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Suppose the Archduke had ducked

Andrew​ Berry: Game theory and human evolution

7 September 2000
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny 
by Robert Wright.
Little, Brown, 435 pp., £22.50, March 2000, 0 316 64485 4
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... the millions of words he churned out, ‘survival of the fittest’, and – somewhat unfairly – as having given birth to Social Darwinism. Progress, however, has now found a new champion in Robert Wright. Wright, then on the staff of the New Republic, first entered the fray in 1990, with a lengthy (and unfavourable) review of Gould’s anti-progress manifesto, Wonderful Life. Then, deciding perhaps ...
3 May 1984
The Letters of Anthony Trollope 
edited by John Hall.
Stanford, 1082 pp., $87.50, July 1983, 0 8047 1076 7
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Anthony Trollope: Dream and Art 
by Andrew Wright.
Macmillan, 173 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 34593 2
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... Trollope’s statement does not take us far toward possessing a key to his own distinctive experience which produced the 47 novels. This solitary biographical datum contributes to the subtitle of AndrewWright’s Anthony Trollope: Dream and Art, but in the nature of the case it cannot supply a sustained thesis. Happily, between the book’s introduction and epilogue it is almost completely lost ...

The Satoshi Affair

Andrew​ O’Hagan

29 June 2016
... Some of the federal agents wore shirts that said ‘Computer Forensics’; one carried a search warrant issued under the Australian Crimes Act 1914. They were looking for a man named Craig Steven Wright, who lived with his wife, Ramona, at 43 St Johns Avenue. The warrant was issued at the behest of the Australian Taxation Office. Wright, a computer scientist and businessman, headed a group of ...


Christopher Andrew

22 January 1987
Sword and Shield: Soviet Intelligence and Security Apparatus 
by Jeffrey Richelson.
Harper and Row, 279 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 88730 035 9
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The Red and the Blue: Intelligence, Treason and the University 
by Andrew​ Sinclair.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.95, June 1986, 0 297 78866 3
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Inside Stalin’s Secret Police: NKVD Politics 1936-39 
by Robert Conquest.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 39260 4
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Conspiracy of Silence: The Secret Life of Anthony Blunt 
by Barrie Penrose and Simon Freeman.
Grafton, 588 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 246 12200 5
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... never heard of the Apostles, graduated with an ordinary degree, and felt an ‘outcast’ when he encountered what he called the ‘social hierarchy’ in which Burgess and Blunt moved so easily. Andrew Sinclair helps to cut the moles down to size. The real intellectual élite in inter-war Cambridge, he reminds us, were not the moles or their contemporaries (mostly from the arts faculties) in the ...

Living It

Andrew​ O’Hagan: The World of Andy McNab

24 January 2008
by Andy McNab.
Bantam, 414 pp., £17.99, October 2007, 978 1 84413 535 6
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Strike Back 
by Chris Ryan.
Century, 314 pp., £17.99, October 2007, 978 1 84413 535 6
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... Recon Battalion were the first generation of American soldiers launched into open-ended conflict since Vietnam, and Generation Kill, an account published in 2004 by the Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright of the battalion’s efforts to provide heroes during the blitzing of Iraq the previous year, gives a startling picture of tough young men up to their eyeballs in fantasy. ‘They were a new breed of ...

Scandal in Pittsburgh

David Nasaw: Andrew​ Mellon

19 July 2007
Mellon: An American Life 
by David Cannadine.
Allen Lane, 779 pp., £30, November 2006, 0 7139 9508 4
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... There is nothing so enervating,’ Andrew Carnegie wrote in 1891, ‘nothing so deadly in its effects upon the qualities which lead to the highest achievement, moral or intellectual, as hereditary wealth.’ Boys born with silver spoons in ...

Answering back

James Campbell

11 July 1991
The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... in The Sound and the Fury. The Americans, under the guidance first of the great W.E.B DuBois, then of the poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, and next a line of novelists headed by Richard Wright, began the task of reclamation about two generations earlier than the Caribbean writers who identified – if one can nowadays put it that way – with Europe, specifically England. Their literary ...

Ei kan nog vlieg

Dan Jacobson: Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiw!

2 January 2003
Way Up Way Out 
by Harold Strachan.
David Philip, 176 pp., £6.99, July 2002, 0 86486 355 1
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... with small drippings of boiling water, so that they would soon harden up again, he produced there and then a Lilienthal glider which flew. Furthermore, he explained a problem which had caused the Wright brothers near-total despair and near-abandonment of the Kittyhawk project: how to use a rudder to cancel unwanted drag on the outside wing in a turn when extra lift was needed there to bank the ...

Into the Gulf

Rosemary Hill

17 December 1992
A Sultry Month: Scenes of London Literary Life in 1846 
by Alethea Hayter.
Robin Clark, 224 pp., £6.95, June 1992, 0 86072 146 9
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Painting and the Politics of Culture: New Essays on British Art 1700-1850 
edited by John Barrell.
Oxford, 301 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198173922
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London: World City 1800-1840 
edited by Celina Fox.
Yale, 624 pp., £45, September 1992, 0 300 05284 7
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... the art into account. If the argument wanders too far from the picture then Panofsky’s arch will overbalance and the critic with it. To suggest, as David Solkin does in his conclusion, that Joseph Wright’s An Experiment on the Bird in the Air Pump can ‘offer us a timely word of warning, before we join the chorus of acclamation for those market forces we see marching in apparent triumph across the ...

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 ...

When Chicago Went Classical

Andrew​ Saint: A serial killer and the World’s Fair

1 April 2004
Devil in the White City 
by Erik Larson.
Bantam, 496 pp., £7.99, April 2004, 0 553 81353 6
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... a wooded island for peace and contemplation, reachable only by boat. The only structure on it was the Ho-o-den, a tiny Japanese temple built by Japanese craftsmen. It entranced the young Frank Lloyd Wright and set him imagining buildings of simple space and candid materials, worlds away from the Great Court. The main response, however, was exhilaration at an exemplary grandeur. Testimony to the spell ...


Nicholas Spice

15 March 1984
The Fetishist, and Other Stories 
by Michel Tournier, translated by Barbara Wright.
Collins, 220 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 00 221440 7
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My Aunt Christina, and Other Stories 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 207 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 575 03256 1
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Mr Bedford and the Muses 
by Gail Godwin.
Heinemann, 229 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 434 29751 8
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Alexandra Freed 
by Lisa Zeidner.
Cape, 288 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 224 02158 3
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The Coffin Tree 
by Wendy Law-Yone.
Cape, 195 pp., £8.50, January 1984, 0 224 02963 0
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... Dans les branches poussiéreuses des platanes, entre les pavés inégaux des places, sur les murs lépreux questionnés par la lumiére, émergeait la face blême et bouffie de l’ennui.’ Barbara Wright surmounts the biggest problems in translating Tournier with idiomatic ease and inventiveness, so it’s odd to find her lapsing now and again into un-English Latinisms like ‘inexistence’ for ...


Christopher Hitchens: On Peregrine Worsthorne

4 November 1993
... his own precocity in Making It. And look what happened to him. There’s also a pointlessly cheap and nasty passage which occurs when Worsthorne, stuck in Ireland for a long weekend with the young Andrew Knight, suggested ‘that we propose ourselves for the night to the Claud Cockburns in Youghal’. Having invited himself, and having taken the Cockburns’ bread and salt, Worsthorne takes leave to ...

Quiet Sinners

Bernard Porter: Imperial Spooks

21 March 2013
Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire 
by Calder Walton.
Harper, 411 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 00 745796 0
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... in Modern Britain.* Historians thought sympathetic to the intelligence services were granted privileged access to closed papers in order to produce official histories. One of them was Christopher Andrew, who employed Walton to help him with The Defence of the Realm (2009), about MI5. Suddenly, one kind of conspiracy story – official plots and cover-ups – became acceptable. So Walton can now ...

What architects said before they said ‘space’

Andrew​ Saint: The vocabulary of modern architecture

30 November 2000
Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture 
by Adrian Forty.
Thames and Hudson, 335 pp., £28, April 2000, 0 500 34172 9
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... If there had to be criticism, it could be left to professors, rich amateurs and journalists. The sacred route of the architect ran between the drawing board and the building site. After Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, both as cavalier with language as they were scrupulous with architectural detail, you could scarcely be thought an internationally significant architect unless you not only built ...

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