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The defiance of Tove Jansson, mother of Moomins

ASK any Finn of their fondest childhood memory, and it is likely to involve the Moomins in some way. The affable, hippopotamusesque little trolls adorn collectible mugs, confectionaries, linens and anything worth branding, but they are also a key part of their native Finland’s national identity and cultural consciousness. For …

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How Iceland (population: 330,000) qualified for the World Cup

IT HAS become a familiar ritual. A drum beats twice. A wall of blue-shirted fans grunts and lets rip a thundering clap. The pace quickens, like a Viking horde charging into battle. After every victory—and there have been many in recent years—Iceland’s football players and fans unite in performing the …

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An intimate look at the Obama administration

JOHN F. KENNEDY always made good use of photojournalists. On the campaign trail, he was pictured with delegates, taking counsel from his brother, Robert, or carrying his young daughter and her rag doll. As president, he created the position of official White House staff photographer, and appointed Cecil Stoughton to …

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“Alias Grace”, another triumphant Atwood adaptation

This review contains plot details of “Alias Grace” THIS week, the Supreme Court paved the way for the execution of Vernon Madison, a 67-year-old from Alabama convicted of murdering a police officer three decades ago. Having suffered strokes, Mr Madison no longer remembers his crime, and is diagnosed with both …

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How Cézanne helped invent the modern portrait

The birth of the modern LATE in life, Paul Cézanne told his art dealer Ambroise Vollard that “the culmination of all art is the human face.” It’s a peculiar assertion, coming from the master of landscape and still-life, whom Matisse and Picasso revered as “the father of us all”. But …

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What makes a Jewish joke Jewish

You don’t have to be Jewish Jewish Comedy: A Serious History. By Jeremy Dauber. W.W. Norton & Company; 364 pages; $28.95. The Jewish Joke. By Devorah Baum. Profile Books; 184 pages; £9.99. To be published in America by Pegasus in May. Feeling Jewish. By Devorah Baum. Yale University Press; 296 …

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The consolations of philosophy for the middle-aged

Midlife: A Philosophical Guide. By Kieran Setiya. Princeton University Press; 200 pages; $22.95 and £18.95. JOHN STUART MILL had his midlife crisis at 20. Hothoused by his father and preternaturally accomplished, he saw that even if all his “objects in life were realised”, still he would not be content—and had …

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Han Kang’s new novel, of mourning in a destroyed city

The White Book. By Han Kang. Translated by Deborah Smith. Portobello Books; 128 pages; £10. To be published in America by Hogarth in 2019. A WOMAN wanders through the snowbound streets of a European city that, in the second world war, suffered such wholesale obliteration that “the white glow of …

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Standing up for economists

Economics for the Common Good. By Jean Tirole. Translated by Steven Rendall. Princeton University Press; 576 pages; $29.95 and £24.95. “WINNING a Nobel prize changes your life,” said Jean Tirole, a French economist, from experience. When his work on competition policy and how to adapt regulation for specific industries earned …

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The metamorphosis of Elza Soares

ELZA SOARES brings “A Voz e a Máquina” (“The Voice and the Machine”) to the Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo on November 7th. With a wild purple perm and a signature growl, Brazil’s grand dame of samba will open her show with a reading of Martin Luther King’s poem …