COLUMNS Women Behaving Badly

by Megan Evershed

I recently saw a tweet which read, ‘It’s actually feminist when women are horrible people.’ Although sardonic, there is a kernel of truth embedded in the joke. Characteristics and behaviour are not gendered and women are just as capable as men at being bad. This idea – which, I think, we all understand intuitively from interactions in our daily lives – is also true in literature. And who writes bad women like Leïla Slimani? The French-Moroccan author is best known for her second novel, Lullaby (Chanson douce, 2016), which tells the story of a nanny who murders the children in her care. The novel garnered great acclaim in France, where it won the Prix Goncourt, and was an international bestseller. Off the heels of Lullaby’s success, Slimani’s first novel, Adèle (Dans le jardin de l’ogre, 2014), has recently been translated into English. [read full column]

COLUMNS Poems of the British Gulag

by Alex Niven

The War Poets, and their continuing centrality in British cultural life, from GCSE syllabi to media outlets where they are often the only poetry to feature in any given year, are at the heart of a modern liberal value complex that recuperates Remembrance Day’s human factor while leaving the door open for revanchist nationalism. It is not that their poetry is bad per se – indeed Owen and Rosenberg in particular are, in their best moments, capable of truly affecting and strange writing. Yet there is something much too comfortable and comforting about their reception. The real singularity of the best World War I poetry springs from the deep realisation on the part of the soldiers in Flanders and elsewhere that they were fighting not for a tangible communal goal, like the later repulsion of Fascism in World War II, but for an obscure web of motives derived from an epochal crisis in British capitalism and imperialism. [read full column]

COLUMNS Reading the Room: On Cultural Empathies at the 2018 TS Eliot Prize Readings

by Stephanie Sy-Quia

‘Welcome to our safe house!’ Thus began the 2018 TS Eliot Prize readings, which were hosted ten days ago, as they always are, in the the most eminent of the arts bunkers stationed on the South Bank. It was a Sunday night, and the Royal Festival Hall, capacity 2,900, was full, enthralled by the booming Doncaster tones of compere Ian McMillan. This year the prize was more diverse than ever before: full gender parity had been achieved, and not one but three non-white poets were included. There was even an Irishman. They were all excellent. [read full column]