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This week's editor

Manuel Serrano

Manuel Serrano is Junior Editor at DemocraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Welcome to Arts & Cultures, where you will find world-class reviews of literature, film and music. You will also find kaleidoscopic analysis of everyday objects, from hair to shorelines.

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)

Mazí Mas, “with us”

Women have played a seminal role in keeping food cultures all over the world alive. Nikandre Kopcke discusses her inspiration for setting up a pop-up restaurant which showcases the culinary talents and diverse cultural heritages of migrant women in London.

She Left Me the Gun: on story-telling and re-telling

Emma Brockes’ exploration of her mother’s life in South Africa, and what made her leave, is also a study in writing the complexity of women’s lives, and the powerful and elusive nature of story-telling.

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)

The great tide of 31 January 1953

An enormous surge of water over the coastal lands of south-east England sixty years ago took hundreds of lives and marked survivors for a lifetime. A meticulous account of the tragedy written a few years later is still the best source to understand what happened, says Ken Worpole, a native of one of the places most affected, Canvey Island.

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.

Brave New World reimagined

Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World (1931) is acquiring fresh meanings in another era of crisis and pacifying solutions, says Geoff Andrews.

India is ready for change, but censorship, taxation and corruption plagued the Art Fair

Mixed news from the fine art scene in India. The fourth annual Indian Art Fair was hailed as a great success, but censorship issues can restrain artists and curators in subtle ways — logistically as well as creatively

Law & Order, take two

The successful New York-set crime series Law & Order has generated numerous spin-offs, remakes and reworkings. A coincidental showing of the same episode in its US and UK versions offers David Elstein, a devotee of the original, the chance to make a scene-by-scene comparison. Such an analysis, he says, confirms the superior quality of Dick Wolf's show and suggests that this is symptomatic of a wide gap in the creative cultures of US and UK drama.

Cornelius Cardew lives

A pioneering, charismatic composer who searched sincerely for the truth of art, life and politics died on 13 December 1981. Cornelius Cardew's integrity and creative restlessness ensure that he remains an inspiration, says Virginia Anderson

(This article was first published on 5 May 2006)

Railtracks

"Impossible now to think of train travel without a kind of tenderness - as if that is what love is: arrival after arrival". A conversation between the writers Anne Michaels and John Berger, in dialogue with a photographic journey through southern Bohemia, evokes the intimate meanings and shared belongings that unfold to the rhythm and the heartbeat of the world the railways made.

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.

Cornelius Cardew: a life unfinished

Cornelius Cardew, born on 7 May 1936, became one of the most influential and original modernist English composers of his generation. His sudden death on 12 December 1981 left an immense body of creative work and a huge vacuum in the lives of his contemporaries, but also the sense of a promise unfulfilled. On what would have been his 75th birthday, some who knew and worked with Cardew - Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost, Robert Wyatt, and the composer's biographer John Tilbury - reflect on a protean figure.

(This article was first published on 13 December 2007)

Vapor Trail (Clark): wastes of history

A cinematic project in the Philippines that began as an exercise in political documentary and ended as excavation of the toxic legacies of the country’s early-20th century war with America is a vital counterblast to global amnesia, says Graeme Hobbs.


The fiction of climate change

What is a climate-change novel, and what makes a good one? Andrew Dobson takes time from his day job as professor of politics to read the existing literature and emerge with suggestions about how to do it better.

The white and pleasant land

A racist assault on unfamiliar ground provokes Delwar Hussain to reflect on why the British countryside looks less than welcoming to people of colour.

Edwin Morgan, 1920-2010

The poet and translator Edwin Morgan has died at the age of 90 in his beloved home city of Glasgow. David Hayes salutes a "Glasgow internationalist and Scottish universalist", who made the world new for generations of readers.

Ecocentrism: a response to Paul Kingsnorth

Paul Kingsnorth’s journey from a degraded environmentalism to nature-centred ways of living and thinking has many echoes for Andrew Dobson, but also clarifies a difference of outlook.

Confessions of a recovering environmentalist

"Environmentalism, which in its raw, early form had no time for the encrusted, seized-up politics of left and right, has been sucked into the yawning, bottomless chasm of the 'progressive' left." A personal, twenty-year journey through the world’s wild places and the movements to protect them is also, for Paul Kingsnorth, an education in the limits of a project that has forgotten nature and lost its soul.

Oysters Rockefeller

The threat to a unique New Orleans culinary tradition is one measure of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy, says Jim Gabour.

The World Cup kaleidoscope

What is the football World Cup really about? A London pub conversation between four friends on the eve

(This article was first published on 29 May 2002)

Tomás Eloy Martínez and the Argentine dream

The work of the Argentinean writer Tomás Eloy Martínez is intimately bound with the country’s modern history of political delusion and personal liberation. Ivan Briscoe reflects on a fiction-reality fusion that made a unique contribution to “inventing Perón”.

Barcelona i Catalunya: the real thing

The scholar of world politics and openDemocracy columnist Fred Halliday lived and worked in - and fell in love with - Barcelona. In a warm essay written five months before he died on 26 April 2010, Fred celebrates the home of his last years.

Bob Dylan's revolution in the head

The love of millions for Bob Dylan's work ensures his place in post-1960s musical and popular culture. As Dylan turns 65, David Hayes offers a restless birthday tribute.

(This article was first published on 24 May 2006)

Siberian Shamans Come in From the Cold (part 3)

After decades of repression, Siberia’s shamans are re-emerging. Ken Hyder is a musician who performs with a Tuvan shaman. His novel describes the culture of contemporary shamanism as it emerges after decades of repression. Part three of three.

Siberian Shamans Come in From the Cold

After decades of repression, Siberia’s shamans are re-emerging. Ken Hyder is a musician who performs with a Tuvan shaman. His novel describes the culture of contemporary shamanism as it emerges after decades of repression. Part one of three.

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 blizzard of the world

The exhaustion of the planet and existing ways of life presents a creative challenge: exploring “uncivilisation”. Paul Kingsnorth introduces the Dark Mountain Project.

Belarus: love and paranoia

A Belarusian novel encourages citizens to question their own role in perpetuating the regime that governs them. The authorities’ response suggests it has touched a nerve, says Natalia Leshchenko.

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.

Banksy in Bristol

The enigmatic urban artist Banksy has created an exhibition of his work in the main gallery-museum of his home city of Bristol in western England. This is much more than "graffiti art", says Tina Beattie: its mix of wit, anger, imagination and humanity makes it a triumph of dissenting liberality over authoritarianism.

(This article was first published on 24 June 2009)

Antichrist: the visual theology of Lars Von Trier

The Danish filmmaker’s compelling drama uses the moving image as a celluloid icon to explore the depths of the Christian unconscious and its metaphysical terrors and longings. Tina Beattie reflects on “Antichrist”.

[This essay reveals some key events in the film's narrative]
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