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German Jew

Michael Irwin

17 April 1980
The Missing Years 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 281 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 297 77707 6
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Jack be nimble 
by Nigel Williams.
Secker, 213 pp., £5.50, March 1980, 0 436 57155 2
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Identity Papers 
by Anthony Cronin.
Co-op Books, 194 pp., £4.50, February 1980, 0 905441 23 0
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Narrow Rooms 
by James Purdy.
Black Sheep Books, 185 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 906538 60 2
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Six Moral Tales 
by Eric Rohmer, translated by Sabine d’Estrée.
Lorrimer, 252 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 85647 075 9
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... some vivid action and some entertaining explanations. Unfortunately the novel does not fully live up to its excellent beginnings. The explanations greatly exceed the action in volume and complexity. AnthonyCronin has left himself so much expository work to do that the narrative tends to lose itself in conversation. The plot forks and dwindles, and the overall contours of the story are those of a ragged ...

Life of Brian

Kevin Barry

25 January 1990
No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien 
by Anthony Cronin.
Grafton, 260 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 246 12836 4
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... an aesthetic. Yet Brian O’Nolan never developed his writing beyond that limited, youthful variety, and never wrote anything else of comparable sustained exactness. All of which makes the title of AnthonyCronin’s biography, No Laughing Matter, fit its subject, although its subject is the most purely comic Irish writer. The reader, therefore, comes to Cronin’s book with expectations and ...

Sacred Peter

Norman MacCaig

19 June 1980
Sacred Keeper 
by Peter Kavanagh.
Goldsmith Press, 403 pp., £4.40, May 1979, 0 904984 48 6
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Dead as Doornails 
by Anthony Cronin.
Poolbeg Press, 201 pp., £1.75, May 1980, 9780905169316
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The Macmillan Dictionary of Irish Literature 
edited by Robert Hogan.
Macmillan, 815 pp., £2, February 1980, 0 333 27085 1
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... review may give the impression that I’ve picked on Kavanagh’s faults and ignored his virtues. So it may be worth adding that his brother’s account – as it reads to me – is corroborated by AnthonyCronin in his reissued Dead as Doornails. This is a memoir of Dublin’s Kavanagh, Behan and Flann O’Brien, and of London’s Colquhoun, MacBryde and Maclaren-Ross. Six kenspeckle characters ...
5 January 2012
... called ‘emphatic distaste’. O’Brien, aware presumably that Joyce’s wife had been a maid in a hotel, had called Joyce ‘that refurbisher of skivvies’ stories’. As O’Brien’s biographer AnthonyCronin rightly pointed out, ‘it is charitable to assume that O’Nolan had already begun to hear too much about Joyce’s influence on his book from his readers in Dublin, whether friends or ...

Il n’y a pas de Beckett

Christopher Prendergast

14 November 1996
Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett 
by James Knowlson.
Bloomsbury, 872 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 7475 2719 9
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Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist 
by Anthony Cronin.
HarperCollins, 645 pp., £25, October 1996, 9780246137692
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol I: Waiting for Godot 
edited by Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson.
Faber, 472 pp., £75, March 1994, 0 571 14543 4
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol II: Endgame 
edited by S.E. Gontarski.
Faber, 276 pp., £50, November 1992, 0 571 14544 2
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol III: Krapp’s Last Tape 
edited by James Knowlson.
Faber, 286 pp., £50, May 1992, 0 571 14563 9
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by Samuel Beckett, translated by Barbara Wright.
Faber, 170 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 9780571178261
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... But it is perhaps above all in Beckett’s work that the security of these categories is blown apart, and this must have consequences for the project of a literary biography. Both Knowlson and Cronin follow biographical custom in shaping their narratives between a birth and a death, but both also point out that, in Beckett’s terms, ‘life’ begins before birth. Beckett claimed to have ...


Clair Wills: Plain Brian O’Nolan

4 April 2019
The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Maebh Long.
Dalkey Archive, 619 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 62897 183 5
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... MYLES na GOPALEEN: this has been smart and humorous stuff on the surface but often with ironic and critical undertones’). Prematurely aged and alcoholic – according to his friend and biographer AnthonyCronin, by his late forties O’Nolan was generally so pickled by three in the afternoon that he retired to bed – he was never not in the position of having to carve out a place for himself as a ...

Nine White Men Armed with Iron Bars

Andy Beckett: Postwar Immigrant Experience

2 November 2017
Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Postwar Britain 
by Clair Wills.
Allen Lane, 442 pp., £25, August 2017, 978 1 84614 716 6
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... perspective of contemporary writers. There are some vivid, if sometimes dated passages, such as this from The Life of Riley, a satire and semi-autobiography published in 1964 by the Irish novelist AnthonyCronin: I betook myself to a labour exchange, a tastefully appointed building in Camden Town, looking like something left over from the Festival of Britain which had been spat on too often and could ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett

5 April 2007
... was, in fact, the real world. One of the actors who toured Ireland in McMaster’s fit-up company at the same time as Pinter was Patrick Magee, who was born in Armagh in 1924. Beckett’s biographer AnthonyCronin suggests that playing non-Irish roles in these productions had given Magee his most peculiar voice. Cronin describes the voice as ‘harsh, gravelly, which had little superficial charm but had ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien

23 October 2013
Plays and Teleplays 
by Flann O’Brien, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan.
Dalkey, 434 pp., £9.50, September 2013, 978 1 56478 890 0
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The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper.
Dalkey, 158 pp., £9.50, August 2013, 978 1 56478 889 4
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... narrative, which makes a more upsetting kind of sense than anything he ever wrote in his books. Our main, certainly our most detailed source for this story is an item that seems to be out of print: AnthonyCronin’s biography No Laughing Matter, published in 1989. Rarely can a book have borne such an apposite title. Cronin casts O’Brien’s life as a relentless catalogue of frustration, bitterness ...

So much for shame

Colm Tóibín

10 June 1993
Haughey: His Life and Unlucky Deeds 
by Bruce Arnold.
HarperCollins, 299 pp., £17.50, May 1993, 0 00 255212 4
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... the Sixties went on, a sense of mystery and wonder developed around him. He survived a car crash and a fall from a horse (but was it really a car crash? did he really fall from his horse?). The poet AnthonyCronin, who later became an adviser, remembers Haughey visiting him in Clare, and after the visit rumours spreading that Haughey was going to buy the local hotel, or other property in the area. As ...

Who to Be

Colm Tóibín: Beckett’s Letters

6 August 2009
The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929-40 
edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 782 pp., £30, February 2009, 978 0 521 86793 1
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... and his son Morris played the violin. Their priorities were rather different from the stolid, dull ones which dominated Beckett’s own household. They were bohemians. They gave parties at which, as AnthonyCronin noted in his biography of Beckett, ‘people sat on the floor and afterwards quite possibly slept on it.’ No one among the Sinclairs minded Beckett staying in bed all morning and having no ...
6 February 1986
The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci 
by Jonathan Spence.
Faber, 350 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 571 13239 1
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Chine et Christianisme: Action et Réaction 
by Jacques Gernet.
Gallimard, 342 pp., frs 154, May 1982, 2 07 026366 5
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... to China is well-known. It has been the subject of thorough research by two learned Jesuits, Henri Bernard and Pasquale D’Elia, and it has also been retold by many other writers, among them Vincent Cronin in his Wise Man from the West (with a companion piece, A Pearl to India, on the career of De’Nobili). Ricci’s introduction into China of Western clocks, Western astronomy and Western mathematics ...

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