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Where Forty-Eight Avenue joins Petőfi Square

Jennifer Szalai: László Krasznahorkai, 26 April 2012

by László Krasznahorkai, translated by George Szirtes.
Atlantic, 320 pp., £12.99, May 2012, 978 1 84887 764 1
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... the capacious context of such postwar avant-garde novelists as Thomas Bernhard, José Saramago and David Foster Wallace, only to acknowledge that, despite a shared affinity for ‘very long, breathing, unstopped sentences’, Krasznahorkai was ‘perhaps the strangest’ of them. The writer is ‘peculiar’; his work is ‘strange and beautiful’, with ...

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies, 2 April 2020

... as dots on a vast network map, we are no different from slime mould or animals – we become a herd.This worldview also has a long intellectual tradition, dating back to Durkheim’s contemporary and critic Gabriel Tarde. From this perspective, society is a pattern formed from billions of interpersonal connections. Understand the micro-social networks ...


Lulu Norman: In Ethiopia, 4 September 1997

... came to Ethiopia in 1769 to look for the source of the Nile and took away with him the Songs of David, Kibre Negest (‘Glory of the Kings’) and the Book of Enoch, which he no doubt considered as souvenirs or going-home presents to himself. As well as being a sacred artefact, the Kibre Negest relates much of Ethiopia’s early history. It was returned to ...

Woolsorters’ Disease

Hugh Pennington: The history of anthrax, 29 November 2001

... to be added to spore suspensions to stop them clumping when they are prepared and dried, but as David Henderson from Porton Down said in 1952, in a journal to be found in any medical school library, ‘fortunately many substances added to the suspension will prevent clumping. The simplest and most effective that has been found is sodium alginate used in ...

Peasants wear ultramarine

Barbara Newman: Nuns with Blue Teeth, 10 February 2022

Perceptions of Medieval Manuscripts: The Phenomenal Book 
by Elaine Treharne.
Oxford, 248 pp., £30, October 2021, 978 0 19 284381 4
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Hidden Hands: The Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers 
by Mary Wellesley.
Riverrun, 372 pp., £25, October 2021, 978 1 5294 0093 9
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The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books 
by Elina Gertsman.
Penn State, 232 pp., £99.95, June 2021, 978 0 271 08784 9
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... to words. But to transmit all those words, a book as large as the Bible required a very large herd. More than five hundred calves died to create the magnificent Codex Amiatinus, the oldest complete Latin Bible, which dates from the time of Bede. The Middle English charters allude to a much longer tradition. In an Old English riddle-poem it is the dead ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... and behind it lay the struggle of a very rich man to do good. In his role as owner-editor, David Astor had more freedom than any other journalist in London, but power made him bashful and uneasy. When, towards the end of Astor’s editing career, the South African journalist Donald Woods proposed a series of interviews with him, Astor suggested that ...

Alzheimer’s America

Mark Greif: Don DeLillo, 5 July 2007

Falling Man 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 246 pp., £16.99, May 2007, 978 0 330 45223 6
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... named for a person whose name we don’t recognise: ‘Bill Lawton’, ‘Ernst Hechinger’, ‘David Janiak’. ‘Bill Lawton’, a secret name uttered by children playing in their rooms, turns out to be Bin Laden translated into Americanese. ‘Ernst Hechinger’ turns out to have been the name Martin went under when he was involved in the German ...

Mantegna’s Revenge

Nicholas Penny, 3 September 1987

by Ronald Lightbown.
Phaidon/Christie’s, 512 pp., £60, July 1986, 0 7148 8031 0
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The Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo Rediscovered 
edited by Massimo Giacometti, translated by Paul Holberton.
Muller, Blond and White, 271 pp., £40, September 1986, 0 584 11140 1
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... Lightbown describes. A bolder hypothesis is needed. As it happens, one such was advanced by David Landau in the catalogue of the exhibition at the Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford, organised in 1979. It is almost impossible to get hold of a copy of this catalogue and I wonder whether Lightbown has done so (although he does list the publication in ...


Rebecca Solnit: In the Sierra Nevada, 9 October 2003

... clear morning skies are gradually overtaken by cumulus clouds as scattered and innocuous as a herd of grazing sheep, until they gather and turn dark, then the afternoon storm breaks, with lightning, thunder and crashing rain that can turn a dusty road into a necklace of puddles reflecting the turbulent sky. But New Mexico is besieged now by a multi-year ...

On the Brink

James Lever: Philip Roth, 28 January 2010

The Humbling 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 140 pp., £12.99, November 2009, 978 0 224 08793 3
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... in Axler’s proposed salvation-by-child, or by love or sex (‘He who forms a tie is lost’ – David Kepesh’s friend George O’Hearn, telling it straight in The Dying Animal). They won’t save him, and nor will solitude: it’s the absence of ties which has brought him to this pass. Axler has no family: no memories of dear Morty Sabbath to stay his ...

Hero as Hero

Tobias Gregory: Milton’s Terrorist, 6 March 2008

Why Milton Matters: A New Preface to His Writings 
by Joseph Wittreich.
Palgrave, 253 pp., £37.99, March 2008, 978 1 4039 7229 3
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... but the blaze of fame, The people’s praise, if always praise unmixt? And what the people but a herd confus’d, A miscellaneous rabble, who extol Things vulgar, and well weigh’d, scarce worth the praise? They praise and they admire they know not what, And know not whom, but as one leads the other; And what delight to be by such extoll’d, To live upon ...

The Hell out of Dodge

Jeremy Harding: Woodstock 1969, 15 August 2019

Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music 
by Michael Lang.
Reel Art Press, 289 pp., £44.95, July 2019, 978 1 909526 62 4
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... to play fifty years ago) were also billed, alongside veterans from the founding festival: Santana, David Crosby, Country Joe McDonald, the remains of the Grateful Dead, Canned Heat and others. But Lang’s fifty-up began to unravel when his top-dog investor, the Japanese digicoms company Dentsu Aegis, announced from its London HQ that it was pulling ...

Across the Tellyverse

Jenny Turner: Daleks v. Cybermen, 22 June 2006

Doctor Who 
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Doctor Who: A Critical Reading of the Series 
by Kim Newman.
BFI, 138 pp., £12, December 2005, 1 84457 090 8
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... production schedule? But the BBC was quick to announce the younger, extraordinarily attractive David Tennant as his successor, with a glow, almost, of parental pride. Fine-boned and wriggly, somehow, like a silky dog, Tennant has a helpless quality, which lends him great adorability. ‘My girlfriend is besotted,’ leicesterbloke writes on the digitalspy ...

Hayek and His Overcoat

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 October 1998

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations 
by David Landes.
Little, Brown, 650 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 316 90867 3
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The Commanding Heights 
by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw.
Simon and Schuster, 457 pp., £18.99, February 1998, 0 684 82975 4
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... business: theirs was to pay and obey. Their leaders promised not to repeat their lèse-majesté. David Landes takes the story from the scholar of Islam, Michael Cook. It is, for him, a moral tale. Autocracies squeeze, steal and demean. ‘Only societies with room for multiple initiatives,’ he insists, ‘from below more than from above, can think in terms ...

Adjusting the Mechanism

Colin Burrow: Robert Graves, 11 October 2018

Robert Graves: From a Great War Poet to ‘Goodbye to All That’, 1895-1929 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 461 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 4729 2914 3
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The Reader over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose 
by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge.
Seven Stories, 613 pp., £30, September 2017, 978 1 60980 733 7
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... early 1920s he and Lawrence planned their very own Boy’s Own adventure, Oxford-style: to drive a herd of deer from Magdalen into All Souls, where Lawrence was a fellow. In the event Lawrence contented himself with ringing a bell in college in the middle of the day, since All Souls ‘needs waking up’. Graves and Nancy tried to support themselves while he ...

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