Lead book review

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

Vladimir Nabokov was happily married for over 50 years and rarely apart from his wife. More’s the pity, discovers Philip Hensher

Tennessee Williams on the stage set of A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)

Confused, unbalanced, brilliant: the Blanche Dubois of Tennessee Williams biographies

20 September 2014 9:00 am

Thomas W. Hodgkinson finds John Lahr’s ‘stand-alone’ biography of Tennessee Williams as confused and unbalanced as Streetcar’s heroine

Going for a Song, by Bevis Hillier - extract

20 September 2014 9:00 am

An Anthology of Poems about Antiques, compiled and introduced by Bevis Hillier

Keep the Man Booker Prize British

20 September 2014 9:00 am

Americans don’t need the cachet of our most prestigious literary prize  – but we do, says Matthew Walther

Tenements in the Gorbals area of Glasgow — considered some of the worst slums in Britain — are replaced by high-rise flats, c. 1960

Corrie and ready-salted crisps: the years when modern Britain began

13 September 2014 9:00 am

The only thing really swinging in early Sixties Britain, says Sam Leith, was the wrecking-ball

Scenes from a long life. Left to right: the vulnerable young queen, in thrall to Prince Albert; overcoming her demons with the help of John Brown — depicted in a popular souvenir cut-out; and the matriarch as Empress of India

Is there anything left to say about Queen Victoria? A.N. Wilson has found plenty

6 September 2014 9:00 am

A new, revisionist biography argues that it was only after her husband’s death that Queen Victoria found her true self. Jane Ridley is impressed

A romanticised portrait of Goethe by J.H.W. Tischbein

Germans see the best of their soul in Weimar. Everyone else, on the other hand..

30 August 2014 9:00 am

For centuries hailed as the home of poetry, music and liberalism, Weimar was ruthlessly exploited by the Nazis and later served as a showcase for communism, says Philip Hensher

The biography that makes Philip Larkin human again

23 August 2014 9:00 am

We needn’t apologise for Philip Larkin any longer, says Peter J. Conradi. His place is unmistakeably among the greats

Charles Scott Moncrieff (left) had a deep personal affinity with Proust (right). His rendering of 'À La Recherche du Temps Perdu' is considered one of the greatest literary translations of all time

Soldier, poet, lover, spy: just the man to translate Proust

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith is astonished by how much the multi-talented Charles Scott Moncrieff achieved in his short lifetime

James Bond's secret: he's Jamaican

9 August 2014 9:00 am

Lewis Jones on Ian Fleming’s Jamaican retreat and the inspiration it provided for the Bond novels

He who must be obeyed: portrait of the Kaiser by Ferdinand Keller, 1893

Kaiser Wilhelm's guide to ruining a country

2 August 2014 9:00 am

The life of Kaiser Wilhelm II is also a guide to how to ruin a country, says Philip Mansel

Who’s in, who’s out: George Bernard O’Neill’s ‘Public Opinion’ depicts a private view of the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy

The age of the starving artist

26 July 2014 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the precarious fortunes of even the most gifted 19th-century artists

‘There is nothin’ like a dame’ — nice songs, shame about the lighting: Mitzi Gaynor in ‘South Pacific’, 1958

Why movie musicals matter – to this author anyway

19 July 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith finds much to like in a companion to musical films, and concludes that they matter very much – to the author anyway

An anti-Soviet rally in Moscow, February 1991: Gorbachev’s reforms resulted in the rise of his nemesis, Yeltsin

It's not just Putin who misses the Soviet empire. President Bush did, too

12 July 2014 9:00 am

In the latest – and best – of the books on the end of the USSR, Victor Sebestyen finds that the only good thing about the Soviet empire was the manner of its passing

Doctor Zhivago's long, dark shadow

5 July 2014 9:00 am

The banning of Dr Zhivago in the Soviet Union had unfortunate consequences for other fine 20th-century Russian novels, says Robert Chandler

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

28 June 2014 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the scandalous 17th-century courtier whose hellfire reputation has overshadowed his fine satirical poetry

‘The Final Advance of the Guard’ by Nicolas Toussaint Charlet

An old soldier sees through the smoke of Waterloo

21 June 2014 8:00 am

David Crane on an old soldier’s account of a 200-year-old battle that will never fade away

Aimé Tschiffely with Mancha and Gato. The strongest emotional bonds he formed on his epic journey were with his horses

A horse ride from Buenos Aires to New York? No problem!

14 June 2014 8:00 am

Sam Leith marvels at a lone horseman’s 10,000-mile ride, braving bandits, quicksands, vampire bats and revolution in search of ‘variety’

Colonel James Tod, travelling by elephant through Rajasthan with his cavalry and sepoys (Indian school, 18th century)

From Scylax to the Beatles: the West's lust for India

7 June 2014 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the age-old allure of the Indian subcontinent

View of Baghdad in 1918

Baghdad's rise, fall – and rise again

31 May 2014 9:00 am

Ali A. Allawi on the fluctuating fortunes of Iraq’s fabled capital

Constant Lambert at the piano

The wit, wisdom and womanising of Constant Lambert

24 May 2014 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the tragically short life of the ebullient and multi-talented musician, Constant Lambert

Odysseus and the Sirens

If you ever wanted a Homeric jump-start, this is your book

17 May 2014 9:00 am

Adam Nicolson plunges into Homer’s epic poetry and finds it inexhaustible. Sam Leith feels a touch of envy

Three of the best: Edward Thomas (left), Wilfred Owen (above right) and Edmund Blunden

Look again – the first world war poets weren't pacifists

10 May 2014 9:00 am

The patriotism of the Great War’s finest poets was neither narrow nor triumphalist but reflected an intense devotion to an endangered country and to a way of life worth dying for, says David Crane

Jorge Luis Borges and his ‘bitch’

3 May 2014 9:00 am

Ian Thomson on a miserable mismatch that became the talk of Buenos Aires in the Sixties

No worries: John Updike in his late fifties, on the beach at Swampscott, Mass

Up close and personal

26 April 2014 9:00 am

In recycling his most intimate encounters as fiction – including amazing feats of promiscuity in small-town New England – John Updike drew unashamedly on his own experiences for inspiration, says Philip Hensher