Essays

A history of true civilisation is not one of monuments

Sacrifice is the shadow lurking behind this concept of civilisation Civilisation is back. But it is no longer the preserve of “Renaissance man” or of “the West,” or even of…

“I Am Not Your Muse” and Other Lies Our Teacher Told Me

Colleen McClary’s crimson lips upturned at the corners. “I am not your muse and every good story is based around a problem.” I thought she looked like a beautiful witch….

It Puzzles the Will: Hamlet and Suicide

Madeline Levine, the celebrated author of Teach Your Children Well, recently gave a talk to the faculty of three loosely aligned independent schools, including my own. She said a lot…

The Wind on Mors Island

Last year, at age 90, Knud Sørensen put out his fourteenth poetry collection to go along with his 35 other works of biography, novels, short stories, essays, and memoir. After…

The Date (redux)

In her essay “The Date,” Brenda Miller talks about the photos we hang on our refrigerators, photos of ourselves with those we love. We originally hang them to remind ourselves…

Vision as palimpsest: on Johannes Göransson’s translations of Ann Jäderlund

Translations emit. They pull us in and push at us at once. Emit, that curious word: it’s time spelt backward. Translation makes time go backward. Translation’s process … helps me…

Despotism is all around us: the warnings of Montesquieu

It is commonplace for citizens of liberal, democratic nations to believe that despotism is foreign to their own experiences. Their political constitutions display in some form or other a separation…

Noli me tangere

In 1939, as London braced itself for the bombs, the National Gallery’s paintings were moved to the dining room of Penrhyn Castle, North Wales. It wasn’t necessarily safer. Martin Davies,…

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