We live in an age obsessed with self-image. Technology has made the ‘selfie’ a ubiquitous form of social currency. Renaissance means may have been very different, but celebrity artists in Medici Florence dealt with many of the issues relating to identity and authorship that we grapple with today. Maria Loh, author of Still Lives: Death, Desire, and the Portrait of the Old Master, talks to Five Books about the curated self.
The former foreign correspondent takes us on a gloriously anecdotal ramble through the history of war reporting, espionage and journalistic half-truths, and recalls his encounters and friendship with “the third man” Kim Philby
The traumas of the 20th century hit Eastern Europe hard – a region of changing borders, uncertain identity, and shattering of moral norms. The journalist and communism expert selects books that capture the spirit of the age
Writing in the first person doesn’t have to be inward-looking or egotistical, says the author of The Snow Geese. He tells us about his favourite autobiographical works that use the first person to look out into the world
The historian and China specialist says that to get a real sense of the country you need to focus on individuals and their stories. Here he chooses five books that draw on China’s long tradition of biographical writing