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 October 16

Ancient and Modern: Hannibal vs the Islamic State
Whatever the Islamic State hopes ultimately to achieve by its current onslaught on all and sundry in the Middle East, Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, would certainly understand why it has been successful (so far); but Hannibal,...
Arts Interview: Mike Leigh on Mr Turner, Hollywood, and Making Films His Own Way
Mike Leigh is in a cheerfully bullish mood when I meet him at the Soho Hotel. 'Have you read today's Guardian ?' Dammit -- I should have seen that coming. 'A guy in G2 would like to sue me for defamation of Ruskin!' He seems almost pleased. His characterisation...
A Warning from Brighton - Beware of the Greens
Brighton council's disastrous experiments should serve as a warning to the whole country against voting GreenListenI have just moved back to Brighton, and I am happy to report that it remains as shambolic as ever. The estate agent said before opening...
Cinema: The Best of Me; Northern Soul
The Best of Me12A, NationwideNorthern Soul15, Nationwide Take tissues to The Best of Me , I'd read, as it's such a weepie, so I took tissues, being a weeper at weepies -- I still dab my eyes whenever I even think about War Horse -- but it was rubbish...
Dance: Matthew Bourne's Lord of the Flies; the Crucible/Ten Poems; the Five & the Prophecy of Prana
Matthew Bourne's Lord of the Fliestouring until 6 DecemberThe Crucible/Ten PoemsScottish BalletThe Five & the Prophecy of PranaBoy Blue Entertainment, touring until15 November GCSE Eng Lit pupils are doing well from dance this season with two...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. We have moved to the country and my husband often prefers me to drive -- not because he wants to drink, but just because he's quite a lazy fellow by nature. My problem is that his back-seat driving is making our journeys intolerable as he keeps...
'Deep Down Dark', by Héctor Tobar - Review
Deep Down Dark Héctor TobarSphere, pp.309, £20, ISBN: 9781444755398 On 5 August 2010, 33 men entered the remote San José mine in Chile's Atacama desert to begin their 12-hour shift. They came out again 69 days later, to be greeted by the country's...
Diary: Prue Leith
'Please God, make me good, but not yet.' I know the feeling. As I get older and more deeply retired, I globe-trot more and my carbon footprint is horrendous. And guilt does not result in abstinence. The brain is persuaded but the flesh is weak. Years...
Exhibitions: Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010
Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010Tate Modern, until 8 February 2015'Some day we shall no longer need pictures: we shall just be happy.' -- Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, 1966Who says Germans have no sense of humour? OK, so their writers tend to be a...
'Ezra Pound: Poet, Volume II: The Epic Years', by A. David Moody - Review
Ezra Pound: Poet, Volume II: The Epic Years A. David MoodyOUP, pp.421, £25, ISBN: 9780199215584 'There are the Alps. What is there to say about them?/ They don't make sense. Fatal glaciers, crags cranks climb, /Jumbled boulder and weed', was Basil...
Food: Tanya Gold
Gymkhana is a fashionable Indian restaurant in Albemarle Street. It was, according to its natty website, 'inspired by Colonial Indian gymkhana clubs, set up by the British Raj, where members of high society came to socialise, dine, drink and play...
High Life: Taki
An intelligent letter from a reader, Stanislas Yassukovich CBE, warms my heart. It's nice to know there are others as appalled as I am by today's so-called elite's ghastly manners. Good manners, a rarity these days, are not a superficial activity. They...
How to Fix the NHS
A doctor's prescription I'm a doctor, and I don't care about the NHS. In this country, that's an almost heretical statement -- but it's true. What I mean is that I have absolutely no interest in ensuring its survival simply because it's a great national...
Hugo Rifkind: Ukip Has Turned Itself into a Confidence Trick
ListenI think I've cracked it. If you want to springboard your minor political party into the mainstream and take British politics by storm, then all you need to do is go on and on about helping the poor.You don't need to do much else. You certainly...
James Forsyth: If Labour Wins the General Election, Ukip's Rise Will Be Unstoppable
ListenBritish politics is rather like one of those playground games of football where one match is being played lengthways and another sideways. The two regularly get tangled up, making it very hard to work out what is happening. This dynamic in politics...
Jonathan Powell: The Terror Whisperer
Jonathan Powell's stance on negotiating with violent extremists is consistently inconsistent and slippery I think I've finally worked out the time-honoured Jonathan Powell formula for promoting a new book: take which-ever group constitutes the most...
Leading Article: Turkey's Wrong Turn
Turkey has long been a bridge between the West and the Middle East. Its record on free speech may be lamentable and it treats its Kurdish minority shoddily, but against that stands a genuine will to improve its human rights record and an ambition...
Letters
Nothing to fearSir: So long as we are not breaking any law, we have nothing to fear from the police being able to access our mobiles ('Licence to snoop', 11 October). They, however, would be committing a crime if they released any information so gleaned...
'Letters to Poseidon', by by Cees Nooteboom (Translated by Laura Watkinson) - Review
Letters to Poseidon by Cees Nooteboom (translated by Laura Watkinson)MacLehose Press, pp.250, £14.99, ISBN: 9780857052759 Writing to a god seems a presumptuous thing. Who are we, feeble mortal creatures whose lives pass in the blink of an eye, to...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
I don't think I can remember a time when there have been so many scares about. They come at us from every direction, and even sometimes from out of the blue, with names we've never heard before. Take Isis, for example, or maybe Isil (there's not...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
'Is that you, Sister?' It was Tom misdialling again with those thick, stubby fingers of his. 'No, it's me: Jerry,' I said. I held the phone away from my ear as he whooped and yelled his love and overjoyed greetings. Tom, unfortunately, is going to hell...
Martin Vander Weyer: Stormy October: Germany Stumbles, Shares Fall and Bankers Take Another Bashing
October is always a turbulent month, and I'm feeling uneasy about this one. The FTSE100 index, which looked set to break through 7,000 in September, has lost more than 500 points since then -- and would have lost more but for manoeuvres in the mining...
Matthew Parris: Online Comments Help Me Understand the Nazis
ListenLike many, I've always been a bit baffled by the story of the rise of Nazism. The Germans I've met have appeared to be human beings like any other: in no signal way a different breed from my own countrymen.Yet these are the great-grandchildren,...
Mind Your Language: What's Sauce for the Goose
'Goosey, goosey gander,' my husband shouted at the television, like someone from Gogglebox . It's not so much that he thinks the television real as that he thinks himself an unreal part of the television.The cause of his outburst was something that...
Music: Damian Thompson
Would musical history have turned out differently if Alexander Glazunov hadn't been smashed out of his wits when he conducted the first performance of Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 1 in D minor? The best of Glazunov's own neatly carpentered symphonies...
'My Life in Houses', by Margaret Forster - Review
My Life in Houses Margaret ForsterChatto, pp.272, £14.99, ISBN: 9780701189105 Depending on your approach, home is where your heart is, where you hang your hat, or possibly where you hang yourself. Our homes reflect our characters, social milieux...
Notes On. Barbados
Driving up the west coast, from Bridge-town to Speightstown, you soon see why people around here call this the Platinum Coast. It's not just the colour of the coral sand -- it's the colour of the foreign money. These seafront lots sell for millions,...
'Oblomov', by Ivan Goncharov (Translated by Stephen Pearl) - Review
Oblomov Ivan Goncharov (translated by Stephen Pearl)Alma Classics, pp.582, £7.99, ISBN: 9781847493446Oblomov , first published in 1859, is the charming tale of a lazy but lovable aristocrat in 19th-century Russia. The novel's eponymous hero cannot see...
Opera: The Coronation of Poppea; la Traviata
The Coronation of PoppeaOpera North, Leeds Grand Theatre, until 30 October, then touringLa traviataOpera North, Leeds Grand Theatre, in rep, and touring, until 26 February 2015 Virtue, hide thyself! The Coronation of Poppea opens with a warning and...
'Phantom Terror: The Threat of Revolution and the Repression of Liberty, 1789-1848', by Adam Zamoyski - Review
Phantom Terror: The Threat of Revolution and the Repression of Liberty, 1789-1848 Adam ZamoyskiWilliam Collins, pp.569, £30, ISBN: 9780007282760 There are hundreds of resounding ideas and shrewd precepts in Adam Zamoyski's temperate yet splendidly...
Portrait of the Week
HomeChecks began at British airports for passengers who might have come from west Africa with Ebola fever (even though there are no direct flights from the countries most affected). People who rang 111 with suspicious symptoms were to be asked whether...
'Prefab Homes', by Elisabeth Blanchet - Review
Prefab Homes Elisabeth BlanchetThe Shire Library, www.shirebooks.co.uk, pp.64, £7.95, ISBN: 9780747813576 Sir Winston Churchill did not invent the prefab, but on 26 March 1944 he made an important broadcast promising to manufacture half a million...
Radio: Kate Chisholm
The new controller of Radio 3 has at last been appointed. Alan Davey (not to be confused with the former bassist from Hawkwind) comes to the BBC from the Arts Council and a career in the Civil Service. This will be his first job in broadcasting,...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
My London flat now has so little space in it I've begun storing stuff at the dry cleaners. Back in May, I checked a huge winter quilt in at Viking's and left it there until the weather turned colder. There just wasn't anywhere, not a single spare...
'Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place', by Philip Marsden - Review
Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place Philip MarsdenGranta, pp.348, £20, ISBN: 9781847086280 Philip Marsden's book is about place. He makes a distinction between place and space. In his mind 'place' is something resonant, evoking a connection...
Rod Liddle: We Should Worry about Ebola in Africa, Not Here
Got Ebola yet? Early symptoms are very difficult to distinguish from either winter flu or, indeed, a particularly bad hangover. Bit feverish, aches and pains, sore throat and so on. Only when you start to bleed from the eyeballs should you worry...
South Africa's Murder Trials: Sex, Death and Good TV
South Africa's spectacular murder trials - first Oscar Pistorius, now Shrien Dewani - help take minds off other difficultiesJohannesburgI was astonished, in London the other week, to discover how closely you Britons were following the Oscar Pistorius...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
A typical Merchant-Ivory film, their biography informs me, features 'genteel characters' whose lives are blighted by 'disillusionment and tragic entanglements'. No surprise then that Kevin Pietersen is proudly revealed as one of their biggest admirers....
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I'm ashamed to say it took me a while to watch an episode of The Walking Dead , the fifth season of which has just begun. I was put off by the zombies. Too sophomoric, as far as I was concerned, only one notch above vampires. I'd stick with more...
Television: James Delingpole
Detectorists (BBC4) is a sad git's niche comedy that would never have been commissioned if it hadn't been written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (who sort of counts as a Hollywood star, now, because after making his name in The Office he went on to...
Theatre: Henry IV; Notes from Underground
Henry IVDonmar Warehouse, until 29 NovemberNotes from UndergroundPrint Room, until 1 November The age of 'ladies first' is back. Phyllida Lloyd reserves all the roles for the weaker sex, as I imagine she thinks of them, in this hybrid play assembled...
'The Buddha's Return', by Gaito Gazdanov, Translated by Bryan Karentnyk - Review
The Buddha's Return Gaito Gazdanov, translated by Bryan KarentnykPushkin Press, pp.220, £12, ISBN: 9781782270591 In the world of Gaito Gazdanov, a Russian émigré soldier turned taxi driver who began writing fiction in the 1920s, doublings abound,...
'The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me', by Sofka Zinovieff - Review
The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me Sofka ZinovieffCape, pp.418, £25 Family history is all the rage at the moment -- finding out about one's ancestors, digging back into one's roots. Sofka Zinovieff has written the strange, and strangely...
'The Most of Nora Ephron', by Nora Ephron - Review
The Most of Nora Ephron Nora EphronDoubleday, pp.392, £20, ISBN: 9780857522696 I have come late to Nora Ephron -- a little too late for her, anyway, as she died in 2012. Indeed, it was just after she breathed her last that I read her only novel,...
'The Red Earl: The Extraordinary Life of the 16th Earl of Huntingdon', by Selina Hastings - Review
The Red Earl: The Extraordinary Life of the 16th Earl of Huntingdon Selina HastingsBloomsbury, pp.212, £18.99, ISBN: 9781408187364 The lefty hereditary peer has few equals as a figure of fun, in life or literature. The late Tony Benn comes inevitably...
The Trouble with the General Medical Council
Its licensing system has turned doctors into full-time form-fillers There was a time, not long ago, when British GPs provided the best home doctor service in the world. Patients could telephone their doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
Aboard our coach from Rouen to Paris for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe our lady guide put it succinctly: 'The only polite Parisians are the ones who are asleep.' Try out your rusty French anywhere else and the locals award you bonus marks for effort:...
The Ukip Deal Dave Didn't Do
Ukip tried to play fair with Cameron. But he wouldn't even talk to usListenHow odd that David Cameron is still threatening us with 'Vote Ukip, get Labour', even after the Heywood and Middleton by-election, which Ukip nearly won with thousands of Labour...
'Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland,1890-1923', by R.F. Foster - Review
Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland,1890-1923 R.F. FosterAllen Lane, pp.496, £20, ISBN: 9781846144639 One of the easiest mistakes to make about history is to assume that the past is like the recent past, only more so. It's a natural...
Why Russia Will Win the New Cold War
The West will have to drop sanctions on Russia - or face another global economic crash After months of escalating tensions over Ukraine and talk of a new cold war, Russia and the West could soon reach a surprising rapprochement. The eurozone economy...
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