The eternal sunshine of a far from spotless mind


John Martin's biography of Jonathan Swift is a brilliant dissection of the man who wrote Gulliver's Travels. By Edward O'Hare.

The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard once said that the life story of Jonathan Swift is an archetypal tale of human folly: in his youth he worked to build an insane asylum, in old age he was an inmate in one

But there was nothing normal about Swift’s life, as The Man Himself, John Martin’s rambunctious new biography shows.

The challenge of playing Beckett

Michael Gambon’s performance in Krapp’s Last Tape is a reminder that, just like any other playwright, it is the performances of great actors that give his words life. Politico looks back at the many talents who have risen to the challenge of playing Beckett. By Edward O’Hare.

In December 1957 Samuel Beckett tuned in his radio to hear a broadcast of his novel Molloy on the BBC. What he heard unnerved him. Reading Molloy was the Irish actor Patrick Magee whose distinctive tones were exactly those of the voice he had heard inside his head when composing the novel.

Recycling is big business

RX3, Ireland’s first ever conference on recycling industries and initiatives, was held in Dublin recently. Politico went along to hear the key-note speaker,the founder and CEO of Terracycle and America’s foremost eco-capitalist Tom Szaky, talk about his revolutionary concept: recycling as big business. By Edward O’Hare.

Anna Politkovskaya: The Crusader

Nearly four years after the murder of the renowned Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya we can at least gain a better understanding of the intense dedication that motivated her. By Edward O'Hare

Politkovskaya was the great chronicler of the crimes perpetrated by the Russian state. From the plight of those whose lives were devastated by Russia’s brutal military activities to the testimonies of the victims of its corrupt government authorities, Politkovskaya was determined to provide a mouthpiece for everyone who had suffered at the hands of Vladimir Putin.

Shades of Gray

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is the 2010 Dublin: One City, One Book. As a citywide celebration of the novel begins, Politico spoke to Trinity College English Literature lecturer and Wilde expert, Dr. Jarlath Killeen about its origins, reception and the hidden sides of its author it reveals. By Edward O’Hare.

Undying Infamy

The Picture of Dorian Gray must be the only novel in English with its own rules. The first chapter is preceded by a set of aphorisms which tell the reader as much about the mind of its author, Oscar Wilde, as they could want to know. No true artist, Wilde insists, has ethical sympathies as they are ‘an unpardonable mannerism of style’ There can be ‘no such thing as a moral or immoral book,’ because for a real artist vice and virtue are merely artistic materials. In this way, Wilde believes that all art is useless and yet we admire it intensely. But our love of art comes with danger.

Why equal societies almost always do better

The Spirit Level, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, confirms that many modern societies are social failures. By Edward O'Hare.

Where has the world gone wrong? These days you don’t have to be a vigilant monitor of current affairs to know that the rates of crime, anti-social behaviour, drug-use, and physical and mental ill-health are rising steadily throughout the developed world. Neither do you have to be an acutely sensitive individual to notice a coldness, an unfeeling disregard, has crept into everyday life.

Elementary, Mr. Coelho

It was the Greek Philosopher Empedocles who, in the 5th Century BC, proposed a theory of reality based on the four natural elements. He believed that all things were a combination of water, earth, air and fire and held that the entire universe could be understood only as a limitless conglomeration of these basic elements. Fast-forward 25 centuries and Paulo Coelho, one of the all-time best-selling novelists and the spiritual guru of millions, has used this elemental theory as the foundation for Inspirations, his second spicy anthology of favourite extracts from world literature.

Making Our Minds Up

Every day we make thousands of decisions. From figuring out whether to have strawberry or apricot jam on our toast to deliberating whether or not to propose marriage, we shape our lives through the choices we make. How we actually make decisions, the variety of factors brought into play and the sections of the brain that are activated, is a mystery that has preoccupied thinkers since ancient times. Only now, with the incredible strides neuroscience has made in recent years, are we close to reaching a solution to this perennial enigma. 

The romantic radical

In January 1814 a little known journalist was sent to review Edmund Kean’s first performance as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice at London’s Drury-Lane Theatre. Overnight the review catapulted the critic, William Hazlitt, to the status of a national celebrity. Hazlitt then embarked upon one of the most illustrious and controversial of literary careers. Duncan Wu has now chronicled the turbulent life of this brilliant man of letters in William Hazlitt: The First Modern Man.