Richard Adams, Carrie Fisher, Saul Friedländer, Rudolf Virchow, Jonathan Franzen

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

How Watership Down Was Written

Miranda Johnson | 1843 | 28th December 2016

Richard Adams’s grand-daughter recounts the family lore underpinning Watership Down. “Bustling preparations for a car journey take time: the need to check on children, belongings and provisions, to make certain of the route and the vehicle. In the 1960s driving from London to Stratford-upon-Avon took three hours. For two little girls such a period could be delightful, given that their father, Richard Adams, would come up with fantastical tales en route” (1,900 words)

Leia Organa: A Critical Obituary

Malcolm Sheppard | Always Being Judged | 28th December 2016

Fan fiction. “She used the courtesy title Princess sparingly, and purely for political effect. She became a field operative managing diverse intelligence assets under the cover of diplomatic and sapient-relief travel. Before the Battle of Scarif, her missions shared intelligence with numerous Alliance cells. Her uncanny ability to predict the actions of enemies and allies alike made her essential, but the Alliance treated her warily, concerned she might manipulate its forces for her own ends” (2,050 words)

The Trauma Of The Gifted Child

Daphne Merkin | Bookforum | 28th December 2016

On the memoirs of Saul Friedländer, who became an historian of Nazi Germany after escaping the Holocaust as a child in France. “It is an odd, queasy-making search for knowledge, this hunt for more unbearable reality. As if we might give order to lawless terror by ever more refined scholarship. I’ve often wondered whether the impulse derives from something more primitive than that, a wish to stand on one’s tiptoes and peer through the keyhole of depravity, transfixed by horror” (2,600 words)

My Hero: Rudolf Virchow

Robert Sapolsky | Nautilus | 27th December 2016

When the 19C German physician Rudolf Virchow was not otherwise engaged leading a radical left-wing political party and sparring with Bismarck in the Reichstag, he “basically founded modern pathology”. He also published a “monumental cell biology text” which first named and described conditions including spina bifida and leukemia; accompanied Heinrich Schliemann on archaeology expeditions; and founded Germany’s first anthropological society. “Plus, he had one great beard” (1,020 words)

Lunch With Jonathan Franzen

Lucy Kellaway | Financial Times | 28th December 2016

First published a year ago, now ungated as the FT kindly brings its Lunch with … archive out from behind the paywall. The general drift of the conversation here, much of it pegged to Purity, is that Kellaway wants to like Franzen, and thinks he gets an unfairly bad press — but Franzen won’t make it easy for her. “His idea of himself as a truth-teller is only partly why people find him so aggravating. There is something about the man himself, and his variety of superior maleness, that also annoys” (2,700 words)

Video of the day: To Be Or Not To Be

What to expect:

Debated by Paapa Essiedu, Tim Minchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dame Harriet Walter, David Tennant, Rory Kinnear, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Judi Dench, the Prince of Wales (6’24”)

Thought for the day

People can only agree about what they’re not really interested in
Bertrand Russell

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