Category Archives: modern world, the

Not a page too long

Dalrymple writes that Joseph Frank’s five-volume, 2,400-page biography of Fyodor Dostoyevsky

is not a page too long: not merely because Dostoyevsky was a great writer (there are many great writers about whom one would not wish to read a five-volume biography), but because an understanding of 19th-century Russia, with whose problems Dostoyevsky wrestled so perceptively and prophetically, as well as wrongheadedly and idiosyncratically, is vital to an understanding of the modern world. Indeed, once you have grasped the role of the intelligentsia in late Tsarist Russia, much of what seems at first sight opaque in the modern world becomes a great deal clearer.

Why some Welshmen prefer Siam

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-20-47The evil of fridges

R.S. Thomas, Dalrymple notes,

often appeared to prefer birdwatching to human company.

Observation of the beauties of the natural world, particularly the landscape, was for Thomas

a spiritual exercise, a reminder that God has given us all that we need for a fulfilled life. No one could say that he did not attempt to live by his creed.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-20-51-38Dalrymple says Thomas carried his hatred of the modern world

to seemingly absurd lengths.

His biographer records the poet’s son as saying:

I was obliged to attend church and to listen to him drone on about the evils of fridges. It was the Machine, you see. And washing machines. And televisions. This to a congregation that didn’t have any of these things and were longing for them.

Gwydion Thomas lives in Thailand with his wife Kanjana, who describes their house on the island of Phuket as ‘Sarn-y-Plas with elephants’.

A world made for apparatchiks

The modern world is ‘profoundly uncongenial‘, writes Dalrymple.