I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Issue 131, March 2021

After the Deluge

People’s inability during the pandemic to behave morally and refrain from actions that threaten the common good has meant that in protecting the public states will have to rely more on law than persuasion. Legal enforcement is coming down the road ‑ as surely as it did with drink-driving.

Lowly Things, Homely Folk

From the four-poster to the settle bed, the dresser set with delph to the chair made from tree stumps, Irish country houses were filled with a variety of now unfamiliar artifacts, lowly things perhaps, but imbued in Claudia Kinmouth’s scholarly treatment with pungency and romance.

Foxing It Up

Later this year two new British channels will bring a decidedly right-wing flavour to the TV news sector in a move that will have implications for Ireland too. Both will target the BBC as ‘left-leaning’, employing a game plan that has been marinating for years in American news culture.

The Streets of London

To be ‘a citizen of nowhere’, as nativist politicians sometimes like to smear city dwellers, is a nonsense. The very idea of citizenship grew out of cities and city states. The Londoners of Linda Grant’s ‘A Stranger City’ belong in a place and time, but they also know what it’s like to be told they don’t belong.

A Tale of Two Viruses

The writer Fang Fang’s honest, poignant reports from Wuhan won her immense popularity and were read by millions of desperate people on social media. But when her diary was published in Britain, she became a state traitor who had empowered the West by handing it ‘a knife’.

Travelling Man

August Kleinzahler has worked chiefly in blue collar jobs, shunning the mainstream poetry scene and often adopting a pugilistic stance. He has, however, taught in creative writing courses, even if he sees them as being as destructive of true growth as Dutch elm disease.

People Like Us

Society’s losers suffer not just from economic but cultural deprivation and loss of self-esteem. The winners have the opposite condition, hubris and a tendency to preen themselves on their success while refusing to accept that much of it has come from luck or loading of the dice.

Go with the Flow

In 2016, the Colombian constitutional court accorded rights to the Atrato river. The historic decision affirmed that nature itself had legal standing. A river is not just a source of water or a channel for transportation but a living entity inextricably linked to the destiny of all those touched by it.

Warrior Artist

Vincent Van Gogh travelled a rough road, often of his own making. His chief artistic master, Jean-François Millet, said that art was a battle, and one that you had to put your whole life into. Van Gogh took this, as he took everything, to heart.