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He is English, after all

Neal Ascherson: Unboreable Leigh Fermor, 7 November 2013

The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
John Murray, 362 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 1 84854 752 0
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... of the Balkans’. He is in a Bulgarian café as it explodes with joy at the news that King Alexander of Yugoslavia has been assassinated, and in Ruse entertains his landlady by singing a Marlene Dietrich song backwards (he is English, after all). And one night, south of Varna, he falls off the rocks into the sea and recovers in a cave full of ...


Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis., 10 May 2001

The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... The precision of the attack is astounding, and is matched by the bluntness of the condemnation. Alexander Theroux is scolded for ‘pseudo-elegant variation’ when he switches from ‘which’ to ‘that’ in mid-sentence. Worse still, the sentence in question is in any case ‘a wreck: ugly, untrue and illiterate’. Even greater names are not spared. An ...

The poet steamed

Iain Sinclair: Tom Raworth, 19 August 2004

Collected Poems 
by Tom Raworth.
Carcanet, 576 pp., £16.95, February 2003, 1 85754 624 5
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Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth 
edited by Nate Dorward.
The Gig, 288 pp., £15, March 2003, 0 9685294 3 7
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... instance death to the American tongue.’ Manner and class, bedevilling our screens with Evelyn Waugh revisions and soapy TV scrapings from the heritage catalogue (country houses, clothes that fit too well), is no part of Raworth’s remit. He’s all detail, all darting quickness. Drainpipe trousers, winklepickers and the sod-you edge of the premature ...

Allergic to Depths

Terry Eagleton: Gothic, 18 March 1999

Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Fourth Estate, 438 pp., £20, December 1998, 1 85702 498 2
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... fascinating pages). This is clear enough from Davenport-Hines’s inclusion among his Goths of Alexander Pope, the Earl of Shaftesbury and the architect William Kent. The dominant culture of 18th-century England was not averse to a spot of wild irregularity, not least when it came to gardening. Or indeed to the heroic couplet, which combines symmetry with ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... to the DNB. The rationale of this remains obscure, and in this volume robs us of Nigel Nicolson on Alexander, A.J.P. Taylor on Beaverbrook, Martin Gilbert on Churchill, Jonathan Dimbleby on his father, John Pearson on Ian Fleming, P.N. Furbank on E.M. Forster, Philip Williams on Gaitskell, Sybille Bedford on Aldous Huxley, Michael Holroyd on Augustus ...

Flaubert at Two Hundred

Julian Barnes: Flaubert, the Parrot and Me, 16 December 2021

... simple perversity; and they may affect to love the most overlooked of their progeny. Thus Evelyn Waugh used to claim that his favourite novel was Helena. Though Salammbô was a greater financial and social success than Madame Bovary – it became a meme, and the inspiration for ballgowns – most knew that Flaubert’s first novel was his best, and always ...

Catacomb Graffiti

Clive James, 20 December 1979

Poems and Journeys 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 97 pp., £3.90
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Eugene Onegin 
by Alexander Pushkin, translated by Charles Johnston.
Penguin Classics, 238 pp., £1.50
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... and Anthony Powell have both always let their participles dangle with abandon, and Evelyn Waugh, in the same chapter of his autobiography which tells us that only those who have studied Latin can write English, perpetrates at least one sentence whose past participle is so firmly attached to the wrong subject that there is no prising it loose. This ...

Brideshead and the Tower Blocks

Patrick Wright, 2 June 1988

Home: A Short History of an Idea 
by Witold Rybczynski.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 434 14292 1
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... the Vanities, includes a hypocritical left-wing English journalist (modelled, it would appear, on Alexander Cockburn) who prospers by turning out fawning articles for magazines like House and Garden. It also shows the English country-house interior turning up on Wall Street’s 50th floor: imported, cut down to size and squeezed into place by an enthusiastic ...

A Man of No Mind

Colm Tóibín: The Passion of Roger Casement, 13 September 2012

The Dream of the Celt 
by Mario Vargas Llosa and Edith Grossman.
Faber, 404 pp., £18.99, June 2012, 978 0 571 27571 7
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... His time there, which included many subplots and escapades, needs a comic novelist such as Evelyn Waugh, J.G. Farrell or indeed the Mario Vargas Llosa of The Time of the Hero or Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter rather than this ponderous stylist. In Germany Casement hoped to meet Irish prisoners of war filled with the same spirit of romantic nationalism and ...

Does one flare or cling?

Alice Spawls, 5 May 2016

‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
by Robin Muir.
National Portrait Gallery, 304 pp., £40, February 2016, 978 1 85514 561 0
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‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
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... the old Penguin Classics cover for The Great Gatsby. The far end of this group is presided over by Alexander McQueen, in a huge image blown up to fill a 12 foot archway. The designer most closely associated with the resurgence of British fashion in the last twenty years broods with cigarette and skull like a troubled Hamlet to Vivienne Westwood’s fairy ...

Freedom of the Press

Anthony Lewis, 26 November 1987

... of racism until the news reports of the Fifties and Sixties confronted them with it. Professor Alexander Bickel of the Yale Law School wrote that television coverage of mob resistance to school desegregation brought concretely home to viewers what the abstract idea of racial segregation meant, ‘Here were grown men and women,’ he said, ‘furiously ...

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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... in size. If we confine ourselves to Britain, Martin Stannard produced a thousand pages on Evelyn Waugh, who died when he was 62; Graham Greene, who survived him by a quarter of a century, received two thousand from Norman Sherry. These are huge tomes. Even such a minuscule figure as Kingsley Amis has been encased in an obese 995 pages from Zachary ...

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