Philip Hensher

The neglected house on Downshire Hill had been Allan Chappelow’s home from childhood

The murder of a harmless Hampstead eccentric remains shrouded in mystery

27 January 2018 9:00 am

‘True crime’ is a genre that claims superiority over imagination, speculation and fantasy. It makes a virtue of boredom and…

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

You can’t see the wood for the trees in Annie Proulx’s epic novel of logging and deforestation in North America, says Philip Hensher

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

Why we love unfinished art

30 April 2016 9:00 am

An unfinished painting can provide a startling glimpse of the artist at work. But the common tendency to prefer it to a finished work is being taken to extremes, says Philip Hensher

Preparing for modern warfare: Indian infantrymen c. 1940

The making of modern India

26 March 2016 9:00 am

The sacrifices made by India on the Allies’ behalf in the second world war would profoundly affect the country’s future for better or worse, says Philip Hensher

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

We all carried their philosophy around in our youth, says Philip Hensher. But did anyone — including the existentialists themselves — really understand it?

Jennifer Jones in her first starring role as Bernadette Soubirous

Moguls and other Hollywood monsters

6 February 2016 9:00 am

This collection of Hollywood tittle-tattle is moderately interesting, unpleasantly salacious and largely unsourced, says Philip Hensher

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 has always been revered for the supreme quality of its writing, says Philip Hensher

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

Margaret Thatcher’s second administration saw bitter divisions at home, but abroad the breakthrough in Anglo-Soviet relations really did change history, says Philip Hensher

Christian Thielemann

The old-fashioned greatness of Christian Thielemann

15 August 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher admires an old-fashioned conductor who unashamedly favours the great German composers — and Wagner in particular

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

Philip Hensher on the tangled history of To Kill a Mockingbird’s much-anticipated ‘sequel’

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

A wonderfully vivid school story has surfaced written by Queen Victoria as a child. The monarch was clearly a sensational novelist manqué, says Philip Hensher

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

9 May 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on a little-known episode of first world war history when a munitions factory in Kent exploded in April 1916, claiming over 100 lives

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

11 April 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher infinitely prefers the words to the music of the maverick ‘minimalist’ composer

‘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

Philip Hensher on the perverse, tormented Mark Rothko, whose anger and depression — often painfully apparent in his art — only increased with his success

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

Philip Hensher explores a dangerously intoxicating world, and discovers just how quickly famous designers can become an irrelevance

Edith Pearlman in 2012

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

10 January 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher bewails the current neglect of the short story, especially in the British literary press

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

An eccentric, thoroughgoing genius, surfing every wave with a death-defying self-belief — Philip Hensher wonders who Boris Johnson can be thinking of