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Top-Drawer in Geneva

Michael Wood, 30 November 1995

Belle du Seigneur 
by Albert Cohen, translated by David Coward.
Viking, 974 pp., £20, November 1995, 9780670821877
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... without choosing and without arguing.’ Proust’s principle is admirable, but he hadn’t read Albert Cohen, parts of whose Belle du Seigneur are so mawkishly terrible you wonder why the publishers haven’t folded from embarrassment, while other parts are brilliantly, minutely observed, mercilessly funny, a parade of social and moral dissections that ...

Happy Campers

Ellen Meiksins Wood: G.A. Cohen, 28 January 2010

Why Not Socialism? 
by G.A. Cohen.
Princeton, 83 pp., £10.95, September 2009, 978 0 691 14361 3
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... Socialism’, Albert Einstein said, is humanity’s attempt ‘to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development’, and for G.A. Cohen ‘every market … is a system of predation.’ That is the essence of his short but trenchant and elegantly written last book – Cohen died last August ...

How so very dear

Joshua Cohen: Ben Marcus, 21 June 2012

The Flame Alphabet: A Novel 
by Ben Marcus.
Granta, 289 pp., £16.99, June 2012, 978 1 84708 622 8
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... a condiment, but as ‘an item that comprises the inner and outer core of most to all animals’. Albert isn’t the husband as much as a noun meaning ‘nightly killer of light’. Jennifer, whether the wife or not, is also ‘the inability to see’. The Age of Wire and String proved influential, especially within a creative writing establishment eager to ...

Nothing he hasn’t done, nowhere he hasn’t been

Adam Shatz: Claude Lanzmann, 5 April 2012

The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir 
by Claude Lanzmann, translated by Frank Wynne.
Atlantic, 528 pp., £25, March 2012, 978 1 84887 360 5
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... on the page. ‘You are the only one who talked about me as I would have wished,’ the novelist Albert Cohen told him. It was a charmed life, particularly for a Jew who’d spent his youth on the run from the Gestapo and the collaborationist Milice. But the war never really ended for Lanzmann. Seventy-five thousand Jews were deported by ...

Lemon and Pink

David Trotter: The Sorrows of Young Ford, 1 June 2000

Return to Yesterday 
by Ford Madox Ford, edited by Bill Hutchings.
Carcanet, 330 pp., £14.95, August 1999, 1 85754 397 1
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War Prose 
by Ford Madox Ford, edited by Max Saunders.
Carcanet, 276 pp., £14.95, August 1999, 1 85754 396 3
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... old for frontline duty, and soon found himself with the battalion transport in Bécourt Wood, near Albert. On 28 or 29 July, a shell exploded beside him, and he lost his memory. In the Casualty Clearing station at Corbie, he hallucinated a congregation of immense shapes in grey-white cagoules. The shapes, with their grey-whiteness and their ‘dreadful ...

Aids and the Polio Vaccine

Edward Hooper: New evidence, 3 April 2003

... oral polio vaccine to be amplified locally, in labs around the world. Some virologists, including Albert Sabin, whose sugar lump OPV was adopted for use the world over, acknowledged this fact in their publications. Others, including makers of CHAT vaccine, did not. However, the papers written about vaccinations in Poland in 1959-60 by collaborators of the ...

I’m a Surfer

Steven Shapin: What’s the Genome Worth?, 20 March 2008

A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life 
by Craig Venter.
Allen Lane, 390 pp., £25, October 2007, 978 0 7139 9724 8
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... at the University of California, San Francisco. Working with the Stanford geneticist Stanley Cohen, Boyer had helped to develop some elegant recombinant DNA technologies which immediately suggested enormous value to the pharmaceutical industry. As was normal at the time, intellectual property rights were assigned to the universities, from the licensing ...

Balfour, Weizmann and the Creation of Israel

Charles Glass: Palestine, 7 June 2001

One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate 
by Tom Segev, translated by Haim Watzman.
Little, Brown, 612 pp., £25, January 2001, 0 316 64859 0
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Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine 1917-48 
by Naomi Shepherd.
Murray, 290 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 7195 6322 4
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... to hold onto their gains in Turkey, Balfour addressed a predominantly Jewish audience at the Albert Hall in London. He reminded them that Britain had freed the Arabs ‘from the tyranny of their brutal conqueror’ – Turkey – during the Great War. ‘I hope,’ he went on, ‘that, remembering all that, they will not grudge that small notch – for ...

The Great Lie

Charles Glass: Israel, 30 November 2000

The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World 
by Avi Shlaim.
Allen Lane, 670 pp., £25, April 2000, 9780713994100
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Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 
by Benny Morris.
Murray, 752 pp., £25, January 2000, 0 7195 6222 8
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A Blood-Dimmed Tide: Dispatches from the Middle East 
by Amos Elon.
Allen Lane, 354 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 7139 9368 5
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Fabricating Israeli History: The ‘New Historians’ 
by Efraim Karsh.
Frank Cass, 236 pp., £39.50, May 2000, 0 7146 5011 0
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From Herzl to Rabin: The Changing Image of Zionism 
by Amnon Rubinstein.
Holmes & Meier, 283 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 8419 1408 7
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... Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (1987), Ilan Pappé, Yossi Amitai, Uri Bar-Joseph, Michael Cohen and Uri Milstein. In 1948 and After Morris wrote of his generation of Israeli historians: ‘Most of them, born around 1948, have matured in a more open, doubting and self-critical Israel than the pre-1967, pre-1973 and pre-Lebanon War Israel of the old ...

October!

John Lloyd, 21 October 1993

... in no position to do so. A war hero himself, Rutskoi was surrounded by harder men still. General Albert Makashov, a Stalinist who had challenged Yeltsin for the Presidency back in 1991, was a senior commander. General Vladimir Achalov, who had been ready, as one of the few unequivocally pro-Putschist commanders, to attack the White House in 1991, was the ...

Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo

David Wheatley: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 4 December 2014

Midway: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Stephen Bann, 1964-69 
edited by Stephen Bann.
Wilmington Square, 426 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 905524 34 1
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... only exhausted but somehow furious at all such people’. Anathemas were pronounced. Harold Cohen was ‘never to be mentioned again. He is an ignorant person’, Donald Davie was a ‘wretch’, and R.B. Kitaj ‘one of the very worst painters of the century’. When words were insufficient, Finlay’s indignation broke out in truncated sound poems ...

One day I’ll tell you what I think

Adam Shatz: Sartre in Cairo, 22 November 2018

No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre and Decolonisation 
by Yoav Di-Capua.
Chicago, 355 pp., £26, March 2018, 978 0 226 50350 9
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The Stillborn: Notebooks of a Woman from the Student-Movement Generation in Egypt 
by Arwa Salih, translated by Samah Selim.
Seagull, 163 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 0 85742 483 9
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... only to Fanon’s book, but to Léopold Sédar Senghor’s anthology of Négritude poets and to Albert Memmi’s Portrait of the Coloniser. ‘Your influence in this region is deeper and wider than that of any other writer,’ the Egyptian writer Ahmad ‘Abbas Salih told him. Fanon, alert to the transformation that had caused Sartre to replace the abstract ...

More a Voyeur

Colm Tóibín: Elton Took Me Hostage, 9 December 2019

Me 
by Elton John.
Macmillan, 376 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 1 5098 5331 1
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... lit, but the space around him was black. He could easily have been someone’s answer to Leonard Cohen, the songwriter as lonely, fucked-up guy. He looked like a recluse, introspective, overeducated; his voice sounded weird, the accent fake American. At the time, it took me ages to work out that the opening two words of ‘Border Song’ were ‘Holy ...

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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... here: next to the clustered roof lights of the Zalman Aranne Library in Israel, Leonard Cohen tells us that ‘there is a crack, a crack, in everything, that’s how the light gets in’; underneath an image of the bluntly Expressionist Luckenwalde Hat Factory by Erich Mendelsohn, Nick Cave sings that ‘out of sorrow entire worlds have been ...

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