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A Novel without a Hero

Christopher Ricks, 6 December 1979

The Mangan Inheritance 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 336 pp., £5.50
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... His mind grew dim. And he fell far through that pit abysmal,  The gulf and grave of Maginn and Burns, And pawned his soul for the devil’s dismal            Stock of returns. Abysmal, yes, and dismal; the rhyme has something of the demented unignorability of Tennyson’s rhyme of ‘abysm’ with ‘Zolaism’. The first page of the ...

The Bergoglio Smile

Colm Tóibín: The Francis Papacy, 21 January 2021

... of being ultra-conservative.’ A Jesuit who lived under Bergoglio’s rule is quoted by Jimmy Burns in Francis: Pope of Good Promise (2015): ‘He exercised his authority with an iron fist as if he was the sole interpreter of St Ignatius Loyola.’When Jesuit priests visited poor areas, Bergoglio encouraged them to talk about religion rather than social ...

The money’s still out there

Neal Ascherson: The Scottish Empire, 6 October 2011

To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland’s Global Diaspora, 1750-2010 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 397 pp., £25, August 2011, 978 0 7139 9744 6
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The Inner Life of Empires: An 18th-Century History 
by Emma Rothschild.
Princeton, 483 pp., £24.95, June 2011, 978 0 691 14895 3
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... serious but highly readable, were reappearing as Ash wrote: Rosalind Mitchison, T.C. Smout and Christopher Harvie were among the most successful authors. They wrote mostly narrative or social history, revealing unknown territory to generations who had learned almost nothing of Scotland’s past at school. Now, though, the fashion is more reflexive. Tom ...

On the horse Parsnip

John Bayley, 8 February 1990

Boris Pasternak: The Tragic Years 1930-1960 
by Evgeny Pasternak.
Collins Harvill, 278 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 272045 0
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Boris Pasternak 
by Peter Levi.
Hutchinson, 310 pp., £17.95, January 1990, 0 09 173886 5
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Boris Pasternak: A Literary Biography. Vol.I: 1890-1928 
by Christopher Barnes.
Cambridge, 507 pp., £35, November 1989, 0 521 25957 6
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Poems 1955-1959 and An Essay in Autobiography 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Michael Harari and Manya Harari.
Collins Harvill, 212 pp., £6.95, January 1990, 9780002710657
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The Year 1905 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Chappell.
Spenser, £4.95, April 1989, 0 9513843 0 9
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... two lovers exchanging ‘hands legs and fates’ in the winter time in the Revolution. The candle burns when Zhivago writes his poems, the emblem and essence of what lives and matters. Lara is presumably in bed and asleep. Put like that, it sounds a piece of bathos and this is the paradox of an art like Pasternak’s, which is at once totally popular and ...

I only want the OM

Christopher Tayler: Somerset Maugham, 1 September 2005

Somerset Maugham: A Life 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Vintage, 411 pp., £12, April 2005, 1 4000 3052 8
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... Ian – chastised him ‘by banging a serving spoon on his offensively prominent ear trumpet’. Christopher Isherwood, on the other hand, found that Maugham’s stammer ‘somehow made you feel that you were stammering, not he’. Raymond Mortimer noted his ‘very violent temper’. In his later years, visitors described him as ‘saurian’ or compared ...

Why edit socially?

Marilyn Butler, 20 October 1994

Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works, Vol. VII 
edited by Byron.
Oxford, 445 pp., £52.50, March 1993, 0 19 812328 0
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The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 832 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 19 214158 9
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... of that (to us) momentous event. True, he gives a good account of two very individual poets, Burns and Blake. But those familiar with academic post-war criticism would know that the Wordsworthian concepts of Nature and Imagination have been held to define English-language Romanticism. Neither Burns nor Blake, here in ...

Ach so, Herr Major

Nicholas Horsfall: Translating Horace, 23 June 2005

Horace: Odes and Epodes 
edited by Niall Rudd.
Harvard, 350 pp., £14.50, June 2004, 0 674 99609 7
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... drunk at the same fountains long before,’ Leigh Fermor explains. In Classics Transformed (1998), Christopher Stray reveals (citing a letter from Leigh Fermor) that they went on to discuss heatedly their rival pronunciations of Latin. That shared culture may actually be dead, and that story’s significance may live on only in the eye of sentiment, but I feel ...

Wild, Fierce Yale

Geoffrey Hartman, 21 October 1982

Deconstruction: Theory and Practice 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 157 pp., £6.50, April 1982, 0 416 32060 0
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... to mistake but even to betray its nature. Criticism, in any case, is no longer what it was; and Christopher Norris’s compact book on deconstruction is more useful, in its open-minded descriptive acuity, than other, more complex and defensive, treatments. Occasionally Norris falls into distancing gestures about ‘going too far’ or ‘rhapsodic ...

Commotion in Moscow

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Paris Syndrome, 1 August 2019

To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture 
by Eleonory Gilburd.
Harvard, 458 pp., £28.95, January 2019, 978 0 674 98071 6
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... involving subjective input on the part of the translator. ‘Having preserved a Scotsman in Burns’, the editor Alexander Tvardovsky said of the poet Samuil Marshak’s translation, Marshak had nevertheless ‘made him a Russian’. I might have taken this as a mere rhetorical flourish had I not, in the 1960s, heard the Soviet bard Iuly Kim singing ...

Elegant Extracts

Leah Price: Anthologies, 3 February 2000

The Oxford Book of English Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 690 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 214182 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume One 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2974 pp., £22.50, December 1999, 0 393 97487 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume Two 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2963 pp., £22.50, February 2000, 9780393974911
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume One 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2963 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01173 2
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume Two 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2982 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01174 0
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Night & Horses & The Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature 
edited by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7139 9153 4
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News that Stays News: The 20th Century in Poems 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 189 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 571 20060 5
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Time’s Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Anvil, 157 pp., £7.95, November 1999, 0 85646 313 2
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Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Penguin, 640 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780140588996
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... the millennial gift books already piling up on remainder tables, 1999 marked the appearance of Christopher Ricks’s successor to Arthur Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of English Verse, published a hundred years ago, revised in 1939, and followed in 1972 by Helen Gardner’s New Oxford Book; of the Longman Anthology of British Literature, a brashly ...

Bunnymooning

Philip French, 6 June 1996

The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Hutchinson, 309 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 09 179211 8
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... the publication of Sebastian Faulks’s percetive study of three men who died young, the painter Christopher Wood (1901-30), the war hero, Richard Hillary (1919-43), and Jeremy Wolfenden (1934-65) who was (or is?) the most spectacular failure of my Oxford generation. Faulks believes that ‘short lives are more sensitive indicators of the pressure of public ...

Those Brogues

Marina Warner, 6 October 2016

... here. More than two hundred years later, this sense had not yet faded; with a cheeky rhyme, Robert Burns attributed such devices to the devil: ‘Then you, ye auld, snic-drawing dog!/Ye came to Paradise incog/An’ play’d on man a cursed brogue.’ By the time Burns was writing, ‘brogue’ also commonly described ‘a ...

Paul de Man’s Past

Christopher Norris, 4 February 1988

... charges by suggesting that ‘perhaps in the degree to which technology is impoverishment and burns history without leaving material residue, technology forces us to rid ourselves of what is after all only a false serenity.’ Rilke’s and Heidegger’s ancestral dreams would then appear not only as wishful illusions but as symptoms of a deep-laid ...

Umbah-Umbah

Jerome McGann, 22 June 1989

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century 
by Greil Marcus.
Secker, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1989, 0 436 27338 1
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... Pursuit of the Millennium, Theodor Adorno (in particular his great and mordant Minima Moralia), Christopher Gray’s Leaving the 20th Century, Abiezer Coppe, Georges Bataille. Oddly, the name William Blake never passes the lips(tick) of this book. Marcus uses as well the reminiscences and recapitulations of various people who were swept up in the storms ...

Sex’n’Love

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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... to those who have one without the other. Those who have both will find that, among contemporaries, Christopher Reid and Michael Hofmann are classified as love poets but Craig Raine and Tony Harrison as blue versifiers. Only a few poets make both, including Seamus Heaney, who has two poems unworthy of him in the Whitworth (one about unfreezing a vaginal ...

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