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Since the global financial system blew up in the autumn of 2008, the novelist and journalist John Lanchester has been one of the most reassuring and lucid guides to the baffling and often numbing idiolect spoken by the erstwhile “masters of the universe”. In a series of articles for the London Review of Books and then in his 2010 book about the crisis, Whoops! Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay, Lanchester patiently explained (to those of us who thought we knew but were afraid to try to explain why—in public,…

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