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Fit and Few

Donald Davie, 3 May 1984

The Making of the Reader: Language and Subjectivity in Modern American, English and Irish Poetry 
by David Trotter.
Macmillan, 272 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 30632 5
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... but himself. If he is in earnest – and if he isn’t we’ll not bother with him, any more than David Trotter does – he thought that he was testing his society by moving out to the periphery of that society, speaking for and with the disaffected, the vagabonds, the ill-adjusted. How disconcerting, then, to find that the disaffection he thought he was ...

Looking back

John Sutherland, 22 May 1980

by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 176 pp., £4.95, March 1980, 0 224 01762 4
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The Bleeding Heart 
by Marilyn French.
Deutsch, 412 pp., £6.50, May 1980, 9780233972343
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by Jeremy Leven.
Hutchinson, 544 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 09 141250 1
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... Byatt (The Virgin in the Garden) found a slightly earlier epicentre in the Coronation year, 1953. David Lodge’s new novel (How far can you go?) charts Catholic perplexity in the face of the permissive Sixties, Humanae Vitae and the abolition of National Service. Julian Barnes’s very much à la mode Metroland is divided into three sections: I Metroland ...

Short Cuts

Rory Scothorne: Under New Management, 13 August 2020

... Formby, who replaced Iain McNicol as general secretary under Corbyn, has now been replaced by David Evans, a figure popular on the Labour right. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the left’s candidate to replace Corbyn, has already been sacked from the shadow cabinet. The party’s National Executive Committee has a majority defined ostensibly by loyalty to ...

Slippery Prince

Graham Robb: Napoleon III, 19 June 2003

Napoleon III and His Regime: An Extravaganza 
by David Baguley.
Louisiana State, 392 pp., £38.50, December 2000, 0 8071 2624 1
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The French Second Empire: An Anatomy of Political Power 
by Roger Price.
Cambridge, 507 pp., £55, January 2002, 0 521 80830 8
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... that he stood on top of the Vendôme Column in place of his uncle’s statue, he was struck, as David Baguley points out in Napoleon III and His Regime, not by the glory but by the loneliness. In Ham, he wrote a pamphlet on ‘L’Extinction du paupérisme’, explaining, in effect, how much better everything would be if he could just be allowed to get on ...

At the White Cube

Peter Campbell: Anselm Kiefer, 22 February 2007

... called Aperiatur Terra et Germinet Salvatorem, Rorate Caeli et Nubes Pluant Iustum and Olympe-Für Victor Hugo. That is the White Cube part of the exhibition. Up Duke Street and across Piccadilly, in the forecourt of the Royal Academy, Kiefer (who is an honorary RA) has erected two towers, one of five storeys, the other of six. The work, called ...

No Fun

David Blackbourn: Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 15 October 1998

Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900-49 
edited by Hans Wysling, translated by Don Reneau.
California, 444 pp., £40, March 1998, 0 520 07278 2
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... progressivism could hardly be more out of season, and Brecht’s favourable comparison of him to Victor Hugo will quicken few pulses. Historians of the Kaiser’s Germany still refer to the character Diederich Hessling from Heinrich’s novel, Der Untertan, but even this wonderful monster of arrogance to those below, and subservience to those above, seems to ...

Homeric Cheese v. Technophiliac Relish

David Cooper: GM food, 18 May 2000

... novel, Mary Shelley – who was well-acquainted with the Watsons of her day – made it plain that Victor Frankenstein’s project was ‘supremely frightful’, not because of the possibility of disastrous consequences, but because of his ‘human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world’. Shorn of its theological ...

Narcissus and Cain

David Bromwich, 6 August 1992

Mary and Maria by Mary Wollstonecraft, Matilda by Mary Shelley 
edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 217 pp., £24.95, January 1992, 1 85196 023 6
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Lady Sophia Sternheim 
by Sophie von La Roche, edited by James Lynn.
Pickering & Chatto, 216 pp., £24.95, January 1992, 9781851960217
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... relations to human kind and makes for himself a creature in whom he can nourish the same defects. Victor Frankenstein doubtless resembled Godwin more in theory than in practice, but Mary was made to feel often enough that she existed mainly to prove a point, and like her mother she harboured a wish to be transplanted from her own life. This could only come by ...

I wanted to rule the world

David A. Bell: Napoleon’s Global War, 3 December 2020

The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History 
by Alexander Mikaberidze.
Oxford, 936 pp., £25.99, April 2020, 978 0 19 995106 2
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... king of Naples in 1806. Renamed the Royal Africans and briefly commanded by Joseph Hugo, father of Victor, they fought Calabrian guerrillas before joining Napoleon’s campaigns in Germany and Russia. A strange and bitter journey, which took men from Africa to the Caribbean, to France, to Italy, and then to the retreat from Moscow in 1812, each time against ...

‘Abu Nidal, Abu Shmidal’

Avi Shlaim, 9 May 1991

Israel’s Secret Wars: The Untold History of Israeli Intelligence 
by Ian Black and Benny Morris.
Hamish Hamilton, 603 pp., £20, February 1991, 0 241 12702 5
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... like John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl and Agents of Innocence by the American writer David Ignatius. In recent years, however, a number of scandals have badly tarnished the reputation of Israel’s security services and stimulated calls for greater public accountability. One of the most damaging blows was struck by ...

Hopeless Warriors

Michael Gorra: Sherman Alexie’s novels, 5 March 1998

The Lone Ranger and Tonto in Fistfight Heaven 
by Sherman Alexie.
Vintage, 223 pp., £6.99, September 1997, 9780749386696
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Reservation Blues 
by Sherman Alexie.
Minerva, 306 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 0 7493 9513 3
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Indian Killer 
by Sherman Alexie.
Secker, 420 pp., £9.99, September 1997, 0 436 20433 9
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... a teetotaler and the tribal storyteller, but a young man to whom nobody much wants to listen; and Victor Joseph, who doesn’t want to call a Spokane rock band ‘Coyote Spring’ because it sounds ‘too damn Indian’. Of these Victor seems to be the most important, the one for whom Alexie imagines a life-history. He is a ...

What did they do in the war?

Angus Calder, 20 June 1985

Firing Line 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 436 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 224 02043 9
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The Right of the Line: The Royal Air Force in the European War 1939-1945 
by John Terraine.
Hodder, 841 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 340 26644 9
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The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book 
by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt.
Viking, 804 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 670 80137 2
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’45: The Final Drive from the Rhine to the Baltic 
by Charles Whiting.
Century, 192 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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In the Ruins of the Reich 
by Douglas Botting.
Allen and Unwin, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780049430365
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1945: The World We Fought For 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 241 11531 0
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VE Day: Victory in Europe 1945 
by Robin Cross.
Sidgwick, 223 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 283 99220 4
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One Family’s War 
edited by Patrick Mayhew.
Hutchinson, 237 pp., £10.95, May 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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Poems of the Second World War: The Oasis Selection 
edited by Victor Selwyn.
Dent, 386 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 460 10432 2
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My Life 
by Bert Hardy.
Gordon Fraser, 192 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 86092 083 6
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Victory in Europe: D Day to VE Day 
by Max Hastings and George Stevens.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £10.95, April 1985, 0 297 78650 4
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... in this episode and others, the psychology of troops in battle. Holmes quotes Lieutenant David Tinker on his first experience, during the Falklands War, of being shelled: ‘They must be mad. Don’t they know it’s very unsafe shooting things at other people?’ A US Sergeant in Vietnam recalled: ‘You thought, “How the fuck can they do this to ...

Axeman as Ballroom Dancer

David Blackbourn, 17 July 1997

Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany 1600-1987 
by Richard J. Evans.
Oxford, 1014 pp., £55, March 1996, 0 19 821968 7
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... the subject of many verses and popular broadsheets before reaching the height of his notoriety in Victor von Falks’s The Executioner of Berlin (1890-1), a serialised penny dreadful that reputedly achieved higher sales than any other 19th-century German novel. Evans has much to say about popular representations of capital punishment, without being either ...

How Wicked – Horrid

David Blackbourn: Two Duff Kings, 15 July 1999

Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser’s Early Life, 1859-88 
by John Röhl, translated by Jeremy Gaines.
Cambridge, 979 pp., £45, October 1999, 0 521 49752 3
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... his youth. It is unlikely that he would have enjoyed its contents. Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Albert Victor was born in January 1859. He was a breech baby, whose delivery was mishandled by the attending physician so that the muscles of the shoulder, arm and hand were damaged. This was the origin of the ‘withered arm’. His mother Vicky was acutely aware of ...

What happened to Edward II?

David Carpenter: Impostors, 7 June 2007

The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the British Nation 
by Ian Mortimer.
Pimlico, 536 pp., £8.99, April 2007, 978 1 84413 530 1
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... Abbey, erected soon after his death in 1377. Edward, the initiator of the Hundred Years War, the victor of Sluys and Crécy, the conqueror of Calais, achieved legendary status in his lifetime, and was long revered after his death. Dr Johnson, in his poem London, called on ‘illustrious Edward!’ to survey the current crop of degenerate Britons: ‘Lost in ...

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