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The Hunger of the Gods

David Brading, 9 January 1992

Aztecs: An Interpretation 
by Inga Clendinnen.
Cambridge, 398 pp., £24.95, October 1991, 0 521 40093 7
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... such a profusion of data on so many aspects of Mexica history and religion, but leave so many vital strands of evidence in the shadows. For this alone, I am grateful for the opportunity to have read her ...

Wandering Spooks

David Simpson: Vietnam’s Ghosts, 14 August 2008

Ghosts of War in Vietnam 
by Heonik Kwon.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £25, March 2008, 978 0 521 88061 9
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... of human action and imagination to transform the tragic history of mass displacement into a new, vital history of the dwelling place’ (Kwon is an anthropologist who writes for anthropologists). This is what he sees in the Vietnamese readiness to welcome the ghosts of strangers, presupposing the foundational security of hearth and home, whose assumed fixity ...

The Fug o’Fame

David Goldie: Hugh MacDiarmid’s letters, 6 June 2002

New Selected Letters 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Dorian Grieve.
Carcanet, 572 pp., £39.95, August 2001, 1 85754 273 8
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... anti-poetry which almost any literate person could turn out indefinitely. But you communicate no vital experience at all, and express no authentic reaction to your subjects, while your verbalisms are throughout quite appallingly trite and unilluminated by any flash of personal vision or first-hand feeling at all. He was, by this time, well qualified to make ...

A Few Pitiful Traitors

David Drake: The French Resistance, 5 May 2016

Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance 
by Robert Gildea.
Faber, 593 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 571 28034 6
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Occupation Trilogy: ‘La Place de l’etoile’, ‘The Night Watch’, ‘Ring Roads’ 
by Patrick Modiano, translated by Caroline Hillier, Patricia Wolf and Frank Wynne.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 1 4088 6790 7
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... to identify with victory. De Gaulle was convinced that this picture of a united nation was a vital prerequisite if France was to take its rightful place among the world powers. This desire for national unity was reflected in his government, which, in order to minimise the chance of disruption by the PCF, included four Communist ministers. But de Gaulle ...

Fear and Loathing in Limehouse

Richard Holme, 3 September 1987

Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David Owen: Personally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... One of the principal problems of the warring generals was an inability to agree on strategy. At David Owen’s insistence, the Alliance’s election objectives were limited to achieving the balance of power. This had the apparent advantage of modest realism, but there were more substantial disadvantages. The first of these – as I can report by taking a ...

What’s Coming

David Edgar: J.M. Synge, 22 March 2001

Fool of the Family: A Life of J.M. Synge 
by W.J. McCormack.
Weidenfeld, 499 pp., £25, March 2000, 0 297 64612 5
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Interpreting Synge: Essays from the Synge Summer School 1991-2000 
edited by Nicholas Grene.
Lilliput, 220 pp., £29.95, July 2000, 1 901866 47 5
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... with storytelling (it is the subject of Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and F***ing and the form of David Hare’s Via Dolorosa), as Post-Modernist attempts to deny the validity of narrative give way to a more subtle (and sensible) exploration of how narrative works. The influence that speaks most strongly to today’s Irish dramatists is not that of the turn ...

‘His eyes were literally on fire’

David Trotter: Fu Manchu, 5 March 2015

The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu & the Rise of Chinaphobia 
by Christopher Frayling.
Thames and Hudson, 360 pp., £24.95, October 2014, 978 0 500 25207 9
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... significant industrial and technological advantages over Europe in the manufacture of commodities vital to the development of the global economy, such as tea, silk, porcelain and printed calicoes. After the European economies took off decisively in the 19th century, it became plausible for the first time to propagate the myth of China’s epochal ...

Separating Gracie and Rosie

David Wootton: Two people, one body, 22 July 2004

One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal 
by Alice Domurat Dreger.
Harvard, 198 pp., £14.95, May 2004, 0 674 01294 1
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... life. None of the judges seems to have been able fully to grasp the force of an argument made by David Harris QC on behalf of Rosie: ‘John Locke’s assertion that "every man has a property in his own person. This no body has any right to but himself” . . . is difficult to apply in the case of conjoined twins.’ I have looked again at the photograph on ...


Andrew Scull, 29 October 1987

The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture 1830-1980 
by Elaine Showalter.
Virago, 309 pp., £6.95, May 1987, 0 86068 869 0
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... whom this vast infrastructure has (at least ostensibly) been erected. It is a historiography, as David Ingleby wittily put it, ‘like the histories of colonial wars’: it tells ‘us more about the relations between the imperial powers than about the “third world” of the mental patients themselves’. For this reason, among many others, Elaine ...

6/4 he won’t score 20

John Sturrock, 7 September 2000

Start of Play: Cricket and Culture in 18th-Century England 
by David Underdown.
Allen Lane, 258 pp., £20, September 2000, 0 7139 9330 8
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... best to stay in. What, though, if you were some out-of-order soul who chose to look at this vital encounter from the other end of the pitch? One early cricketer who did so was the third Duke of Dorset: ‘What is human life but a game of cricket? – beauty the bat and man the ball,’ he’s quoted as saying in ...

Looking back

Hugh Thomas, 7 July 1983

The Spanish Civil War 
by David Mitchell.
Granada, 208 pp., £9.95, December 1982, 0 246 11916 0
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... the Basque country and Galicia, and then other regions. Cataluña put itself forward as the one ‘vital member’ which might revive the nation. Further troubles caused by military setbacks in Morocco led to syndicalisation even in the Army. Bloodshed broke out with fighting in Barcelona between anarcho-syndicalists and unions sponsored by employers, as a ...


Anne Enright: Bombings in Baghdad, 10 June 1999

... their angles and their guests, so by the time it came to us, the story would be old, but still vital. The audience would want more of it, but not more of the same. We checked with each other what we had seen and how far into the night we had each stayed watching. Three o’clock, five o’clock. No one else saw the reporter in Saudi cut off suddenly, as ...

Boarder or Day Boy?

Bernard Porter: Secrecy in Britain, 15 July 1999

The Culture of Secrecy in Britain 1832-1998 
by David Vincent.
Oxford, 364 pp., £25, January 1999, 0 19 820307 1
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... whole seem to care, what is being kept from us. That is rather special; and a major factor, claims David Vincent in this path-breaking book, in our governance. It can have ludicrous effects. One was the refusal to acknowledge that we had any ‘secret services’: until recently, MI5 and MI6 had no official existence. Questions about them in Parliament were ...

Corbyn in the Media

Paul Myerscough, 22 October 2015

... to play the role of modern political leader. Would he – could he? – perform the countless vital tasks that come naturally to David Cameron or Tony Blair: everything from how to comport yourself at the despatch box to the best way to climb out of a chauffeur-driven car, from how to use an autocue to knowing which pop ...


Jenny Diski: Hairdressing, 2 March 2000

... of their own.* Like, I suppose, doctors and psychiatrists, when they talk to each other, their vital interest is in using their skills to make a living. Steven Zdatny offers the articles of Emile Long as a particular view of the social history of the early years of the 20th century, and it is a very particular view indeed. The years from 1910 to 1920 were ...

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