Les Murray

The death of Australia’s greatest poet has moved me deeply. In a world that can seem threatened by the bland cosmopolitanism of noisy people with little to say, Murray had a genuinely vernacular voice that expressed the perspectives of a white rural Australia (‘subhuman, redneck’) that was utterly untouched by movements of dangerous populism. He was a poet of marvellous […]

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Chris Patten’s First Confession A Sort of Memoir (2017)

Autobiography is a tricky genre and expressions of it are never to be taken at face value. The accounts politicians produce of their lives can be particularly self-serving. When I picked up this book by a senior British Tory I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be exceptionally interesting, for three reasons. The first is its compelling subject […]

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David Mitchell James’ A Psalter for Prayer (2011)

This book comprises a version of the Psalms, together with some traditional material from the Church Slavonic Psalter, beautifully presented in large type on thick paper, so that it is suitable for public liturgical as well as private devotional reading. The register of the English is sonorous and dignified, its language somehow churchy and inviting a kind of slow lectio divina. It raises some issues […]

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Andrew Louth’s Modern Orthodox Thinkers From the Philokalia to the Present (2015)

Written by one of the leading scholars of patristic and Byzantine theology who is himself an Orthodox priest, Andrew Louth’s study fills a major gap. Over the past few hundred years, Orthodox theology (in the western sense of that word) has experienced an extraordinary revival that is all too little known in the West, and not universally known in the East. It is […]

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Sylvain Tessot’s Dans les Forets de Siberie (2011)

In 2010 a Parisian author 37 years old went to live alone from February to July in a cabin at the edge of Lake Baikal, in Siberia, where he maintained diary on a daily basis, interrupted only for a spell when he needed to travel to arrange a visa. Apparently unrevised, he published these writings as a book. Wisely, he tells little of his life before he entered […]

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The Glory Days of History

There is much to be learned from a book of essays recently published by my good friend and former colleague Paul Crook, Intellectuals and the Decline of Religion (2017), which deals with a range of English authors from Newman to Joseph Needham. The first essay asks whether the theory of development in Christian doctrine expressed in a book published by Newman in […]

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