In Review

Podcasts of the week: on Knausgaard, music and the Raj

Featuring Raj!, Our Struggle, A Life in Music and Adults, Almost

Raj! podcast

Our Struggle might be the “worst idea for a podcast ever conceived”, said John Phipps in The Spectator. In it, our two young American hosts, Lauren Teixeira and Drew Ohringer, discuss with their guests the Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard, and his “six-book memoir-cum-novel-cum-lawsuit-magnet” My Struggle.

It sounds a bit niche, but this “hip and funny” podcast has become the “breakout hit of the year in transatlantic literary circles”. Much of Our Struggle’s appeal is that it “conducts its lengthy digressions” in a quintessentially Knausgaardian way: “with a genial unconcern for either the task at hand or what anyone might think about it”.

Indeed, at times these Knausgaard podcasters seem to want to talk about everything but Knausgaard – “cigarettes, Constance Garnett, the history of literary criticism, to what extent hotness is a function of tallness” – until the only territory left uncovered is “Knausgaard himself, described only through omission, in negative outline, raising yet another cigarette to his smouldering, craggy face”.

Our Struggle podcast

It is “frankly unexpected” in these “hypersensitive” times to come across a show like Raj!, which appears to have as its touchstones the likes of The Far Pavilions, The Man Who Would Be King and Carry On Up the Khyber, said Patricia Nicol in The Sunday Times. This terrific comedy, by Meera Syal and Mark Evans, is set in “India’s deadliest province, West-by-Northwest-and-a-Tiny-Bit-East Punjab”.

Characters include the British governor Henry Snebworth, his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Scathingtongue, the province’s Maharajah Sunil and his murderous mother the Rajmata. The humour is “broad and tremendously silly”, with plenty of skewering of genre clichés. The pace is brisk, and there are lively performances, especially from Jennifer Saunders and Syal as the rival matriarchs. “Stick with it and it sweeps you along.”

The recent Radio 4 four-parter A Life in Music was a “delight”, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer. Presented by Jude Rogers, the series, available on BBC Sounds, is both a personal exploration of her own musical development, and an “intelligent and sensitive examination” – with input from musicians, neuroscientists, psychologists and others – of how music “helps us access the joys and disasters of who we are and where we fit into the world”.

Another recent Radio 4 highlight well worth seeking out is Adults, Almost, which explores the experience of lockdown for various 17- and 18-year-olds. “Lockdown was a relief… I had a GCSE Spanish oral I hadn’t revised for,” says one, Kezia, cheerfully. “Oh, they were so upbeat, even when they felt down; how lovely to hear such natural wit and delight in life.

The Week Unwrapped: Hazardous heat, nuclear fusion and divisive dieting

What does a Pakistani city hitting temperatures too hot for the human body tell us about climate change? Could a new nuclear project provide a breakthrough in clean energy? And is a ‘medieval’ dieting device really so controversial? Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters from the past seven days.

Recommended

UK summer food and drink festivals
Bakers on a stall at the Abergavenny Food Festival
On the menu

UK summer food and drink festivals

KOL: a tour of Mexican cuisine past, present and future
KOL Mexican restaurant in London
In Review

KOL: a tour of Mexican cuisine past, present and future

27 of the best hotels to discover in 2022
Spa at The Retreat at Elcot Park
In Focus

27 of the best hotels to discover in 2022

Recipe: tomato and chipotle chilli soup
Tomato and chipotle chilli soup
On the menu

Recipe: tomato and chipotle chilli soup

Popular articles

Are we heading for World War Three?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Are we heading for World War Three?

What happened to Logan Mwangi?
Tributes left to Logan Mwangi
Today’s big question

What happened to Logan Mwangi?

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?
Nato troops
Today’s big question

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?

The Week Footer Banner