Arts and Entertainment The loss of happiness: Giacomo Leopardi

This extraordinary 'mish-mash' opens up the creative workshop of Italy's great Romantic poet

Tim Lott: Like it or not, we've just lived through a week we won't forget

Empty skies and Cleggmania were bolts from the blue. What do they presage?

First Night: University Challenge Final, BBC2

Guttenplan's star performance seals coveted trophy

Book Of A Lifetime: Letters, By Gustave Flaubert

I am, alas, to all intents and purposes, and to my eternal shame, an utterly uneducated, ignorant monoglot. I barely even speak English: I speak Essex. In my mind I sound like Daniel Barenboim delivering the Reith Lectures, or Garrison Keillor, rolling on with another Prairie Home Companion, or Seamus Heaney reciting, or Robin Lustig on the World Service, or WH Auden at the Royal Festival Hall sometime in the late 1960s. But when I speak, I sound like Joe Pasquale. I crush the language.

Cock, Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London

A brilliant study in bisexuality

The Habit of Art, NT Lyttelton, London<br/>Cock, Royal Court Upstairs, London<br/>Public Property, Trafalgar Studio 2, London

Alan Bennett&rsquo;s hugely entertaining drama tells us much about Auden and Britten &ndash; and just a little about the playwright

John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: lives in art, By Frances Spalding

A double act in word and image

The Habit of Art, Lyttelton, National Theatre, London

Bennett the maestro returns with a multi-layered masterpiece

A very English playwright: The return of Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett stages his first play for years this month, at the National Theatre. Paul Taylor, who has met him many times, looks at how the butcher's son from Leeds became Britain's best loved playwright, and tries to unravel his complex personality

The Truth About Love, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House

Four talented Jette Parker Young Artists, three song cycles, one very familiar canvas – life, love, loss. The devisor and director of this somewhat overcooked confection, Jose Dario Innella, subtitled it "Dramatic ruminations over Schumann, Britten, and Ebel song cycles" and therein lay the problem: too much rumination. Directed to within an inch of its life, the title – The Truth About Love - is drawn from the most familiar of Britten’s Cabaret Songs whose stanzas are scattered like discarded one-liners throughout the evening

The Truth About Love, Royal Opera House, London

Four talented Jette Parker Young Artists, three song cycles, one very familiar canvas – life, love, loss. The devisor and director of this somewhat overcooked confection, Jose Dario Innella, subtitled it “Dramatic ruminations over Schumann, Britten, and Ebel song cycles” and therein lay the problem: too much rumination. Directed to within an inch of its life, the title – The Truth About Love - is drawn from the most familiar of Britten’s Cabaret Songs whose stanzas are scattered like discarded one-liners throughout the evening.

Bennett and Gambon to form dream team

Alan Bennett, arguably Britain's greatest living playwright, is to team up with Michael Gambon, one of the best actors of a generation, in the National Theatre's new season.

'Shrine' set up for doomed postbox

A doomed postbox due to be removed by Royal Mail has been turned into a shrine by Bristol residents mourning its impending loss.

Peter Davidson: In the changing of the light we glimpse the true meaning of 'north'

The more you think about the word "north" the more that it seems a term which will always be relative. There are always other norths beyond the north you inhabit, until eventually you come to the unnegotiable north of the icecaps and the pole. Proverbially "north" is an unstable idea, an idea that moves away from you, eludes you. "North" is so often "north of here", receding and shifting and passing out of reach. North is so often north of where you stand. Of all geographical terms, it is the most personal, the most emotional, the most elusive. And the one which evokes perhaps the most powerful feelings.

Boyd Tonkin: Time to gather the daring books of May

The Week In Books

Is this the end of the line for trainspotters?

Rail enthusiasts face ban from platforms
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Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

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Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

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Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

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A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

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Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

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A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

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A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

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A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

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Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

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Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

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Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

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Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

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