T H I S W E E K
January 20 2023
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T H E T I M E S L I T E R A R Y S U P P L E M E N T
Michael Hofmann Shirley Hazzard’s art | Edmund Gordon Bret Easton Ellis, prophet or creep?
Gabriel Roberts The fall of a sparrow | Gwendoline Riley Unfinished 1980s business
The oligarch’s friend Geoffrey Robertson KC on the limits to British free speech
© Universal History Archive/UIG; Pierce Archive LLC/ Buyenlarge via Getty Images. Composite © The TLS
In this issue
In his recent TLS book, Jews Don’t Count, David Bad- diel challenged the lazy, sometimes malign assumption that because many Jewish people are white, they cannot be victims of racism. Antisemitism is still virulent in the modern world. This week we publish Lawfare by Geoffrey Robertson KC, a free- speech champion who has challenged literary cen- sorship, state secrecy and the abuse of the law of libel by the rich and infamous throughout his career. It is an unequal struggle. In Britain the defendant in a libel case must establish their innocence – a reversal of the general presumption of innocence – and the judiciary, some shining exceptions apart, are unsym- pathetic or inexpert. Robertson identifies a new threat – Russian oligarchs who exploit British courts to suppress investigations into their affairs and those of their master, Vladimir Putin. In London, on the eve of Russia’s war with Ukraine, Catherine Belton’s book Putin’s People “attracted a sudden blizzard of legal actions from Roman Abramovich and three other oli- garchs”, writes Robertson. It would have cost Bel- ton’s publisher, HarperCollins – which publishes TLS books – £5 million to fight a successful defence and more than twice that if it lost. The action had already cost the publisher £1.5 million in legal fees before it arrived at a confidential judicial settlement. Other works about Russia have never even reached British bookshops, as publishers have decided they cannot bear the likely legal costs. Ninety-five per cent of libel claims are won or settled on terms that required withdrawal, according to one bleak survey. Robert- son argues for sweeping reforms of the laws of libel and privacy. The government concedes the injustice of the current system and promises change. Robert- son, however, suspects ministerial legerdemain. Legal reforms may also restrict access to human rights legislation and impose further restraints on reporting national security issues.
Elsewhere, Michael Hofmann praises a biography by Brigitta Olubas of the Australia-born but cosmopolitan writer Shirley Hazzard. Hofmann apologizes for the lateness of his review: he became engrossed in re-reading all her novels. Gabriel Roberts notes that the loss of biodiversity in Britain and the world is a loss to literature. We are reminded that “When Keats wrote about a nightingale singing in north London, he was not writing about a rare or extraordinary event”. Edmund Gordon asks whether former enfant terrible Bret Easton Ellis, author of The Shards, is “heroically clear-sighted or just a drugaddled creep”. Readers get to decide. We suspect that before the Lady Chatterley trial, the law wouldn’t have allowed them the choice.
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6 LETTERS TO THE
7 BIOGRAPHY &
10 BIOGRAPHY &
24 IN BRIEF
GEOFFREY ROBERTSON A town called Sue – Russian oligarchs are using British courts to close down investigative journalism
Translating poetry, Henry’s Reformation, Drunken talk, etc
JOHN STOKES MICHAEL HOFMANN BENJAMIN SHULL
NICOLA SHULMAN JENNY UGLOW
GWENDOLINE RILEY EDMUND GORDON CHRISTOPHER SHRIMPTON HOUMAN BAREKAT
FAY BOUND ALBERTI
PATRICIA CRAIG EMER NOLAN
CAROLINE VOUT BROOKE HOLMES
Arthur Miller – American witness John Lahr Shirley Hazzard – A writing life Brigitta Olubas Jersey Breaks – Becoming an American poet Robert Pinsky
H. D. & Bryher – An untold love story of modernism Susan McCabe. Winged Words – The life and work of the poet H. D. Donna Krolik Hollenberg Hermione H. D.
A diminished thing – How nature’s abundance was reflected in literature
Hanging Stones Andy Goldsworthy (Rosedale, North Yorkshire) My Brush Is My Sword – Anthony Gross, war artist Julian Francis
Unfinished Business Michael Bracewell The Shards Bret Easton Ellis The End of Nightwork Aidan Cottrell-Boyce Sugar Street Jonathan Dee
The Wine-Dark Sea Within – A turbulent history of blood Dhun Sethna
A Guest at the Feast – Essays Colm Tóibín The Way We Were – Catholic Ireland Since 1922 Mary Kenny
Co-Workers in the Kingdom of Culture – Classics and cosmopolitanism in the thought of W. E. B. Du Bois David Withun Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity Sarah F. Derbew Exposed – The Greek and Roman body Caroline Vout
Hunting – A cultural history Jan E. Dizard and Mary Zeiss Stange Earthborn Carl Dennis Big Man and the Little Men Clifford Thompson Tomorrow Is Here – Speeches Navid Kermani; Translated by Tony Crawford Immaterial Texts in Late Medieval England – Making English literary manuscripts, 1400–1500 Daniel Wakelin 99 Interruptions Charles Boyle The Mystical Presence of Christ – The exceptional and the ordinary in late medieval religion Richard Kieckhefer
Human experiments – Why good intentions are not enough
Ukrainian Orwell, British tradecraft, More literary anniversaries, Norman Nicholson appeal
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JANUARY 20, 2023
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