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The gangsters who were really officials and the officials who were really gangsters

Andrew Nathan: The ‘faceless fellow’ of Chinese espionage, 24 June 2004

Spymaster: Dai Li and the Chinese Secret Service 
by Frederic Wakeman Jr..
California, 650 pp., £49.95, May 2003, 0 520 23407 3
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... Frederic Wakeman has long been fascinated with the police and criminals of pre-Communist Shanghai, who were as often each other’s allies as opponents. His first book on the subject, Policing Shanghai 1927-37 (1995), described the self-subverting involvement of the new Kuomintang government’s municipal police bureau in both the opium trade and the civil war against the Communists ...

Zhao’s Version

Andrew Nathan: Zhao Ziyang, 17 December 2009

Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang 
by Zhao Ziyang, translated by Bao Pu, Renee Chiang and Adi Ignatius.
Simon and Schuster, 306 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 1 84737 697 8
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... In the afternoon of 23 April 1989, China’s highest-ranking official, the Party’s general secretary Zhao Ziyang, left from Beijing railway station for an official visit to North Korea. Zhao had considered cancelling the trip because of the student demonstrations that had broken out in Beijing eight days earlier, but decided it wasn’t necessary ...

Jade and Plastic

Andrew Nathan: How bad was Mao?, 17 November 2005

Mao: The Unknown Story 
by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.
Cape, 814 pp., £25, June 2005, 0 224 07126 2
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... Mao Zedong’s long, wicked life has generated some lengthy biographies in English. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s is the longest, having overtaken Philip Short’s Mao (1999) and Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao (1995). It represents an extraordinary research effort. The authors have been working on the project since at least 1986, to judge by the date of the earliest interview cited, which – and this is typical of the access they gained to many highly-placed and interesting people – was with Milovan Djilas ...

‘Comrade Jiang Zemin does indeed seem a proper choice’

Jasper Becker: Tiananmen Square, 24 May 2001

The Tiananmen Papers 
by Zhang Liang, edited by Andrew Nathan and Perry Link.
Little, Brown, 513 pp., £20, January 2001, 0 316 85693 2
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... States, still regarded in China as Enemy Number One, where two professors – Perry Link and Andrew Nathan – agreed to translate and edit the documents. Both men have been banned from China so, if this is a deliberate leak, they are an improbable choice. Perry Link, an expert on Chinese literature, was a close associate of Professor Fang ...

At Kettle’s Yard

Eleanor Birne: The Reopening, 22 March 2018

... the morrow we left behind us … and to remind us that the image of the world can be different.’ Andrew Nairne, Kettle Yard’s director, has gathered a great diversity of newish images for the show. Among them are four photographic works by Khadija Saye, who died in the Grenfell Tower fire at the age of 24, two days after she had been invited to ...

Ismism

Evan Kindley: Modernist Magazines, 23 January 2014

The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 976 pp., £35, May 2013, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II: North America 1894-1960 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 1088 pp., £140, July 2012, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume III: Europe 1880-1940 
edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker and Christian Weikop.
Oxford, 1471690 pp., £145, March 2013, 978 0 19 965958 6
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... volume of their Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker point out that the nine-year run of the Dial alone amounts to ‘around 10,500 pages of text and 1200 pages of adverts, assuming an average of 300 words per page; this equals some 3.1 million words to read … about equivalent to reading 21 books ...

Bad Character

Andrew O’Hagan: Saul Bellow, 20 May 2015

The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-64 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 812 pp., £35, May 2015, 978 0 224 08467 3
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... moved for several months to New York (where all true writers lived) … ‘It was complicated,’ Nathan [Tarcov] explains, of the movements of his father, Bellow and Rosenfeld in the late 1930s and early 1940s: ‘Oscar, Isaac and Saul went to New York at different times. It was almost like they took turns … There was a sense that [New York] was the centre ...

Cracker Culture

Ian Jackman, 7 September 2000

Irish America 
by Reginald Byron.
Oxford, 317 pp., £40, November 1999, 0 19 823355 8
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Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past 
by Richard White.
Cork, 282 pp., IR£14.99, October 1999, 1 85918 232 1
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From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish 
by Eamon Wall.
Wisconsin, 139 pp., $16.95, February 2000, 0 299 16724 0
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The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America 
edited by Michael Glazier.
Notre Dame, 988 pp., £58.50, August 1999, 0 268 02755 2
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... Before he became Senator for New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was an academic and the author, with Nathan Glazer, of Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians and Irish of New York City, published in 1963. Moynihan’s chief contribution was the chapter on the New York Irish, a lament which begins: ‘New York used to be an Irish city ...

Queening It

Jenny Diski: Nina Simone, 25 June 2009

Nina Simone: The Biography 
by David Brun-Lambert.
Aurum, 346 pp., £20, February 2009, 978 1 84513 430 3
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... ghosted memoir of her own and a reminiscence by the founder of her British fan club, David Nathan, and its secretary, Sylvia Hampton. Potential biographers might have been put off by the resistance of Simone’s daughter, who doesn’t want to talk about her mother, and many former friends and colleagues who refused to be interviewed or give ...

Slowly/Swiftly

Michael Hofmann: James Schuyler, 7 February 2002

Last Poems 
by James Schuyler.
Slow Dancer, 64 pp., £7.99, January 1999, 1 871033 51 9
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Alfred and Guinevere 
by James Schuyler.
NYRB, 141 pp., £7.99, June 2001, 0 940322 49 8
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... the idea of the Diary of James Schuyler might almost seem like too much of a good thing,’ begins Nathan Kernan’s introduction – too much because the poems have so much of the particular and the quotidian about them. The Art Writings – Schuyler followed Ashbery and O’Hara to Art News, and wrote for it, off and on, from 1955 to 1978 – show a ...

Hallelujah Times

Eric Foner: The Great Migration, 28 June 2017

A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland 
by Sydney Nathans.
Harvard, 313 pp., £23.95, February 2017, 978 0 674 97214 8
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... to them. A Mind to Stay by Sydney Nathans deals with one small slice of that population. The book, Nathan’s life’s work (he began the interviews that led him to reconstruct this story forty years ago), is a marvellous example of how ‘microhistory’, based on a deep immersion in local sources, can illuminate broad historical patterns. It also suggests ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I Didn’t Do in 2007, 3 January 2008

... be more of this. 23 May. Ros Chatto, my agent, calls to say I have been offered a role in the BBC Andrew Davies adaptation of Fanny Hill. She reads through this raunchy script finding no mention of the part for which I’m slated until she gets to the very final scene, where Fanny meets an old and respectable gentleman (me) whom she fucks to extinction, then ...

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