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Chianti in Khartoum

Nick Laird: Louis MacNeice, 3 March 2011

Letters of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Jonathan Allison.
Faber, 768 pp., £35, May 2010, 978 0 571 22441 8
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... the versions disagree. Writing to Dodds to apologise for a one-night stand with a mutual friend, Margaret Gardiner, MacNeice says: ‘If however I had done any celebration, I shouldn’t have imagined that she would suffer over it.’ In place of ‘celebration’ Stallworthy has ‘calculation’, which seems to make more sense. Those hoping for letters ...


Tariq Ali: The Future of Cricket, 12 March 2009

... priorities on the part of public broadcasters and, according to some, strong pressure from Margaret Thatcher, who was determined to help Rupert Murdoch build up his television empire. Within a few years there was no live cricket left on terrestrial television. Numerous addicts, myself included, were forced to admit defeat, sign the document of ...


Andrew O’Hagan: A report from Malawi, 23 March 2006

... and he found favour in many quarters – in apartheid South Africa, for instance, and with Margaret Thatcher, who once spoke of his ‘wise leadership’ – but his influence seemed bleached out by many things, not least the glare of American television, which continued to play in my mind as we reached the dusty roads. Mega-Bite Take Away, said a sign ...

Heavy Sledding

Chauncey Loomis, 21 December 1989

The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 
by Pierre Berton.
Viking, 672 pp., £16.95, May 1989, 0 670 82491 7
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Overland to Starvation Cove: With the Inuit in Search of Franklin 1878-1880 
by Heinrich Klutschak and William Barr.
Toronto, 261 pp., £17.50, February 1988, 0 8020 5762 4
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Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition 
by Owen Beattie and John Geiger.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 7475 0101 7
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... forceful and highly intelligent women, Kane’s weird affair with the famous ‘spirit rapper’ Margaret Fox. This humanising detail makes them, in a subtle way, not less but more heroic. Fallible human beings, sometimes even weak and neurotic, not romantically conceived supermen, lived through those terrible ordeals. Berton’s eye for selected detail also ...

Wanting to Be Something Else

Adam Shatz: Orhan Pamuk, 7 January 2010

The Museum of Innocence 
by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely.
Faber, 720 pp., £18.99, December 2009, 978 0 571 23700 5
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... art – ‘this outstanding novel clamours to be heard.’ ‘Essential reading for our time,’ Margaret Atwood proclaimed in a New York Times review of Snow, Pamuk’s grim, Dostoevskian thriller about Islamists and secularists clashing in north-eastern Turkey. (‘Headscarves to Die for’ was the headline.) Pamuk’s ...

Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... interested in whether Simon Raven was related to Canon Charles Raven. The character Jago in C.P. Snow’s novel sequence is said to be based on the late Canon, and I found that my ideas of Jago and the real Canon Raven were almost inextricably mixed: this made me recognise that I would find it impossible to ask James Prior about ‘Peter Morrison MP’ and ...

On Thinning Ice

Michael Byers: When the Ice Melts, 6 January 2005

Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment 
Cambridge, 139 pp., £19.99, February 2005, 0 521 61778 2Show More
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... exacerbating climate change. The first such loop is already operating, as rising temperatures melt snow and ice and expose more open water and bare ground each summer: these darker surfaces reflect 75 per cent less heat away from the planet’s surface and this means further warming, which melts more ice and snow, which ...


Antonia Fraser, 3 April 1980

The House of Stuart 
by Maurice Ashley.
Dent, 237 pp., £9.95, January 1980, 0 460 04458 3
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... epithet. The grandson of Henry VII, the nephew of Henry VIII (his mother was the Tudor Princess Margaret), he began his personal rule by polishing off the enemies of his house, real or imagined, in a burst of destruction, executing or burning to death with enthusiasm. Again, it is impossible to understand the character of Mary Queen of Scots without ...

Scotland the Bashful

Chris Baur, 18 June 1981

... accumulated behind the demand for constitutional reform disappeared like the springtime melting of snow drifted behind a dyke. The campaign for the Scottish Assembly which would have articulated Scotland’s sense of nationality actually won – but by so slim a margin that the plan itself could be wiped from the Statute Book, with the Scots themselves ...

Different under the Quill

Tom Johnson: On Paper, 12 May 2022

Paper in Medieval England: From Pulp to Fictions 
by Orietta Da Rold.
Cambridge, 270 pp., £75, October 2020, 978 1 108 84057 6
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... looking for a metaphor to describe the horse on which Dido rode to greet Aeneas, he decided not on snow or lilies, but on ‘paper-white’. This association with cleanliness may help to explain why it was often invoked in medical recipes. One 15th-century charm to reduce fevers suggested writing nine apotropaic words on a piece of paper and eating a word each ...

I scribble, you write

Tessa Hadley: Women Reading, 26 September 2013

The Woman Reader 
by Belinda Jack.
Yale, 330 pp., £9.99, August 2013, 978 0 300 19720 4
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Curious Subjects 
by Hilary Schor.
Oxford, 271 pp., £41.99, January 2013, 978 0 19 992809 5
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... me who, girlish and unlearned as I am, presume to write to a man who is the father of learning.’ Margaret Cavendish in her 1656 autobiography calls her own work ‘scribbling’ as opposed to her husband’s ‘writing’. The operations of this cultural cringe are intricate. How much is simply the formulaic politeness of eras more unabashedly hierarchical ...

Deep Down in the Trash

Robert Crawford, 21 August 1997

God’s Gift to Women 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 64 pp., £6.99, May 1997, 9780571177622
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... Now, however, earlier feminist explorations are being rediscovered in the late stories of Margaret Oliphant and the novels of Willa Muir and Catherine Carswell. Young women writers are finding that they have a Scottish tradition behind them as well as imaginative and ideological links to work from elsewhere. Yet at least as striking is the way in ...


Blake Morrison, 21 February 1991

The Chatto Book of Love Poetry 
edited by John Fuller.
Chatto, 374 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3453 4
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The Faber Book of Blue Verse 
edited by John Whitworth.
Faber, 305 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14095 5
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Self-Portrait with a Slide 
by Hugo Williams.
Oxford, 62 pp., £5.95, June 1990, 0 19 282744 8
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The Virago Book of Love Poetry 
edited by Wendy Mulford.
Virago, 288 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 1 85381 030 4
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Erotica: An Anthology of Women’s Writing 
edited by Margaret Reynolds, foreword by Jeanette Winterson .
Pandora, 362 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 9780044406723
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Daddy, Daddy 
by Paul Durcan.
Blackstaff, 185 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 85640 446 2
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... living sense of the loved one. She is composed of polished ivory, red coral, alabaster, cherries, snow, diamonds and rubies, none of which thinginess helps bring her into focus. Even Carew, who begins boldly by describing the mole on Celia’s bosom as a bee, is soon enough onto the romantic staples of aromatic dew, ambrosial meat, phoenix fire and Elysian ...

His spectacles reflected only my window, its curtains and my rubber plant

Michael Hofmann: Hjalmar Söderberg, 28 November 2002

Doctor Glas 
by Hjalmar Söderberg, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Harvill, 143 pp., £10, November 2002, 1 84343 009 6
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The Serious Game 
by Hjalmar Söderberg, translated by Eva Claeson.
Marion Boyars, 239 pp., £8.99, September 2001, 0 7145 3061 1
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... is a reissue of a 1963 version of the 1905 original, with the addition of an admiring preface by Margaret Atwood. A play, Gertrud, was filmed by Carl Dreyer; Doctor Glas has also been filmed; I don’t quite understand why these books and others of his – Martin Birck’s Youth, from 1901, and castigated, on its appearance, for being ...

Besieged by Female Writers

John Pemble: Trollope’s Late Style, 3 November 2016

Anthony Trollope’s Late Style: Victorian Liberalism and Literary Form 
by Frederik Van Dam.
Edinburgh, 180 pp., £70, January 2016, 978 0 7486 9955 1
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... a few more about Jane Austen; a tribute to the Brontës and a sketch of Haworth Parsonage under snow … a respectful allusion to George Eliot; a reference to Mrs Gaskell and one would have done.’ Women novelists had come late to English literature, and had no more than a toehold in what was still a male domain. They were second-class citizens – just ...

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