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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

The review as cultural bridge

Frank Kermode argued that the modern literary review offered academic writers the chance to introduce sometimes complex ideas about literature or history or art to a larger audience. All they had to do was to write clearly and not forget that learning can be a pleasure.
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Clive James (1939-2019)

Clive James knew that an unintelligent intelligentsia is a permanent feature of human history. He knew that the hard-to-read would go on being worshipped, and that writers who were merely funny, informed, and scrupulously honest would have to find their way as best they could.
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Regrets, he had a few

Jonathan Miller was famous as a comic actor, satirist, medical man, highbrow television presenter, theatre and opera director, and all-round intellectual. And yet he regretted having failed to concentrate on his medical career, telling many interviewers that he felt he had been a ‘flop’.
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History wars

History books sell, particularly if they are packaged by publishers in a way that makes them attractive to the general reader in search of enlightenment. A recent history of France has sold more than 100,000 copies – though it is not everyone’s tasse de thé.
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Why do fools fall in love?

The idea that because a person is beautiful, or handsome, she or he must be good is a trap that humans fall into time and time again. This causes a great deal of misery, but also provides material for thousands of popular songs and even some great novels.
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The Real Susan

A recent widely reviewed biography has portrayed Susan Sontag as an imperious, vain and often cruel woman who had no real friends. The Susan I knew, writes Ed Vulliamy, was not like that at all but rather a humorous, listening person who preferred to talk of others than herself.
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With the people

A new book argues that it is largely the insistence that central and eastern Europe should slavishly follow the western, free-market model that led to the success of ‘illiberal’ populism. Perhaps, but one should not forget the sins of the liberals, or the political skills of the populists themselves.
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At rest in Zurich

James Joyce died in Zurich in January 1941 after fleeing Vichy France. There is now a proposal to have him exhumed and brought back to Dublin, but there is no reason to believe he is particularly unhappy where he lies in Fluntern cemetery, listening to the roars of the lions from the nearby zoo.
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Fighting England with Knife and Fork

James Joyce, though ill-disposed to Irish establishments, had time for Arthur Griffith, the first president of the Irish Free State, who is referenced in ‘Ulysses’. This goes back in part to Griffith’s defence of Joyce’s right to have his views on Yeats’s Irish Literary Theatre heard.
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The price of everything

William Petty was one of the precursors of modern quantitative economics. He anticipated the problem of valuing human life, which is central to modern cost benefit analysis, assessing the lives of the Irish who were killed in Cromwell’s campaigns to be worth about £15 each.
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Within and Without

In 1579 Dublin’s pig-warden is Barnaby Rathe, bellman, master and beadle of the beggars. His main problem is less the escaped pigs who must be rounded up or the beggars than the slippery citizens who won't pay him for his labours. Peter Sirr on Dublin's walls.
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And back to England?

The words ‘England’ or ‘English’ appear 356 times in Shakespeare’s pre-Jacobean plays but only thirty-nine times after Scotland’s King James took power in London. Conversely, ‘Britain’ appears only twice in the Elizabethan plays but twenty-nine times in those written under James.
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Small Potatoes and Civil War

Acceptance or rejection of the Anglo-Irish Treaty was immaterial to tackling the problems facing independent Ireland. The ensuing Civil War is so iconic and so constantly referenced because our political leaders insisted it was of immense importance. But really it was not.
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Is it time?

When the destructive tendencies of global capitalism seem beyond democratic control and truth is dismissed as ideology propagated by ‘experts’, when environmental degradation has got beyond the point of no return, then perhaps it’s time for the clever animals who invented knowledge to realise they have to die.
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Orwell’s glimmer, Winston’s arithmetic

Back in 2003, Margaret Atwood suggested that the dating of the Appendix on Newspeak in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four clearly indicated that the message of the book was not entirely pessimistic. But was she the first to come to this conclusion?
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The Other Sort

Séamus Lillis was moved to apply for a job in the Northern Ireland civil service back in the 1960s by the generous interview expenses on offer. He was surprised to get the position, and surprised again when, one Friday, a superior with whom he was having lunch said: ‘I’ve ordered a steak for you.’
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Who do you think you are?

Primo Levi’s ‘If This is a Man’, published in 1947, and his much later ‘The Drowned and the Saved’ are for many the most compelling literary treatments of the Holocaust. Yet some people, particularly in America, felt that a person whose Jewish identity seemed so off-centre was not a suitable standardbearer.
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A giant leap for whom?

It is not necessarily the case that progress in science or technology will be accompanied by equivalent advances in civilisation. In the decade when an age-old dream of mankind, long thought impossible, was finally being realised, white men still refused to drink their beer from the same glasses as Afro-Caribbeans or Asians in an English pub.
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Wisdom Builds Itself a House

Sitting at a laptop, for all that our curious fingers flit across cyberspace, confines us to our private space. We need the opportunity to wander and discover and be let loose among the materiality of paper and physical buildings. Peter Sirr writes on libraries, theft and the clutches of Hades.
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On not being reached

It is more than twenty years since the mobile phone first burst - or brrred – its way into our lives. Initially, in Dublin at any rate, it was not regarded as a marvel. Rather it was customary for everyone else in the pub to stare coldly at the recipient of the call, who if he had any decency would blush and hurry towards the exit.
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