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Whip, Spur and Lash

John Ray: The Epic of Gilgamesh, 2 September 1999

The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation 
by Andrew George.
Allen Lane, 225 pp., £20, March 1999, 0 7139 9196 8
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... BC, but its later role was similar to that of Latin in the Middle Ages. A school text quoted by Andrew George in his new translation of The Epic of Gilgamesh makes a sardonic point about Sumerian and its importance: The door monitor said, ‘Why did you go out             without my say-so?’ and he beat me. The water monitor said, ‘Why ...

Short Cuts

Marina Warner: The Flood, 6 March 2014

... I face More of the epic would be discovered under the sand as time went on. In 1990 Stephanie Dalley added more lines to her edition from newly recovered pieces, but most of what’s left has probably been smashed in the course of the Iraq wars. It seems proper that a place of fire and dust, its skin scarred by warfare, should be the origin of the story of the Flood today: devastation in negative, flood and drought bound together ...

Snubs

E.S. Turner, 19 August 1993

The Descent of Manners: Etiquette, Rules and the Victorians 
by Andrew St George.
Chatto, 330 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 7011 3623 5
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... of good behaviour. The ‘Christless code’ of pistols at dawn does not rate a mention in Andrew St George’s The Descent of Manners, a study of ‘the subtle binding codes that ruled all aspects of 19th-century life’. His concern is only with the middle classes, who had their own sense of honour but were less ...

At the Hunterian

Andrew O’Hagan: Joan Eardley gets her due, 4 November 2021

... Steptoe and Son had started on TV.The Samsons lived on the top floor at 115 Rottenrow. The father, Andrew, known to everybody as Sam, was 42, an ex-serviceman. His wife, Jean, was 40. She had been Jane Culross Third in 1942, when they got married at St Mungo’s R.C. Church. They were just round the corner from Sam’s parents, who lived in a tenement on ...

His Little Game

Andrew Boyle, 27 July 1989

The Blake Escape: How we freed George Blake – and why 
by Michael Randle and Pat Pottle.
Harrap, 298 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 245 54781 9
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... 1936 – a bad period not only in England but throughout Europe – he left a widow and the young George in somewhat reduced circumstances. The change of name from Behar to Blake was understandable enough. However, there were further complications which did not help the boy, then rising twelve: one of the Behar sisters had married a banker, Henri Curiel, who ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: Dr Macgregor’s Diagnosis, 3 March 2011

... common decency. British politicians don’t talk that way any more, even when it matters. Take Andrew Lansley, the secretary of state for health and once the principal private secretary to Norman Tebbit. Like so many of his cabinet colleagues, and so many of those student politicians in the shadow cabinet, he appears to grasp the bullet points of an ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: A journey to citizenship, 16 November 2006

... have had first to mug up on the fact that Mickey Mouse’s girlfriend is called Minnie and that George Washington used to gad about wearing wooden teeth. The British requirements for citizenship are no less strenuous. The point, the book tells us, is to help immigrants ‘to integrate’, and it might seem churlish of me to have requested from the Home ...

Stepchildren

Elspeth Barker, 9 April 1992

Stepsons 
by Robert Liddell.
Peter Owen, 228 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 7206 0853 8
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Farewell Sidonia 
by Erich Hackl.
Cape, 135 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 02901 0
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... took place despite the potent opposition of Oswald’s sisters-in-law, who were caring for Andrew and Stephen. Elsa insisted on being called ‘mummy’. ‘Never call that German woman what you called your own mother,’ an aunt had insisted. Guilt and treachery thus informed the children’s first dealings with their stepmother, complicated by ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Trip to Echo Spring’, 12 September 2013

... by drink basis it had also created a life of physical and moral disintegration and despair.’ George Best once said that the greatest disaster of his life was that everybody he met wanted to buy him a drink. You might say, in defence of a well-meaning public, that the disaster was compounded by Best’s inability to refuse. But drinking is in many ways a ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Valets, 10 September 2009

... rivals. If you were looking for a rival almost in his exact class, you’d have to mention George Jacobs, valet to Frank Sinatra, who made his name, and unmade Frank’s to a small degree, by detailing his boss’s general dexterity when it came to smashing up a hotel room. Another rival would be Ernest A. Forssgren, Proust’s Swedish valet, a dapper ...

Valet of the Dolls

Andrew O’Hagan: Sinatra, 24 July 2003

Mr S.: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra 
by George Jacobs and William Stadiem.
Sidgwick, 261 pp., £16.99, June 2003, 0 283 07370 5
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... finding instant and compelling evidence to prove he was a complete nightmare. Yet this book by George Jacobs, who was Sinatra’s valet for 15 years, might be understood to be wired in a whole new way: it is perhaps the ultimate diatribe by the disgruntled ex-staffer; a new high point (or low point) in a super-readable genre that should surely be given its ...

Nasty Lucky Genes

Andrew O’Hagan: Fathers and Sons, 21 September 2006

The Arms of the Infinite 
by Christopher Barker.
Pomona, 329 pp., £9.99, August 2006, 1 904590 04 7
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... she stood, deciding by the last page that the author was the man she was put on earth to marry. George Barker. His name seems almost seedy now, redolent of multiple fatherings and free drinks and Benzedrine, a low-rent Catholic visionary forever caught in some personal smog of Latinate rhetoric and English ambition. But at the time of Elizabeth Smart’s ...

Private Thomas

Andrew Motion, 19 December 1985

Edward Thomas: A Portrait 
by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 331 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 19 818527 8
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... R. George Thomas is a cautious man. His life of Edward Thomas (no relation) is ‘a portrait’ not ‘a biography’. Maybe this is just as well. The poet was a cautious man too. He was also a scrupulous one, and when we read in the first few pages that research for this book began ‘in the early 1960s’, we are encouraged to feel that author and subject are kindred spirits ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Kitsch and Kilts in Celtic Park, 21 August 2014

... the opening of the Glasgow Empire Exhibition in 1938, waving newspapers and hats in the air as George VI and his wife entered Ibrox Park in a horse-drawn carriage. ‘The queen and I are happy to be in Scotland once more,’ he said with a stammer, before praising Glasgow for organising such a show of unity ‘whilst the country was still under the cloud ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Other Atticus Finch, 30 July 2015

... rather extravagantly – is a set of views about black people that might put him on a par with George Wallace, a circumstance requiring you to suddenly un-imagine the noble lawyer, now no longer the decency machine who has long lived in your head as segregation’s mythic antidote. To some commentators, he is the same man, a Southern agrarian fighting ...

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