breaking news from the world of ideas

by Giles Fraser
Tuesday, 3
September 2019

William Blake: my kind of madness

Earlier this month, a new gravestone was unveiled in Bunhill Fields. Here is one of those little and hidden patches of London, set between Old Street and the City, where the dead lie as sentinels guarding quiet open space against the encroachments of glass towers, technological progress and furious money-making.

Originally a place reserved for the burial of dissenters, it is a perfect resting place for William Blake: poet, visionary and professional Londoner. Gathered around his grave were a curious gathering of bearded clerics and heavy metal rock stars. And with a new exhibition of his paintings set to open at Tate Britain next week, we are invited to “rediscover him as a visual artist for the 21stcentury”. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Monday, 2
September 2019

Will Pakistan open talks with Israel?

From Israel

The air hangs hot and heavy over this Tel Aviv morning. An attack by Hezbollah on the northern border is already yesterday’s news – no one was killed. An Israeli election is a few weeks away, and minor skirmishes between Israel and her enemies is regarded, by some at least, as a way for the Netanyahu government to remind voters of the importance of their security agenda.

But the more interesting speculation here is that, over in Pakistan, Imran Khan is giving licence to the highly state-regulated Pakistani press to speculate on the recognition of the state of Israel. What was once a taboo subject is now being openly discussed. This is a bold move by Khan, not least because he has often been on the receiving end of anti-Semitic propaganda, having once been married to Jemima Goldsmith who – though a convert to Islam – had Jewish family. But undeterred, the Pakistani media has apparently been given free rein openly to discuss the subject of Israel. “Why can’t we openly debate pros cons of opening direct and overt channels of communication with the State of Israel” tweeted veteran Pakistani journalist Kamran Khan last week. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Thursday, 18
July 2019

Going Home with Wendell Berry

I have such a full-on man-crush on Wendell Berry that I pounce on anything written about him. This article in the New Yorker, titled “Going Home with Wendell Berry” was indeed a pleasure to read – yet coming out in the wake of those disgraceful Trump “go home” tweets – I felt an unusual bat-squeak of discomfort at Berry’s characteristic celebration of place.

The conversation goes as follows, the interviewer first:

A lot of people now come of age in places that feel like no place—a kind of vague American landscape, sculpted in part by corporations—which occasionally makes me wonder if homesickness, as a human experience, is itself on the verge of extinction.Well, part of manners used to be to say to somebody you just met, “Where you from?” And I quit asking it because so many people say they’re from everywhere or nowhere.
- Amanda Petrusich and Wendell Berry

The interview ranges over a range of subjects: the importance of limit, the contrast between those who think the purpose of life is self-realisation and those who think it is self-forgetfulness, and Berry’s admiration of the Amish. All great stuff. ...  Continue reading

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