291 episodes

Literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith.

The Book Club The Spectator

    • Arts
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Literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith.

    Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones: A Question of Standing

    Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones: A Question of Standing

    My guest on this week's Book Club podcast is Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones – whose new book A Question of Standing: The History of the CIA looks at the real-life story behind one of the most mythologised agencies of American power. How does the world's first democratically answerable spy agency actually work? Were all those dirty tricks, extra-legal shenanigans and attempted assassinations – sorry: "health adjustments" in the lingo of Langley – really the work of an agency gone rogue? Did the CIA fail to foresee the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Iranian Revolution, the Arab Spring and the Twin Towers – or has it been made to take the fall for political ineptitude? And what is its standing now?

    • 45 min
    Andrea Wulf: Magnificent Rebels

    Andrea Wulf: Magnificent Rebels

    In this week's Book Club podcast, I'm joined by Andrea Wulf to talk about the birth of Romanticism at the end of the 18th century. Her new book Magnificent Rebels tells the story of the "Jena set" -- a staggering assemblage of the superstars of German literature and philosophy who gathered in a small town and collectively came up with a whole new way of looking at the world. Goethe, Schiller, Fichte, Schelling, Novalis, the Schlegel brothers, the von Humboldt brothers -- and their brilliant and daring wives and lovers... their intellectual fireworks were matched by a tangle of literary feuds and hair-raising sexual complications. Here's a piece of the jigsaw of intellectual history that most British people will only vaguely know of if at all -- and it's fascinating.  

    • 47 min
    Chloë Ashby: Colours of Art

    Chloë Ashby: Colours of Art

    My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the critic, novelist and art historian Chloë Ashby. In her new book Colours of Art: The Story of Art in 80 Palettes she takes a look at how the history of colour - how it was made, how much it cost, what it was understood to mean - has shaped the history of painting. She tells me about the age-old disagreement between the primacy of drawing and colour in composition, where Goethe and Gauguin butted heads with Newton, why Matisse was so excited by red, how Titian got blurry… and how the first female nude self-portrait was, astonishingly, as recent as 1906.

    • 39 min
    Anne Weber: Epic Annette

    Anne Weber: Epic Annette

    My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Anne Weber, author of Epic Annette: A Heroine’s Tale. She tells me how she came to uncover the remarkable story of Annette Beaumanoir, heroine of the French Resistance, partisan of the Algerian independence struggle, jailbird, exile and survivor – and why when she came to write that story down she chose to do it in verse…

    • 37 min
    Allan Mallinson: The Shape of Battle

    Allan Mallinson: The Shape of Battle

    My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the historian, novelist and former Army officer Allan Mallinson. He introduces his new book The Shape of Battle: Six Campaigns from Hastings to Helmand, and tells me why everyone should take an interest in warfare - as being the most complex of all human interactions; whether war is always 'hell' for everyone involved; and how while the technology may change, the essentials remain the same.

    • 49 min
    Kavita Puri: Partition Voices

    Kavita Puri: Partition Voices

    My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Kavita Puri, whose book Partition Voices excavates the often traumatic memories of the last generation to remember first-hand the mass migration and bloody violence of the partition of India. She tells me why the story has been so shrouded in silence – there isn’t a memorial to Partition, she says, anywhere on earth – and yet how it has shaped the UK’s population and politics ever since, and she says why she believes it’s vital that empire and the end of empire be taught in every British school.

    • 39 min

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