On George Ortiz

For Olivier on his 21st birthday Olivier, your father and I have known each other since I was eighteen and he was thirty-one and I always associate him with hilarious moments. None was more hilarious than our visit to the Soviet Union which coincided with your arrival. You will …

The Songlines Quartet

In the summer of 1986 I completed my book The Songlines under difficult conditions. I had in fact picked up a very rare fungus of the bone marrow in China. Certain I was going to die, I decided to finish the text and put myself into the hands of doctors.

In Natasha’s Trunk

About three years ago, there appeared in The London Review of Books an article by Michael Ignatieff describing a visit, with his father, to the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow to find the grave of his “Uncle” Alyosha, a czarist officer and later general in the Red Army. Ignatieff’s name was, …

The Lizard Man

About twenty years ago, while foolishly attempting to write a general theory of migration, I first heard of the labyrinth of invisible pathways that meander across Australia, serving as trade routes and bush telegraphs to link the most far-flung tribes. To Westerners, they are known as “Songlines” or “Dreaming-tracks”: to …

The Album of Donald Evans

On the night of the twenty-ninth of April, 1977, a fire, sweeping through a house on the Stadhouderskade in Amsterdam, caught the American artist Donald Evans on the staircase and burned him to death. He left behind him, scattered among collections on both sides of the Atlantic, several thousand miniature …

An Aesthete at War

On June 18, 1940, Mr. Churchill ended his speech to the Commons with the words “This was their finest hour!” and, that evening, a very different character, in the gray officer’s uniform of the Wehrmacht, sat in the Duchesse de la Rochefoucauld’s study at the Château de Montmirail. Her uninvited …

Variations on an Idée Fixe

Admirers of King Solomon’s Ring and Man Meets Dog will be relieved that Konrad Lorenz has reverted to his earlier vein. His last two books must have been a bitter disappointment, even to those who accepted On Aggression as a work of oracular significance. One of them, entitled Behind the …