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's 'First Lady' Valérie Trierweiler sends letter to her employer Paris Match threatening legal action if they print photos of her in a bikini

It was the snap that France’s celebrity glossies had been waiting for - the presidential couple in their smalls on their summer break.

Governor of al-Qunatara city Riad Hijab – 7 August: During his stint as Governor of the city of Latakia, Hijab oversaw regime crackdowns in the early days of last year’s uprising before being appointed Prime Minister less than two months ago. A Sunni Muslim from the Deir al- Zour area of eastern Syria, he (and his nine siblings, as well as their families) was smuggled into Jordan – a huge
blow to the Syrian regime

Robert Fisk: Riad Hijab defection drives wedge into fractured party

The increasing defection of Sunni figures drives a wedge into an already fractured Baath

Francois Hollande thanks David Cameron for 'rolling out the red carpet' for French athletes to win Olympic medals

President Francois Hollande has had a dig at David Cameron by jokingly thanking Britain for "rolling out the red carpet" for French athletes to win Olympic medals.

Hundreds join pro-abortion rally in Madrid

Hundreds of people joined a demonstration in Madrid yesterday against the government's plans to make it harder for women to get abortions.

On the left, Emma Reynolds and, right, Axelle Lemaire: the two became friends while working in Parliament

Entente féminine that binds UK and France

Cross-Channel friendship fosters a centre-left alliance

Francois Hollande welcomes Ed Miliband to Paris

Labour leader Ed Miliband today said that “the tide is turning” on austerity economics.

Senior regime figures reported to have been killed in yesterday’s blast in Damascus include Dawoud Rajha, Syria’s Defence Minister, shown, second from right, at a ceremony with President Assad last October

Robert Fisk: Syria rebels will not claim their greatest prize

The appalling scenes in Syria begin to reflect the barbarism of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia

Peugeot set to slash 8,000 jobs

The struggling French car maker Peugeot Citroën yesterday launched a drastic cost-cutting plan to slash 8,000 jobs in France and close a factory north of Paris, as it faces diving sales in crisis-hit southern Europe.

Archie Bland: Cameron would do better not to take sides in future

It's embarrassing enough to be overheard being rude about your neighbour if it's just the guy from down the road when you're mouthing off in the pub. Consider how much worse for David Cameron.

France unveils a £5.8bn tax take from wealthy and big firms

France's new Socialist government announced a raft of tax rises worth €7.2bn (£5.8bn) yesterday, including heavy one-off levies on wealthy households and big corporations, to plug a revenue shortfall this year from feeble economic growth.

Antonis Samaras has become the new Prime Minister of Greece after his New Democracy party won 30 per cent of the vote in last Sunday's election

Antonis Samaras sworn in as head of three-party coalition government

Greece got its first elected prime minister for eight months yesterday as the conservative leader Antonis Samaras was sworn in at the head of a coalition government.

Greek conservative leader Antonis Samaras calls for broad coalition

Europe looked on with wary relief as Greek conservative leader Antonis Samaras launched coalition talks after winning elections following weeks of uncertainty over whether the country could remain in the eurozone.

Marine Le Pen seeks French poll recount

The leader of France's main far-right party said today that she is demanding a recount after her razor-thin loss to a Socialist in northern France as part of nationwide legislative elections.

Marion Marechal-Le Pen at a voting station in Mazan, near Carpentras

Hollande secures grip on power with assembly victories

National Front leader Marine Le Pen fails in her bid to enter French parliament

French voters set to elect new parliament

French voters are choosing a new parliament that will determine how far Socialist president Francois Hollande can go with his push for government-sponsored stimulus around Europe.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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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
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

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
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there