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This week's editor

Constitutional conventions: best practice

A journey through popular and ancient literature, from all corners of the globe.

Bob Dylan: revolution in the head, revisited

The most influential and original musician of the 1960s generation remains a figure of protean creativity half a century on. The wealth of attention still devoted to Bob Dylan is testament to a career of astonishing range. It also reflects the complex legacy of a formative decade which Dylan’s songs and persona helped to define, says David Hayes.

(This article was first published on 24 May 2011)

Bob Dylan: a conversation

Many celebrations of the great American musician Bob Dylan involve a personal journey through the archives of memory. Here, David Hayes recalls a thrilling series of concerts Dylan performed in 1981...and a late-night encounter.

(This article was first published on 24 May 2011)

Doris Lessing: the Sufi connection

The Nobel literature laureate is a seeker and educator in mysticism who uses Sufi ideas to enlarge her and her characters' humanity, says Müge Galin in this 2007 article.

Doris Lessing: writing against and for

The Nobel literature award honours an eternal outsider whose critical distance from orthodoxy fuels her work's remarkable "predictive" quality, says Susan Watkins in this 2007 article.

Aimé Césaire: poetry as weapon

The passionate, lyrical voice of the poet from Martinique was part of a lifework that embraces négritude, Marxism and surrealism all in one, says Nira Wickramasinghe. (This article was first published in openDemocracy on 21 April 2008)

Aimé Césaire: poetry as weapon

The passionate, lyrical voice of the poet from Martinique was part of a lifework that embrace négritude, Marxism and surrealism all in one, says Nira Wickramasinghe.

(This article was first published on 21 April 2008)

Suffer the little children…

A new Russian law banning US adoptions has been roundly criticised at home and abroad; a toddler’s unexplained death has been held up as justification. For Daniil Kotsyubinsky, it is all a case of history repeating: Russia’s past is full of tragic cases where children have become innocent victims.

Mo Yan and China's prize

The award of the Nobel literature prize to a Chinese writer favoured by the authorities provoked disputes both on the Chinese internet and in Swedish public life, says Temtsel Hao.

Mo Yan's Nobel, an ideal betrayed

The Swedish Academy's award of the Nobel literature prize to the Chinese novelist Mo Yan violates the principles of its founder and represents a collusion with authoritarian power, says the Sweden-based Chinese writer Mo Li.

A Singapore Ramayana: academic freedom and the liberal arts curriculum

Could Singaporeans of the future do a better job at making democracy a reality than America’s elected leaders have done for the past half-century? Maybe, if one of the most important literary works of premodern India is taught again at the recently created Yale-NUS in Singapore.

The Green of Her Soul

A story from Liberia.

Derick Thomson at 90: Gaelic poet in the world

Ruaraidh MacThòmais (Derick Thomson) has as poet, scholar, teacher and editor made a profound contribution to Gaelic literature over six decades. The quality and range of his work deserve belated recognition in the context of the culture he has done so much to enlarge, says David Hayes.

The geometry and arithmetic of exile: a Russian writer’s view

What happens to a writer when he is no longer surrounded by his own language and reality? Emigres, exiles use a kind of cunning to adapt and continue functioning as writers, but they have to make so many adjustments that some fall silent. Oleg Yuriev examines some famous literary exiles to consider his own position and attitudes to literature in his former country.

Voznesensky: elegy for a fashionable poet

The poet Andrei Voznesensky died on 1 June. One of the former “big 4” Soviet poets, he managed to hang on to his cult status until the 1990s as that of the outspoken Joseph Brodsky rose ever higher. The poet Elena Fanailova reviews his position in the pantheon of Soviet writers and assesses his contribution to Soviet and Russian poetry.

Lev Tolstoy: world literature’s first pop star

Relief at being freed from the deadening Soviet tradition of grandiose literary anniversaries, and socialist realism’s didactic canonization of the Tolstoyan panoramic novel may have something to do with the comparatively muted Russian response to this year’s centenary of Lev Tolstoy’s death. But world literature’s first pop star still shines undimmed

Arthur Koestler: 20th century man

Arthur Koestler, whose turbulent life charts the intellectual history of the 20thc in the West, has finally found a worthy biographer in Michael Scammell. A youthful communist and survivor of Franco’s prisons, Koestler developed into one of the West’s most persuasive crusaders against communism.

A 'dishonesty of the conscientious': Gordon Brown’s tragedy

The literature of human fall and frailty illuminates the political fate of Britain’s prime minister.   

Beirut and contradiction: reading the World Press Photo award

Four stylish young women, an open-topped car, the rubble of war-torn Beirut … but where is the real power of Spencer Platt's prize-winning image, asks Mai Ghoussoub.

(This article was first published on 13 February 2007)

The posthumous victory of socialist realism

Gorki reads to Stalin, Molotov and Voroshilov

Anatoly Yar-Kravchenko: Maxim Gorki reads his fairy tale "A girl and death" to Stalin, Molotov and Voroshilov on 11.11.1931 (painted in 1949)

Socialist realism, the old Soviet literary canon, has come to dominate the literary scene once more, laments the distinguished literary critic, Olga Martynova

Lifewriting: Herta Müller’s journey

The German-Romanian author awarded the Nobel prize for literature makes rich and compelling work that eludes reductive reading, says Lyn Marven.

Russian Poet’s eye on Londongrad

Returning to ‘Londongrad' after 5 years, the poet Tatyana Shcherbina reflects with grim humour on the changes - some superficial, and, from the perspective of Russia today, some much deeper

Far Away from Moscow

Lost and Found in Russia, book cover 

 

 

 

 

 

 17 years ago Susan Richards embarked on her journey deep into provincial Russia.  What she finds is often surprising, sometimes hilarious, sometimes depressing, but her friendships enable her to see much more than foreigners ordinarily would, says Masha Karp

The Fear in Lhasa

"You have a gun. I have a pen." The renowned Tibetan poet Woeser, on a fleeting visit to the city of her birth, captures the atmosphere of a submerged land.

Arthur Miller: depression's fortune

"It could all go away." A dramatist formed by flight and fall speaks anew to a post-crash era, says Christopher Bigsby.

John Updike: singing America

The death of a writer of epic achievement and endless grace leaves a sense of profound loss. James Schiff celebrates and mourns "the largest literary figure in America during my lifetime". 

Susan Sontag: holding herself to account

The youthful journals of the late American writer trace the consuming passions for life, ideas and the desired other that burned within, says Angela McRobbie.

A prayer and a poem

"Everything ends in one minute." openDemocracy publishes two new works written by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in response to war’s crimes and destruction.

(This article was first published on 12 September 2006)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: the line within

The prophetic message of Alexander Solzhenitsyn transcends the circumstances that gave rise to it, says Roger Scruton.


A world split apart

The novels and essays of the Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) eviscerated the moral foundations of Soviet rule. But his Harvard address of June 1978 confirmed that the core of his intellectual project was a spiritual rather than political one - and that the west's failures were just as much in his sights

Real England? Reflections on Broadway Market

An enduring narrative of England - one with radical as well as conservative variants - sees it as a country besieged by hostile forces, its traditions under threat. A lively London market gives Patrick Wright a fresh perspective on the habit of "conceiving England as a heritage in danger".

How to talk about things we know nothing about

The shift from the age of the polymath to that of the expert has diminished as well as expanded the potential field of human knowledge. Can intelligent dialogue survive a fog of collective ignorance, asks Keith Kahn-Harris.

The heart of Simone de Beauvoir

Lisa Appignanesi explores the enigmatic appeal of the great French feminist writer.

(This article was first published on 13 July 2005)

William Blake: a visionary for our time

A great English artist born 250 years ago fused social empathy and moral imagination to produce work that lives in and moves people today, says Christopher Rowland.

Astrid Lindgren’s legacy

The imaginative landscape of Pippi Longstocking's creator encompassed a profound social commitment. On the centenary of Astrid Lindgren's birth, Birgitta Steene reflects on a Swedish writer who made an exceptional contribution to literature and public life in her homeland yet who belongs also to the world.

Norman Mailer: a boxing life

The protean symbolism of the boxing-match was the arena of Norman Mailer's journey from "nice Jewish boy" to combative literary pugilist, says Kasia Boddy.

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