Arts and Entertainment The loss of happiness: Giacomo Leopardi

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

Edward Upward: Writer of politically charged novels and short stories who was a contemporary of W.H. Auden

The death of Edward Upward at the age of 105 breaks the final link with that extraordinary group of left-wing writers who dominated English literature in the 1930s.

The Father of Locks, By Andrew Killeen

WH Auden wrote that the central plot idea of the detective story is to threaten, then restore, the Golden Age. One of the strengths of Andrew Killeen's powerful historical thriller is that the Golden Age on display is one alien and yet terribly familiar: the Baghdad of Harun al-Rashid, as remembered through the lens of the Thousand and One Nights. Abu Nuwas, the detective here, is both one of the most important of Arabic poets – he wrote in Arabic, but was Persian by birth – and a character who recurs in several tales of the Nights. He was famous both for deep knowledge of the Koran, and for the way his verse subverted both classic forms and religious language to celebrate drinking, bisexuality and falconry: a sometimes licensed, often imprisoned dissenter from a regime which used orthodoxy as a tool of statecraft.

Mirren brings stage to silver screen

Oscar-winner to star in Racine's 'Phaedra' as National Theatre broadcasts live theatre to 150 cinemas worldwide

What's the meaning of life? Enrol at the School of Life and you might find the answer...

Want to know how to love? Or find a better job? There's a new one-stop philosophical shop which claims it can help. Here, its founder and star 'teachers' offer free lessons in answering some of life's Big Questions

The truth about love, Barbican, London

"Tell Me the Truth About Love": Zoë Wanamaker made the request on behalf of WH Auden at the start of this lively "journey through Mozart's operas" in the Barbican's Mostly Mozart festival. The responses were many and varied. The Auden, for instance, was met with anxious questions from Cherubino, the oversexed page-boy from The Marriage of Figaro. And speaking of raging hormones, Simon Russell Beale then proffered a letter from the young Mozart suggesting that infatuation and marriage were somewhat confused in his mind, prompting Papageno and Pamina to contemplate domestic bliss from their different perspectives in the delicious Act I duet from The Magic Flute.

'Agenda': the long and the short of excellence in poetry

If you enjoyed the recent Independent promotion of booklets on the "Great Poets", you should continue to keep at the cutting edge of poetry by subscribing to Agenda magazine. In her introduction to the new issue, editor Patricia McCarthy endorses the two kinds of art that WH Auden defined: "escape art", and "parable art" which "shall teach man to unlearn hatred and learn love". "Lauds" is another very shapely issue. Its engagement with celebrated poets is set by the sepia photographs from a private collection on the covers, confirming that Agenda always manages an original approach to even the most studied poetries.

Michael Thwaites

Poet and spymaster

Preview: Ilkley Festival, Various Venues, Ilkley, W Yorks

A forum for writers' passions

February House, by Sherill Tippins

Frolics with Miss Mess

The delicious impropriety of airport searches

John Walsh

Words; aestivate, v.

"SUMMERTIME AND the cotton is high." Du Bose Heyward did not pun in his lyric for George Gershwin's song, but it comes to mind as such amid the matted T-shirts on outstretched limbs in London's ramshackle Tube. One longs to aestivate; that is, to spend the summer in suspended animation - from Latin for summer, the equivalent of hibernation. As Bacon wrote, with an alternative spelling, "a grotto is a place of shade, of estivation".

Monday Book: Intelligentsia and the CIA

WHO PAID THE PIPER? THE CIA AND THE CULTURAL COLD WAR BY FRANCES STONOR SAUNDERS, GRANTA, pounds 20

Film: Poetry in motion pictures

Film offers endless opportunities for writers of all types of literature, so why have poets so rarely exploited its possibilities?

Pop: Live; Lesson one: the love song

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