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A songwriter’s new perspective after 8,980 miles on the train

He’s come to look for America PLANES are practical, buses are cheap and cars grant freedom. But trains are for romance. A century after America’s railway heyday, the country’s ageing trains still enjoy an anachronistic glamour. Few people are immune to the charms of a sluggish, traffic-free chug across states, …

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Women and Boko Haram

Some of the luckier ones got away Women and the War on Boko Haram: Wives, Weapons, Witnesses. By Hilary Matfess. Zed Books; 288 pages; $24.95 and £14.99. ON APRIL 14th 2014, militants from Boko Haram, a group of Islamic extremists, snatched 276 schoolgirls from their dormitories in north-east Nigeria. The …

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Nadia Murad’s tale of captivity with Islamic State

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight against the Islamic State. By Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski. Tim Duggan Books; 306 pages; $27. Virago; £18.99. THIS is a disturbing book. Many readers will find parts of it hard to stomach. But anyone who wants to understand the …

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How America’s economy is rigged by special interests

The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality. By Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles. Oxford University Press; 232 pages; $24.95. To be published in Britain in December; £16.99. PITY the Washington wonk at this moment. America’s political dysfunction looks forbiddingly irreparable, its government implacably …

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Michael Haneke assesses his oeuvre

“HAPPY END”, Michael Haneke’s new film, features murder, suicidal depression and myriad forms of torture—none of which will surprise anyone who has seen the Austrian writer-director’s previous work. Mr Haneke may be acclaimed as one of European cinema’s most intelligent and formally inventive auteurs: his previous two films, “Amour” and …

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Italians are still haunted by the Years of Lead

ON a bitter day in December 1969, a bomb exploded at a bank in Piazza Fontana, near Milan’s cathedral. Seventeen died. The young anarchist arrested in connection with the atrocity mysteriously died in custody. Three years later, the policeman accused of his murder was executed on the street. Things dragged …

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The furore over the categorisation of “Get Out” is misjudged

COMEDY is a multiplicitous genre. It is both “low”—farcical, vulgar, reliant on physical gags—and “high”, dealing in sophistication and witty repartee. There are both “Old” and “New” forms, one offering political commentary and the other relying on archetypal characters and everyday situations. It runs the gamut of styles, from stand-up …

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A “revealing” look at Jonas Kaufmann pulls all punches

In Conversation with Jonas Kaufmann. By Thomas Voigt. Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 255 pages; £20.  WHY the Three Tenors but not the Three Sopranos? Why is Caruso seen as pioneering the gramophone record and not Nellie Melba, who instead gave her name to a dish of peaches and cream? Why are tenors …

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A historian on the myths of American trade

Clashing over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy. By Douglas Irwin. University of Chicago Press; 832 pages; $35. TRADE-policy wonks are gluttons for punishment. In good times, their pet topic is dismissed as dull. In bad, they find trade being faulted for everything. As Donald Trump blames America’s economic woes …

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A member of the liberal elite on his tribe’s failings

WTF. By Robert Peston.Hodder & Stoughton; 277 pages; £20. ROBERT PESTON is a quintessential member of the British liberal establishment. The son of a leading economist, he glided from Balliol College, Oxford, to the Financial Times to the BBC to ITV, where he presents his own show, “Peston on Sunday”. “In …

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