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Whitehall Farce

Paul Foot, 12 October 1989

The Intelligence Game: Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage 
by James Rusbridger.
Bodley Head, 320 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 370 31242 2
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The Truth about Hollis 
by W.J. West.
Duckworth, 230 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7156 2286 2
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... they systematically plotted against at least two of Eden’s successors: Edward Heath and Harold Wilson. According to the evidence of three people who worked in or close to Intelligence in the mid-Seventies – Peter Wright, Cathy Massiter and Colin Wallace – a substantial section of MI5 was working almost full time to disorientate the office, and subvert ...

Diary

Paul Foot: The Impotence of Alan Clark, 5 August 1993

... of hostile bankers, businessmen, judges and media moguls ‘blew them off course’, as Harold Wilson put it. When the Tories are in office, all those bankers and businessmen and judges are their friends. There’s no need or inclination to blow them off course. Then suddenly comes Norman Lamont’s shock claim, greeted by prolonged and fervent ...

Late Developer

Paul Foot, 22 February 1990

Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-1976 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £20, October 1989, 0 09 173775 3
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... a little bit of success, and would have done more if it hadn’t been for bankers or, as Harold Wilson used to call his hidden enemies, “speculators”.’ Only Tony Benn, even as he was signing papers in the red dispatch boxes, travelling round in chauffeur-driven limousines and dining at Lockets, began to realise that he was playing a lead part in a ...

Chings

Dick Wilson, 27 October 1988

Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train through China 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 494 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 241 12547 2
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Discos and Democracy: China in the Throes of Reform 
by Orville Schell.
Pantheon, 384 pp., $19.95, June 1988, 9780394568294
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The Star Raft: China’s Encounter with Africa 
by Philip Snow.
Weidenfeld, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 297 79081 1
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Ancestors: Nine Hundred Years in the Life of a Chinese Family 
by Frank Ching.
Harrap, 528 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 245 54675 8
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... to view it for what it is, instinctively reaching back instead to the things we think we know. As Paul Theroux remarks in Riding the Iron Rooster, ‘China exists so distinctly in people’s minds that it is hard to shake the fantasy loose and see the real China.’ Here, then, are four authors taking different routes to ‘the real China’, each ...

Tracts for the Times

Karl Miller, 17 August 1989

Intellectuals 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 385 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 297 79395 0
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CounterBlasts No 1: God, Man and Mrs Thatcher 
by Jonathan Raban.
Chatto, 72 pp., £2.99, June 1989, 0 7011 3470 4
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... some intellectuals have been thought to have difficulty in changing their socks. Bertrand Russell, Paul Johnson reports, was unable to make himself a cup of tea. The term came to currency with the classifications employed in the Marxist system, and has been used to deplore the scarcity in this country of a certain someone supposedly thick on the European ...

Who they think they are

Julian Symons, 8 November 1990

You’ve had your time 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 391 pp., £17.50, October 1990, 0 434 09821 3
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An Immaculate Mistake: Scenes from Childhood and Beyond 
by Paul Bailey.
Bloomsbury, 167 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0630 2
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... Volume One of Anthony Burgess’s autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God, left our hero in January 1960 under sentence of death, no more than a few months to live. With one bound, or at least one letter from the Neurological Institute, he is free. ‘The protein content of my spinal liquor had gone down dramatically’: the death sentence is cancelled ...

An Enemy Within

Paul Foot, 23 April 1987

Molehunt: The Full Story of the Soviet Mole in MI5 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 297 79150 8
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... Northern Ireland in April 1974. By 1976, the back of the Labour Government had been broken. Harold Wilson resigned, and begged his successor, James Callaghan, to carry out a full-scale investigation into what he felt had been the subversion of his office by the security services. Callaghan refused. Although Wilson continued ...

Big John

Frank Kermode, 19 March 1987

Little Wilson and Big God 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 448 pp., £12.95, February 1987, 0 434 09819 1
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... First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess’, who is officially known as John Burgess Wilson; and the book appears on the author’s 70th birthday, as part of his preparation for the coming encounter with Big God. There is, however, to be a Second Part, provisionally entitled You’ve had your time; we are told it will probably be even longer than ...
Who Framed Colin Wallace? 
by Paul Foot.
Macmillan, 306 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 333 47008 7
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... Paul Foot has a shocking story to tell, the story of Colin Wallace. It is, quite literally, a story of gunpowder, treason and plot. The fact that Foot’s publishers have had to rush the book out in weeks in order to beat the deadline of the new Official Secrets Act, and have deliberately forsaken all advance publicity for fear of pre-emptive action against the book, says something rather disgraceful about the difficulty of getting a fair hearing in this country ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inherent Vice’, 5 February 2015

Inherent Vice 
directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
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... supporting actor. In a sluggish movie we keep looking at our watch and it seems to have stopped. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is more slow than sluggish but pretty sluggish all the same. Anderson wrote the adaptation himself and clearly loves the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel he is adapting. He follows its plot and quotes from it a good deal. He ...

I fret and fret

Adam Phillips: Edward Thomas, 5 November 2015

Edward Thomas: From Adelstrop to Arras 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 480 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4081 8713 5
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... It was, though, a darkness and the blessing was faint. ‘From an early age’, Jean Moorcroft Wilson writes, Thomas ‘felt cursed by a self-consciousness he believed the chief cause of his later problems and depression’. It made him at once shy and withdrawn but also equivocal in his writing, careful to qualify what he said, and wary of ...

The Dollar Tree

Tobias Jones, 11 December 1997

Hand To Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 436 pp., £15.99, November 1997, 0 571 17149 4
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... Paul Auster is so implicated in his own fictions that it is often hard to tell whether his covert appearances there represent a Modernist textual teasing or a baser vanity; whether his walk-on parts are self-mocking or aggrandising. In City of Glass, the first volume in the New York Trilogy, the writer’s identity is always a plaything: Quinn, the writer, uses the pseudonym William Wilson, who himself writes about the improbably named Max Work, and is mistaken for Paul Auster, ‘of the Auster Detective Agency ...

Diary

Ian Aitken: Closing Time at the Last Chance Saloon, 6 August 1992

... Sir Perry, he had wanted to be editor of the Times more than anything in the world. So when Mr Paul Dacre picked Rothermere’s Daily Mail in preference to Rupert Murdoch’s Times, Worsthorne’s first reaction was that it was like choosing to be King of Ruritania instead of King of England. But Sir Perry has built his career on telling us that the ...

Mikoyan Shuddered

Stephen Walsh: Memories of Shostakovich, 21 June 2007

Shostakovich: A Life Remembered 
by Elizabeth Wilson.
Faber, 631 pp., £20, July 2006, 0 571 22050 9
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... valueless as a psychological document, and not much less so as a factual one. Elizabeth Wilson knows all this as well as anyone. In her own preface to the original 1994 edition of her documentary biography Shostakovich: A Life Remembered she noted that at the end of the 1980s, when she was conducting her researches, glasnost was enabling ...

Smoking for England

Paul Foot, 5 July 1984

Smoke Ring: The Politics of Tobacco 
by Peter Taylor.
Bodley Head, 384 pp., £9.95, March 1984, 0 370 30513 2
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... Some time in the late 1960s the then prime minister Harold Wilson started using a new phrase to describe the world we live in: ‘pluralist democracy’. The word ‘pluralist’, which had been hanging around for a long time without doing any harm to anyone, meant, I think, ‘accepting many interests and ideas, rather than one ...

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