The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, October 13th 2015

    In The Line of Beauty in our September/October issue, Kassia St Clair takes a look at the traveller. She begins with Harry Pidgeon, who was the first man to sail around the world twice, and ends with Alastair Humphreys, whose escape from office life was to go round the world on a bike. Earlier this year, Humphreys was photographed for the magazine by Tif Hunter, using an old technique called tintype photography. In this video, Hunter explains its history as the first democratic method of taking pictures and shows how he makes his images with a little help from cyanide. 

    read more » culturePhotographySimon WillisVideo

    ~ Posted by Natalia Kaliada, October 13th 2015

    Natalia Kaliada is a founding co-artistic director of the Belarus Free Theatre and a human-rights activist. She was granted political asylum in Britain in 2011

    “We won the Nobel prize!” my husband shouted last Thursday afternoon. It could only mean one thing: a victory for Svetlana Alexievich (below), the new Nobel laureate in literature and the first Belarusian citizen to win. Throughout the day, as people around the world began to search for Belarus online, we watched as our country began to trend. Last Thursday, because of Svetlana, Belarus became well known.

    read more » activismBelarusBooksLiteratureNatalia Kaliada

    ~ Posted by Samantha Weinberg, October 9th 2015

    read more » awardsPoetrySamantha Weinberg

    ~ Posted by Sarah Woodberry, October 9th 2015

    Tickets to Atul Gawande’s talk, “Was Your Operation Necessary?”, were among the first to sell out at the New Yorker Festival, which took place last weekend. Gawande, who is a surgeon, Harvard professor and staff writer at the New Yorker, is medicine’s answer to Malcolm Gladwell. Indeed, Gladwell has enthusiastically endorsed Gawande’s book “Being Mortal”, which is currently a New York Times bestseller. In addition to television appearances and a TED Talk that has drawn 1.3m views, the good doctor has 143,000 followers on Twitter.

    read more » healthSarah Woodberrytalks

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, October 8th 2015

    Almost as loud as the sound of children moaning about going back to school, the sound of feet protesting as they go back into winter shoes signifies the end of the summer. And here in London, after a couple of encores, the summer is finally due to end. The sock drawer is firmly back in action and the shop windows are full of boots of all kinds—a sign of worse to come, weather-wise. But despite the promised return to women’s fashion of flat footwear, high heels refuse to disappear—a fact which should have osteopaths and chiropractors up and down the country rubbing their hands with glee. Because heels are definitely not what the doctor ordered.

    read more » FASHIONRebecca WillisShoesSHOPPINGstyle

    ~ Posted by Julie Kavanagh, October 7th 2015

    “Look for posts like two pencils and then a cowgate,” Brian Friel’s wife, Anne, said when we called to let them know we were lost. It was Sunday June 21st and my husband and I had set off from north-west Donegal in Ireland, where we were staying, to have lunch with the Friels at their house near Greencastle on the east coast. “With your directions they’ll be in Strabane soon,” Brian had quipped when Anne put the phone down, but it wasn’t long before we were pulling into their drive leading to the edge of milky grey Lough Foyle.

    read more » BooksJulie KavanaghMemoirObituaryTheatre

    ~ Posted by Irving Wardle, October 6th 2015

    Should you be passing through the depths of the Irish countryside, you may well run into people who will jerk a thumb at some venerable ruin and say it’s the work of Elizabeth I or Oliver Cromwell, as though these English vandals had struck only the other week. However, if you confine your Irish experience to theatre-going, you will rarely find a play in which the dead and the living similarly rub shoulders.

    That they do so a little more nowadays is largely thanks to the master dramatist, Brian Friel, who died last week aged 86, and who redefined the form of Irish playwriting no less than Beckett. The two are complementary: in life, Beckett followed the standard pattern of Irish playwrights, by getting out and beating the British and French on their own soil. Friel disdained the escape route and achieved universality by staying put. Thus, Beckett’s dramatic territory is anywhere on earth, while Friel’s remained his childhood holiday home in Donegal, renamed Ballybeg (meaning “small town”), which has turned out to be a home to all the world. He expanded this patch of land by mining it. Increasingly as time went by, his people came to inhabit a fragile, present-tense shell, while beneath them and sometimes striking through it, lurk the still commanding spirits of the Irish past—Victorian colonialists, the fleeing aristocratic “Wild Geese”, down to Ireland’s pre-Christian gods who cause women to dance.

    read more » BooksIrelandIrving WardleObituaryTheatre

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, October 7th 2015

    The Swedish writer Henning Mankell, who died on Monday aged 67, belongs to an exclusive group of authors—Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming among them—whose fictional characters have become more famous than they are. Like Poirot and James Bond, Mankell’s gloomy Swedish detective Kurt Wallander has been played on screen by multiple actors, including Kenneth Branagh in the BBC version. But hardcore fans like me first encountered him and his various issues—marital, medical, alcohol-related and, occasionally and hopelessly, romantic—on the printed page.

    read more » BooksObituaryRebecca WillisSweden

    ~ Posted by Marion Coutts, October 5th 2015

    Outside China, Ai Weiwei is an art superstar and his exhibitions proliferate across the globe. His installation “Sunflower Seeds”, where he filled the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern with millions of hand-crafted porcelain seeds, was a major draw in 2010. Inside China it is different. From an official viewpoint, he is seen variously as a critic, a troublemaker and a criminal and his work and references to it are curtailed. In the recent past he has been in detention, on trial, beaten up, under house arrest and left without a passport. From his current show at the Royal Academy in London, Ai emerges as a meticulous multitasker: artist, architect and activist. 

    read more » ArtChinaExhibitionsMarion Coutts

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, October 2nd 2015The first thing to say about Robert Zemeckis’s new film, “The Walk”, is that it didn’t make me sick. That might not seem to be particularly noteworthy, given that most of us manage to watch films without having upset stomachs, but when “The Walk” was first screened in New York, not everyone was so lucky. Several viewers were dizzy, several felt their knees buckle, and, yes, one or two were reacquainted with the popcorn they had scoffed an hour earlier. You have been warned.

    You should be especially wary of “The Walk” if you’re afraid of heights. The film dramatises Philippe Petit’s unauthorised high-wire walk between the twin towers of the brand new World Trade Center in 1974. For 45 minutes on August 7th, he strolled back and forth, 1300 feet above the streets of New York, with no safety net and no harness, while policemen stood on either tower, wondering what the hell to do. No footage was shot of this astounding stunt, but Zemeckis has recreated it in crystal-clear 3D. You can appreciate why some viewers felt a bit queasy.

    read more » cinemaFilmNicholas Barber