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Gaddafi’s Folly

Andrew Wilson

27 June 2002
... Colonel Gaddafi is building the largest aqueduct the world has ever seen. The Great Man-Made River supplies the cities of northern Libya with drinking water from beneath the sands of the south. Pumping stations at Tazerbo and Sarir in the eastern Libyan Sahara raise water from deep aquifers and convey it northwards to Benghazi and Sirt through 1500 km of pipeline. In the west, well-fields in the Hamada ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Mobile phones

10 July 2003
... years later, it was ‘baroque high technology’. One difference, however, is that pocket watches enabled people to be on time, whereas mobile phones mean it hardly ever matters if we’re late. AndrewWilson, a poet, will be publishing his first collection, Text Messages, in the autumn (Smith/Doorstop, £5). Readers are encouraged to send poems to friends’ mobiles. From September, it will be ...

Lukashenko’s Way

Jonathan Steele

27 September 2012
Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship 
by Andrew Wilson.
Yale, 304 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 300 13435 3
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The Last Dictatorship in Europe: Belarus under Lukashenko 
by Brian Bennett.
Hurst, 358 pp., £30, January 2012, 978 1 84904 167 6
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... and subsidising him and denouncing and putting an economic squeeze on him. The EU tried diplomatic isolation and travel sanctions, then moved to cautious engagement: neither strategy made an impact. AndrewWilson is more dispassionate than Brian Bennett, who was the UK ambassador in Minsk between 2003 and 2007 and remains angry at what he saw. Wilson devotes the first half of his book to an analysis of ...

What did happen?

David Edgar: Ukraine

21 January 2016
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine 
by Serhii Plokhy.
Allen Lane, 381 pp., £25, December 2015, 978 0 241 18808 8
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In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine 
by Tim Judah.
Allen Lane, 256 pp., £20, January 2016, 978 0 241 19882 7
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Ukraine Crisis: What It Means for the West 
by Andrew Wilson.
Yale, 236 pp., £12.99, October 2014, 978 0 300 21159 7
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Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands 
by Richard Sakwa.
I.B. Tauris, 297 pp., £9.99, January 2015, 978 1 78453 527 8
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... do represent the two positions that have been debated among British commentators and the diaspora in the columns of journals, at university conferences, and at public and private meetings ever since. AndrewWilson had already written an effective narrative of the 2004 uprising in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2005), where he acknowledged that the protests against Yanukovich’s fraudulent 2004 election ...

Not a desire to have him, but to be like him

Slavoj Žižek: Highsmith is the One

21 August 2003
Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith 
by Andrew Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £25, June 2003, 0 7475 6314 4
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... Highsmith’ designates a sacred territory: she is the One whose place among writers is that which Spinoza held for Gilles Deleuze (a ‘Christ among philosophers’). I learned a lot about her from AndrewWilson’s biography, a book which strikes the right balance between empathy and critical distance. Wilson’s interpretations of her work, however, are often vapid. Can one really take seriously ...

Other People’s Mail

Bernard Porter: MI5

19 November 2009
The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5 
by Christopher Andrew.
Allen Lane, 1032 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 7139 9885 6
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... the early 20th century, which was one of the reasons the formation in 1909 of what later became known as MI5 and MI6 had to be kept so secret; MI5 remained officially secret for 80 years. Christopher Andrew has another explanation, however. It was just a ‘taboo’, he writes (quoting the historian Michael Howard), like ‘intra-marital sex’. Everyone knew it went on, and was ‘quite content that it ...

Why name a ship after a defeated race?

Thomas Laqueur: New Lives of the ‘Titanic’

24 January 2013
The Wreck of the ‘Titan’ 
by Morgan Robertson.
Hesperus, 85 pp., £8, March 2012, 978 1 84391 359 7
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Shadow of the ‘Titanic’ 
by Andrew Wilson.
Simon and Schuster, 392 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 1 84739 882 6
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‘Titanic’ 100th Anniversary Edition: A Night Remembered 
by Stephanie Barczewski.
Continuum, 350 pp., £15.99, December 2011, 978 1 4411 6169 7
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The Story of the Unsinkable ‘Titanic’: Day by Day Facsimile Reports 
by Michael Wilkinson and Robert Hamilton.
Transatlantic, 127 pp., £16.99, November 2011, 978 1 907176 83 8
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‘Titanic’ Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Harper, 404 pp., £9.99, September 2012, 978 0 00 732166 7
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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage 
by Hugh Brewster.
Robson, 338 pp., £20, March 2012, 978 1 84954 179 4
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‘Titanic’ Calling 
edited by Michael Hughes and Katherine Bosworth.
Bodleian, 163 pp., £14.99, April 2012, 978 1 85124 377 8
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... became a great favourite with travellers because she was a replica of her ill-fated kin, a relic of the lost age of innocence. Walter Lord, who wrote the 1955 classic A Night to Remember, which, as AndrewWilson says in his wonderful retellings of survivors’ stories, marks the beginning of the modern era of Titanic myth and memory, sailed on her as a boy. (The Olympic had her share of bad luck too ...

Questionably Virtuous

Stuart Middleton: Harold Wilson

7 September 2016
Harold WilsonThe 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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... There has​ never been a bad time to reappraise Harold Wilson. He was a politician so enigmatic, so elusive even to his own associates, that he seemed to demand near continuous reappraisal throughout his career. On the verge of office in 1964, he appeared to ...

Squidging about

Caroline Murphy: Camilla and the sex-motherers

22 January 2004
Camilla: An Intimate Portrait 
by Rebecca Tyrrel.
Short Books, 244 pp., £14.99, October 2003, 1 904095 53 4
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... unlike her sister, Annabel – was very much the sort ‘to throw her knickers on the table’. In 1966, when she was 19, the knicker-throwing debutante met a 27-year-old lieutenant in the Guards, Andrew Parker Bowles. He was handsome, and his parents were ‘excellent in-law material’. His father, Derek, a steward at Newbury racecourse, was a great friend of the Queen Mother’s, while his mother ...
19 July 1984
Swallow 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... who cannot be so condemnatory about real people as about fictional, and to some degree hampers the author: the real people he describes may seem too predictable for credibility. For instance, Mary Wilson is welcoming guests at 10 Downing Street and immediately begins talking about the difficulty of getting poetry published. Well, she would, wouldn’t she? No, actually. An anecdote may help me here ...

In Memory of Eustache-Hyacinthe Langlois

Rosemary Hill: Where is Bohemia?

6 March 2003
Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts 
by Elizabeth Wilson.
Tauris, 288 pp., £11.99, October 2002, 1 86064 782 0
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Quentin & Philip 
by Andrew​ Barrow.
Macmillan, 559 pp., £18.99, November 2002, 0 333 78051 5
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... There are maps both in Elizabeth Wilson’s book, which deals with bohemians in general, and in Andrew Barrow’s, which is a study of two in particular, but the street plans of Soho, Paris or Munich are not much use as a guide to the subject. Bohemia is a country of the mind, a flying island that may ...

Denizens of Baghdad’s Green Zone, take note

Andrew​ Bacevich: America’s Forgotten General

20 April 2006
Leonard Wood: Rough Rider, Surgeon, Architect of American Imperialism 
by Jack McCallum.
New York, 368 pp., $34.95, December 2005, 0 8147 5699 9
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... When war broke out in Europe in 1914, he launched a national campaign for ‘preparedness’ – rearmament with an admixture of militarism – which put him at odds with President Woodrow Wilson, who didn’t want the United States embroiling itself in European quarrels, didn’t see any need for a bigger army, and above all didn’t take kindly to generals mucking around in politics. By ...

Mohocks

Liam McIlvanney: The House of Blackwood

5 June 2003
The House of Blackwood: Author-Publisher Relations in the Victorian Era 
by David Finkelstein.
Pennsylvania State, 199 pp., £44.95, April 2002, 0 271 02179 9
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... home to Scotland to practise at the bar. John Gibson Lockhart would, within a few years, return south to edit the Quarterly. But for the magazine’s first twenty-five years, its mainstay was John Wilson. As Christopher North, he wrote mountains of copy. Reviews, feature articles, verses, sentimental tales of peasant life, unsentimental tales of gothic horror: he churned the stuff out in heroic bouts ...

Gaol Fever

David Saunders-Wilson

24 July 1986
Prisons and the Process of Justice 
by Andrew​ Rutherford.
Oxford, 217 pp., £5.95, June 1986, 0 19 281932 1
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Growing out of Crime: Society and Young People in Trouble 
by Andrew​ Rutherford.
Penguin, 189 pp., £3.95, January 1986, 0 14 022383 5
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... 1991, but continues to hope that the current building programme, which has seen three new prisons opened in the last eighteen months, will reduce or end the overcrowding by the end of the decade. Andrew Rutherford, chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform, advocates a vastly different approach to imprisonment and the prison system as a whole. In both Prisons and the Process of Justice and ...

Diary

Ian Aitken: Party Fairy-Tales

22 March 1990
... for 28 years as a journalist in the lobbies of the Palace of Westminster. These self-indulgent memories came to mind some weeks ago when most of the newspapers were full of the libel action between Andrew Neil of the Sunday Times and Peregrine Worsthorne of the Sunday Telegraph. It came to be widely accepted that this trial represented a clash between an Old Britain personified by Mr Worsthorne and a ...

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