Ian Thomson

Georges Simenon, photographed in the Navigli district of Milan in the 1950s

If only Georges Simenon had been a bit more like Maigret

31 August 2019 9:00 am

Georges Simenon, creator of the sombre, pipe-smoking Paris detective Jules Maigret, pursued sex, fame and money relentlessly. By the time…

The Saracenic darkness of Sicily – the place where Europe ends

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Northern Italians often speak of Sicily as a Saracenic darkness — the place where Europe ends. The Arabic influence remains…

The sinister strains of English folk music

22 June 2019 9:00 am

With public life increasingly a din of personalised ringtones and phone chatter, we crave silence. Acoustic ecologists speak of ‘ear…

The road to Calvary: Enrique Irazoqui as Christ in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 film The Gospel According to Matthew

Seeing and believing: the best spiritual films of Europe’s golden age

16 February 2019 9:00 am

The Italian film director Federico Fellini was not known for his piety (far from it), yet towards the end of…

Credit: Getty Images

The intoxicating languor of the Caribbean

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Ian Fleming’s voodoo extravaganza Live and Let Die finds James Bond in rapt consultation of The Traveller’s Tree by Patrick…

L’ecrivain irlandais Oscar Wilde, by Max Beerbohm

An old-school biography, a big subject, and a book as heavy as a house brick, Oscar reviewed

6 October 2018 9:00 am

In the autumn of 1897, after two years in jail on a charge of ‘gross indecency’, Oscar Wilde absconded to…

Vocalist, street performer and Jehovah’s Witness: Damo Suzuki in 1971

The industrial kling-klang of ‘Krautrock’

30 June 2018 9:00 am

The tricky term ‘Krautrock’ was first used by the British music press in the early 1970s to describe the drones…

Zora Neale Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave, having worked as a maid, lonely and largely forgotten

The story of the last living survivor of the Atlantic slave trade is a high adventure

16 June 2018 9:00 am

Zora Neale Hurston, the African-American novelist-ethnographer, was a luminary of the New Negro Movement, later renamed by American scholars the…

Real men bathe together

20 January 2018 9:00 am

With my friend Maurice, I have long frequented the Ironmonger Row baths behind Moorfields Eye Hospital. As married men, we…

Mussolini’s fall from grace

11 November 2017 9:00 am

These days it is fashionable to claim Mussolini as a fundamentally decent fellow led astray by an opportunist alliance with…

Bob Marley and the Wailers at the Crystal Palace Bowl, 7 June 1980

The cult of Holy Bob

23 September 2017 9:00 am

The Harder They Come, Jamaica’s first (and still finest) home-grown film, was released in 1972 with the local singer Jimmy…

‘The Pacification of the Maroons in Jamaica’, by Agostino Brunias (18th century)

Redcoats and runaways

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Much romantic nonsense has been written about the runaway slaves or Maroons of the West Indies. In 1970s Jamaica, during…

Following a mistranslation of the Old Testament, Michelangelo depicted Moses with horns

‘Thou shalt commit adultery’

14 May 2016 9:00 am

Jesuits, the leading apologists for Rome and Catholic revival in Elizabethan England, cast a long shadow over the paranoid post-Armada…

Everything comes down to one man’s suffering: Geza Rohrig as Saul

Should the Final Solution ever be made into entertainment?

30 April 2016 9:00 am

In July 1986, nine months before he died, I met the Italian author and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi at his…

Modern Italy’s heart of darkness

26 March 2016 9:00 am

Valerio Varesi, the Turin-born crime writer, displays a typically Italian interest (I would say) in conspiracy theory. The Italian term…

The Green Man on a roof boss in Norwich cathedral

The Green Man's journey from Nazi to sweetcorn salesman

12 March 2016 9:00 am

The other day I visited a psychic medium in Croydon, south-east London. Mavis Grimstick (not quite her real name) boasted…

From Adrian Gill to A.A. Gill — with love and thanks

12 December 2015 9:00 am

Often, Christmas is a time for moaning after the night before, when the seasonal drinking is remembered (if remembered at…

A poetic and jargon-free textbook on theoretical physics is a surprise Christmas bestseller

12 December 2015 9:00 am

Physics is said to go deeper than other sciences into the riddle of existence. The laws of physics — gravity,…

Shock and awe in Coventry, 14 November 1940

21 November 2015 9:00 am

On 14 November 1940, at seven in the evening, the Luftwaffe began to bomb Coventry. The skyline turned red like…

View of the Bay of Naples, 1832

The delights and dangers of the Grand Tour

21 November 2015 9:00 am

The Grand Tour usually culminated with Naples, ragamuffin capital of the Italian south, where Vesuvius offered a visual education in…

Modernity, whisky and cats: the J.G. Ballard I knew

10 October 2015 9:00 am

That cinema is having another Ballardian moment will surprise few fans. J.G. Ballard, who died of cancer in 2009 at…

Transatlantic grandeur: A Cunard liner in 1932

Notes on cruising

3 October 2015 8:00 am

By the end of my ten-day Atlantic crossing to New York, a new wellbeing seemed to radiate from me. Lulled…

When flower power turned sour

12 September 2015 9:00 am

Aldous Huxley reported his first psychedelic experience in The Doors of Perception (1954), a bewitching little volume that soon became…

Sound and fury — the pianist James Rhodes is very angry indeed

20 June 2015 9:00 am

Ours is the era of everybody’s autobiography. Bookshops groan with misery-lit memoirs — Never Let Me Go, Dysfunction Without Tears…

San Domenico church, Palermo

Palermo: city of jasmine and dark secrets

6 June 2015 9:00 am

The Arabs invaded Sicily in the ninth century, leaving behind mosques and pink-domed cupolas. In the Sicilian capital of Palermo,…