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The torment of Pasternak’s true muse

Sometimes when you read a novel, you just know that the love story at its heart has to be based on a real relationship. This takes nothing away from the author’s craft: it’s simply that the fabric he has woven is redolent of someone who has actually loved and been loved. The Russian novelist Boris Pasternak’s magnum opus “Doctor Zhivago” — which won him the Nobel Prize the Soviet authorities would not allow him to accept — is a prime example of this phenomenon. The object of its eponymous hero’s passion, Lara, seems so obviously the reflection of a great love affair.

The libertarians versus the conservatives

While libertarians and conservatives have some similar outlooks on politics, economics and culture, many profound differences have kept them apart. Attempts to bridge this gap, including Frank S. Meyer’s theory of fusionism (combining elements of libertarianism and traditional conservatism), have largely been unsuccessful.

Looking back at who Obama could have been

In the great swirl of people and ideas and the high winds of political rhetoric and journalistic overkill howling through Washington during the early days of the Trump administration, it’s hard to remember just what preceded it all — an extended period of not much presided over by a somewhat detached figure with an academic sense of irony who did no irreparable damage, presided over no catastrophes, quietly turned over the keys to the White House when the moment arrived, and just as quietly, seemed almost to fade away.

Life of the doctor who murdered innocents

I followed the Kermit Gosnell murder trial in 2013, which was covered by the local Philadelphia media, but ignored largely by the national media.

Revealing the spirit of Ike

Bret Baier’s new book, “Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission,” highlights Ike’s passing of the torch as commander in chief to Jack Kennedy as the key to opening the door to a better, more accurate understanding of Ike. Change of command in military units, large and small, is always arresting, and from president to president is unique, as we just saw again on Jan. 20, 2017.

Murder, a memory problem and justice

Commander William Monk has been haunted for many years by loss of memory suffered in an accident and that disaster has turned into a nightmare in which he finds himself facing charges of murder and a possible death sentence.

Casanova only loved once

There was never another country quite like the Venetian Republic, and there was never another Venetian quite like Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798). Con artist, poet, spy, philosopher, polymath, librarian, lecher and proud owner of one of the most indestructible egos of all time, Casanova the man is largely forgotten today while his name lives on as a generic label for chronic Don Juanism.

Related Articles

Revisiting the Romanovs' revolutionary capital

British historian Helen Rappaport, who has written memorably about Russia's royal Romanovs, here turns her attention to their capital city during the year when it ceased to be theirs.

A 1950s cattle ranch and roiling politics

April Smith's "Home Sweet Home" is based on a true story of an East Coast family that moved to the West to become cattle ranchers in the 1950s.

When a nation's secrets were not protected

Nonfiction writers on two continents have dined out for decades with books on the gaggle of British officials who served Stalin, collectively known as the "Cambridge Spy Ring." The names of Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean live in history with well-earned infamy, and the story of how they stole secret information of enormous value to the USSR is a familiar one.

China and America, and the romance of history's oddest couple

Trying to understand China has been compared to gazing into jade. Cloudy and yet softly glowing, jade, in the words of the great Japanese novelist and essayist Tanizaki Junichiro, "quite lacks the brightness of a ruby or an emerald or the glitter of a diamond. But this much we can say: When we see that shadowy surface, we think how Chinese it is, we seem to find in cloudiness the accumulated sediment of the long Chinese past, we think how appropriate it is that the Chinese should admire that surface and that shadow."

The Van Gogh that, perhaps, we didn't know

We occasionally hear about the discovery of a previously unknown artifact, such as a painting or musical composition. This revelation tends to lead to vigorous debates, disagreements and denials from experts in a particular field.

When a vaunted life and fiction converge

The very term Dame of the British Empire -- the female equivalent of a knighthood in the British gentry -- inevitably summons up a majestic figure. But there was nothing genteel about the British novelist Dame Beryl Bainbridge DBE (1932-2010).

Family troubles and war-torn London

Those people were war dead and the memory as portrayed by Elizabeth Wilhide is that of Julia and her existence in the World War II blitz of London. The scenes of what Londoners suffered in 1944 are harrowing not only for their gruesome qualities but for their chilling emphasis on how much trivia came to matter.

Where spies plied their trade in Washington

Let us show a bit of civic pride, if you please. As a center for spies and espionage, Washington and environs are the equal -- or better -- of such renowned cloak-and-dagger meccas as Vienna or Istanbul.

The flow of life in post-Brexit Britain

Autumn always arrives trailing clouds of mist and mellow fruitfulness. And melancholy, too. The harvests presage winter. Death is not far away. It is very close to Daniel Gluck in Ali Smith's "Autumn" -- whose first pages describe him washing up on a sea shore. "Is this it? Really? This? Is death?" he thinks as he spits sand from his mouth.

An exiled Kaiser Wilhelm's last days

When it comes to fictionalized portraits of real historical figures and events, generally speaking I am skeptical of such projects. With all due respect to artistic license and the benefits of unleashing a writer's imagination to enhance our understanding, it has to involve taking liberties with historical fact, which makes me uneasy.

The bumpy road to self-government in India

British military and political historian Walter Reid has written one of the most provocative original books on a well-worn subject. The bumpy road toward self-government in the Indian jewel in Britain's crown and its extraordinarily bloody achievement of independence on a scale without parallel anywhere else in its imperial history.