In this week’s TLS – A note from the Editor
Later this year the voters of Scotland will answer “yes” or “no” to the question of their independence. Campaigning by those in favour of and those against a united kingdom is well under way, the latest battlefield being the future of the Scottish pound and the reluctance of all parties in London, themselves united as on little else, to underwrite the feared extravagances of nationalism. The year of the vote has been carefully chosen by those who seek a “yes”, 2014, the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the unexpected victory of Robert Bruce over the army of Edward II, an event, as Kathryn Sutherland writes this week, which so powerfully represents “the literary imagination in politics”. The book under review is Bannockburns by Robert Crawford, which, while offering “a severely distorted picture of Scottish writing”, stands proudly in a long history of wars of words.
Calcutta’s history is better understood as written in violence, beginning, as Siddhartha Deb argues, with thuggish British tax collectors, and passing through, inter alia, liberation, communism and an influential fashion for burning trams in the streets. Deb is reviewing Amit Chaudhuri’s account of two years in a city struggling with the modernity that the author “loves so much”, increasingly divided between the well-walled rich and the farcommuting poor.
Chris Woolgar looks at the British wars in India as background to the organization required to defeat Napoleon. The campaign against Tipu Sultan in 1799 gave Colonel Wellesley both the booty and the experience of command that made him Duke of Wellington.
“Sex and philosophy have always existed in close but perilous proximity”, declares Nicholas Vincent at the start of his review of The Letter Collection of Abelard and Heloise. A twelfth-century correspondence between two intellectual lovers, a teacher and his pupil who became castrato and nun, has been the basis of many a romantic fiction. In this 800-page critical edition, edited by David Luscombe and translated by Betty Radice, Heloise’s language, even when kneeling at mass, is “startlingly explicit”.