What We Are Reading Today: The Europeans by Orlando Figes

Updated 29 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Europeans by Orlando Figes

This is a long, involved and interesting biography of Ivan Turgenev, the singer Pauline Viardot and her husband, Louis Viardot, alongside a passionate social history of “European Culture.”

Author Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.

“Figes, who previously wrote an excellent cultural history of Russia, Natasha’s Dance, now looks at Europe (at least in part) and examines the growth in writing and publishing, popular and classical music, and painting,” said a review in goodreads.com.

“One of Figes’ themes is that art became democratized and available to the growing middle class through books that became cheaper and more widely available, the growth of postcards and photography, which made reproductions of fine art similarly available, and the concomitant increase in music — both popular and classical,” said the review.

“This is a fascinating historical biography, with an interesting historical background. With the inclusion of Turgenev, just about every author of the period is mentioned and this book,” the review added.


What We Are Reading Today: The Politics of Pain

Updated 11 November 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Politics of Pain

Author: Fintan O’Toole

This is a book about the UK exiting from Brexit. “England’s recent lurch to the right appears to be but one example of the nationalist wave sweeping across the world, yet as acclaimed Irish critic Fintan O’Toole suggests in The Politics of Pain, it is, in reality, a phenomenon rooted in the second World War,” said a review in goodreads.com.
“After the war the UK did not end up as good as they wanted to be. So they were in the European Nation but in 2016 they decided to leave it. They were seeking a new national destiny to shape a new political life and England wanted to be reborn in a new unity that was not with Europe. However, the author does not think their plan went exactly the way they wanted it go,” said the review.
O’Toole is a columnist, assistant editor and drama critic for The Irish Times.
He is a literary critic, historical writer and political commentator, with generally left-wing views. He was and continues to be a strong critic of corruption in Irish politics.