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Neal Ascherson: Scotophobia, 5 April 2007

... since ‘Diana Week’ in London – a sea of red and white English flags, with hardly a Union Jack to be seen – confirmed that the St George’s Cross had become the flag of the heart for millions of English families, a symbol of allegiance which had spread far beyond the football stadiums. The future of this particular nationalism – whether it will ...

Working under Covers

Paul Laity: Mata Hari, 8 January 2004

Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War 
by Tammy Proctor.
New York, 205 pp., $27, June 2003, 0 8147 6693 5
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... goes, from two of her former lovers – the Crown Prince of Germany and the Prime Minister of Holland – were of no use. ‘Please note that I am not French,’ she said in her final statement, ‘and that I reserve the right to cultivate any relations that may please me. The war is not sufficient reason to stop me from being a cosmopolitan.’ After her ...

A Feeling for Ice

Jenny Diski, 2 January 1997

... a watery division was astonishing to me. When I was very small we went to Belgium and drove to Holland one day. I couldn’t credit the unreality of it. It was the sea that said a country was a country, not an official checking passports at a border. And where were we, I wanted to know, when the car was half-way across the line dividing Belgium and ...

Ooh the rubble

Rosemary Hill: Churchill’s Cook, 16 July 2020

Victory in the Kitchen: The Life of Churchill’s Cook 
by Annie Gray.
Profile, 390 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 78816 044 5
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... Tea, as a significant social occasion, came into its own in the 1890s. ‘Why all these cups?’ Jack Worthing asks in The Importance of Being Earnest. ‘Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to tea?’ Algernon explains huffily that ‘it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... the industry would police itself. Yet the studios capitulated one by one. Leading the collapse was Jack Warner, just four years out of Mission to Moscow, who anticipated HUAC by naming the writers he thought political activists and notifying the committee that he had fired them. Among the writers in question: Philip and Julius Epstein and Howard Koch (authors ...

Cows are more important

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘The Discomfort of Evening’, 24 September 2020

The Discomfort of Evening 
by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchison.
Faber, 288 pp., £12.99, March, 978 0 571 34936 4
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... The​ title of Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s first novel, a bestseller in their native Holland and the winner of this year’s International Booker Prize, makes it seem like an Italian metaphysical painting, perhaps a de Chirico piazza or colonnade enigmatically bathed in Mediterranean light, when in fact the book is set on a Dutch dairy farm like the one on which its author was raised ...

Out of the Hadhramaut

Michael Gilsenan: Being ‘Arab’, 20 March 2003

... of whom looks older than 25. There are banners all around the fence, one of them a large Union Jack. Thousands are wearing either Italian blue or Chelsea, Man Utd or Liverpool colours – the colours dominate the coverage on TV. After the final whistle, I’m seized by four or five enthusiastic lads in the seething crowd: ‘Inggris?’ they yell ...


Andrew O’Hagan, 14 December 1995

Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 791 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 316 87620 8
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... leave Lee Harvey Oswald, for the time being, crossing the ocean, and scribbling some lines on the Holland-America Line notepaper: ‘I wonder what would happen if someone would stand up and say he was utterly opposed not only to the government, but to the people, to the entire land and complete foundation of society.’ You might say that shards of motivation ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... congregation look sober and worthy, Gay Pride not much in evidence with the wreath laid by Thelma Holland, Wilde’s daughter-in-law, a link which vaults the century. After the congregation clears we do cutaway shots of the window, ‘the little patch of blue’, and that’s the end of our filming in the Abbey which has been going on, on and off, since last ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash, 9 March 2006

The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... Two (Luther Perkins on guitar and Marshall Grant on bass, later augmented by W.S. ‘Fluke’ Holland on drums) were mechanics, and they sounded like it. In his eponymous autobiography Cash claims that ‘Marshall and Luther limited me, it’s true, especially in later years.’ (Perkins died in a house fire in 1968; and Grant was eventually and famously ...

Browning Versions

Barbara Everett, 4 August 1983

Robert Browning: A Life within Life 
by Donald Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 334 pp., £12.95, August 1982, 0 297 78092 1
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The Elusive Self in the Poetry of Robert Browning 
by Constance Hassett.
Ohio, 186 pp., £17, December 1982, 0 8214 0629 9
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning. Vol. V 
edited by Roma King.
Ohio, 395 pp., £29.75, July 1981, 9780821402207
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. I 
edited by Ian Jack and Margaret Smith.
Oxford, 543 pp., £45, April 1983, 0 19 811893 7
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Robert Browning: The Poems 
edited by John Pettigrew and Thomas Collins.
Yale/Penguin, 1191 pp., £26, January 1982, 0 300 02675 7
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Robert Browning: ‘The Ring and the Book’ 
edited by Richard Altick.
Yale/Penguin, 707 pp., £21, May 1981, 0 300 02677 3
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... turn back to much-earlier conceived but relegated plans for a similar multi-volume edition, so Ian Jack tells us in the General Introduction to the first volume, which has just appeared, and is devoted to Pauline and Paracelsus. Meanwhile John Pettigrew’s own admirable edition in two volumes, completed and supplemented by Thomas Collins, and published by ...

Love in a Dark Time

Colm Tóibín: Oscar Wilde, 19 April 2001

The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde 
edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis.
Fourth Estate, 1270 pp., £35, November 2000, 1 85702 781 7
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... poisoned arrows buried in the feathers. The plays seem haunted now by the story of the life. When Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest says that his brother ‘expressed a desire to be buried in Paris’, Dr Chasuble replies: ‘In Paris! (Shakes his head.) I fear that hardly points to any great state of mind at the last.’ Later, Gwendolen says: ‘And ...

The Suitcase

Frances Stonor Saunders, 30 July 2020

... odds of survival. Joe’s sisters Henja and Rosalia, with Rosalia’s two young sons, stayed in Holland; Zofia took the eldest son, Edward, to Copenhagen (why exchange neutral Holland for neutral Denmark?), while Bernard managed to take Joe and another sister, Madzja, to London where they were all registered under the ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1996, 2 January 1997

... imprisoned and that I’m anxious not to be thought personally responsible for that. 26 April. To Holland for the Vermeer exhibition. Travel to Delft separately from the rest of the group, who make up a coach party. R. hopes that this expedition, which includes prominent bankers, lawyers and industrialists, all benefactors of the National Gallery, will ...

On Some Days of the Week

Colm Tóibín: Mrs Oscar Wilde, 10 May 2012

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde 
by Franny Moyle.
John Murray, 374 pp., £9.99, February 2012, 978 1 84854 164 1
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The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition 
by Oscar Wilde, edited by Nicholas Frankel.
Harvard, 295 pp., £25.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 05792 0
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... may have been informed by the symmetry of what was happening in his and Constance’s lives. Thus Jack and Algy served as versions of Oscar and Humphreys, Bunburying away when they got the chance, living for pleasure while attempting to seem responsible; Douglas and Constance were Gwendolen and Cecily, innocent and young and longing for romance. He could also ...

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