent weeks would dull Rome's lustre. It doesn't. You just see it in another way. The rainwater pouring down the Spanish Steps and the absence of tourists gazing into the Fontana...
It's about Democracy
'With lip-quivering intensity,' to use the words of Michael Howard, the Prime Minister ventured into the House of Commons on Tuesday to announce that he will, after all, allow a referendum on the proposed European Union constitution. Mr Blair has styled...
Learning the Ropes of Freedom
Learning the ropes of freedom THE STORY OF THE SEA, A MAN AND A SHIP by Adam Nicolson HarperCollins, £12.99, pp. 224, ISBN 0007180853I'm from the school that thinks boats are caravans on water - and I'm not a caravanner - so Adam Nicolson's journey up...
Letters
Iraqis like electionsFrom Adrian WealeSir: Rod Liddle claims that you cannot create democracy in Iraq because 'there is no evidence that many people want it' ('Things were better under Saddam', 17 April). Cobblers!As Chief of Staff for the Coalition...
Lipogrammatic
In Competition No. 2337 you were invited to write a poem avoiding the letter e.This comp was last set by me almost 25 years ago, and the winners were so brilliant that Joanna Lumley included five of them in her choice of the best of The Spectator competitions,...
Loos Woman
New YorkDavid Beckham should use the Agnelli defence: a man can be unfaithful and a very good husband, just as one can be completely faithful but an awful consort. Better yet, he should follow the Taki principle: never take your pants off in the company...
Munster Will Fight
It is tricky to call the outcome of this weekend's European club rugby semi-finals. That both matches will thunderously reverberate is not in doubt, however. The Heineken Cup has upstaged the Six Nations international championship for standards, skills,...
Oh, to Be in England, Now That April's There
The annual miracle of spring is thrilling everywhere. It is especially beautiful in the Chilterns, where the Prime Minister has a country house courtesy of you and me, the taxpayers. Our leader, however, scorns the beechwoods, the bluebells, the song...
Opportunity Knocks
The Posh and Becks story makes a disgusting spectacle. Not because of the so-called wronged wife, but because of the behaviour of all the participants. Usually, someone comes out of a sexual imbroglio looking relatively shining. But, in this instance,...
Outposts of the Imagination
Outposts of the imagination ISLANDS by Dan Sleigh Secker, £17.99, pp. 758, ISBN 043620620XThis novel, translated from the Afrikaans by André Brink, was offered to me for review with an apologetic note advising me to abandon it at the first onset of boredom....
Passport to Eton?
In 1874, Disraeli told the House of Commons that 'Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.' Over the subsequent decades, few senior Tories would have disagreed - yet hardly any of them can be said to have put...
Poets under Surveillance
Poets under surveillance MOSCOW MEMOIRS by Emma Gerstein, translated by John Crowfoot Harvill, £25, pp. 512, ISBN 1860468837Without a doubt, Moscow Memoirs is an extraordinary book, one of those literary memoirs that comes along once a decade. Emma Gerstein,...
Recipe for Terror
One morning this week I got into conversation with a smartly dressed, middle-aged woman at the 274 bus stop in St John's Wood. She told me that she was having an apartment built in Israel and that her daughter, on aliyah (the Hebrew word for immigration...
Restaurants
RESTAURANTSOff to north Wales for Easter, as per usual, and so it's up the M1 and then the M6 and all the way it's 'Are we nearly there?' and 'I need the toilet' and I'm hungry' and 'I'm thirsty' and Tm bored' and 'I feel sick' and 'How much longer to...
Rock and Soul
Rock and soul JOURNEY TO THE HOLY MOUNTAIN by Christopher Merrill HarperCollins, £17.99, pp. 346, ISBN 0007119011If you were a poet returning from warravaged Yugoslavia with a marriage on the rocks and credit-card companies after you, where would you...
Signs of Overheating in the Last Great Stronghold of Steam Traction
China is the last great stronghold of steam traction, so it is suitably cast as the world's locomotive. We certainly need one. The Eurozone is stuck in a siding, while Japan still labours on the gradient and the Anglo-Saxon economies go coasting downhill...
Spectacular U-Turn
Today on Radio Four on Monday was fortunate in having the meatiest domestic news item fall into its lap from the evening before: the briefing that the Prime Minister would, after all, hold a referendum on the new EU constitution which would, if implemented,...
Spectator Wine Club
First, an apology. Again. The Lay & Wheeler offer two months ago was so popular that Spectator readers cleaned out all the Château Musar available in the UK. Fresh supplies have been earmarked in Lebanon, but they take time to arrive. Perhaps I could...
Talk of the Tavern
Talk of the Tavern A SWEEPER-UP AFTER ARTISTS by Irving Sandler Thames & Hudson, £18.95, pp. 382, ISBN 0500238138I picked up this book with high hopes. Professor Sandler, distinguished art historian and critic, author of a seminal four-volume history...
The Man Who Calls the Shots
An essential part of the New Labour belief system is structured around the proposition that Tony Blair is a resolute, bold, decisive leader. The Prime Minister has worked hard to build and then to sustain this myth. Last October he informed the Labour...
There Is Absolutely Nothing Natural about Natural Remedies
'Two quick sprays to your tongue release the natural energy you need to find inner calm again. Restoring your centre and focus, even after you've reached the end of your tether. With the natural formula created by Dr Bach, in a bottle sized to fit any...
The Right Stuff
It was good to really enjoy an Andrew Davies adaptation, for once. Too often you feel that our nation's most garlanded adapter is like some annoying Harry Enfield character, standing over the author of the original novel, saying, 'Nah, you don't wanna...
The Sight and Sound of Music
The sight and sound of music CINEMA'S ILLUSIONS, OPERA'S ALLURE by David Schroeder Continuum, £17.99, pp. 384, ISBN 0826413927There have been five notable books on the relations between opera and film in the last 20 years, and you might not think there...
The Spectator's Notes
There is sadness for the eminent physicist Professor Stephen Hawking. Troubled and bothered by many anxieties lately - not least a public family schism over allegations, which he denies, that he has suffered physical abuse - he has decided to give up...
Time for Dreaming
The supermarket availability of asparagus at Christmas and raspberries in February may have ruined the modern generation's sense of the seasons. But for racing folk it still exists: the autumn arrival in the yard of skinny little youngsters, the anxious...
Tummy Trouble
Under 'large floral patterned chamber pot, used once, slightly damaged, £5 ono' I came across 'Abmaster stomach exerciser, boxed, unwanted gift, £10.' I'd been looking out for a stomach exerciser in the small ads for a long time, so I dialled the number....
Turning towards the Light
Turning towards the light THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE by Karen Armstrong HarperCollins, £20, pp. 342, ISBN 0007122284Karen Armstrong's relationship to God has been a long and varied one. At 17, against her parents' advice and wishes, she entered the novitiate...
Uninhibited Expression
Exhibitions 1Uninhibited expressionCy Twombly: Fifty Years of Works on PaperSerpentine Gallery, until 13 JuneAt the Serpentine is a stupendous retrospective of drawings and paintings on paper by Cy Twombly, loaned from his own private collection, and...
Variations on Cleopatra's Nose
Variations on Cleopatra's nose WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN edited by Andrew Roberts Weidenfeld, £12.99, pp. 188, ISBN 0297848771Since much history is happen-stance, what if the happenings had turned out otherwise? Andrew Roberts has recruited a dozen historians...
Veni, Vidi, Vici
With The Spectator now calling for contributions in Latin - see issue of 13 April, page 16 - I have decided to write the notes to this week's game in the language which would have been current when Istanbul was the capital of Britain. One of the notes...
Winner of the Glamorous Granny Award
Winner of the glamorous granny award THE SPACE BETWEEN by Rachel Billington Orion, £16.99, pp. 316, ISBN 0752846922Thin, beautiful, flame-haired fortysomething widows make perfect light-reading heroines. Alice Lightfoot is such a widow. We meet her lying...
Wronged by Our Rights
People who stand on their rights are seldom much concerned with the rights of others. There is no logical reason why this should be so, but it is a fact of human psychology. 'It's my right!' is a call not of freedom, but of egotism.Of course, we all...
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