Ritchie Robertson

Ritchie Robertson, a fellow of St John’s College, Oxford, has published books on Kafka and Heine.

War on the Palaces!

Ritchie Robertson, 19 October 1995

When the 23-year-old Georg Büchner died of typhus in February 1837, his acquaintances knew him mainly as a brilliant medical scientist who had just been appointed to a lectureship in anatomy at the University of Zurich, and as a revolutionary whose attempts to stir up revolt among the peasants of his native province of Hesse had obliged him to flee Germany and pursue a career in exile. Of his three plays, only one – his tragedy of the French Revolution, Danton’s Death – had been published, and that only in mutilated form, with its obscenities toned down. His ironic comedy Leonce and Lena appeared only after his death, while Woyzeck, the first – and for some fifty years, the only – working-class tragedy in German, could not even be read until 1879, when it became technically possible for Büchner’s first editor to restore the faded ink of the manuscript. In addition there is an astounding short story, ‘Lenz’, that takes an actual 18th-century dramatist and follows his decline into insanity and atheism; there are scientific texts, including reflections on the order to be found in Nature; extensive notes on his philosophical reading and a body of letters to his family, friends and fiancée. Büchner, it seems, packed a lifetime of intense experience into very few years.’’

Your issue of 13 May contains a poem by Tom Paulin called ‘Newland Park’ which is clearly about Philip Larkin in old age. In it Paulin calls the safely dead Larkin a ‘randy louse’; speculates pruriently about his sexual relations with a woman who, I believe, is still alive; alleges on grossly insufficient grounds that Larkin hated his next-door neighbour; and takes the opportunity to show off...

Museums – and great art – were understood to give pleasure as well as instruction. The Enlightenment was concerned with the pursuit of happiness, not just for oneself but for everyone. The philosophes...

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Impossible Wishes: Thomas Mann

Michael Wood, 6 February 2003

‘He has enormously increased the difficulties of being a novelist.’ Perhaps only a writer of very High Modernist tendencies would take this remark as a compliment, but Thomas Mann...

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What did Freud want?

Rosemary Dinnage, 3 December 1992

The sharpest comment in Freud’s Women – a huge book, but consistently readable – comes at the end. It would be eccentric, say the authors, to conclude after five hundred-odd...

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