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Anti-Writer

Clair Wills: Plain Brian O’Nolan, 4 April 2019

The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Maebh Long.
Dalkey Archive, 619 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 62897 183 5
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... In October 1938 – in his first outing as Flann O’Brien – he intervened in a debate between Sean O’Faolain and Frank O’Connor on ‘Ideals for an Irish Theatre’, in the letters pages of the Irish Times. The spat was self-consciously intellectual, with O’Connor arguing for a return to ‘peasant quality’ and O’Faolain in favour of importing ...

Diary

Edward Said: My Encounter with Sartre, 1 June 2000

... engaged activist, seemed to repel more people than it attracted. From being the most quoted of the French maîtres penseurs, he became, in the space of about twenty years, the least read and the least analysed. His courageous positions on Algeria and Vietnam were forgotten. So were his work on behalf of the oppressed, his gutsy appearance as a Maoist radical ...

Your mission is to get the gun

Theo Tait: Raoul Moat, 31 March 2016

You Could Do Something Amazing with Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat] 
by Andrew Hankinson.
Scribe, 204 pp., £12.99, February 2016, 978 1 922247 91 9
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... visited, camping out in the corner of a field with Ness and another friend, Qhuram Awan, known as Sean, who he unconvincingly claimed were his hostages. On Saturday afternoon he called 999 to declare war on Northumbria Police, accusing the force of persecuting him. Soon afterwards, he shot PC David Rathband, a traffic policeman, at a roundabout on the ...

No more pretty face

Philip Horne, 8 March 1990

Emotion Pictures: Reflections on the Cinema 
by Wim Wenders, translated by Sean Whiteside and Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 148 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15271 6
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Scorsese on Scorsese 
by Martin Scorsese, edited by David Thompson and Ian Christie.
Faber, 178 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571141036
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... the American actors Harry Dean Stanton and Dean Stockwell as the central Henderson brothers, the French Aurore Clément and the German Nastassia Kinski as their wives. For Wenders, a long-time lover of the Western and of American rock music, it was, as he has since told the French magazine Positif, the closing of a ...

Further Left

R.W. Johnson, 16 August 1990

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Hogarth, 357 pp., £9.99, July 1990, 0 7012 0903 8
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Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 398 pp., £18, July 1990, 0 7011 3361 9
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... is its subtitle: Anglo-American Ironies. For that is, one realises, Hitchens’s métier. As the French would put it, il ironise. In fact, the book is shrewdly, even deftly done. Hitchens himself has been a beneficiary of the American assumption that an Englishman is, at least potentially and embryonically, a superior sort of American. The advent of ...

Disorientation

Jonathan Coe, 5 October 1995

The Island of the Day Before 
by Umberto Eco.
Secker, 513 pp., £16.99, October 1995, 0 436 20270 0
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... for its critical gusto and its sense that he had really enjoyed the novels (by a sweet irony, Sean Connery would later take the lead in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film of The Name of the Rose). But he maintained, nonetheless, a high-minded refusal to make exaggerated claims for them, dismissing the Bond canon, finally, as ‘a museum of déjà vu, a recital ...

Plain girl’s revenge made flesh

Hilary Mantel, 23 April 1992

Madonna Unauthorised 
by Christopher Andersen.
Joseph, 279 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 7181 3536 9
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... feast: but more lavish, and more portentous. When Madonna married the misanthropic actor Sean Penn, ‘reporters were stopped at the curb by a guard armed with a .357 magnum handgun ... an army of journalists descended on 6970 Wildlife Road, the palatial $6.5 million cliff-top home of property developer and Penn family friend Dan Unger. Armed ...

Her Father’s Dotter

Terry Eagleton: The life of Lucia Joyce, 22 July 2004

Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake 
by Carol Loeb Shloss.
Bloomsbury, 560 pp., £20, June 2004, 0 7475 7033 7
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... this wretchedness. In her best Oirish style, as though cribbing from a particularly uninspired Sean O’Casey play, Shloss depicts a ‘loquacious, opinionated life that was filled with music, books, potatoes, cabbages, Irish bacon, polenta, colourful conversation, and a lackadaisical attention to custom’. Joyce, she continues, was a ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: Trimble’s virtues, 7 October 2004

... summer, I recall, when I read Crime and Punishment, while fishing the Pound Lough with Patrice, my French exchange partner, who pored over thick volumes of Balzac to be ready for school in September. I spend the evening – or part of it – with Himself Alone, and then we all head out for Iggy’s bar; there’s a lock-in after hours, and we’re not home ...

Flings

Rosemary Hill: The Writers’ Blitz, 21 February 2013

The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War 
by Lara Feigel.
Bloomsbury, 519 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 1 4088 3044 4
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... with an awkwardness of tone that made an impression on the Irish writer and occasional IRA gunman Sean O’Faolain, with whom she was in bed at the time. He made a joke about it, which she considered in poor taste and there was a subsequent cooling in their relationship. It was to be his last visit to her house and the first change of partners in a frantic ...

Belfast Diary

Edna Longley: In Belfast, 9 January 1992

... But, in the interval, he skilfully combines de Valera’s meticulously crafted republicanism with Sean Lemass’s best possible blend of cosmopolitan modernity and ancestral loyalty for present-day Ireland.’Irish writers occasionally take time off from the National Question to contemplate sex or death or to play around with form. But many of their academic ...

To the Benefit of No One

Niamh Gallagher: Henry Wilson’s Assassination, 4 August 2022

Great Hatred: The Assassination of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson MP 
by Ronan McGreevy.
Faber, 442 pp., £20, May, 978 0 571 37280 5
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... in the event of a European war deploying the British Expeditionary Force on the left side of the French army would be beneficial – which turned out to be true. His good working relationship with the supreme allied commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, was crucial in 1918, when he proposed the creation of a unified chain of command between the Allies. He was ...

Issues of Truth and Invention

Colm Tóibín: Francis Stuart’s wartime broadcasts, 4 January 2001

The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart 
edited by Brendan Barrington.
Lilliput, 192 pp., £25, September 2000, 1 901866 54 8
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... older than him, and was Maud Gonne’s daughter with the right-wing (and deeply anti-semitic) French politician Lucien Millevoye. (Iseult had had an affair with Ezra Pound before Francis married her; in 1917 Yeats had proposed marriage to her.) Stuart published poetry which Yeats admired. He fought on the Republican side in the Irish Civil War and was ...

Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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Neighbours 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... and compared with 20th-century Southern Africa, or as ‘attempted integration’, like French rule in Algeria. To what extent did Irish circumstances deflect British aims in, say, the vital decade of the 1790s, when modern notions of nationalism, republicanism and revolution seem firmly to have been implanted? Is the Irish obsession with the past a ...

Snail Slow

Colm Tóibín: Letters to John McGahern, 27 January 2022

The Letters of John McGahern 
edited by Frank Shovlin.
Faber, 851 pp., £30, September 2021, 978 0 571 32666 2
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... and games. We are all well. I was gugering for Uncle Pat Thursday.        Goodbye from Sean to DaddyAt the time, McGahern and his siblings were living in Aughawillan, County Leitrim, with their mother. Their father, a sergeant in the Gardaí, lived some distance away and visited occasionally. He appears in McGahern’s early novels – The Barracks ...

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