Richard Mayne

Richard Mayne is the author of The Recovery of Europe. He was awarded the Scott Moncrieff Prize for his translation of Jean Monnet’s Memoirs. He has worked for the European Community since 1956.

These are intolerable: A Thousand Foucaults

Richard Mayne, 10 September 1992

Dryden’s gibe at the brilliant but wayward second Duke of Buckingham could be applied, with reservations, to Foucault:

A man so various, that he seemed to be

Not one, but all Mankind’s Epitome.

Stiff in Opinions, always in the wrong;

Was everything by starts, and nothing long.

He was certainly just as volatile. In his twenties a Stalin-quoting Communist, he later blamed the CP for...

Unmasking Monsieur Malraux

Richard Mayne, 25 June 1992

‘He’s the one great epic novelist of the revolution to come that never came.’ ‘All of a sudden, after the war, his novels seemed to me to have no literary value whatsoever,’ ‘I find them naff.’ ‘In L’Espoir he is immersed in the action and that makes his art great,’ ‘He was a fake: he always pretended to be what he was not.’ ‘He was in love with danger, with adventure,’ ‘He was one of the most religious men I ever met.’ ‘He was always speaking about fraternity, about the masses, but no – he was an aristocrat: he was deeply an aristocrat, a man of the élite.’ ‘I think probably from his childhood, which he hated, he had to forge a sort of mask. He needed that.’’’

Seven Euro-Heresies

Richard Mayne, 26 March 1992

A French friend, puzzled by Britain’s behaviour in the European Community, recently resorted to an alarming metaphor. ‘It’s as if you had boarded the plane without checking where it was bound for – and now you keep trying to divert it, or jump out in mid-air.’’

Gangsters in Hats

Richard Mayne, 17 May 1984

One minor pleasure of growing up is being allowed to buy sweets ad lib. The same applies to thrillers and detective stories. But there’s a difference. Few dieticians or gourmets would recommend or gravely evaluate competing brands of candy: yet ‘popular culture’ – including comic strips, trash films, junk videos, and rock music – is reviewed and criticised nowadays alongside opera, chamber music, paintings, novels, poems and plays. The main reason is probably media hype. A second is nostalgic self-indulgence – finding pretexts not to put away childish things. A third, perhaps, is semantic slippage, eliding the difference between ‘a culture’, in the anthropological sense, and ‘culture’ tout court. When millions enjoy something, the interest it arouses need not be aesthetic. George Orwell saw propaganda in boys’ weeklies and ‘the worm’s-eye view of life’ in seaside postcards. He was hardly concerned with Frank Richards as a novelist or (despite his essay’s title) the art of Donald McGill.–

President François Misprint

Richard Mayne, 1 April 1983

Mitterand? Miterrand? Miterand? The misprints enhance the mystery. A Socialist President with Communists in his Cabinet but a foreign policy more ‘Western’ than General de Gaulle’s. A Fourth Republic politician, mauled by disappointment, who fought back, reorganised his party, and defeated all his rivals at the age of 64. A dour, saturnine figure, heavy-browed, with a high domed forehead, firm folded lips, and eyes like wet pebbles. ‘Florentine’ his enemies called him, thinking of long knives and Renaissance alleys. His friends speak of warmth and impulsive generosity, wit and passion, behind the lonely mask.

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