Issue: October 2013

Sacramental Swig

Drowning your cares with a glass of rich, sweet wine with rosy-cheeked nuns? In the world of Belgian novelist Georges Rochenbach, it marks the loss of innocence

Who’s Afraid Of Barack Obama?

“While no longer accepting any special responsibility on the world stage, Obama pretends that we are all citizens together. Like Hamlet the President soliloquises; he does not act”

Tsar Of The Holy Land

For Vladimir Putin, Syria is as much a question of religion as of arms sales; in his eyes, Assad protects Syria’s ancient Christian communities

Kennedy’s False Note

Much hoo-ha was made of the BBC’s “censorship” of Nigel Kennedy’s remarks about Palestine at the Proms. In truth, Kennedy knew all along he’d be taken off air

A Syrian Precedent

In 64BC, Roman general Pompey annexed a potentially volatile Syria. Then, as now, where Western concerns are paramount, intervention needs to be diplomatic and risk-taking

Spending Spree

According to the LSE, the last Labour government’s public spending “worked”. But the researchers came to this conclusion solely from a play on words

Phoney Freedom

Do smartphones rob us of our freedom, as Edgar Degas thought? Isaiah Berlin would argue otherwise

Is Bach The Voice Of God In Music?

John Eliot Gardiner's new portrait is the culmination of a lifetime's devotion to the great composer

Dizzy’s Wizardry (Boris, Take Note)

Douglas Hurd and Edward Young’s witty and original biography of the former prime minister presents him as a master of self-aggrandisement

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"