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Chase Madar: Javier Cercas

8 September 2011
The Anatomy of a Moment 
by Javier Cercas, translated by Anne McLean.
Bloomsbury, 403 pp., £18.99, February 2011, 978 1 4088 0560 2
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... favours a disarming plainspokenness that just manages to avoid cliché: an effective anti-style. His Spanish tends to the vernacular, though some of its colloquial vitality has been leached out by AnneMcLean’s slightly ponderous translation. Her preference for Latinate polysyllables sometimes loads the text with a sententious ballast absent in the original, but that hardly spoils the fun. Cercas ...

Irishness is for other people

Terry Eagleton: Enrique Vila-Matas

19 July 2012
by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated by Anne McLean and Rosalind Harvey.
Harvill Secker, 245 pp., £16.99, June 2012, 978 1 84655 489 6
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... Enrique Vila-Matas’s new novel centres on Bloomsday, the annual celebration in Dublin of the day on which Joyce’s Ulysses is set. Many nations celebrate mythical events, but Ireland commemorates a fictional one. It is as if Britain were to dedicate a feast day to Falstaff or to the Artful Dodger. For some in Ireland, Bloomsday is a useful alternative to memorialising the Easter Rising or the United ...

William Wallace, Unionist

Colin Kidd: The Idea of Devolution

23 March 2006
State of the Union: Unionism and the Alternatives in the United Kingdom since 1707 
by Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan.
Oxford, 283 pp., £45, September 2005, 0 19 925820 1
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... the Liberal Democrats is a small price to pay for that. Seven years on from the first elections to the Scottish Parliament, it seems that devolution has soothed the nationalist itch. Yet, as Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan recognise in their study of the unionist political tradition, this still leaves unresolved the issue of what now underpins the British connection. For unionism, they argue, is ...

Fame at last

Elaine Showalter

7 November 1991
Anne​ Sexton: A Biography 
by Diane Wood Middlebrook.
Virago, 488 pp., £20, November 1991, 1 85381 406 7
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... I met Anne Sexton six months before her suicide, in April 1974. My colleague Carol Smith and I were doing a series of interviews with women writers, and we had heard how Sexton and her friend Maxine Kumin had ...


Rebecca Mead: Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher

21 May 1998
Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia 
by Marya Hornbacher.
Flamingo, 298 pp., £12.99, March 1998, 0 00 255880 7
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... A Love Story by Caroline Knapp; nor is it an exploration of a long-past period of madness, like Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted, an accomplished account of the two years she spent at the McLean mental hospital in Massachusetts in the late Sixties. It’s a missive sent from inside a sickness; not just a description of what it is like to suffer from an eating disorder, but an expression of ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86

20 December 2018
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... who wrote to her ‘Dearest Mum’, also be Esther Greenwood, for whom vodka ‘went straight down into my stomach like a sword-swallower’s sword and made me feel powerful and god-like’? After Anne Stevenson’s, Janet Malcolm’s and Jacqueline Rose’s battles to get the archives opened, and the passing of the copyright to Frieda Hughes, Sylvia’s daughter, we now have the unabridged ...

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