Simone Weil

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Simone Weil pictured in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Photograph: Apic/Getty Images

Anyone who has an overachieving sibling will be able to relate to Simone Weil, the French writer and mystic whose brother André was one of the most in(...)

Pointing the finger: Shame is necessary, because it enforces essential social morals. But endless shame is emotional cruelty. Photograph: Getty Images

Many of the social advances of recent years have been exercises in shame-removal. The shame surrounding unmarried motherhood, divorce and homosexualit(...)

‘When the Good Friday Agreement was painstakingly achieved I felt it had an almost poetic complexity,’ writes Michael Longley. ’You might say that today Northern Irish politics more often resemble bad prose.’ Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Two quotations – possibly (maybe even probably) the two best-known poetic references to the Troubles and peace process – are cited a number of times i(...)

A pro-Brexit activist holds a placard  outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/ AFP/Getty Images

An irony of the Brexit debacle is that it has taken the focus off major flaws in the European project. A referendum stemming from some quite justified(...)

Iris Murdoch,  novelist, playwright and philosopher. Photograph: Getty

I first read Iris Murdoch’s writing in 1999, shortly after her death and the Penguin reprint of her Booker Prize-winning novel, The Sea, the Sea (with(...)

‘Rights talk does not seem to motivate in the way that love does.’ Photograph:  Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

“All you need is love,” sang John Lennon. Fifty years later, those lyrics have fallen well out of fashion. Hate, fear and anger are the touchstones of(...)

Alan James Burns, ‘Entirely Hollow Aside from the Dark’, at Keash Caves, Co Sligo

Entirely Hollow Aside from the Dark – Alan James Burns Keash Caves, Keshcorran, Co Sligo, July 28 & 29 entirelyhollowasidefromthedark.com Don’(...)

French president Emmanuel Macron at Versailles. Photograph: AFP

‘Political parties are a marvellous mechanism . . . If one were to entrust the organisation of public life to the devil, he could not invent a more cl(...)

‘The mouthing of ludicrous untruths is regarded as requiring merely a shrugging of shoulders by way of response.’ Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

As Dostoevsky’s “idiot” would remind us, it may be beauty that will save the world, but is it impertinent to suggest that right now a more pressing re(...)

“What the hell is water?” Photograph: Thinkstock

Imagine, instead of being situated in the Louvre, the Mona Lisa was hanging on your bathroom wall. Would you have a different appreciation of it? W(...)

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