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 1

Ancient and Modern: Let the Right Ones In
As the UK prepares for Brexit into the big wide world outside, it has been pointed out that the Foreign Office is sadly lacking in people with hard experience of that world, and even more lacking in people from that world. But if the Romans can do it,...
Arts: Royal Academy's Abstract Expressionism Reviewed
Martin Gayford is dazzled by the scale, majesty and visual power of the Royal Academy's Abstract Expressionism show'At last,' wrote Patrick Heron, a British painter, in 1956, 'we can see for ourselves what it is to stand in a very large room hung with...
'Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary and the Crisis That Shook the World', by Alex Von Tunzelmann - Review
Until it was overtaken by the still more disastrous debacle in Iraq, the Suez Crisis of 1956 was widely judged to be Britain's worst postwar foreign blunder. Not only, to use Talleyrand's phrase, a crime, but an error of monumental proportions.The deceitful...
Brexit's Philosopher King: Patrick Minford
The economist who made a stand against Project Fear'There was never a consensus among economists that Britain should stay in the European Union,' insists Professor Patrick Minford. 'That was always rubbish.'During the heat of the referendum campaign,...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
Mathias Döpfner, the extremely tall, extremely intelligent head of Axel Springer, is unusual in the generally conformist German business elite because he is not an unqualified believer in the German economic model. I have known him slightly for about...
Cinema: Free State of Jones
Free State of Jones is an American Civil War drama 'inspired' by the life of Newton Knight, who led an armed rebellion against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi, and one rather wishes that that was all it was about. Directed by Gary Ross...
'Commonwealth', by Ann Patchett - Review
Ann Patchett's new novel is an American family saga involving six children, 50 years and too many coincidences to count. The premise is straight out of John Updike -- a writer she admires -- but her eye is on free love's fallout, not its thrills. As...
'Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor,' by Adam Sisman - Review
Justin Marozzi says the letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor are a 20th-century treasure-trove and a feast for admirers of the great manHere is a veritable feast for fans of Paddy Leigh Fermor. This is the story of a well-lived life through letters. The first...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. When an invitation to shoot arrives in the autumn, I have a sense of both excitement and dread. The dread is because at the end of the day, metropolitans request that the guns must each tip to the gamekeeper a sum far higher than would be the norm...
Diary
Monday night's US presidential debate should convince a majority of American voters that Hillary Clinton is their only credible choice for the White House. Yet it may well fail to do so, in the new era of 'post-truth politics'. The historian Sir Michael...
Food: Tanya Gold
I hoped that Bronte would be filled with Victorian writers licking ink off their fingers and bitching about Mrs Gaskell being a third-rate hack; but it is not to be. (Do not think I am vulgar. My description is accurate. Wuthering Heights is a rude...
'Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School', by Stuart Jeffries - Review
One day in April 1969 Theodor Adorno began teaching a new course entitled 'An Introduction to Dialectical Thinking'. Feel free, the sociologist-cum-philosopher told the packed hall at Frankfurt University, to ask questions as I go. Two of his charges...
High Life: Taki
Although my birthday was in August, I chose the rather melancholy autumnal moment of September to celebrate it -- mourn it, rather. There are no ifs or buts about it, turning 80 is like that final beautiful gleam of light just before you lose consciousness...
Hugo Rifkind: We Know Who Theresa May Is against. but Who Is She For?
One of the professional drawbacks of coming from Scotland and then moving to London is that I don't really know an awful lot about England. True, I spent a few years in East Anglia on my way south, but it was a particular part of East Anglia that possibly...
In Search of Mayism
The PM is likely to reign unchallenged for at least six years. What will she do with her power?Theresa May isn't much given to shows of emotion. When Andrea Leadsom called her to concede in the Tory leadership race, May was preparing for the first event...
Isabel Hardman: In Search of Mayism
What does Theresa May believe? The new Prime Minister has had the summer to settle into her job and has a chance next week to tell us more about her plans for government. Had she come to power after a general election, or even a proper leadership race,...
Leading Article: Deadly Silence
There was a time when the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo would have featured strongly in political debate in Britain. Just two weeks after a negotiated ceasefire appeared to have provided some respite, a war of attrition in Syria's second largest city...
Letters
Ground zeroSir: James Forsyth looks for hope for moderates within the Labour party and finds none ('The party's over', 24 September). That is because the most promising source of hope for them is not a change of position by Labour, but one by the Conservatives.The...
Liam Fox's Prescription for Brexit
Liam Fox's prescription for BrexitSecond acts in British politics are vanishingly rare these days and Liam Fox, restored to the cabinet by Theresa May, is determined to make the most of his. We meet at his central London flat at half-past four on Sunday...
Live Music: Björk at the Royal Albert Hall
'Will you be dancing?' the man in front asks his friend before the lights go down. 'Most likely,' she says. Two songs in and it's looking less and less likely.The world's best-known Icelander is fronting a 27-piece chamber orchestra in a strings-only...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
Every threatened species of wildlife can count on the friendship of a member of the British royal family. There are few causes that royals can espouse without risking political controversy, but wildlife conservation is seen as one. This may be why they...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
I stood in front of the mirror in the £61-a-night hotel room in Paddington, buttoned my polyester dinner jacket and straightened my bow tie. The last time I'd worn a dinner jacket was nearly three years earlier, I remembered, at the Cigar Smoker of the...
Martin Vander Weyer: If Deutsche Bank Goes Down without a Bailout, I Really Will Eat My Hat
'Can anyone seriously imagine the German state and corporate establishment allowing the bank that bears their country's name to go down?' I asked in February, adding rather bravely, 'Of course they won't.' And that, I fear, makes my next question, 'Am...
Matthew Parris: Let the Metropolitan Elite Lead the Way
How does one join the Liberal Metro-politan Elite? What should be the qualifications? I must be an LME member because literally thousands of my readers have (over the years) told me so. They don't mean it kindly, but I take it kindly. 'Elite' means 'the...
'Men: A Novel of Cinema& Desire', by by Marie Darrieussecq, Translated by Penny Hueston. - Review
Marie Darrieussecq shot to literary fame in France when her bestselling debut, Pig Tales (1996), was a finalist for the Prix Goncourt. Featuring a woman who turns into a pig, the novel earned Darrieussecq a reputation as a surrealist writer in the tradition...
Mind Your Language: Ash
Home is where the heart is, but some poor languages have no word for 'home'. For them, home is where the hearth is. The Spaniards have a proverb (of course) on the matter: El sol es hogar de los pobres , 'The sun is hearth and home for the poor', since...
Music: Bach's Goldberg Variations
The churning, rheumatic mechanism of a harpsichord -- notes needling your ears like drops of acid rain -- doesn't necessarily play well to an audience whose sensibilities have been moulded around the picture-perfect delicacies of the classical piano....
Music: The Stabat Mater
Music likes to tell the same story over and over again. This is part of its tradition but even individual composers can be drawn back to the same models in attempts to reclothe and reinterpret musical forms and structures and settings of classic texts....
New York Notebook
The first presidential debate was a disappointment. Half an hour into the big Trump-Clinton show on Long Island, many among the audience must have asked themselves why they weren't watching The Real Housewives of Orange County instead. The strangest...
Nick Timothy's Mysterious Beard
The mystery of Nick Timothy's facial hairThis week, the Tory party conference ought to be gripped by the question, who the hell is Nick Timothy, the vizier with all the power? To suggest that Theresa May's joint chief of staff is the man behind our new...
Of Rats and Men
The loathed rodents deserve more respect'I really, really hate rats,' Sir David Attenborough has boasted. 'If a rat appears in a room, I have to work hard to prevent myself from jumping on the nearest table.' But why? Sir David's answers are disappointingly...
Opera: Così Fan Tutte
The subtitle for Mozart's Così fan tutte may be 'The School For Lovers', but it's as a school for directors that the opera is most instructive. From four lovers and two different romantic pairings, the composer spins a parable whose moral is as elusive...
Photographs of My Father', by Paul Spike - Review
For the first time in living memory, a presidential candidate for a major party has received the enthusiastic endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan; one prominent former member of that fraternity -- a Grand Wizard, I think: or was it a Grand Dragon? -- is...
Portrait of the Week
HomeSir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said that Britain would oppose attempts to create an EU army, as it would 'undermine' Nato. Forecasts for British economic growth in 2016 collated by the Treasury were revised from 1.5 to 1.8 per cent, the...
Radio: Book of the Week; Moving Pictures
The weather was 'treacherous' on Saturday, 23 November 2013, the day chosen randomly by Gary Younge as the focus for his latest book, Another Day in the Death of America . As he described it, a 'Nordic outbreak' of snow, rain and high winds swept across...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
'If you ask me,' said the builder boyfriend, watching me hobble down the street as we set off for an early evening bite at the kebab shop, 'you're laminitic.'Think about it. You've got ludicrously small feet. They're useless. Look at them. I'm surprised...
Recent Crime Fiction
There are two people in a prison cell: Frank and Hal. One of them is a member of a spy ring planning a terrorist act; the other is a police agent planted there to befriend the spy, and gather information on the terrorist cell. But the reader doesn't...
Rod Liddle: Let's Bring the Wolves Back into Britain
A year ago there was a confirmed sighting, and even film, of a wild wolf in the Netherlands for the first time in perhaps 150 years. It was hanging out near a farm, a few kilometres from the German border in the north-east of the country, looking bored....
Russia's Puritan Revolution
The Kremlin sees itself as a moral fortress against western decadenceLast weekend a group of young activists turned out on a Moscow street to protest against western decadence. They were a hard-faced bunch, standing defiantly in military poses and wearing...
'Shock and Awe', by Simon Reynolds - Review
This mighty volume begs a question, although it doesn't ask it, let alone answer it. Does anyone in the known universe really want to read 650 pages about glam rock?Simon Reynolds must do, because that's how much he has written on the subject. All writers,...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
The name of Jozef Venglos won't mean much to most of us apart from a few Aston Villa completists with long memories, and possibly Prince William, though by all accounts the amiable Czech is a pretty stand-up guy. He was also the first foreigner to take...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I appeared on Radio 4 with Shirley Williams recently and as we were leaving I asked her if she thought Labour might split if Jeremy Corbyn were re-elected. Would the history of the SDP, which she helped set up in 1981, put off Labour moderates from trying...
Television: Stranger Things; Fleabag
Stranger Things is the most delightful, gripping, charming, nostalgic, compulsive, edge-of-seat entertainment I've had in ages. Like a lot of the best TV these days, it's on Netflix, which I highly recommend so long as you can cope with the technical...
'The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel', by Uri Bar-Joseph, Translated by David Hazony - Review
Ashraf Marwan was an Egyptian-born businessman, a son-in-law to Nasser and a political high-flyer in the administration of Sadat, who fell off the balcony of his flat in Carlton House Terrace, central London, in June 2007. His death was watched with...
Theatre: No Man's Land
No Man's Land isn't quite as great as its classic status suggests. At first sight the script is a bit of a head-scrambler because Pinter's characters are obscure to the point of incoherence. A demented alcoholic, Hirst, is cared for in his Hampstead...
'The First Circumnavigators: Unsung Heroes of the Age of Discovery', by Harry Kelsey - Review
In the great Iberian empires of the 16th and 17th centuries, a career was already avail-able in global administration not very different from the lives of the bankers or lawyers who globe-trot today. In 1509, as one example among hundreds, Duarte Coelho...
'The Free State of Jones', by Victoria E. Bynum - Review
In The Cousins' War (1999), the Republican political strategist Kevin Phillips argued that three 'civil wars' had defined politics in the English-speaking world: the English Civil War, the American Revolution and the American Civil War. The ideological...
'The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 4, 1966-1989', Edited by Various - Review
'Krapping away here to no little avail,' writes Beckett to the actor Patrick Magee in September 1969. To 'no little avail', note, not to 'little or no': there is a difference. It's the difference that Beckett makes -- I can't go on, I'll go on, and all...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
There are few more compulsive reads in racing than the Kingsley Klarion , the in-house journal of Mark Johnston's Middleham racing operation, which runs under the slightly ambiguous slogan 'Always trying'. It is ambiguous not because anyone doubts that...
'The Wonder', by Emma Donoghue - Review
Emma Donoghue's novel Room was short-listed for the 2010 Man Booker prize and made into a film in 2015. Inspired by Josef Fritzel's incarceration of his daughter Elisabeth, it described a mother and son held captive in one room for several years. It...
'Tibet in Agony: Lhasa 1959', by Jianglin Li, Translated by Susan Wilf - Review
On the night of 17 March 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama, aged 23, slipped out of the Norbulinka, his summer residence in Lhasa, and began his flight to India, where he arrived on 31 March, after crossing some of Tibet's most rugged terrain. He was so heavily...
'Transit', by Rachel Cusk - Review
Rachel Cusk is a writer who provokes strong reactions in her readers, and her critical reputation has swung wildly in a short space of time. Many, who not long ago were offended by the overflowing emotion of her memoirs of motherhood and divorce, are...
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