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Under the Staircase

Karl Whitney: Hans Jonathan, Runaway Slave

18 October 2017
The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan 
by Gisli Palsson, translated by Anna Yates.
Chicago, 288 pp., £19, October 2016, 978 0 226 31328 3
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... In the spring​ of 1801 a young man called Hans Jonathan left the mansion in Copenhagen where he worked as a slave. Going for a walk was allowed: despite his status, he had a degree of autonomy within the walls of the city, then a thriving port with around one hundred thousand inhabitants. But this time he didn’t return. His owner, Henrietta Cathrina Schimmelmann, reported his escape to the police ...

Kay Demarest’s War

Penelope Fitzgerald

17 September 1987
The Other Garden 
by Francis Wyndham.
Cape, 106 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 224 02475 2
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The Engine of Owl-Light 
by Sebastian Barry.
Carcanet, 390 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 85635 704 9
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A Singular Attraction 
by Ita Daly.
Cape, 144 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02438 8
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Cold Spring Harbor 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 182 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 413 14420 8
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The Changeling 
by Catharine Arnold.
Hodder, 223 pp., £9.95, July 1987, 0 340 40542 2
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... chieftain, Oliver (the same Oliver, it seems, that the book is dedicated to, so I have to leave him to laugh this out with the author), and in this character he talks beguilingly and not unlike Anna Livia Plurabelle: ‘Moll, your hand is too cold for me shins. Your hand is too cold for all and aught.’ According to the book’s epigraph from Sir Thomas Browne, the considering man ‘may ...
24 August 1995
John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... not, as the family piously hoped, in a Scots Valhalla with Scott and Stevenson (even if a long way downtable), but with two English writers of almost unbelievable crudity, ‘Sapper’ and Dornford Yates. Despite defences of John Buchan by Gertrude Himmelfarb in an essay in Encounter in 1960, and Janet Adam Smith in her biography of 1965, the mud stuck. By the end of the Sixties in England, John ...

I just let him have his beer

Christopher Tayler: John Williams Made it Work

9 December 2019
The Man who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, ‘Stoner’ and the Writing Life 
by Charles Shields.
Texas, 305 pp., £23.99, October 2018, 978 1 4773 1736 5
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Nothing but the Night 
by John Williams.
NYRB, 144 pp., $14.95, February 2019, 978 1 68137 307 2
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... attention to such things the novel became mildly famous for not being famous. Vintage reissued it in 2003 and NYRB Classics did the same three years later. Then, in 2011, a translation into French by Anna Gavalda, a popular novelist, became a bestseller. Spanish, German and Italian translations also did well, and for five weeks in 2013 Stoner was the bestselling novel in the Netherlands. Vintage’s ...

For the Sake of the Dollars

Lynne Vallone: The original Siamese twins

12 September 2019
Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History 
by Yunte Huang.
Liveright, 416 pp., £11.99, May, 978 1 63149 545 8
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... chose a surname – Bunker – and set about finding wives. That the twins might marry seemed impossible to everyone apart from the brothers themselves and the local sisters, Sarah and Adelaide Yates, who accepted their proposals – much to the horror of their parents. The two couples were married in April 1843 and returned home, where an extra-wide bed awaited them. The newspapers were filled ...

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