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Poles Apart

John Sutherland, 5 May 1983

Give us this day 
by Janusz Glowacki, translated by Konrad Brodzinski.
Deutsch, 121 pp., £6.95, March 1983, 0 233 97518 7
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In Search of Love and Beauty 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 227 pp., £8.50, April 1983, 0 7195 4062 3
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by Sally Emerson.
Joseph, 174 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7181 2134 1
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Flying to Nowhere 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 89 pp., £4.95, March 1983, 0 907540 27 9
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Some prefer nettles 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Secker, 155 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 436 51603 9
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The Makioka Sisters 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Secker, 530 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 330 28046 5
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‘The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi’ and ‘Arrowroot’ 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Anthony Chambers.
Secker, 199 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 436 51602 0
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... Glowacki’s novel makes trouble for itself. The work is translated – one of the two ways in which, notoriously, a British book can be guaranteed to lose money (the other sure thing is poetry). Give us this day was originally published in 1981, and was evidently completed before December and Jaruzelski’s imposition of martial law. Its saga of the uprising in the Gdansk Lenin shipyard ends with a cloudy optimism (‘It looks as if it’ll be all right after all’) which unforeseen events, not least the author’s subsequent exile, have sadly contradicted ...

Time Lords

Anthony Grafton: In the Catacombs, 31 July 2014

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs 
by Paul Koudounaris.
Thames and Hudson, 189 pp., £18.95, September 2013, 978 0 500 25195 9
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... out the remains of the holy dead. Along the highways, in the branching underground halls and chambers, the dead began to stir. The Excavators, and others with special permission, hunted Christian bones. Particular signs – gravestones marked ‘M’, thought to stand for ‘Martyr’; palm fronds; and vials of reddish powder, identified as dried blood ...

Trashing the Supreme Court

Ronald Dworkin, 19 June 1980

The Bretheren: Inside the Supreme Court 
by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong.
Secker, 467 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 436 58122 1
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... or ‘outraged’ or ‘mortified’ or ‘bewildered’ in the privacy of his own chambers with no one else about – and the most frequent subject of these psychological inventions is Chief Justice Warren Burger, who, the authors admit, refused to talk to them at all. Assassination by non-attribution is sordid, and the most unattractive ...

Who knew?

Norman Stone, 20 November 1980

The Terrible Secret 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 262 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 297 77835 8
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... in occupied Poland started on a considerable scale, even though there had been some use of gas-chambers before then. The Germans had constructed three camps at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka where Jews were to be killed by poison gas, and two others, at Majdanek and Auschwitz, where those who could not work would be gassed and where for those who could work ...

Henry James’s Christmas

P.N. Furbank, 19 July 1984

Henry James Letters. Vol. IV: 1895-1915 
edited by Leon Edel.
Harvard, 835 pp., £24, April 1984, 9780674387836
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... half-jokingly in a letter to W.Morton Fullerton in 1902: ‘I would have written, if I could, like Anthony Hope and Marion Crawford.’ Public position, and an intense preoccupation with public opinion, are also the key to the one incident, in the life of this affectionate and (on the whole) generous man, that sticks in the gullet and seems definitely ugly: I ...

Imperial Project

Richard Drayton, 19 September 1996

Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens 
by Ray Desmond.
Harvill/Royal Botanical Gardens, 466 pp., £25, November 1995, 1 86046 076 3
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... cultural facts. Seeley in 1883 talks about England ‘expanding’ to reach its Victorian stature; Anthony Low, in 1983, of England ‘contracting’, in the second Elizabethan age, to become again a minor power on the flank of Europe. Popular sentiment and historical scholarship cling to this leavened loaf theory of a Celtic-Roman-German-Norse-Norman people ...

At the Royal Academy

T.J. Clark: James Ensor, 1 December 2016

... point have seen early Cézannes – The Orgy, perhaps, or Achille Emperaire, or a Temptation of St Anthony – and thought about repeating them in the key of late Turner. But Delacroix was always the presiding genius. The Fall of the Rebel Angels in the show is a wild précis of Delacroix’s Apollo ceiling (with Brueghel in the background). Adam and Eve ...

A Degenerate Assemblage

Anthony Grafton: Bibliomania, 13 April 2023

Book Madness: A Story of Book Collectors in America 
by Denise Gigante.
Yale, 378 pp., £25, January, 978 0 300 24848 7
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... collections of manuscripts and rare books show us dark sights along with the charming, candlelit chambers where books were cherished and essays were written. They tell us, for instance, that the same East India Company paying Lamb to work as a clerk for 33 years and then rewarding his faithful service with a pension was pillaging India with its private ...

Lawrence and Burgess

Frank Kermode, 19 September 1985

Flame into Being: The Life and Work of D.H. Lawrence 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 211 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 434 09818 3
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The Kingdom of the Wicked 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 379 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 09 160040 5
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... in his partner a guiltless aristocratic libertinism extremely remote from the sexuality of Jessie Chambers or indeed Helen Corke. Burgess accepts Lawrence’s own valuation of Sons and Lovers as ‘a great novel’, and even allows to pass without further dispute the author’s statement that his story is the story of thousands of young Englishmen, and that ...


Philip French, 6 June 1996

The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Hutchinson, 309 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 09 179211 8
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... side and liked to be called J or Jay.) Another character who fascinated him was Whitaker Chambers, the brilliant Communist agent who left the Party, became an influential writer on Time magazine and attained notoriety when he named Alger Hiss as a spy in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. I recall him walking down the High Street ...


Mark Ford: Emily Dickinson’s Manuscripts, 19 June 2014

The Gorgeous Nothings 
by Emily Dickinson.
New Directions, 255 pp., £26.50, October 2013, 978 0 8112 2175 7
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The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping 
by Francis Nenik, translated by Katy Derbyshire.
Readux, 64 pp., £3, October 2013, 978 3 944801 00 1
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... to Samuel Bowles, the editor of the Springfield Republican (in which ‘Safe in their alabaster chambers’ was published anonymously under the title ‘The Sleeping’). Behold again the trinity of relics being staged for our contemplation: the pocket-envelope of Dickinson’s dress, in which her hand would rest; the discarded envelope, prepared carefully ...

Visa Requirement

D.D. Guttenplan: Whitehall and Jews, 6 July 2000

Whitehall and The Jews 1933-48 
by Louise London.
Cambridge, 313 pp., £30, March 2000, 0 521 63187 4
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... was one of the reasons behind Himmler’s decision to shift to stationary, purpose-built gas chambers. For several months Britain has been in the midst of a Holocaust revival. From the daily coverage of the Irving trial, to David Edgar’s dramatisation of Gitta Sereny’s Albert Speer at the National Theatre, to the newly opened gallery at the Imperial ...

Nothing he hasn’t done, nowhere he hasn’t been

Adam Shatz: Claude Lanzmann, 5 April 2012

The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir 
by Claude Lanzmann, translated by Frank Wynne.
Atlantic, 528 pp., £25, March 2012, 978 1 84887 360 5
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... for all their scrupulous record-keeping, they left behind no photographs of death in the gas chambers of Birkenau or the gas trucks in Chelmno. They hid the evidence of the extermination even as it was taking place, weaving pine tree branches into the barbed wire of the camps as camouflage, using geese to drown out cries, and burning the bodies of those ...

Plimsoll’s Story

Stephen Sedley, 28 April 2011

The Oxford History of the Laws of England 1820-1914: Vol. XI, English Legal System; Vol. XII, Private Law; Vol. XIII, Fields of Development 
edited by William Cornish et al.
Oxford, 3571 pp., £495, February 2010, 978 0 19 925883 3
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... difficult, at least in the law, to bridge those last hundred-odd years. The senior clerk in the chambers where I was a pupil in the 1960s had started work towards 1890 as a boy in the Temple, where he had been trained to write copperplate with the steel-nibbed pen that he would still use to copy out pleadings and opinions for signature when the typist was ...


Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Grotto, 5 October 2023

... de Caus at the Jacobean court encouraged the fashion for fancifully ornamented damp underground chambers that had been sweeping Italy since the 1560s. While the Stuarts and the Russells were commissioning elaborately theatrical grottoes at Greenwich Palace, Richmond Palace, Woburn Abbey and Somerset House, Shakespeare’s characters were still speaking only ...

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