Latest blog entries:

A Test Bed for World Destruction?

  I don’t normally agree with Niall Ferguson, neo-liberal America’s idea of an English intellectual. But while reading my briefing notes for a debate at Hay on the notion of progress in the arts, I was suddenly distracted by the latest salvo in Newsweek from Dubya Bush’s pet historian. Ferguson claims that contemporary Britain is a mirror image of the Habsburg Empire a century ago as depicted by Joseph Roth in Radetsky March. Having spent much of last year in Roth’s company, I was looking forward to disagreeing with Ferguson but - oh dear - I rather share his view. He takes a very annoying route to reach his destination but it’s worth the journey.

May 29, 2012 No Comments > Read More

“I Know What I Like”

It isn’t easy, but much of the time I try not to think about critics. However, next month I won’t have any choice. I’ve just been asked to chair a debate during “How the Light gets in” - the philosophy and music festival in Hay on Wye at the beginning of June. The subject is “I know what I like – is the critic a dying voice in our culture?” And today I’m asking myself whether I have the necessary credentials for the task.

May 8, 2012 No Comments > Read More

War Music II

At the end of May the Brighton Festival is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral with a concert performance of Tippett's masterpiece, the opera King Priam. This reflects the key themes of the festival - the artistic depiction of war and peace and the legacy of classical Greece. As an introduction to the opera, I've written an essay for Opera Magazine and this is how it begins: When I think of King Priam, one image forms in my mind. It’s not from the opera or even from the Trojan War. It comes in the first half of Pasolini’s masterly movie Edipo Re and it recurs like a nagging ostinato.

May 3, 2012 No Comments > Read More

Murder and Misfortune

Two major lyric theatre productions opened in the West End last week less than two hundred yards apart. One was an operatic triumph, the other under-nourished and frustrating . But the operatic coup of the month was a classsic musical at the Adelphi and the disappointment was the latest commission from the Royal Opera House. So why am I still having flashbacks to the grand guignol of Sweeney Todd while Judith Weir's Miss Fortune is already fading from my memory?  

March 22, 2012 No Comments > Read More

The Roth Revival

  With the publication of Michael Hofmann's edition of Joseph Roth:A Life in Letters by Granta and my own Wandering Jew by Notting Hill Editions, a Roth revival seems to be heartily under way. Here are the comments from the broadsheets on the latter: Simon Schama in Financial Times: As Dennis Marks points out in his brilliant little study Wandering Jew: The Search for Joseph Roth, published last year, the facts of his life are notoriously difficult to disentangle from his autobiographical inventions.

March 5, 2012 No Comments > Read More