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The lessons of “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” for millennials

WE have become accustomed to hearing how prescient “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1949) feels in today’s political climate. Others point out echoes of “Animal Farm” (1945) in modern political rhetoric. But one of George Orwell’s lesser-known works also enjoys renewed relevance: “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” (1936)—a novel he was thoroughly dissatisfied with—captures …

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A new play unpicks the figure of the messianic tech billionaire

THE most esteemed Silicon Valley CEOs often have a messianic aura. None, however, has yet staked a claim to actual communication with the divine. “Against”, a sprawling new play by Christopher Shinn, asks what might happen if one of them did. Luke (Ben Whishaw), a tech billionaire with more than …

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Humankind’s odd need to catch sharks

Shark Drunk: The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean. By Morten Stroksnes. Translated by Tiina Nunnally. Knopf; 320 pages; $26.95. Jonathan Cape; £12.99. GREENLAND sharks cannot help but capture the imagination. These primeval inhabitants of the deep, icy waters of the …

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Award

Lane Greene, who writes the Johnson column, has been given the Journalism Award of the Linguistic Society of America Powered by WPeMatico

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Hashem El Madani and the private lives of the Lebanese

HIS STUDIO was named after Scheherazade, the heroine of “One Thousand of One Nights” who evaded execution by weaving stories. It became a place as creative and alluring as its namesake: a space where ordinary people could highlight hidden versions of themselves or invent new alter egos. Sitters frequently used …

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When thoughts often turn to death

Every Third Thought: On Life, Death and the Endgame. By Robert McCrum. Picador; 256 pages; £14.99. IN 1995, aged only 42, Robert McCrum had a severe stroke—an experience that he memorably chronicled in “My Year Off” with the help of Sarah Lyall, whom he had married just two months before …

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A remarkable account of the 2011 tsunami in Japan

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone. By Richard Lloyd Parry. Jonathan Cape, 276 pages, £16.99. To be published in America by Farrah, Straus and Giroux in October; $27. AT 2.46pm on March 11th 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 was recorded approximately 30km (18 miles) …

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Peter Stamm, looking just beneath the surface

ONE warm day in July, Peter Stamm was hiking with your correspondent high in the Swiss Alps. Just below a peak called the Silberen, he came to a stretch of dirty snow clinging to the mountain despite the summer heat. Mr Stamm went first, stepping gingerly. Halfway across his left …

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Juha, the Middle East’s heroic everyman

WESTERN audiences have grown used to the marauding heroes of Arabic folklore. Characters like Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba instantly conjure images of hidden treasure and desperate sword fights. But in the Middle East itself, many people prefer a more down-to-earth figure: Juha, a wise old fool, and his …

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Locarno festival shows off the film industry’s creativity

IT IS a hub for films that wear the phrase “art-house” on their sleeve; its entries always test audiences with new forms or new ideas about cinema. Italian films such as Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City” (1945) have dominated Locarno festival from the start, but German cinema had a major …