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Gertrude

Graham Hough, 18 September 1980

Nuns and Soldiers 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 505 pp., £6.50, September 1980, 0 7011 2519 5
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Collin 
by Stefan Heym.
Hodder, 315 pp., £7.95, August 1980, 0 340 25721 0
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An Inch of Fortune 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 176 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 85634 108 8
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Virgin Kisses 
by Gloria Nagy.
Penguin, 221 pp., £1.25, July 1980, 0 14 005506 1
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... are first Peter, known as the Count, a Polish refugee, friend and former colleague of Guy; and Anne, college friend of Gertrude, recently emerged from 14 years in a convent. The Count is the only possible candidate for the ‘soldier’ of the title, and he becomes so only by virtue of a single metaphor, in which he is described as a conscript in the army ...

‘Porter!’

Penelope Gilliatt, 19 May 1983

The Life of Katherine Anne Porter 
by Joan Givner.
Cape, 572 pp., £15, March 1983, 0 224 02093 5
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... This one is 572 pages long and it took the author twenty years to write. Longer than Katherine Anne Porter found to write the whole of her resplendent work. Joan Givner’s book might be called light plane reading, except that it is heartlessly grave, gravid though fruitless, and would take the most receptive astronauts a moon-flight to try to sleep ...

Perfect Bliss and Perfect Despair

Errol Trzebinski, 3 June 1982

Letters from Africa 1914-1931 
by Isak Dinesen, edited by Frans Lasson, translated by Anne Born.
Weidenfeld, 474 pp., £12.95, September 1981, 9780297780007
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... In 1972 I started work on a study of Denys Finch Hatton and his relationship with Karen Blixen. The biographer’s nightmare is the knowledge that an important collection of papers pertaining to his subject is being withheld from him during research. When his subject is the more elusive half of a pair of lovers, the question immediately arises as to whether there can be a biography at all ...

Someone Else’s Dog

Tessa Hadley: Per Petterson, 18 November 2010

I Curse the River of Time 
by Per Petterson, translated by Anne Born.
Harvill Secker, 233 pp., £12.99, July 2010, 978 1 84655 301 1
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... The Norwegian writer Per Petterson’s best-known novel, Out Stealing Horses (2005), won praise and prizes, and was an international bestseller. It opens with Trond, a man in his sixties who has retreated to longed for solitude in the woods, encountering another man late at night outside his house – the second man is worried because his dog keeps running off (there are wolves in the forest ...

Two Poems

Emile Nelligan, translated by Anne Carson, 11 May 2006

... a good calm hanging tree – Priest, pray for me, it’s night in the city! Emile Nelligan was born on Christmas Eve 1879 in Montreal to an Irish father (David Nelligan) and a French-Canadian mother (Emilie-Amanda Hudon). Emile was a prize-winning student in his early years at school but surprised everyone by failing his final examinations at the Collège ...

Horror like Thunder

Germaine Greer: Lucy Hutchinson, 21 June 2001

Order and Disorder 
by Lucy Hutchinson, edited by David Norbrook.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £55, January 2001, 0 631 22061 5
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... and the poem’s political and theological outlook matches Hutchinson precisely. Lucy Apsley was born in 1620, in the Tower of London. In an autobiographical fragment she claimed that by the time she was seven she had eight tutors and that she was taught Latin by her father’s express wish. She also tells the circumstances of her wooing by John ...

Zeus Bits

Anne Carson, 17 November 2005

... groan, fetter, talons, torn chop, yellow slash, wild lip, no return of Prometheus? One who was born but could not die, it was illegal to have him in your home. The established church had risen to its feet. Bloodguilt blew out from under its brow, blood built a theatre. Air can witness. Folk keep starving. Their choice. What if soldiers, swallows, just ...

Had I been born a hero

Helen Deutsch: Female poets of the eighteenth century, 21 September 2006

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 514 pp., £43.50, January 2006, 0 8018 8169 2
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... Cavendish, whose ‘wits were turned with solitude and freedom’, the obscure and melancholy Anne Finch, Elizabeth Carter, ‘the valiant old woman who tied a bell to her bedstead in order that she might wake early and learn Greek’, and of course her own creation, the mute inglorious poet buried opposite the Elephant and Castle, Shakespeare’s ...

In Trafalgar Square

Anne Wagner: ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’, 7 June 2018

... as they fell. Rather like the lamassu that inspired him, Rakowitz is something of a hybrid. Born in New York in 1973, he remains strongly linked to the traditions of his family, Iraqi Jews whose reigning patriarch, Nissim Isaac Daoud bin Aziz, emigrated from Baghdad to Long Island in 1946. With Daoud came Davisons & Co, his import/export business, which ...

Seeing and Being Seen

Penelope Fitzgerald: Humbert Wolfe, 19 March 1998

Harlequin in Whitehall: A Life of Humbert Wolfe 
by Philip Bagguley.
Nyala, 439 pp., £24.50, May 1997, 0 9529376 0 3
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... Wolfe’s declared autobiographies are Now a Stranger (1933) and The Upward Anguish (1938). He was born Berto Wolff, the son of a medium well-off Jewish family in the Bradford wool trade, who lived, he said, ‘in acute terror’ of having to enter the ‘trade’. His father died when he was only nine. His formidable mother, Consola, was from Genoa. She set a ...

La Bolaing

Patrick Collinson: Anne Boleyn, 18 November 2004

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn 
by Eric Ives.
Blackwell, 458 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 631 23479 9
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... differently, we may well ask whether we are abroad if we visit the England of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. In September 1528, Henry wrote to Anne: ‘No more to you at this present, mine own darling, for lack of time, but that I would you were in mine arms or I in yours, for I think it long since I kissed you.’ This ...

More Like a Mistress

Tom Crewe: Mr and Mrs Disraeli, 16 July 2015

Mr and Mrs Disraeli: A Strange Romance 
by Daisy Hay.
Chatto, 308 pp., £20, January 2015, 978 0 7011 8912 9
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... expert in horse-drawn hoes, seed drills and threshing machines, that day he introduced us to a man born into the wrong religion and given an imperfect education, an author of unlikely novels and unlikelier cheques, sniffed at by the upper classes when he arrived at their dinner tables and baited by the mob when he asked for their votes. I remember most clearly ...

‘Monocled Baron Charged’

David Coward: Vichy’s commissioner for Jewish affairs, 8 June 2006

Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland 
by Carmen Callil.
Cape, 614 pp., £20, April 2006, 0 224 07810 0
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... familiar. Between 1963 and 1970, she had been treated three times a week by a psychoanalyst named Anne Darquier, to whom she had become very close, and who had probably committed suicide. Were they related? They were, and for more than three decades Callil, conscious of a need to discharge a debt as both a patient and a friend, pursued Darquier, Vichy’s ...

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