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Start the Week

Podcast Start the Week
Podcast Start the Week

Start the Week


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  • Faith: lost in translation?
    Real faith ‘passes first through the body/ like an arrow’ so writes the American-Iranian poet Kaveh Akbar. In his collection Pilgrim Bell he plays with the physical and divine, the human capacity for cruelty and grace, and the reality of living as a Muslim in an Islamophobic nation. The Anglican priest and biblical scholar John Barton turns his attention to the word of God as it has travelled across the world. The Bible have been translated thousands of times into more than 700 languages. In The Word he traces the challenges of crossing linguistic borders from antiquity to the present, while remaining faithful to the original. Faith, fanaticism and fame combine in Emma Donoghue’s novel, The Wonder, now made into a film, starring Florence Pugh. It follows the story of a young girl in 1860s Ireland who stops eating, but miraculously stays alive, and the nurse sent to discover the truth. Producer: Katy Hickman Image: From the film, 'The Wonder'. (L to R) Florence Pugh as Lib Wright, Josie Walker as Sister Michael in The Wonder. Cr. Aidan Monaghan/Netflix © 2022
  • Taking a stand
    The Nobel peace prize-winner Maria Ressa is a journalist who has spent decades speaking truth to power in the country of her birth, the Philippines. She looks back at her life, and her ongoing battle against disinformation and political lies in How To Stand Up To A Dictator. She tells Kirsty Wark that although she is hounded by the state and faces threats of imprisonment, she is determined to continue fighting for the truth. Zsuzsanna Szelényi was once one of the leading politicians in Hungary’s ruling party, Fidesz, but now sits in opposition. In Tainted Democracy she charts what she calls her country’s descent into autocracy. She explores how the populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has consolidated his grip on power, reining in the media and making sweeping changes to legal and economic frameworks. In his latest three part series for BBC television, History of Now, Simon Schama looks back at the dramatic history that has played out in the decades of his own life from 1945. He explores the vital role of artists, writers and musicians in fighting for democracy and equality post-war. The series reveals the extraordinary power of art to shape the world, and the immense personal cost of creating work that dares to take a stand. Producer: Katy Hickman Image: Simon Schama in front of Picasso’s 'Guernica'. From Simon Schama's 'History of Now', Episode 1, BBC 2 (Credit: BBC/Oxford Films/Eddie Knox)
  • Perfect skin
    In art the Greek and Roman body is often portrayed as one of perfection – flawlessly cast in bronze and white marble. But the classicist Caroline Vout tells Adam Rutherford that the reality was very different. In her new book, Exposed: The Greek and Roman Body, she reveals all the imperfections and anxieties, and makes visible those who were regarded at the time as far from perfect – women and servants. The curator and art historian Katy Hessel is also challenging the accepted history in her work, The Story of Art Without Men. She shines a light on women artists, from Sofonisba Anguissola of the Renaissance, to the radical Harriet Power in 19th century America, and the women artists working all over the world in the 21st century. Throughout history the human skin has also been a canvas: permanent markings were discovered on bodies from as early as 5000 BCE. In Painted People: Humanity in 21 Tattoos, Matt Lodder reveals the often hidden artworks – and the people who wore them – to explore a changing world. Producer: Katy Hickman
  • The authentic taste of Britain
    The award-winning writer Jonathan Coe presents a portrait of Britain told through four generations of one family, in his latest novel Bournville. Set in middle England, in a suburb of Birmingham, he chronicles the years of social change post-war, and the events that both brought people together and divided them, from royal events and the World Cup to Brexit and Covid-19. The chocolate factory that features heavily in the novel, and was once at the centre of life in Bournville, has since been transformed in part into a theme park, no doubt offering an authentic chocolate experience. The journalist Emily Bootle turns her attention to what she sees now as an obsession with authenticity. In a collection of essays, This Is Not Who I Am, she unpicks the ideology surrounding the goal of ‘living our truth’ amidst the fakery of digital culture and the illusion of infinite choice. The award-winning saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch also takes a long hard look at the state of the nation for his latest album, White Juju, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. Conceived at the height of the pandemic the music is his response to lockdown, BLM, British history and the culture wars. He takes inspiration from European folklore, the African Diaspora and divisive national myths to create a unified modern tone poem. Producer: Katy Hickman
  • Building the Body, Opening the Heart
    The Pulitzer-winning oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee recalls the thrill of seeing for the first time the extraordinary ‘luminosity’ of a living cell. In his latest work, The Song of the Cell, he explores the history, the present and the future of cellular biology. He tells Adam Rutherford that without understanding cells you can’t understand the human body, medicine, and especially the story of life itself. ‘Once upon a time I fell in love with a cell.’ So recalls the leading cardiologist Sian Harding, when she looked closely at a single heart muscle cell, and she found a ‘deeper beauty’ revealing the ‘perfection of the heart’s construction’. In her book, The Exquisite Machine, she describes how new scientific developments are opening up the mysteries of the heart, and why a ‘broken heart’ might be more than a literary flight of fancy. The prize-winning science fiction writer Paul McAuley was once a research scientist studying symbiosis, especially single-celled algae inside host cells. He has since used his understanding of science to write books that ask questions about life on earth and outer-space, and about the implications of the latest cutting edge research, from nanotechnology to gene editing. His 2001 novel The Secret of Life, which features the escape of a protean Martian microorganism from a Chinese laboratory, has just been reissued. Producer: Katy Hickman

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