Biography and memoir


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Two girls with their Cabbage Patch dolls. New York City, 1986. Photo by Leonard Freed/Magnum

Essay/
Mood and emotion
The bittersweet madeleine

It is a guilty pleasure and undergirds nationalist bombast, yet nostalgia for the past can help propel us into the future

Elizabeth Svoboda

Valparaíso, Chile, 1992. From Sergio Larrain’s Valparaiso. Courtesy of Magnum Photos

Essay/
Psychiatry and psychotherapy
Intimate strangers

By chance, I grew up without a father. As an adult, I chose to meet him. Through the prism of this event, life slowly made sense

Vincenzo Di Nicola

Albert Einstein’s original passport. Photo by Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Race and ethnicity
Identifying Einstein

For Albert Einstein, being Jewish and German were not questions of identity but rather mutable matters of identification

Michael D Gordin

Photo by Mark Cornick from the Soho Nights series

Essay/
Mental health
My psychosis

It was one terrifying, exciting night of delusions, hallucinations and paranoia. What would it teach a future psychologist?

Tom Hartley

From Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale, (v.IX, 1835-47), by Alcide Dessalines d’Orbigny. Courtesy the Biodiversity Heritage Library/Public Domain

Essay/
Illness and disease
This ragged claw

It is a crab; no, a worm; no, a wolf. Early physicians weren’t entirely wrong to imagine cancer as a ravenous disease

Ellen Wayland-Smith

Five O’Clock. Plate VII from the series Intimacies (1898), by Félix Edouard Vallotton. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago

Essay/
Love and friendship
The joy of intimacy

A polyamorous friend challenges me: are you really happily monogamous or are you just hung up about your philandering dad?

Lily Dunn

Virginia Woolf pictured at Monk’s House, Sussex, England c1928. Photo courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University

Essay/
Stories and literature
Highbrows and self-helpers

Woolf loathed it but it spurred her on. Hemingway drew ideas of manliness from it. Self-help haunted the modernist imagination

Beth Blum

The Memorial Hall, Harvard University, c1900. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Essay/
Education
Pluck versus luck

Meritocracy emphasises the power of the individual to overcome obstacles, but the real story is quite a different one

David Labaree

Detail from Woman at a Window, Waving at a Girl, by Jacobus Vrel (c1650). Fondation Custodia/Frits Lugt Collection, Paris

Essay/
Family life
Keeping secrets

All families have secrets, from the innocent to the deeply sinister. Are there good reasons to keep them under wraps?

Karen Vallgårda

Old Vennel off High Street (1868), Glasgow, Scotland, photographed by Thomas Annan from The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow. Courtesy the Getty Museum, LA

Essay/
Biography and memoir
Mistress of all trades

A campaigning journalist and an early feminist, Harriet Martineau humanised economic theory through Dickensian storytelling

Valerie R Sanders

Going to Work (1943) by L S Lowry. Photo courtesy and © The Imperial War Museum, London

Essay/
Self-improvement
The creed of compromise

Don’t throw in the day job to follow your dream. Join the bifurcators who juggle work-for-pay and their work-for-love

Thomas Maloney

Children of the followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh at the Medina Commune in Suffolk, England, in 1984. Photo by the David Reed Archive/Alamy

Essay/
Biography and memoir
The lost children

The adults who joined Bhagwan’s ashram sought freedom, love and light. Many of their children found darkness instead

Lily Dunn