The White Cities

by Joseph Roth   I became a journalist one day out of despair when I realised none of the other professions could satisfy me. Not one of them. The generation that marked the beginning and end of puberty by scribbling verses wasn’t mine, and I didn’t belong either to the very latest, the generation that…

Bile with Style

In 2015, Suhrkamp Verlag published Werke in 22 Bänden, the definition edition of plays, novels and stories by the great Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, to commemorate his death twenty-five years previously. This review considers his life and work from the vantage of his novel Auslöchung, (1986), published in English translation as Extinction (1995). “How do…

Mad on Metrics

As the Indo-European languages tell us, medicine and religion have much in common, not least in offering a measure of salvation to the sinful. In her ambitious novel Corpus Delicti (English title: The Method), the socially committed German novelist Julie Zeh considers how much personal liberty we would be prepared to forego in a future…

Madder and indigofera

A professional visit to St Lucia, 2009 Our unexceptionally torpid meeting at the Ministry of Health on the Castries waterfront was enlivened by one of the beautiful local crested hummingbirds hovering in a blur of blue for a few moments outside the plate glass of our office on the fourth floor.               It brought to…

Being Nice to Nietzsche

In his vagabondage around western Europe in the decade of white-hot creativity that was granted him after he resigned his chair in philology at the University of Basle, three other cities were of particular importance to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: Nice, Genoa and Turin—all cities with an Alpine background. The last of them impressed…

Picking Olives in Apulia

Over the past two years the olive plantations in the province of Lecce and other parts of Apulia have been attacked by a proteobacterium never previously seen in Europe known as Xylella fastidiosa. Up to a million trees are thought to be affected, with withering of the growth shoots rapidly leading to tree collapse. The…

Where grass is greener

Nature Writing in 2014 1 Philip Hoare’s previous book Leviathan, or The Whale—which won the 2009 Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction—was dominated by one big idea, as advertised in its title; The Sea Inside starts off as an exploration of the big idea’s medium, the vast connected body of salty water on our planet that…

Peristalsis and Epiphany

The artist “is like a pump”, Gustave Flaubert told Louise Colet in 1853, “sucking up what lies undisclosed in the deepest layers and squirting it out “in great jets to the sunlight.” If Nature is the supreme artist, no need to get involved in the effort and mechanics of deep topography: simply push Flaubert’s conceit…

A Doctor’s Dictionary

A copy of A Doctor’s Dictionary can be pre-ordered directly from my publisher Carcanet Press, or through Amazon. In this pithy abecedarium, doctor and poet Iain Bamforth takes a close look at the conflict of values embodied in what we call medicine – never entirely a science and no longer quite the art it used to be….

Pressed Pushkin

Review, The Queen of Spades and Selected Works Pushkin Press was founded in London in 1997, and has found a niche in a difficult market, publishing pocket-sized, beautifully produced Monotype editions of classic and contemporary literature, much of it in translation; only now does its list include a volume by the author it honours eponymously….

From Haruspicy to Detox: Lecture Puts Liver in Spotlight

Interview with Jody Becker – The Liver Meeting Today Sunday, November 9, 2014, p. 16 Science journalist Hugh Aldersey-Williams’ recent book Anatomies (2013), supposedly an “eye-opening tour” through the secrets of the body, doesn’t even have a chapter-heading for the liver. For Iain Bamforth, MBChB, DLitt, this omission is notable, if not perplexing. He will address…

Empurpled

If every poet’s work has its chromatic wavelength, one that could be played on Rimbaud’s mystical organ for synaesthetic vowels, then Georg Trakl monopolizes the far end of the spectrum, lilac shading into violet into intense near-blackness…