Back row, left to right, Stig Abell, Juno Dawson, Kit de Waal, Syima Aslam, with (front row left to right) Mariella Frostrup and Alexander McCall Smith, the BBC-assembled panel who chose a new BBC list of 100 important  novels that shaped our world. Photograph: David Emery/BBC/PA Wire

Pick a side. Obviously, the BBC’s list of “100 Novels that Shaped Our World” is terrible. All such lists are terrible. Each one generates complaints (...)

Botswana’s president Ian Khama at his desk in Gaborone, Botswana, on September 19th. Photograph: Siyabonga Sishi/Reuters
Happy 50th birthday, Botswana
  • Africa
  • September 30, 2016, 00:38

Our commemoration of the 1916 Rising invites us to reflect on other countries’ emergence from a colonial past especially when they too celebrate a sig(...)

Alexander McCall Smith: “Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party is a jeu d’esprit. It is not meant to portray anything real about Ireland, other than, I suppose, the justly celebrated Irish love of fun. There is an extraordinary view held by many today that all novels should be realistic, hard and gritty. This is a very strange view of the possibilities of the novel.” Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

It is a long time since I lived in Ireland. That was in the early 1970s, when I took up my first job, an academic post, at Queen’s University in Be(...)