Philip Hensher

Another haphazard Booker shortlist lacks literary competence

16 October 2021 9:00 am

Philip Hensher finds this year’s Booker shortlist more concerned with serious world issues than vivid characterisation

A dutiful exercise carried out in a rush

4 September 2021 9:00 am

The final volume of Peter Ackroyd’s History of England feels like a dutiful exercise carried out in a hurry, says Philip Hensher

An interest in the bizarre helps keep melancholy at bay

7 August 2021 9:00 am

Philip Hensher finds Robert Burton’s perception of the world and the human condition endlessly fascinating

Oh! Calcutta! Amartya Sen’s childhood memories brim with nostalgia

10 July 2021 9:00 am

From Bengali schoolboy to citizen of the world – Amartya Sen’s autobiography is a joy, says Philip Hensher

How William Hogarth made Britain

26 June 2021 9:00 am

A new biography of William Hogarth pays dutiful homage to his satirical genius but does not challenge its predecessors, writes Philip Hensher

Over the rainbow: D.H. Lawrence’s search for a new way of life

22 May 2021 9:00 am

Philip Hensher describes D.H. Lawrence’s restless search of a new way of life

An unsuitable attachment to Nazism: Barbara Pym in the 1930s

17 April 2021 9:00 am

Vicars, tea parties and village fetes were a far cry from Barbara Pym’s early enthusiasms, Philip Hensher reveals

Jordan Peterson is the Savonarola of our times

20 March 2021 9:00 am

Philip Hensher feels he should be on Jordan Peterson’s side, but finds it a struggle

Imagining a future for John Keats — the novelist

6 February 2021 9:00 am

Keats is a much stranger poet than we tend to realise – who shocked his first readers by his vulgarity and gross indecency, says Philip Hensher

Dolly Parton represents all that’s best about America

16 January 2021 9:00 am

Dolly Parton is the living embodiment of America’s best values, says Philip Hensher

Labyrinthine tales: We All Hear Stories in the Dark, by Robert Shearman, reviewed

19 December 2020 9:00 am

When the estimable Andy Miller, the host of the Backlisted podcast, recommended a new collection of short stories on Twitter,…

Harold Bloom finally betrays how little he really understood literature

21 November 2020 9:00 am

Harold Bloom devoted his life to literature – but he had little feeling for words, says Philip Hensher

De Profundis: the agony of filming Oscar Wilde’s last years

10 October 2020 9:00 am

Philip Hensher admires a witty account of the horrors of modern film-making

Hitler’s admiration has severely damaged Wagner’s reputation

12 September 2020 9:00 am

Wagner gripped the communal mind for decades after his death. Philip Hensher examines his enduring influence

How do we greet one another today?

27 June 2020 9:00 am

Conversation is a fascinating subject, says Philip Hensher – but very few people get it right

The genuine polymath is still one in a million

16 May 2020 9:00 am

With unlimited information just a click away, everyone can pass as a polymath today, says Philip Hensher

Short stories to enjoy in lockdown

2 May 2020 9:00 am

In these circumstances there’s a temptation to reach for the longest novel imaginable. If you’re not going to read Proust…

The cult of Sappho in interwar Paris

18 April 2020 9:00 am

Philip Hensher describes how Paris became a magnet for literary-minded lesbians in the early 20th century – where they soon caused quite a stir

Gustav Mahler’s bid for greatness: the ‘Symphony of a Thousand’

21 March 2020 9:00 am

Gustav Mahler was a passionate enthusiast for the colossal in music. Even so, his mighty eighth symphony stands apart, says Philip Hensher

Babies are aware of bilingualism from birth — if not before

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

Probably most of the world is bilingual, or more than bilingual. It is common in many countries to speak a…

Lydia Davis, like an inspirational teacher, tempts her readers into more reading

7 December 2019 9:00 am

A good indicator of just how interesting and alluring Lydia Davis’s Essays proved might be my recent credit card statement.…

Vladimir Nabokov confesses to butterflies in the stomach

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Not every novelist has opinions. Some of the greatest have a touch of the idiot savant, such as Adalbert Stifter,…

The concluding volume of Charles Moore’s life of Margaret Thatcher is – as its predecessors are – a triumph

19 October 2019 9:00 am

This outstanding biography comes to an end, not in an atmosphere of triumph and achievement, but in a welter of…

Ian McEwan’s anti-Brexit satire is a damp squib

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Kafka wrote a novella, The Metamorphosis, about a man who finds himself transformed into a beetle. Now Ian McEwan has…

No one held Susan Sontag in higher esteem than she did: Her Life reviewed

14 September 2019 9:00 am

Towards the end of this tale of imperial intellectual expansion, Susan Sontag’s publicist goes to visit his shrink and, dealing…