Sam Kinchin-Smith

31 May 2024

‘The Last Days of Franz Kafka’

The coincidence of the centenary of Kafka’s death, on 3 June, and the publication of the first complete, uncensored English translation of his diaries a month before, is less straightforward than it seems. There are more obvious texts through which to tell the story of his last days.

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8 November 2023

The First Folio at 400

The chance meetings, narrow escapes and spooky coincidences that fill Shakespeare’s romances are also a feature of the histories and provenances of the 235 surviving copies of the First Folio.

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31 October 2023

A Soundwalk in Elefsina

The bay of Elefsina, the modern name for ancient Eleusis, is a graveyard for ships named after gods and nymphs. 

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19 September 2023

Play ‘The Rat’ again!

What happens when you accidentally write a perfect song? You get a measly slice of the pie, is one answer – but also, possibly, the last laugh. That seems to be what’s happened to the Walkmen: the authors, though not exactly the beneficiaries, of the New York garage rock revival’s best song.

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30 June 2023

The Singing Glaciers of Svalbard

Earlier this year, two ice cores 125 metres long were drilled out of the Holtedahlfonna icefield and flown to the Ice Memory Sanctuary in Antarctica, so that climatic history can still be traced through Svalbard’s glaciers even after they’ve disappeared completely.

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19 July 2022

In the Dreamachine

A pulsating display of white lights combines with a warmly manipulative techno soundscape and the natural rhythms of your brain to create a psychedelic, hypnagogic vision of patterns and colours that is truly subjective: ‘It’s almost as if the brain is looking at itself,’ according to the neuroscientist Anil Seth, a collaborator on the project.

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22 November 2021

A Hitch in Time

A Hitch in Time, a new collection of Christopher Hitchens’s previously unanthologised pieces for the LRB, will be published by Atlantic Books on Thursday (you can order it from the London Review Bookshop now). He kept an eye on his most ghoulish compatriots – Diana Mosley was the ‘worst and not the least bright of the “Bright Young Things”: with a vile mind and a gorgeous carapace, and with a maddening class confidence allied to a tiny, repetitive tic of fanaticism’ – but the sharpest spikes in the index come after four American names: Clinton, William ‘Bill’; Kissinger, Henry; Nixon, Richard; and, out in front if you count Joe, Bobby and Jackie O. too, Kennedy.

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1 October 2020

The outfits, my dear!

Mantel Pieces, a collection of Hilary Mantel’s contributions to the London Review of Books, is published today by Fourth Estate. Each of its 20 pieces is accompanied by a fragment of related correspondence, cover artwork or other ephemera from the LRB collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. In the introduction Mantel describes the book’s contents as ‘messages from people I used to be’, but they are consistent in at least one respect: she’s always been as wonderful a writer of letters as she is of everything else. The selection begins with the note she sent to Karl Miller after he’d published her first piece for the paper in 1987: ‘If you would like me to do another piece, I should be delighted to try … I have no critical training whatsoever so I am forced to be more brisk and breezy than scholarly.’

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14 February 2019

At the Théâtre de la Ville

Every generation gets the scam artists it deserves. To a list that includes Elizabeth HolmesDan Mallory and Billy McFarland, should we now add the name Ilya Khrzhanovsky, the Russian film director responsible for Dau, which finally opened in Paris at the end of January, and closes this weekend?

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1 August 2018

Don’t be a dick

Earlier this year, a colleague sent me a link to an announcement on Eater London that had made him 'laugh aloud as a near-parodic London 2018 food thing’: three of ‘London’s hottest restaurants’ would be joining forces for ‘one night only in Soho’ at Kiln, a Thai barbecue joint that was voted the best restaurant in the UK at the National Restaurant Awards a few months later. Chefs from Kiln and Som Saa, a Thai pop-up that crowdfunded its way into a permanent home, and sommeliers from P. Franco, would be creating a ‘standing-room-only larb bar. Guests will pay £45 on the door, there’s only one type of dish, it’s all-you-can-eat, there’ll be natural wine, and there’ll be no bookings. There will be queues.’

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