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.

Home Issue 64, February 2015

Issue 64, February 2015

Below Extinction’s Alp

‘The Hard Conversation’ is what happens when a doctor reveals to a patient the no longer avoidable truth. But perhaps society should also have a hard conversation about the limits of medical science and the desirability of providing not infinite life but a decent end of life.

The Doubter

Previous biographies have called almost everything about Bertolt Brecht, including his authorship of the works attributed to him, into doubt, while political changes have seemed to diminish his importance. But a new life, revealing a new Brecht, reasserts his importance.

An Irishman in Hollywood

Actors were clay in Rex Ingrams’s sculptor’s hands, and his desire to shape and control every detail of his films had both positive artistic and inevitably negative interpersonal dimensions.

From the Jungle to the Plain

To prosper, the solitary animals of the jungle must ruthlessly pursue their own biological priorities. The social animals of the plain have the same drives but their brains must also identify situations where group interests override individual ones, and act accordingly.

A War Without End

Steam locomotive C5631 is proudly displayed in the museum at the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan, where prime ministers come to honour war criminals. There is no mention there of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners who died building the WWII railway on which it ran.

Death by Respectability?

The discussion group Tuairim, active in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s, made many thoughtful contributions to intellectual debate, but it is another matter to say it was influential, in a society in which those with political ideas but outside formal politics were largely ignored.

White Terror

The repression that followed the defeat of the left-wing revolt known as the Paris Commune led to almost four times as many deaths in ten weeks as the revolutionary terror had achieved in the city in eighteen months. Pope Pius IX called the victims “men escaped from hell”.

Bright Spirits

Roy Foster’s new book focuses on a group of brilliant Irish bohemians and intellectuals who were active from 1916 to 1923, though often marginalised thereafter. Their lives are fascinating, but one should be wary of overstating their centrality to ‘the revolutionary generation’.

Domestic Gothic

In Alice Munro’s world, in which the grotesque frequently intrudes into the everyday, people often speak of great happiness and great tragedy in the same even voice, scarcely distinguishing between them and hardly ever varying the local tone of functional politeness.

Holding the Balance

The Progressive Democrats did not break the mould of Irish politics and should bear some of the responsibility for creating the conditions that led to the 2008 economic collapse. But we should perhaps still be grateful to them for standing between Charles Haughey and absolute power.