In this week’s TLS – A note from the Editor
“Impossible to stifle a whoop of joy on hearing that Alice Munro had won the Nobel”, writes Ferdinand Mount at the start of his selection for our Books of the Year. That is a view, one of many I am pleased to say, in which the previous Editor of the TLS and his successor concur. There is rarely a clear winning choice among our heterodox band of critics but Munro edged her way to first place in 2013 by taking the votes of Beverley Bie Brahic and Ruth Scurr too. It is always good for readers to see on these lists the books that they have already enjoyed: so it was a pleasure for the Editor that at least one vote, that of Jonathan Bate, went to Under Another Sky, Charlotte Higgins’s scholarly travelogue through Roman Britain; and another, that of Roy Foster, for Colm Tóibín’s novel The Testament of Mary. The selections also provide reminders of books intended for reading earlier in the year but somehow forgotten by its end: my sharpest prods are from Margaret Drabble’s choice of Antonio Pennachi’s The Mussolini Canal and Peter Green’s vote for Elizabeth Donnell Carney’s Arsinoë of Egypt and Macedon. Every reader of the TLS, I hope, will find similar pleasures.
It does not seem likely that any of Frederic Raphael’s friends will get a seasonal gift of The Collaboration: Hollywood’s pact with Hitler by Ben Urwand. Why, the author asks, did powerful Jewish movie executives do deals in the 1930s with the most anti-Semitic regime in history? The likeliest answer, replies Raphael, comes in the “old Jewish joke which ends with the tagline ‘Please, do you have another globe?’” Hollywood was for hits; for messages there was Western Union.
Daniel Mendelsohn considers the lifetime attraction to Alexander the Great felt by Mary Renault – a novelist whose time in South Africa led her to the conclusion that less evil was done by conquerors of earlier ages, who needed no moral justification for war, “no need to work up hatred”. Prejudice of a different kind is at the heart of Renault’s reissued classic The Charioteer, which, as Jonathan Keates notes, “was unquestionably fuelled by the author’s anger and despair” at the persecution of homosexuals.