Arts and Entertainment

The idea of The Great American Novel feels like an albatross around the neck of that country’s literature. Sooner or later every white middle-class male writer with any kind of reputation feels obliged to have a stab at it, usually with limited success. Eventually they think it’s time to pack away all the fun stuff like storytelling, energy and plot, and make some big state-of-the-nation address, telling people exactly how things stand in the good ol’ US of A. Interestingly, America’s women writers don’t tend to feel the obligation to grandstand so strongly, and their novels are usually all the better for that.

France set to go back into recession

France – second biggest economy in the struggling eurozone – is set to tip back into recession by the end of the year, its central bank warned yesterday.

German prosecutors charge neo-Nazis with murders of nine minorities and a police officer

German federal prosecutors say they have charged the surviving member of small group of neo-Nazis with involvement in the murder of nine minorities and a police officer.

French newspaper commentators suggested that Mr Ayrault might be on the 'slippery slope'

Attack on the 35-hour week may mean French PM not working at all

Jean-Marc Ayrault plunges government into crisis by challenging Socialist article of faith

Portugal approves austerity budget

The new tax hikes would hit Portugal's cash-strapped population in every area

Nicolás Maduro with Hugo Chávez earlier this month

Waiting in the shadow of Hugo Chavez

Behind the ailing Socialist President is a likely successor who is even more anti-American

Politics means nothing when deficits have to be cut

It's become clear that the world will take longer than expected to recover from this financial crash. Austerity, for now, is a forced hand across the EU.

Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez celebrate in downtown Caracas

President Hugo Chavez wins re-election in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez promised to deepen his socialist revolution after a comfortable election victory that could extend to 20 years his polarizing leadership of the South American OPEC nation.

Arthur Scargill: Once-powerful socialist who now cuts a rather isolated figure

In the past 25 years, there has not been another trade union leader as famous as Arthur Scargill. By the mid-1980s, there was hardly an adult in the United Kingdom who could not name the president of the National Union of Mineworkers.

France's First Lady, Valérie Trierweiler, regrets a tweet that was taken as an attack against Ségolène Royal, Mr Hollande’s former partner

French First Lady's Royal mistake

The First Lady has said she regrets a tweet that was read by many as a dig against the mother of President François Hollande's four children. Valérie Trierweiler told the regional daily Ouest-France in an interview published yesterday that the tweet was a "mistake".

The best you could say about Ed's speech? He didn't completely fluff it

There was no insight on the most important issues of the day, nor did Mr Miliband say anything of any real note for those outside Westminster village

Owen Jones: Whatever happened to Labour?

What is Labour for? If you could pay a visit back to 1899, a railway signalman from Doncaster called Thomas R Steels would certainly have been able to answer. Exasperated at the lack of a political voice for working people while the wealthy had the Tories and Liberals to stand their corner, he drafted a resolution for his local union branch. It called on the Trade Union Congress to assemble a conference with the support "of all the cooperative, socialistic, trade union and other working-class organisations" to look at how it could win "a better representation of the interests of labour in the House of Commons".

Moment of truth for Hollande as government unveils €30bn of increased taxes and spending cuts

An increasingly unpopular President Francois Hollande faces a moment of truth today when his government unveils €30bn of increased taxes and spending cuts in an attempt to honour France's deficit-cutting commitments for next year.

Review Round-up: J K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy

As of 8 a.m. this morning, the most anticipated book of the year was available to read and review without the threat of walloping legal action. Hundreds of fans will be sneaking chapters on their loo-breaks. But has The Casual Vacancy cast a spell on critics?

Cornelius, Finborough Theatre, London

This J B Priestley play impressed the critics when it opened in 1935 but flopped after only a few weeks and has since sunk into near oblivion. 

French are tiring of François Hollande already, claims poll

For the first time since his election, Mr Hollande’s approval rating is below 50 per cent
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
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Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
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Autism-friendly theatre

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