David Gilmour

David Gilmour’s books include biographies of George Curzon and Rudyard Kipling and, most recently, The British in India: A Social History of the Raj.

‘Certain families,’ Kipling wrote in his story ‘The Tomb of His Ancestors’, ‘serve India generation after generation as dolphins follow in line across the open sea.’ It was common indeed for three generations of the same family to spend their careers in India; often it was four, sometimes five, occasionally six. A number of Britons (or Anglo-Indians as they...

Ariel the Unlucky

David Gilmour, 5 April 1990

1982 was a critical time for the authors of all four of these books. It was the year of Ariel Sharon’s most sanguinary foreign venture, which ended in massacre, failure, and a measure of disgrace. For the Israeli novelist Amos Oz, it was the year ‘the Land of Israel’ died in Lebanon, while for him personally it aroused feelings of alienation, the sense of being an exile in his own land. For Thomas Friedman, a Jewish American journalist, the refugee camp atrocities produced ‘something of a personal crisis’ and tore away ‘every illusion’ he had ‘ever held about the Jewish state’. And for Robert Fisk, who no longer had illusions about that or anything else, it was a year in which he escaped death a score of times and lived to produce some of the most memorable journalism of the decade.

Gentlemen’s Gentlemen

David Gilmour, 8 February 1990

Novels dealing with childhood memory are frequently said to be ‘Proustian’. Those describing the decline of an aristocracy are likely to be labelled ‘Lampedusian’. The people responsible for these ugly, usually unsuitable adjectives are sometimes reviewers but more often the culprits are publishers. A successful novel from last year was described on the cover as reminiscent of Lampedusa, chiefly because it took place in a part of Southern Italy (as it happens, the wrong part).

Felipismo

David Gilmour, 23 November 1989

Camilo Jose Cela, the recent Nobel Prizewinner, remarked a few years ago that Spain remained ‘excessive’ in all things. ‘This country either destroys you or it puts you on its altars.’ Spanish excesses, the contrasts of landscape and architecture, the sensuality and austerity that exist side by side, often in the same person, have long appealed to outsiders. So have the mysticism and irrationality, the violence of politics, the idealism and barbarism of the Civil War. ‘Spain is different,’ said the Francoists in justification of their denial of human rights and democratic principles: it was not suited to representative government. Everyone else disagreed, rightly, while at the same time hoping that the country would retain its differences. Spain’s contrasts and contradictions were too interesting to be sacrificed for the sake of European conformity.

Opportunities

David Gilmour, 1 June 1989

Hitchens was right to go West. He needed lusher plains of political corruption across which to spread himself. He needed a country of wide horizons and myopic international vision. And he needed an administration of almost limitless power and quite exceptional stupidity. Then he could be happy, indulging in the lethal, jugulating kind of journalism at which he excels.

So Much to Hate: Rudyard Bloody Kipling

Bernard Porter, 25 April 2002

Kipling is an easy man to dislike. He wasn’t much loved in his own time, apparently, even by people – schoolmates, for example, and neighbours in Vermont – with whom he thought...

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Dear George

Jonathan Parry, 22 December 1994

A building inhabited by George Nathaniel Curzon became a building with a history – one written by himself. Envisaging his own presence there as the latest episode in a colourful pageant of...

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Homage to the Provinces

Michael Wood, 28 May 1992

The funicular railway takes you to the top of the mountain with the strange name: a nonsense word, a child’s burble, Tibidabo. You see the city of Barcelona spread out beneath you; beyond...

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Auchnasaugh

Patrick Parrinder, 7 November 1991

David Craig has an unfashionable concern with truth-telling in fiction. In his earlier role as a literary critic, he wrote a book called The Real Foundations in which he showed how some of the...

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Villa Lampedusa

Marina Warner, 5 January 1989

In The Leopard, the prince embraces Angelica at the moment of her engagement to his nephew Tancredi, ‘and he felt as if by those kisses he were taking possession of Sicily once more, of the...

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It’s as if he’d never existed

Anthony Pagden, 18 July 1985

As Franco lay dying in the winter of 1975 wild conjectures circulated in Madrid as to what would happen when the old dictator who had already been twice rescued from what had looked like certain...

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Permission to narrate

Edward Said, 16 February 1984

As a direct consequence of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon an international commission of six jurists headed by Sean MacBride undertook a mission to investigate reported Israeli...

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