Ian Donaldson’s The Rapes of Lucretia is a book so rich in ideas that a review can only be unfairly perfunctory. It starts from ancient accounts of the rape of Lucretia and tracks the transformations of the myth through two millennia. This is no wearisome catalogue, no tedious grinding of PhD mills. Donaldson is, as he puts it, ‘especially interested in the close relationship that may exist between the creative and the philosophical processes of mind; between art and argument’. What emerges is a sturdy contribution to the history of ideas, a book showing how a myth which sustained Roman ideas of heroism and political liberty was used at different periods of history to reflect and embody changing political and sexual ideas.... (read more)
Ian Donaldson reviews 'In Pursuit Of Civility: Manners and civilization in early modern England' by Keith Thomas
‘Civilization’, a seemingly tranquil notion, has always somehow managed to start quarrels and divide the room. In the classical world, where the concept was largely shaped, it managed, more startlingly, to divide the human race itself. On the one hand, so the notion appeared to imply, were people whose speech you could more or less understand ...... (read more)
Ian Donaldson reviews 'Simon Leys: Navigator between worlds' by Philippe Paquet, translated by Julie Rose
The Belgian-born scholar Pierre Ryckmans, more widely known to the world by his adopted name of Simon Leys, was widely hailed in the Australian press at his death in 2014 as ‘one of the most distinguished public intellectuals’ of his adopted country, where he had lived and taught for many years – first in Canberra, later in ...... (read more)
Originally published in German, Albrecht Dümling’s The Vanished Musicians: Jewish refugees in Australia (Peter Lang), a fascinating compendium of Jewish musicians who found refuge in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, is now available in Australian Diana K. Weekes’s excellent translation ...... (read more)
Literary biographers and their intended subjects at times agree and at times disagree about the stories they think should be told. J.D. Salinger and Vladimir Nabokov – the one, fastidious ...... (read more)
Hoping to travel to Vienna in the summer of 1950 through a part of Austria then under Soviet control, Bernard Smith sought an interview in Prague with an officer ...... (read more)
Jennifer Maiden's The Fox Petition: New Poems (Giramondo) conjures foxes 'whose eyes were ghosts with pity' and foxes of language that transform the world's headlines... (read more)
Hamlet belongs to the final years of Elizabeth’s reign, when the system of espionage the old queen had created through her spymaster-general, Francis Walsingham – the network of ‘watchers’, as Stephen Alford calls them in a recent brilliant study of this phenomenon – had become ...
Ian Donaldson reviews 'Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England' edited by David McInnis and Matthew Steggle
‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master,’ Elizabeth Bishop once famously wrote; ‘So many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster.’ Much modern technology seems designed specifically to counter this natural human propensity towards loss. We have key rings that respond obediently to their owner’s whistle, immediately ...