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A Monk’s-Eye View

Diarmaid MacCulloch, 10 March 2022

The Dissolution of the Monasteries: A New History 
by James G. Clark.
Yale, 649 pp., £25, October 2021, 978 0 300 11572 7
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Going to Church in Medieval England 
by Nicholas Orme.
Yale, 483 pp., £20, July 2021, 978 0 300 25650 5
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... Walsingham Priory in Norfolk (minus its famous shrine of Our Lady); his northern Protestant client Robert Ferrar advocated for his own Nostell Priory in Yorkshire as a new preaching centre and school. Abbot Sagar of Hailes Abbey imagined his house to have a future like Walsingham, as a college purged of its cult object of Christ’s blood. Among religious ...

Gesture as Language

David Trotter, 30 January 1992

A Cultural History of Gestures: From Antiquity to the Present 
edited by Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg.
Polity, 220 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 7456 0786 1
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The New Oxford Book of 17th-Century Verse 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 830 pp., £25, November 1991, 0 19 214164 3
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... mood, denouncing orators who gesticulate so wildly that it is scarcely safe to stand behind them. Robert Muchembled discovers almost the same degree of formality among Breton peasants as Maria Bogucka does among Polish courtiers and diplomats. I liked her account of a ‘farewell ceremony’ in 18th-century Poland. ‘A certain Miss Szamowska saying goodbye ...

A Talent for Beginnings

Michael Wood: Musil starts again, 15 April 1999

Diaries 1899-1942 
by Robert Musil, translated by Philip Payne.
Basic Books, 557 pp., £27.50, January 1999, 0 465 01650 2
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... 20 more chapters of Part III to the printers and revised them in galleys but then withdrew them. Burton Pike, an eminent Musil scholar and the translator of this material into English, nicely says these chapters ‘were intended to continue’ Part III ‘but not conclude it’. A brief Part IV, ironically called ‘A Kind of End’, was projected but not ...

Grail Trail

C.H. Roberts, 4 March 1982

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail 
by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.
Cape, 445 pp., £8.95, January 1982, 0 224 01735 7
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The Foreigner: A Search for the First-Century Jesus 
by Desmond Stewart.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 241 10686 9
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Satan: The Early Christian Tradition 
by Jeffrey Burton Russell.
Cornell, 258 pp., £14, November 1981, 0 8014 1267 6
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... is well-known. A few belong to both categories; those in the second include Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo; others, however, are nonentities. The temptation to dismiss the list out of hand is, as the authors agree, almost irresistible. They have, however, succeeded in establishing to their satisfaction that, apart from the ...

Born to Lying

Theo Tait: Le Carré, 3 December 2015

John le Carré: The Biography 
by Adam Sisman.
Bloomsbury, 652 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 2792 5
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... of David Cornwell, the former spy who has written under that curious pseudonym since 1961. Robert Harris chose not to proceed, for reasons that are hinted at but not made clear in this book, while in the early 1990s the journalist Graham Lord withdrew under a heavy legal barrage, after circulating an allegedly libellous proposal for his book. ‘I ...

Strange, Angry Objects

Owen Hatherley: The Brutalist Decades, 17 November 2016

A3: Threads and Connections 
by Peter Ahrends.
Right Angle, 128 pp., £18, December 2015, 978 0 9532848 9 4
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Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism 
by Barnabas Calder.
Heinemann, 416 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 434 02244 1
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Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-75 
by Elain Harwood.
Yale, 512 pp., £60, September 2015, 978 0 300 20446 9
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Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings around the World 
by Christopher Beanland.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £18, February 2016, 978 0 7112 3764 3
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This Brutal World 
by Peter Chadwick.
Phaidon, 224 pp., £29.95, April 2016, 978 0 7148 7108 0
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Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture 
by Nicolas Grospierre.
Prestel, 224 pp., £29.99, February 2016, 978 3 7913 8229 6
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Modernist Estates: The Buildings and the People Who Live in Them 
by Stefi Orazi.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 7112 3675 2
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Architecture an Inspiration 
by Ivor Smith.
Troubador, 224 pp., £24.95, November 2014, 978 1 78462 069 1
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... of this tale, through three generations of architects. Peter founded the influential firm Ahrends, Burton and Koralek (ABK) in 1960s London, and his grandfather, Bruno, was one of the principal designers of the White City estate in northern Berlin, one of a cluster of social housing projects from the Weimar era to be given a Unesco World Heritage listing. It ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... prose that – especially in generations formed before the Civil War: for Powell, conspicuously Robert Burton – was modally baroque left its mark too. Out of this frequentation with forms of writing prior to Augustan normalisation, and a much wider range of wartime and postwar reading, not just in English literature, Powell developed a style as ...

An Infinity of Novels

Philip Horne, 14 September 1989

A Short Guide to the World Novel: From Myth to Modernism 
by Gilbert Phelps.
Routledge, 397 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 415 00765 8
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The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction 
by John Sutherland.
Longman, 696 pp., £35, March 1989, 0 582 49040 5
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The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel 1875-1914 
by Peter Keating.
Secker, 533 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 436 23248 0
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... to be acknowledged as backward-looking also, not only in its allusions but also in its forms, to Burton, Cervantes, Rabelais and so on. This is taken by Phelps as pulling against his initial statement that, in the colonising metaphor, Sterne ‘mapped out important new territory for the future’. Perhaps it is an impossible task that Phelps has bravely ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... and surveys a number of translators who were information-gatherers for their paymasters (Richard Burton, for example, the maker of a steamy Arabian Nights). Briggs lobbied hard for the job of translating Roland Barthes’s famous lecture series at the Collège de France, and, in spite of being a newcomer to ‘this little art’, was commissioned. Her ...

‘A Being full of Witching’

Charles Nicholl: The ‘poor half-harlot’ of Hazlitt’s affections, 18 May 2000

... Anthony. In the same year Sarah’s elder sister Martha married a well-to-do young solicitor, Robert Roscoe, who had been one of their first lodgers at Southampton Buildings. This was an excellent match from the Walkers’ point of view, one they were no doubt keen to repeat for Sarah, now in her late teens, and their other children, Micaiah ...

A Very Low Birth Rate in Kakania

Nicholas Spice, 16 October 1997

The Man without Qualities 
by Robert Musil, translated by Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike.
Picador, 1774 pp., £40, November 1995, 0 330 34682 2
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The Man without Qualities 
by Robert Musil, translated by Sophie Wilkins.
Picador, 1130 pp., £15, October 1997, 0 330 34942 2
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... There is only one baby in The Man without Qualities. Her mother is Rachel, maid to Ermelinda Tuzzi who is the wife of Section Chief Tuzzi, a bureaucrat in the service of the Imperial Austrian Government in Vienna. The year is 1913: Rachel was 19 and believed in miracles. She had been born in a squalid shack in Poland, where a mezuzah hung on the doorpost and the soil came up through the cracks in the floorboards ...

Samuel Johnson goes abroad

Claude Rawson, 29 August 1991

A Voyage to Abyssinia 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Joel Gold.
Yale, 350 pp., £39.50, July 1985, 0 300 03003 7
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Rasselas, and Other Tales 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Gwin Kolb.
Yale, 290 pp., £24.50, March 1991, 0 300 04451 8
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A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) 
by Samuel Johnson.
Longman, 1160 pp., £195, September 1990, 0 582 07380 4
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The Making of Johnson’s Dictionary, 1746-1773 
by Allen Reddick.
Cambridge, 249 pp., £30, October 1990, 0 521 36160 5
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Samuel Johnson’s Attitude to the Arts 
by Morris Brownell.
Oxford, 195 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 19 812956 4
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Johnson’s Shakespeare 
by G.F. Parker.
Oxford, 204 pp., £25, April 1989, 0 19 812974 2
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... When Johnson first wrote to Hastings on 30 March 1774, recommending to him the future Sir Robert Chambers, one of his Majesty’s Judges in India, and enclosing a copy of Jones’s Persian Grammar (1771), he pressed Hastings to ‘examine nicely the Traditions and Histories of the East’, and use his ‘attention and patronage’ to add to knowledge ...
... published in 2009 to mark the fortieth anniversary of Cottam power station in Nottinghamshire, Robert Davis quotes one of the employees: There was so much wastage during the CEGB days. It was like they had money to burn. The stores were always full and we had spares for everything. Bureaucracy was part of the problem. If you signed stuff out of the ...

Trains in Space

James Meek: The Great Train Robbery, 5 May 2016

The Railways: Nation, Network and People 
by Simon Bradley.
Profile, 645 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 1 84668 209 4
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... year well into the 20th century. Part of the reason was the insanely long hours they worked. The Burton-on-Trent brewing tycoon Michael Bass, who moved half a million barrels of beer by rail each year (the ‘undercroft’ of St Pancras Station, now the departure area for Eurostar passengers, was originally built as a depot for some of this beer), became a ...

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