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Momentous Conjuncture

Geoffrey Best: Dracula in Churchill’s toyshop

18 March 2004
Prof: The Life of Frederick Lindemann 
by Adrian Fort.
Cape, 374 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 224 06317 0
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... personalities permitted, and it may be argued that anyone who is thankful that Britain ended the Second World War on the winning side should count ‘the Prof’ as one of those who helped win it. AdrianFort, in his good-natured but shrewd biography, comes down on that side of the argument, and so do I. But it was touch and go at times. The momentous conjuncture of Churchill with Lindemann did not ...

Musical Chairs with Ribbentrop

Bee Wilson: Nancy Astor

20 December 2012
Nancy: The Story of Lady Astor 
by Adrian Fort.
Cape, 378 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 0 224 09016 2
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... of another Great War. Yet much of what seemed to be pro-German bias in Nancy’s thinking reflected instead a deep hatred and suspicion of the Russians on the one hand and the French on the other. AdrianFort, in his new biography, argues persuasively that ‘on European matters a paramount influence upon Nancy seemed to be an aversion to the French’ and to ‘Latins in general’. As for the idea ...

Rite of Corruption

James Wood: Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’

21 October 2010
by Emma Donoghue.
Picador, 321 pp., £12.99, July 2010, 978 0 330 51901 4
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... In order for us to savour Jack’s banality, we have to experience a lot of it, and many pages in this book run along a very flat pavement: While Bath is running, Ma gets Labyrinth and Fort down from on top of Wardrobe. We’ve been making Labyrinth since I was two, she’s all toilet roll insides taped together in tunnels that twist lots of ways. Bouncy Ball loves to get lost in ...

i could’ve sold to russia or china

Jeremy Harding: Bradley Manning

19 July 2012
The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in US History 
by Chase Madar.
OR, 167 pp., £10, April 2012, 978 1 935928 53 9
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... a million diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks, all of them sourced by a thoughtful soldier in Iraq. Manning, who has spent two years in detention, first at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia and now in Fort Leavenworth, is charged under the Espionage Act and also with ‘aiding the enemy’. At his work station in a prefab intelligence building in Iraq, Manning came rapidly to feel that secrecy was a ...
13 July 2016
The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars 
by Adrian​ Tinniswood.
Cape, 406 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 0 224 09945 5
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... By 1929 the weekend was an established national fact, but still decidedly modern, often with racy connotations. When Edward Prince of Wales asked his father, George V, if he could have the use of Fort Belvedere at Windsor the king was surprised: ‘What could you possibly want that queer old place for? Those damn week-ends I suppose.’ He caved in and perhaps regretted it, for the weekends with ...
17 July 1997
W.H. Auden: Prose 1926-38, Essays and Reviews and Travel Books in Prose and Verse 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Faber, 836 pp., £40, March 1997, 0 571 17899 5
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... to Joseph Brodsky – of ‘September 1, 1939’: Faces along the bar Cling to their average day: The lights must never go out, The music must always play, All the conventions conspire To make this fort assume The furniture of home; Lest we should see where we are, Lost in a haunted wood, Children afraid of the night Who have never been happy or good. In places the language has been worn smooth ...

Something Rather Scandalous

Jean McNicol: The Loves of Rupert Brooke

19 October 2016
Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth 
by Nigel Jones.
Head of Zeus, 588 pp., £12, April 2015, 978 1 78185 703 8
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Fatal Glamour: The Life of Rupert Brooke 
by Paul Delany.
McGill-Queen’s, 380 pp., £28.99, March 2015, 978 0 7735 4557 1
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The Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner 
by Lorna C. Beckett.
British Library, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2015, 978 0 7123 5792 0
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... the Somme, noted in his diary. Brooke and his fellow officers, all public schoolboys who’d studied Greek, had been carried away by the Homeric echoes of their journey: ‘Do you think perhaps the fort on the Asiatic corner will need quelling,’ Brooke had written, ‘and we’ll land and come at it from behind and they’ll make a sortie and meet us on the plains of Troy?’ They were primed to ...

Lost in the Void

Jonathan Littell: In Ciudad Juárez

7 June 2012
... élix, on the Avenida Juárez near the bridge. There used to be ten or twelve nightclubs on this street that could hold up to a thousand people each, and on the weekends they were full; soldiers from Fort Bliss in El Paso would cross over in droves. Now that’s all over. In 2005, a vast ‘renovation’ programme began and most of the historic bars were torn down. Then the money dried up and Calderó ...

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