New Unions for Old

Colin Kidd

If​ Scots sometimes seem unduly exasperated with Brexiter nationalism, it isn’t just because they voted heavily against Brexit. Nor, in the case of Scottish unionists, is it simply a consequence of a well-founded anxiety that our reckless departure from the EU threatens to break up the United Kingdom. Rather, it comes from the perception that England’s nationalism is crude, unreflective and cartoonish by comparison with the arguments put forward for Scottish independence. Even those of us who are instinctively anti-nationalist – wary of nationalist rhetoric, and the dangers it might bring – recognise that Scottish nationalism is much more sophisticated than its boorish English cousin. The SNP explicitly renounces ethnic nativism, champions a pro-immigrant civic nationalism, and embraces the post-sovereign realities of interdependent nation-states. The prospectus for Scottish independence has some awkward gaps, not least on the currency question, but it’s still far more comprehensively thought through than Brexit.

 

Open in a Scream

Colm Tóibín

Since Bacon was known for his tangled personal life, his gambling, his drinking and the chaos of his studio, with the stories of his sexual habits and ghastly Irish childhood in circulation, something needed to be done to explain that his paintings were not just garish expressions of his own neuroses. David Sylvester and Michel Leiris, who both wrote perceptively about his work, emerged as friends and champions. As early as 1951, Sylvester asserted that Bacon was ‘the major English artist of his time’. He soon had access to Bacon’s studio and saw paintings before anyone else did. Sylvester was practised at making eloquent, high-toned, oracular statements and, spurred on by John Berger’s contrary judgments, applied this skill to Bacon: ‘In these claustrophobic curtained settings, there loom up before us beings whose shadowy, ambiguous, unexpected presence takes command of any setting they survey, making real beings seem like shadows. They are as appalling as they are compelling, for these are creatures faced with their tragic destiny.’

Collection

Cosmic!

Writing about space by Carolin Crawford, Tim Radford, Nick Richardson, Jenny Diski, Anne Enright, James Hamilton-Paterson, Serafina Cuomo, Thomas Jones, John Leslie, Rivka Galchen, J.E. McGuire and Chris Larkin.

 

The Compensation Culture Myth

Stephen Sedley

TheUnited Kingdom has in recent years been blighted by a compensation culture generated by health and safety legislation and human rights laws and promoted by well-paid legal aid lawyers and credulous judges. We know these to be facts because newspapers and electronic media have exposed them fearlessly. David Cameron, when he was prime minister, was so concerned about the situation that he...

 

A Polyphonic ‘Aeneid’

Rebecca Armstrong

Published​ after Virgil’s death in 19 BCE, the Aeneid is a poem of paradox: a foundation epic which never directly describes the foundation of Rome; a divinely inspired song in the mould of the Iliad and Odyssey that is self-consciously, densely literate; a paean to empire and a lament for empire’s victims. Said to have been commissioned by the emperor Augustus (although it’s...

 

On Bill Gates

Thomas Jones

On​ 17 February, Bloomberg reported that perhaps as many as fifteen million people in Texas had lost electricity, in ‘undoubtedly the largest forced blackout in US history’. There had been 21 confirmed deaths – some from carbon monoxide poisoning, as families tried to use their cars to warm their houses – and the final toll is likely to be higher. ‘I don’t...

 

Bette Howland’s Stories

Tessa Hadley

Every​ so often literary history convulses, then settles down into a different shape. New tastes and new politics cast a lurid light on the judgments of forty, fifty, sixty years ago: some established names take a tumble and some forgotten names rise, mostly after the deaths of the authors concerned. New-old writers are good for publishers, but this literary resurrection is genuinely, too,...

At the National Gallery

Artemisia

Clare Bucknell

Light​ falls on the side of a woman’s upturned face, travels over her right shoulder and forearm and then down to her thigh and knee. The limbs are dense and opaque, the solid curve of the upper arm mirroring the heavy bent leg with its bluish shadows of muscle. The flesh is massive but yielding: the woman’s left breast bulges and puckers like real tissue as she grasps it between...

Talking Politics: History of Ideas PLUS

Turn the second series of David Runciman’s acclaimed talks on the most important thinkers and ideas behind modern politics into your own personal masterclass, while bolstering your bookshelves with some of the foundational works of political theory and philosophy!

Read More

LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences