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More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren, 17 September 1998

Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... Although often assigned on grounds of his subject-matter to the naturalist tradition of Dreiser, Frank Norris, Jack London, James T. Farrell and Wright, Algren departs from these writers in his prose; Malcolm Cowley called him a ‘poet of the Chicago slums’. All Algren’s losers have tales to tell, flights of fancy that fail to get them out of ...

Blackfell’s Scarlatti

August Kleinzahler: Basil Bunting, 21 January 1999

The Poet as Spy: The Life and Wild Times of Basil Bunting 
by Keith Alldritt.
Aurum, 221 pp., £19.95, October 1998, 1 85410 477 2
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... of music critic in London for the Outlook. He liked to tell the story that he received a call from Otto Theiss, the weekly’s literary editor, who asked him if he knew anything about music. Bunting replied: ‘Not a damn thing!’ Theiss told him he’d better learn quickly then, because he was the new music critic. Learn he did: Bunting was instrumental in ...

Big Bucks, Big Bangs

Chalmers Johnson: US intelligence and the bomb, 20 July 2006

Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea 
by Jeffrey Richelson.
Norton, 702 pp., £22.99, April 2006, 0 393 05383 0
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... up to and including testing, without having a human spy to witness it and tell us about it. He is frank about the numerous instances in which the whole detection apparatus failed, as it did in the first Soviet test of August 1949; the ‘Vela’ explosion in the South Atlantic in September 1979; the detonation by India of several devices, one ...

What has he got?

Norman Dombey: Saddam’s Nuclear Incapability, 17 October 2002

Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Net Assessment 
IISS, 104 pp., £40, September 2002Show More
Saddam’s Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man who Built Iraq’s Secret Weapon 
by Khidhir Hamza and Jeff Stein.
Touchstone, 342 pp., £10, April 2002, 0 7432 1135 9
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Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government 
Stationery Office, 53 pp., September 2002Show More
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... was picked up by the United States.’ But the Manhattan Project grew out of a memorandum that Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls at the University of Birmingham sent to the British Government in March 1940. They pointed out the fundamental principle of a nuclear weapon (and the reason it is still so difficult to make one): the necessity to separate the ...

‘What is your nation if I may ask?’

Colm Tóibín: Jews in Ireland, 30 September 1999

Jews in 20th-century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust 
by Dermot Keogh.
Cork, 336 pp., £45, March 1998, 9781859181492
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... was never permitted to become a defining feature of Irish Catholic culture.’ Frank Duff, who founded the Legion of Mary and was perhaps the most influential Catholic layman of the time, ‘was an able defender of the Jewish community’, as were some of his colleagues. Anti-semitism in Ireland was kept on the fringes of the Catholic ...

In His Hot Head

Andrew O’Hagan: Robert Louis Stevenson, 17 February 2005

Robert Louis Stevenson: A Biography 
by Claire Harman.
HarperCollins, 503 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 00 711321 8
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... written to a correspondent who had theories of his own. ‘Dear Mr Riches,’ the letter says, Frank Greene, one of my nephews, was with us the other day and I told him of our discussion about ‘Will of the Mill’. He at once, without any hesitation, announced that he agreed with your reading of it. He was not content with announcing his own opinion, but ...

Oedipal Wrecks

Michael Mason, 26 March 1992

Fates Worse than Death 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 240 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 224 02918 5
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... movements as ‘characters’ in some of his fiction. How is this to be reconciled with the frank dominance of a single character – a male narrator – in each of the novels since Breakfast of Champions? Shortly after the author, as a character in this novel, has uttered his resolve to make every person exactly as important as any other he hears a ...

Brecht’s New Age

Margot Heinemann, 1 March 1984

Brecht in Context: Comparative Approaches 
by John Willett.
Methuen, 274 pp., £12.50, February 1984, 0 413 50410 7
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Brecht: A Biography 
by Ronald Hayman.
Weidenfeld, 423 pp., £18.50, September 1983, 0 297 78198 7
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... not just lucky to have collaborators of the quality of Weill, Eisler and Dessau in music, Neher, Otto and Von Appen in stage design. He had himself a keen eye, great musicality and the skill and taste to know exactly what he wanted for his plays and song-settings. He did not simply delegate responsibility, Willett argues, but directly and creatively ...

A Thousand Mosquito Bites

Thomas Powers: Jews in Wartime Dresden, 21 September 2000

I Shall Bear Witness: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer, 1933-41 
edited by Martin Chalmers.
Phoenix, 656 pp., £11.99, May 1999, 0 7538 0684 3
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To the Bitter End: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer, 1942-45 
edited by Martin Chalmers.
Phoenix, 704 pp., £8.99, August 2000, 0 7538 1069 7
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... if he did not bestir himself. Klemperer was the son of a rabbi, cousin of the well-known conductor Otto Klemperer, youngest brother of two doctors and a lawyer, and a man convinced, until Hitler came to power, that he was a German among Germans and accepted as such. His own career had not come to much. A journalist in his youth, by 1933, in his early ...

How to play the piano

Nicholas Spice, 26 March 1992

Music Sounded Out 
by Alfred Brendel.
Robson, 258 pp., £16.95, September 1990, 0 86051 666 0
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Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations 
by Otto Friedrich.
Lime Tree, 441 pp., £12.99, October 1990, 9780413452313
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... approach to playing and interpretation. Brendel’s status in this respect is well conveyed by Frank Kermode, writing in the London Review of Books around the time that Bernhard published Der Untergeher:When Op. 111 came to an end amid great enthusiasm ... it was obvious that it had become the real right thing to catch this series. During the interval I ...

Bastard Foreigners

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare v. the English, 2 July 2020

Shakespeare’s Englishes: Against Englishness 
by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £75, October 2019, 978 1 108 49373 4
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... one of the only genuinely attractive likenesses of the playwright to be found anywhere. Otto Lessing’s 1904 statue, installed in the park beside the river Ilm in Weimar, deliberately makes Shakespeare the neighbour of the two founding dramatists of the German tradition, Goethe and Schiller, but unlike its sterner English precedents in Westminster ...

From Shtetl to Boulevard

Paul Keegan: Freud’s Mother, 5 October 2017

Freud: In His Time and Ours 
by Elisabeth Roudinesco, translated by Catherine Porter.
Harvard, 580 pp., £27.95, November 2016, 978 0 674 65956 8
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Freud: An Intellectual Biography 
by Joel Whitebook.
Cambridge, 484 pp., £30, February 2017, 978 0 521 86418 3
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... promise and the caveat were one and the same. If psychoanalysis is ‘a testimonial science’, in Frank Cioffi’s words, a world without witness, whose crucial scenes are played out in camera, then Freud’s word must be his bond. By the same token, he cannot easily be spoken for. And yet the biographers have never stopped speaking – for him, or against ...


Andrew O’Hagan: The Bournemouth Set, 21 May 2020

... the title Penny Whistles) in 1885, just as Longman’s started serialising his novel Prince Otto. He was ‘peddling in a corner’, he wrote to Edmund Gosse, ‘confined to the house, overwhelmed with necessary work, which I was not always doing well, and, in the very mild form in which the disease approaches me, touched with a sort of bustling ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86, 20 December 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... late in 1962. The rest of us are listening at last. The first letter is to Plath’s father, Otto. ‘I am coming home soon,’ she told him on a visit to her maternal grandparents in February 1940 – she was seven. ‘Are you as glad as I am?’ It is also her only letter to him since he died nine months later, following complications after the ...

Depicting Europe

Perry Anderson, 20 September 2007

... aware of what happened to him, one of its agents interrogating him in his oubliette in Kabul – Otto Schily, the minister of the interior, was in the Afghan capital at the time – and accompanying his flight back to Albania. But it was no more concerned about his fate than about that of another of its residents, a Turk born in Germany, seized by the CIA in ...

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