In this week’s magazine

Christmas and New Year Special
19 December - 8 January 2014

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Jemima Khan meets her comedy hero, John Cleese

Xan Rice The family that thought they had lost their children in the tsunami – but were they wrong?

Burhan al-Chalabi argues that air strikes will only strengthen Islamic State’s popularity

CIA Report: Gavin Rees on the lessons the US should have learned from the French in Algeria

John Berger enjoys the egalitarian anonymity of public swimming pools

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett on the comforting realisation that nobody’s Christmas lives up to the adverts

*Plus our pick of the best political cartoons of 2014*



Tidings of good sneer: Kate Mossman meets Johnny Rotten

Rowan Williams on why we need fairy tales now more than ever

An exclusive short story by Ali Smith and Advent poem by Carol Ann Duffy

Tom Watson MP on his year in video games

Erica Wagner on what Breaking Bad taught us about capitalism

Author Helen Macdonald makes a winter swan pilgrimage to the Ouse Washes

Caroline Crampton on what an exhibition of the Louvre’s Egyptian treasures in Lille says about French cultural politics




Editor’s Note: Jason Cowley on the enduring rivalry of the Miliband brothers

Politics column: George Eaton on a year which neither Labour nor the Tories “won”

Helen Lewis: spare a thought for the women refugees at Yarl’s Wood over Christmas

Mehdi Hasan: a modern day Mary and Joseph would get stuck at an Israeli checkpoint

Alan Johnson’s Diary: Christmas casuals at the Royal Mail and understanding Gordon Brown

Robert Webb on Peep Show and why women should be allowed to be idiots, too

Reverend Richard Coles: Advent is not a cosy mulled-wine and candlelight refuge

Peter Wilby on the female front-runners for the Guardian editorship and Russell Brand’s outing on Question Time

Will Self visits Nicholas Lezard’s “Hovel” for a freelancer’s Christmas party

Ed Smith argues black tie isn’t about elegance; it’s a pretext for drunkenness



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