Philip Hensher

Reinventing Baku: one of the three Flame Towers, comprising apartments, offices and a hotel, which dominate the old town. The project, costing an estimated US$350 million, was completed in 2012

Reading Norman Davies’s global history is like wading through porridge

2 December 2017 9:00 am

For many of us, life has become global. Areas which were previously tranquil backwaters are now hives of international activity.…

Romance and rejection

28 October 2017 9:00 am

‘Outsider’ ought to be an important word. To attach it to someone, particularly a writer, is to suggest that their…

Anthony Powell, by Henry Lamb (1934)

Of his time

30 September 2017 9:00 am

Great novelists come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they all share is a status of half-belonging. If…

Pat and Richard Nixon in ENO’s 2006 production of John Adams’s Nixon in China

Whatever happened to Alice?

19 August 2017 9:00 am

In 1987, the art of opera changed decisively. John Adams’s opera Nixon in China was so unlike the usual run…

Self-portrait, with his wife Margaret

A dazzling vision

12 August 2017 9:00 am

There are a number of reports by his contemporaries of Thomas Gainsborough at work. They make you realise what a…

Striking camp in Canada, March 1820

Annie Proulx is lost in the woods

4 June 2016 9:00 am

In spurts and bursts and flashes, a sublime novelist at work reveals herself. In Annie Proulx’s new novel, there are…

‘Street in Auvers-sur-Oise’ by Vincent van Gogh

Why we love unfinished art

30 April 2016 9:00 am

The unfinished is, of course, something which tells us about the history of a work of art’s creation. A work…

Preparing for modern warfare: Indian infantrymen c. 1940

The making of modern India

26 March 2016 9:00 am

The other day, some anti-imperialist students were questioning the presence in their institutions of statues of Cecil Rhodes, a West…

Clockwise from top left: Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger and Simone de Beauvoir

Sartre, de Beauvoir and Sheffield teenagers; the weird glamour of existentialism

27 February 2016 9:00 am

I’m certainly the wrong person to be reviewing this book, never having succeeded in understanding anything that a philosopher said…

Jennifer Jones in her first starring role as Bernadette Soubirous

Moguls and other Hollywood monsters

6 February 2016 9:00 am

This is a very odd book that Jean Stein has compiled — about the evanescent splendour of Los Angeles, which…

Left to right: Wolcott Gibbs, Dorothy Parker and James Thurber.

America’s greatest magazine — at its greatest

2 January 2016 9:00 am

The New Yorker, not far off its centenary now, has moved beyond rivalry to a position of supremacy among American…

Charles Williams: sadist or Rosicrucian saint?

14 November 2015 9:00 am

Charles Williams was a bad writer, but a very interesting one. Most famous bad writers have to settle, like Sidney…

The meeting of Thatcher and Gorbachev in 1984 initiated the process that brought freedom to millions in Eastern Europe

Margaret Thatcher’s most surprising virtue: imagination

17 October 2015 8:00 am

In almost every one of the many biographies of Margaret Thatcher that now exist, the story is told of her…

Christian Thielemann

The old-fashioned greatness of Christian Thielemann

15 August 2015 9:00 am

Christian Thielemann (born in 1959) is a self-consciously old-fashioned figure who makes rather a virtue out of his limitations. As…

Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) with his children Scout and Jem in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman should never have been hyped as a ‘landmark new novel’, says Philip Hensher

18 July 2015 9:00 am

This is an interesting document, and a pretty bad novel. I don’t know why anyone thought it would be otherwise.…

Victoria as a child, by Richard Westall

Queen Victoria was born to be a novelist — this book proves it

6 June 2015 9:00 am

Few monarchs could become novelists. They wouldn’t be able to develop the practice, or possess the necessary temperament. No monarch…

Carnage on the home front: revisiting a forgotten disaster of the first world war

9 May 2015 9:00 am

The story is an interesting one. Gunpowder had to be manufactured. In 1916 one of the places dedicated to the…

Plumber, taxi driver, mystic, musician — the many facets of Philip Glass

11 April 2015 9:00 am

Philip Glass is by now surely up there in the Telemann class among the most prolific composers in history. There…

‘Orange, Red, Yellow’, 1956, by Mark Rothko

A strain of mysticism is discernible in the floating colour fields of Mark Rothko’s glowing canvases

7 March 2015 9:00 am

One of the curiosities of western art is that, until the 20th century, few visual artists were of Jewish ancestry.…

John Galliano at Paris Fashion Week 2010

Drink, drugs and dressing-up: behind the scenes of the fashion industry

7 February 2015 9:00 am

It’s a curious subject, fashion, and those who write about it rarely want to jeopardise future access to it on…

Edith Pearlman in 2012

The short story in Britain today: enough to make Conan Doyle weep

10 January 2015 9:00 am

I am not sure if it’s properly understood quite what a crisis the short story is now in. Superficial signs…

Royal Opera's Un ballo in maschera: limp, careless and scrappy

10 January 2015 9:00 am

Whether by chance or bold design, the Royal Opera’s two Christmas shows were written at precisely the same moment, between…

‘Exquisitely dressed and groomed, Stefan Zweig looks simply terrified’

Stefan Zweig: the tragedy of a great bad writer

22 November 2014 9:00 am

Stefan Zweig wasn’t, to be honest, a very good writer. This delicious fact was hugged to themselves by most of…

Outside Downing Street in June 1943. Ten years earlier, no one would have thought it remotely likely that Winston Churchill would be regarded as his country’s saviour

Does Boris Johnson really expect us to think he's Churchill?

25 October 2014 9:00 am

As you would expect, it’s impossible to read this book without drawing fairly direct comparisons between its author and its…

Vladimir and Véra: in love for life

Nabokov’s love letters are some of the most rapturous ever written

27 September 2014 9:00 am

After the publication of The Original of Laura, Nabokov’s last and most disappointing novel in a very sketchy draft, you…