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The trouble with the past

Fact and imaginationThe trouble with the pastA biography of Cleopatra exemplifies a fast-and-loose trend in the writing of historyBooks & artsJun 12th 2021 editionIT IS LIKE reading Suetonius crossed with Danielle Steel. In a new biography of Cleopatra, the queen remembers the feeling of “Caesar’s chest pressing against her body”. As she steps into...

Daniel Rycharski builds bridges with art

Art and activism in PolandDaniel Rycharski builds bridges with artA gay man, he is also a devout Catholic, as his work reflectsBooks & artsJun 12th 2021 editionWHEN TWO teenagers committed suicide in a quiet corner of north-west Poland in 2015, in part because of opposition to their gay relationship, Daniel Rycharski travelled to the village, took...

As curtains rise again, the theatre is set to look very different

The arts after the pandemicAs curtains rise again, the theatre is set to look very differentRalph Fiennes’s one-man show is an apt beginning for drama’s post-covid journeyBooks & artsJun 12th 2021 edition“FOR LAST year’s words belong to last year’s language”, T.S. Eliot wrote in “Four Quartets”. “And next year’s words await another voice.” Ralph...

The entwined histories of guns and race in America

Double standardThe entwined histories of guns and race in AmericaFor black Americans, says Carol Anderson, the right to bear arms has been an empty promiseBooks & artsJun 12th 2021 editionThe Second. By Carol Anderson. Bloomsbury; 272 pages; $28 and £18.99A BLACK MAN with a gun has been white America’s nightmare since before the republic was founded....

Digital dreams and disappointments in “The Startup Wife”

Tech fictionDigital dreams and disappointments in “The Startup Wife”Tahmima Anam’s brave new world resembles the pale, male old oneBooks & artsJun 12th 2021 editionThe Startup Wife. By Tahmima Anam. Scribner; 304 pages; $26. Canongate; £16.99ASHA AND Cyrus get married after they sleep together for the first time. Asha is a talented coding expert...

Willi Smith sought to democratise fashion

StreetwearWilli Smith sought to democratise fashion“I don’t design clothes for the queen,” he once said, “but for the people who wave at her as she goes by”Books & artsWILLI SMITH’S fans loved the groundbreaking garments he made in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, they loved them to bits. “People wore out their WilliWear,” explains Alexandra Cunningham...

Lionel Shriver on ageing, covid-19 and the purpose of fiction

Contemporary fictionLionel Shriver on ageing, covid-19 and the purpose of fiction“Should We Stay or Should We Go”, her latest novel, approaches a morbid subject with a sense of humourBooks & artsLIONEL SHRIVER spends around two hours a day pushing her body to its limit. She used to run ten miles several times a week, but stopped when her knees “started...

How Persian and Sanskrit cultures blended to create modern India

SyncretismHow Persian and Sanskrit cultures blended to create modern IndiaBooks by Richard Eaton and Audrey Truschke offer a corrective to Hindu nationalists’ narrow version of historyBooks & artsIndia in the Persianate Age: 1000–1765. By Richard Eaton. University of California Press; 512 pages; $39.95. Penguin; £12.99The Language of History: Sanskrit...

The postal service enabled America’s westward expansion

How the West was wonThe postal service enabled America’s westward expansion“Paper Trails” offers a timely reminder that the post has always been politicalBooks & artsJun 5th 2021 editionPaper Trails. By Cameron Blevins. Oxford University Press; 248 pages; $34.95 and £22.99BEFORE COLORADO was a territory, let alone a state, it had post offices. The...

Humans are imperfect, inconsistent decision-makers

Noise pollutionHumans are imperfect, inconsistent decision-makersIn their new book, Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass Sunstein offer strategies for improvementBooks & artsJun 5th 2021 editionNoise. By Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass Sunstein. Little, Brown; 464 pages; $32. William Collins; £25NOISE IS UNWANTED variation in judgments...

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