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Since 1902, the TLS has scrutinized, dissected, applauded, and occasionally disparaged, the work of the twentieth century's leading writers and thinkers. (Many of those same writers and thinkers have been notable contributors to the paper - from T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf in the 1920s to Gore Vidal and Seamus Heaney today.) Reviewing the books that matter, examining the questions central to our culture, the Lit Supp, as it has been known to generations of readers, provides a unique record of developments in literature, politics, scholarship and the arts, and brings a unique seriousness to bear on the major intellectual debates of our time.
The TLS may not always have got it right - see, for example, some of the spectacular misjudgements of earlier years, on Eliot's Prufrock, or Joyce's Ulysses. But the hits are much more spectacular than the misses. In the course of its history the paper has earned an unrivalled reputation for intellectual rigour, impartiality - and curiosity: a reputation it keeps to this day.
The TLS's authority is acknowledged world-wide and its approach is world-wide, too. A sweep of the paper's high points of the last twenty years would by anyone's reckoning include essays by Italo Calvino, Elizabeth Hardwick, Mavis Gallant, Milan Kundera, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Miroslav Holub, Mario Vargas Llosa, Joseph Brodsky, Orhan Pamuk, Juan Goytisolo and Alberto Manguel. Major contributions to scholarship and criticism have come in the form of, for example, George Steiner's extended engagement with Paul Celan, or Julian Barnes's with Flaubert.