Rosemary Hill: Unhappy Ever After

A marriage that makes a good end to a comedy will often make as good a beginning to a tragedy. If any couple bore out that maxim it was Annabella Milbanke and George Gordon Byron. The ‘happy’ chapter lasted barely 24 hours, the ‘ever after’ is with us still.

Letters

The letters page from London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 12 (21 June 2018)

David Thomson: ‘Vertigo’ after Weinstein

It isn’t just that Alfred Hitchcock was devious, a fantasist, a voyeur and a predator. It isn’t just that no matter how many Harvey Weinsteins are exposed, it could never be enough to deliver justice to those who have been wronged and exploited. It isn’t even that men invented and have dominated the command and control of the movies, both as art and business: that they have been the majority of directors, producers and camera people despite, over the years, being a minority of the audience. Is what Vertigo has to tell us, beyond this history of male control, that the medium itself is in some sense male? Is there something in cinema that gives power to the predator, sitting still in the dark, watching forbidden things?

David Runciman: The Last World Cup

The evidence for the premise that international sport spreads peace and goodwill has always been fairly thin: every major tournament is dressed up that way but the legacy is more often mothballed stadiums and simmering resentment, as was the case after South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. Rarely, though, has a regime so brazenly signalled its indifference to the niceties of international sport, which require at least the pretence that bad behaviour gets put on hold. As the saying goes, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, and this is the currency in which Fifa likes to trade. But Putin isn’t having any of it. He seems to have treated the award of the tournament as a licence to try his luck.

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights

Samuel Moyn wants to reinstate socialism – which was, after all, the ‘central language of justice’ globally before it was supplanted by human rights – as an ethical ideal and political objective. This may seem like a quixotic project.

Andrew O’Hagan: The Tower

It was 1.20 a.m. The fire had travelled diagonally up the building before spreading round the north face, passing from the fourth to the 14th floor in about 15 minutes. Smoke from the burning cladding entered through gaps in the new but ill-fitting windows, and the smoke travelled from there into the common areas and the stairwell. In Flat 111 on the 14th floor, Denis Murphy, 56, dialled 999 and was told to stay inside his flat and that firefighters would soon reach him. He called his brother at 1.30 and left a message saying there was black smoke everywhere. People could have made for the stairs at that point, but they were told to stay put. And it quickly became evident that some people were trapped.

Letters

The letters page from London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 11 (7 June 2018)

Henry Siegman: An Autopsy

The two-state solution died because Netanyahu and successive Israeli governments were determined to kill it, and those who could have prevented its demise lacked the resolve and moral courage to do so. America failed in the mission it thought itself uniquely qualified to accomplish because it failed to understand that the diplomatic objective of a great power, and particularly the world’s greatest power, should not be peace, a goal that Netanyahu dishonestly embraced, but justice.

Ella George: Purges and Paranoia

When military juntas imposed martial law at least there was always the hope that a return to civilian rule would bring a reprieve. Turkey today is a deeply traumatised society. The purges and detentions are a lottery: one signatory of a petition calling for peace with the Kurds is purged from higher education, another remains precariously employed; someone is detained for getting a mortgage from a now expropriated bank, someone else who held an account with the same bank is unaffected. Turks today confront the capriciousness of arbitrary power with no recourse to anything that resembles the rule of law.

Sally Rooney: An Irish Problem

The abortion rate in Ireland will not fall if the referendum fails; it may not increase substantially if the referendum passes. But the relationship of pregnant women in Ireland to their own bodies will change, and change significantly, if the ‘Yes’ campaign is successful. I was born in 1991, the same year a Virgin Megastore in Dublin was raided for selling condoms without a pharmacist present. Two years before the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Four years before the legalisation of divorce. Twenty-seven years, I can only hope, before the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.