In this week’s TLS – a note from the Deputy Editor
NB In addition to the pieces linked below, we've also put this week's TLS diary column, NB, online, for a change . . . .
Having led the team that designed the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, J. Robert Oppenheimer emerged as the leading scientific sage of the post-war era, advising statesmen on atomic energy and urging restraint in the nuclear arms race. In 1953, though, an official inquiry concluded he was a security risk, a decision that “broke his spirit”. Daniel J. Kevles reviews a biography by Ray Monk which throws light on Oppenheimer’s beginnings as a wunderkind of physics, early left-wing sympathies, “deeply felt and lifelong patriotism” and the sense of duty he derived from his absorption in Hinduism. “After us the Savage God” was W. B. Yeats’s famous verdict after the stage premiere of Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, in 1896. The monstrous Père Ubu has for more than a century embodied all that is most grotesque in our social and political arrangements – yet he began life as a schoolboy joke at the expense of a physics teacher. Ian Pindar, reviewing a Life of Jarry, defies anyone to close the book “without a sense of sadness that somebody so rare and unworldly came to such a sorry end”; while John Stokes goes to see a new production of Ubu which manages, even now, to confront the audience with an upsetting image of itself – and ends by calling for bankers’ blood.
Bankers might not feature in The Merry Wives of Windsor but money, the possession of it, the lack of it, and how to come by it (by marrying it, for example) are very much to the point in this play, an odder and harsher work “than might be expected from a happy, sane, simple little comedy”, in Barbara Everett’s view. The citizens of Tudor Stratford, she writes in Commentary, would have recognized their own “tough good sense and rare eye for the main chance” in their Windsor counterparts. Raphael Lyne on The Tempest and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann on the Sonnets appear alongside her, to mark Shakespeare’s birthday next week.