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Getting back

Adrian Poole

1 July 1982
A crowd is not company 
by Robert Kee.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.50, May 1982, 9780224020039
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by Clive Sinclair.
Allison and Busby, 109 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 85031 454 2
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New Writing and Writers 19 
John Calder, 262 pp., £6.95, April 1982, 0 7145 3811 6Show More
Zhenia’s Childhood 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Alec Brown.
Allison and Busby, 115 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 85031 466 6
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... as Zhenia’s Childhood deserves credit or not is very difficult for the Russianless reader to decide. For a start he is strangely unnamed, but I understand that this is an error and that his name is AlecBrown. The stories were first published together in Russian in 1929 and one assumes that the Russian is highly coloured and densely textured. One assumes this because the English version impresses ...


Robert Morley

21 June 1984
Personal Mark 
by Alec​ McCowen.
Hamish Hamilton, 236 pp., £7.95, May 1984, 9780241112632
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Feeling you’re behind: An Autobiography 
by Peter Nichols.
Weidenfeld, 242 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 297 78392 0
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... Filming a few years back in Paris, we were visited on the set by a cardinal. Alec Guinness being absent, I took it upon myself to show him around and at the same time express my sorrow that he had missed so recent a convert to his faith. His Eminence allowed himself a rather ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Ed Balls

21 September 2016
... was elected in 1900 as a Tory, became a Liberal, lost his seat, got another one, became a Tory again, won the premiership, lost it, and won it back again, retiring from Parliament in 1964. Even Alec Douglas-Home had a second act after losing the election of 1964, serving as foreign secretary under Edward Heath. These are the lucky ones. A different fate awaited Jim Callaghan, who drifted into a ...
22 August 1996
... their trials. Franco waited because there are only two judges who can conduct jury trials and they are well booked up. My interpreter passed on her lucrative assignment to a fellow law student named Alec. Alec was 20, six feet tall and made of soft lard. (‘I’m not fat, I’m chubby.’) He was studying law because lawyers make the most money. He also taught English at a private language school ...
23 April 1987
Selected Literary Criticism of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Alan Heuser.
Oxford, 279 pp., £19.50, March 1987, 0 19 818573 1
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... in the hope of establishing that there are real forces at war. The attempt to make MacNeice a precursor seems to have begun in 1974 in Time was away: The World of Louis MacNeice, edited by Terence Brown and Alec Reid, but at that stage it was a tentative thing. Indeed, Derek Mahon’s essay in that book, ‘MacNeice in England and Ireland’, mentioned the matter only to set it aside. ‘He had no ...
4 March 1982
Evelyn Waugh, Writer 
by Robert Murray Davis.
Pilgrim Books, 342 pp., $20.95, May 1981, 0 937664 00 6
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... To the War with Waugh has 56 pages, Frances Donaldson’s Portrait of a Country Neighbour 118, while those collected in Evelyn Waugh and his World are naturally shorter still. It is true that Alec Waugh returned several times to the subject of his brother and wrote at some length: but then he flaunted his love of America and American ways. Their contributions have been more rigorous, factual ...
1 October 1998
England, England 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 272 pp., £15.99, September 1998, 0 224 05275 6
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... between me and her beyond a fleeting friendship’) and hailed her as ‘a burning angel’. In another article, entitled ‘Woman in Earnest: What was on Diana’s mind as summer began?’, Tina Brown, then editor of the magazine, thought that Diana had perhaps found a place to channel all that unrequited love, and was ‘learning to be sustained by it’, while Salman Rushdie (‘Crash: Was the ...


Duncan McLean: Frank Sargeson

7 June 2018
... he’d let it stay in my hand, and there’d be the faint grin on his face. Terry, I’d say. I’m all right boy, he’d say. Shortly after its completion, Sargeson wrote about That Summer to Alec Pickard: ‘Mainly I suppose it could be described as a story about love – I suppose an attempt at demonstrating something of the faith trust responsibility confidence & belief that is the sine qua ...
5 April 1984
TheSinking of the ‘Belgrano’ 
by Desmond Rice and Arthur Gavshon.
Secker, 192 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 436 41332 9
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Our Falklands War 
edited by Geoffrey Underwood.
Maritime Books, 144 pp., £3.95, November 1983, 0 907771 08 4
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... out of various bags by revealing to the Scottish press corps that he had sunk the Belgrano on orders from Fleet Headquarters at Northwood. Now we find the submarine commander, Christopher Wreford-Brown DSO, saying in Our Falklands War: We were tasked to look for and find the General Belgrano Group. It was reported to consist of the cruiser and escorts. We located her on our passive sonar and ...
19 May 1983
by Roy Medvedev, translated by Brian Pearce.
Blackwell, 292 pp., £9.50, November 1982, 0 631 12993 6
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Soviet Policy for the 1980s 
edited by Archie Brown and Michael Kaser.
Macmillan/St Antony’s College, Oxford, 282 pp., £20, December 1982, 0 333 33139 7
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... in detail in a book which should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in Soviet affairs and in the problems confronting Andropov. Soviet Policy for the 1980s, edited by Archie Brown and Michael Kaser, both of St Antony’s College, Oxford, is a collection of nine essays on different aspects of the Soviet system completed six months before Brezhnev’s death. There is one ...


D.A.N. Jones

21 November 1985
The Prague Orgy 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 89 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 224 02815 4
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by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 378 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2843 7
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Cousin Rosamund 
by Rebecca West.
Macmillan, 295 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 333 39797 5
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The Battle of Pollocks Crossing 
by J.L. Carr.
Viking, 176 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 670 80559 9
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The Bone People 
by Keri Hulme.
Hodder, 450 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 37024 6
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... to the Welsh working class, others to the world of Cambridge scholarship, and their family life is as complicated as Greek ancestral myths. The book begins: ‘Merritt, did you say? Any relation to Alec Merritt?’ ‘He’s my father. I don’t see him. They split when I was a child ... ’ ‘Yet I had a clear impression you were something to do with Phil Whitlow.’ ‘He married my mother ...

Questionably Virtuous

Stuart Middleton: Harold Wilson

7 September 2016
Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled Prime Minister? Reappraising Harold Wilson 
edited by Andrew Crines and Kevin Hickson.
Biteback, 319 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78590 031 0
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... whom the EEC’s capitalist rationale was anathema. Wilson backed his leader but could not secure his trust: after Wilson unsuccessfully contested the deputy leadership with the Gaitskellite George Brown at the end of 1962, Gaitskell told a journalist that although both were prone to disloyalty, he preferred Brown’s drunken indiscretions to Wilson’s more sober calculations. Gaitskell died of ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2004

6 January 2005
... after a performance in John Osborne’s A Patriot for Me at Chichester for which he had been much praised, Alan was sitting in his dressing-room when there was a tentative knock on the door. It was Alec Guinness. He shook Alan’s hand, said, ‘You must be very tired,’ and left. Alan’s languid phone calls were often to do with professional humiliation. In the 1999 production of Antony and ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud

21 June 2001
Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... have got away with it if his very distinctive voice, variously described throughout his life as resembling a cello, an ‘unbridled oboe’, or, most spectacularly, ‘a trumpet muffled with silk’ (Alec Guinness), had not been recognised by a person who was in court on some other, unrelated business. If all this indeed happened at the height of a homophobic witch-hunt, the actor seems to have got ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan

8 September 2011
Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... wondered why his own career had fallen so far short of his father’s, Macmillan said: ‘Because you weren’t ruthless enough.’ When Eden offered him the Exchequer, Macmillan did a Gordon Brown: insisting that ‘as chancellor, I must be undisputed head of the home front, under you’ and that there could be no question of his predecessor, Butler, being accorded the title of deputy prime ...

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