Category Archives: People

Closed borders and black weddings

PLAGUES – or, to use a more modern term, epidemics of infectious disease – pluck at our most primal fears. We have lived with them for at least 10,000 years, ever since our ancestors took up farming and built the first semi-permanent settlements. And they have always had the upper hand. They know us intimately, preying on our strengths – our sociability, our love of gossip – and turning them into weaknesses. They are always a step ahead, and once they are out, like the genie, we can’t get them back in. All we can do is limit the damage. So here we are again…

Poor advice

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 11 March 2020. To continue reading, click here.


The drift of humankind

FOR a man who spent his career illuminating the vast, dim migrations of people in prehistory, Luca Cavalli-Sforza’s life was remarkably circular. He first became interested in his major field, genetics, in the house of the geneticist Adriano Buzzati at Belluno, in the hills north of Venice. There he helped to collect thousands of flies in search of mutant Y chromosomes; and though he subsequently travelled the world to study the makeup of its tribes and populations, it was in Belluno that he died…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 13 September 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Adventurer in time

IN JULY 1962, Michel Siffre took off his watch and descended into the abyss of Scarasson in the French Alps. There, in a cave 130 metres below the surface, he set up camp next to a glacier. With a torch as his only light source, and deprived of all reminders of the passage of time, he lived underground, alone, for 63 days…

Michel Siffre










This article first appeared in New Scientist on 8 August 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Notes from underground

ON 3 November 1793, in the thick of The Terror, the porter of the disaffected Val-de-Grâce abbey in Paris took advantage of the general commotion to slip into a stairway that led into the network of tunnels under the capital, and set off in search of treasure…

This article first appeared in The Idler around 1 January 2018. To continue reading, subscribe here or hunt it down in WHSmiths or bookshops.

Nous les Français, ne devons pas oublier comment accueillir un voisin en détresse

D’ICI 2019, le gouvernement va créer 12,500 places pour les réfugiés et les demandeurs d’asile. “C’est une connerie”, dit Michel Sitbon. “On en a besoin maintenant. Avons-nous oublié, nous les Français, comment accueillir un voisin en détresse?”

Lui, en tout cas, n’a pas oublié. Le jour où le Premier ministre a dévoilé le nouveau “plan migrants”, le 12 juillet, il a reçu une famille de cinq personnes dans la librairie parisienne qui lui appartient. Chaque nuit le magasin se transforme en dortoir, accueillant les réfugiés du centre de la Porte de la Chapelle…

Michel Sitbon






Cette tribune a été publiée sur le Huffington Post France le 21 juillet 2017. Cliquez ici pour lire l’article dans son intégralité.