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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Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
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Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
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The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
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Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
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Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
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Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
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Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
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peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit