In tribute to P.D. James

Here, in tribute to P.D. James, who died last week, is my interview with her from 2011 in which she looks back over her career.

Continue Reading · 4 December, 2014 · crime fiction, podcasts

Atul Gawande on The Checklist Manifesto

To coincide with his giving this year’s Reith Lectures, I thought I would re-release this interview with Atul Gawande from 2011, in which I spoke to him about The Checklist Manifesto and how something as simple as a checklist could have dramatic, positive benefits in healthcare.

“We have people at the frontline who have great expertise – we couldn’t have people in medicine who are better trained, working harder, or given more technology to get their jobs done – and yet the puzzle is that for many of the steps along the way, such as in surgery, we have seven million people a year globally left disabled or dead through complications. At least half the time, we know that it’s from failures to use knowledge that already exists, steps in care that could have avoided it. And so understanding how we close the gaps, not just of ignorance but, for want of a better word, what we have to call ineptitude, is fundamental.”

Continue Reading · 30 November, 2014 · history and politics, medicine, podcasts

Rafael Barajas on Mexico in crisis

In the December edition of Le Monde diplomatique, Rafael Barajas and fellow journalist Pedro Miguel have written about Mexico’s current state of crisis after the disappearance of 43 students from a rural teacher training college in September. It appears that they were handed over by the police to organized criminals who subsequently killed them.

If such horrific things are possible, then President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Mexico has become a terrorist state, Barajas and Miguel argue, concerned principally with defending the interests of those who gain from the multi-billion dollar drugs trade against the people, using violence and intimidation to make the lives of many ordinary Mexicans unbearable. ‘Beheadings’, Rafael told me, ‘have become a part of our daily news. So when I rang him in Mexico City on 25 November, I began by asking why – against this backdrop of violence and brutality – the disappearance of these 43 students had provoked such outrage.

Rafael Barajas quote

Continue Reading · 30 November, 2014 · history and politics, podcasts

Mary Bosworth: Inside Immigration Detention

“Following 9/11, the US and then the UK decided to introduce new pieces of legislation which were ostensibly aimed – at least to start with – against terrorism and concerned security. But they rapidly bled into other fields, in particular into the area of immigration. So we saw throughout the first decade of the 21st […]

Continue Reading · 4 November, 2014 · history and politics, law, podcasts

Graham Johnson on Schubert (I)

“Schubert had a response to words that is quite extraordinary. It’s the way that the interaction between words and music – which in a sense gives the song its own life – takes place that interests me. Josef von Spaun once wrote very perspicaciously that Schubert writes a poem on the poem, [by which he […]

Continue Reading · 30 October, 2014 · art and music, podcasts, poetry

Peter Carey: Amnesia on the fire escape

I’ve long yearned to conduct an author interview on the fire escape at Faber, and recently my wish came true, with Peter Carey no less. Here he is talking about his new novel, Amnesia: Peter Carey introduces his new novel, Amnesia from George Miller on Vimeo.

Continue Reading · 24 October, 2014 · history and politics, literature, video

(Nearly) two hundred years of the Old Vic

The Old Vic first opened its doors in May 1818. Back then, building a new theatre south of the river was a commercially risky venture, and the Royal Coburg Theatre (as it was originally known) was only made viable by the recent construction of Waterloo Bridge. The first night programme included a melodrama, a pantomime […]

Continue Reading · 21 October, 2014 · history and politics, literature, podcasts, theatre

Conversations with translators (II): Rosamund Bartlett on Anna Karenina

For this, the second in a series of Conversations with Translators (following my interview with Oliver Ready on Crime and Punishment from earlier this year), we stick with the Russians and turn to a new version of Anna Karenina produced by Rosamund Bartlett for Oxford University Press. This was in fact my third visit to […]

Continue Reading · 18 August, 2014 · literature, podcasts
Rainy Brain Sunny Brain cover

Sunny Brain, Rainy Brain – the science of optimism

“The core components of optimism surprisingly don’t really have too much to do with positive thinking at all. One of the major components actually is a sense of control; what psychologists have found is that optimists are people who have a sense that they’re in control of their own destiny [...] there are lots of […]

Continue Reading · 8 June, 2014 · podcasts, science and philosophy
Keith Kahn-Harris

Uncivil War: the Israel-Palestinian Conflict and the Jewish Community

  “For Jews, Israel goes very close to the heart, whether you’re a Jewish supporter of Israel or you’re a Jewish critic of Israel and of Zionism, it’s very hard to be indifferent about it. In fact, it would be very odd if most Jews were indifferent about Israel because this is the major project […]

Continue Reading · 1 May, 2014 · history and politics, podcasts, religion and belief

Anton Chekhov: About Love and other stories (an Oxford World’s Classics audio guide)

Without quite planning it, Podularity seems to have been having a bit of a Russian season of late, so I thought it would be worth re-presenting this audio guide which OUP commissioned me to produce a couple of years ago with Rosamund Bartlett, translator of Chekhov’s short stories (and also Anna Karenina (forthcoming, 2014)). Here’s […]

Continue Reading · 8 April, 2014 · literature, podcasts

Conversations with Translators (I): Oliver Ready on Crime and Punishment

I visited Oliver Ready recently at St Antony’s College, Oxford, where he is a research fellow in Russian society and culture, to hear about his five-year engagement with Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (Penguin Classics, 2014): what persuaded him to take the project on? how did he limber up for it? and why – unusually – […]

Continue Reading · 7 April, 2014 · language, literature, podcasts, translation

Rebecca Mead on The Road to Middlemarch

Rebecca Mead is an English-born, Brooklyn-based, New Yorker staff writer. I met her recently when she visited Toppings bookshop in Bath to talk about her new book The Road to Middlemarch. Rebecca’s book explores her fascination with George Eliot’s great novel, which started when she first encountered it at the age of seventeen, and has […]

Continue Reading · 4 April, 2014 · biography and memoir, literature, podcasts