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In Venice

Hal Foster: At the Biennale, 4 August 2005

... as Francis Bacon, Philip Guston and Antonio Tapiès, and such contenders as Rachel Whiteread, Thomas Ruff and William Kentridge. Rosa Martínez selected the survey in the vast Arsenale, the old shipyard, where 49 artists and/or groups are spread out over nine thousand square metres. Both exhibitions include work that alludes to the present debacle of war ...

The Suitcase: Part Three

Frances Stonor Saunders, 10 September 2020

... they changed, overnight, the language in which they had all lived together. Elena was now Helen, Mummy not Mami; Papa became Daddy; the boys were still Donald and Peter, of course, but they had far fewer words at their disposal by which to express themselves. They were now British – British refugees, to be exact – not just because their identity ...

Mockney Rebels

Thomas Jones: Lindsay Anderson, 20 July 2000

Mainly about Linsay Anderson 
by Gavin Lambert.
Faber, 302 pp., £18.99, May 2000, 0 571 17775 1
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... at his preparatory school writing on a classroom noticeboard ‘I REBEL’. Lambert quotes Helen Mirren as saying that ‘conservatism was the flip side of Lindsay the rebel – and for a rebel, conservatism becomes an act of rebellion.’ That’s a neat way to resolve the contradiction, but why resolve it at all? A highly polished product of a system ...

Flying the Coop

John Sutherland: Mama Trollope, 19 February 1998

Fanny Trollope: The Life and Adventures of a Clever Woman 
by Pamela Neville-Sington.
Viking, 416 pp., £20, November 1997, 0 670 85905 2
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... Frances Milton waited until she was 30 before making a good match with a London barrister. Thomas Anthony Trollope had professional prospects and ‘expectations’ of a rich, unmarried and conveniently antique uncle. The dutiful Mrs Trollope had seven children in ten years (only two were to survive into mature age), while her husband contrived to ruin ...

Weasel, Magpie, Crow

Mark Ford: Edward Thomas, 1 January 2009

Edward ThomasThe Annotated Collected Poems 
edited by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 335 pp., £12, June 2008, 978 1 85224 746 1
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... and eloquently, declared in his ‘Art poétique’ of 1874. The line must have lodged in Edward Thomas’s mind: in May 1914, some six months before his late efflorescence into verse at the age of 36, he wrote to Robert Frost of his longing to ‘wring all the necks of my rhetoric – the geese’. He was referring to the over-elaborate style of some of his ...

Poor Cyclops

David Quint: The ‘Odyssey’, 25 June 2009

The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ 
by Edith Hall.
Tauris, 296 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 1 84511 575 3
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Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ 
by Lillian Doherty.
Oxford, 450 pp., £80, January 2009, 978 0 19 923332 8
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The Unknown Odysseus: Alternate Worlds in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ 
by Thomas Van Nortwick.
Michigan, 144 pp., $50, December 2008, 978 0 472 11673 7
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... does not marry Nausicaa, and Penelope is virtuous. But this isn’t the case with Clytemnestra or Helen in the poem, nor will it be the case with Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina or Molly Bloom. We recognise ourselves in Homer’s poem, we can agree with Hall, because we’ve been there before in the works it continues to spin off. Hall organises her book into ...

All Her Nomads

Helen Vendler: Amy Clampitt, 5 February 1998

Collected Poems 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 496 pp., £25, May 1998, 0 571 19349 8
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... long, elegant fingers that were always flying upward) to hide a beautiful gap-toothed smile. (Thomas Victor’s photograph, reproduced on the dust-jacket of the Collected, catches the smile convincingly.) Salter also fills in, for Clampitt’s new readers, the moral background to the poems. It was Quakers who had settled New Providence, but a more ...

Writing French in English

Helen Cooper: Chaucer’s Language, 7 October 2010

The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language and Nation in the Hundred Years War 
by Ardis Butterfield.
Oxford, 444 pp., £60, December 2009, 978 0 19 957486 5
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... of the earliest literature in French was written in England, including some of the most famous: Thomas of Britain’s Tristan, and, very possibly, the lais of Marie de France. More was written under the broad aegis of the Angevin courts, of Henry II and the various powerful women connected with him (his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, her daughter Marie de ...

A Light-Blue Stocking

Helen Deutsch: Hester Lynch Salusbury Thrale Piozzi, 14 May 2009

Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’ 
by Ian McIntyre.
Constable, 450 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 1 84529 449 6
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... reviewing your own Life; why should I at your Age like it better?’ Meeting her in Bath, the poet Thomas Moore saw the ‘faces of other times’ – Johnson’s the first among them – ‘crowd over her as she sat’, while the actor William Charles Macready, remembering her fifty years later, said his first glimpse of her ‘seemed almost as if a portrait ...

Pay me for it

Helen Deutsch: Summoning Dr Johnson, 9 February 2012

Samuel Johnson: A Life 
by David Nokes.
Faber, 415 pp., £9.99, August 2010, 978 0 571 22636 8
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Selected Writings 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Peter Martin.
Harvard, 503 pp., £16.95, May 2011, 978 0 674 06034 0
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The Brothers Boswell: A Novel 
by Philip Baruth.
Corvus, 336 pp., £7.99, January 2011, 978 1 84887 446 6
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The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. 
by John Hawkins, edited by O.M. Brack.
Georgia, 554 pp., £53.50, August 2010, 978 0 8203 2995 6
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... first met Johnson in 1763, in the back parlour of a bookshop. It belonged to a friend of Johnson, Thomas Davies, who described ‘his aweful approach … somewhat in the manner of an actor in the part of Horatio, when he addresses Hamlet on the appearance of his father’s ghost, “Look, my Lord, it comes.”’ ‘Remember me’ was Boswell’s mandate from ...

A Show of Heads

Carlos Fuentes, 19 March 1987

I the Supreme 
by Augusto Roa Bastos, translated by Helen Lane.
Faber, 433 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 571 14626 0
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... 1974 and finally reaches the English reading public today, in a suitably masterful translation by Helen Lane, is the kind of summa that absorbs everything that the writer has done before. This is Roa Bastos’s dialogue with himself through history and through a monstrous historical figure whom he has to imagine and understand if he is to imagine and ...

Not Just Yet

Frank Kermode: The Literature of Old Age, 13 December 2007

The Long Life 
by Helen Small.
Oxford, 346 pp., £25, December 2007, 978 0 19 922993 2
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... young know nothing directly about old age and their inquiries into the topic must be done blind. Helen Small, for instance, pronounces with impressive youthful verve and authority on a condition that must still, in a sense, be a closed book to her. Revealing her own age (42), she laments the dearth of serious philosophical reflection on the subject, and ...

How to Hiss and Huff

Robert Alter: Mann’s Moses, 2 December 2010

The Tables of the Law 
by Thomas Mann, translated by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann.
Haus, 113 pp., £10, October 2010, 978 1 906598 84 6
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... Thomas Mann wrote this engaging novella in a few weeks in 1943. (The new translation by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann, which is brisk and direct, is a welcome replacement of the fussier and less accurate English version done by Helen Lowe-Porter for the original publication.) The novella was written after Mann helped pitch a film on the Ten Commandments to MGM ...


John Lanchester, 11 July 1991

Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon 
edited by Stephen Egger.
Praeger, 250 pp., £33.50, October 1990, 0 275 92986 8
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Serial Killers 
by Joel Norris.
Arrow, 333 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 09 971750 6
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Life after Life 
by Tony Parker.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.50, May 1991, 0 330 31528 5
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American Psycho 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 399 pp., £6.99, April 1991, 0 330 31992 2
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Dirty Weekend 
by Helen Zahavi.
Macmillan, 185 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 333 54723 3
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Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris.
Mandarin, 366 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 7493 0942 3
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... the killings are as inert, and therefore as gratuitous, as one fears they will be. The killings in Helen Zahavi’s novel Dirty Weekend aren’t like that, partly because the author seems so intensely to approve of them. ‘This is the story of Bella, who woke up one morning and realised she’d had enough.’ Having ‘had enough’, Bella starts to go around ...

Mr Who He?

Stephen Orgel: Shakespeare’s Poems, 8 August 2002

The Complete Sonnets and Poems 
by William Shakespeare, edited by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 750 pp., £65, February 2002, 9780198184317
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... among the young, or the literate classes, or – extraordinarily – the Roman Catholic Church. Thomas Robinson, a lapsed friar, in a pamphlet published in 1622 called The Anatomy of the English Nunnery at Lisbon, described the comfortable life of a father confessor to the nuns there: ‘Then after supper it is usual for him to read a little of Venus and ...

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