An anti-systematizer in an age of grand theories, Alexander Herzen was once as famous as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, but died in relative obscurity... more »

What's the relationship between fact and fiction in Jane Austen's novels? Janeites take pride in discovering “truths," but Austen was fond of fabrication... more »

Is psychology the key to understanding the politics of resentment, antagonism, and self-contradiction? Pankaj Mishra enjoins us to revisit Rousseau, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche... more »

How did Wallace Stevens, who lived an excruciatingly mundane and superficial life, write some of the most inventive poetry of the 20th century?... more »

Freud and women, Freud the clinician, Freud with his cigars, Freud and cocaine: Despite the vast materials by and about him, or perhaps because of them, we still don't know who Freud really was... more »

Utilitarianism and other abstract theories promise elegant solutions to life’s challenges. But difficult decisions are part of what makes ethical thought ethical... more »

To read Bernard-Henri Levy is to read about Bernard-Henri Levy as told by Bernard-Henri Levy. Now he's gone in search of the "Jewish thread" of his life. Prepare for vain excess... more »

Two cultures of women’s writing rarely mix: the lofty abstractions of Virginia Woolf and the vulgar, popular approach of Cosmopolitan. Enter Elena Ferrante... more »

When Willem de Kooning heard of Jackson Pollock’s death, he celebrated: “I’m number one.” Why do some artistic relationships nourish artists, while others tear them apart?... more »

Barney Rosset began writing a memoir in 1987. Over the years, 20 people worked on it. Result: It’s unclear not only who wrote the book, but even who it’s about... more »

With three hearts pumping blue-green blood, eight tentacles, kaleidoscopic skin, and half a billion neurons, the octopus is a distinct experiment in the evolution of the mind... more »

His name is synonymous with seduction and charm. His life was a nonstop, transcontinental parade of fornication. Why was Casanova so horny?... more »

Thanks to the CIA, the Cold War's so-called “free market of ideas” was hardly free. But weaponizing ideas is a tricky business... more »

P. G. Wodehouse was no stranger to the joys of booze. He developed his own euphemisms -- “tanked to the uvula” -- and a taxonomy of the six varieties of hangover... more »

Jonathan Swift's underwear. He anticipated anti-consumerism, anti-makeup feminism, and animal rights. He was also ahead of his time on matters of personal hygiene... more »

Sometimes the point of a sentence is to jar, sting, or offend. In that case, nothing performs quite like profanity. So why use a euphemism?... more »

Alcohol has been ubiquitous in the history of war, and stimulants have fueled conflicts since World War II. Whatever the substance, war is rarely fought sober... more »

Günter Grass was a mischief maker, a master of hypocrisy as well as of metaphor. He knew that his last work wouldn’t be his finest, but he wrote it anyway... more »

Part artist, part scientist, Andrew Solomon has written on Libya, identity, and Chinese food. His work is so wide-ranging, he seems to come from an earlier century... more »

The Holocaust historian Saul Friedländer smiled and said the right things, but his friends were not fooled. “You are incapable of emotion,” they told him. “Your soul is arid”... more »

Sensory overload. After 500 years, Bosch’s demonic art continues to confound. How to understand an oeuvre that took one observer a year to absorb?... more »

His previous novel said too much. "The true work of art is the one that says the least," he now believed; silence invites readers to imagine depth. How Camus wrote The Stranger ... more »

To consider Pablo Neruda is to raise questions about politics and poison. But, as his lost poems show, he spoke to quiet, humanistic moments as well... more »

Patrick Leigh Fermor sought both the upper crust and peasant bread. He seduced duchesses but for much of his life had no home of his own... more »

Minae Mizumura, a Japanese novelist, reflects on the possibility of sustaining literatures other than English. To work in the hegemonic language isn't always an advantage... more »

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