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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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... to its excellent beginnings. The explanations greatly exceed the action in volume and complexity. Anthony Cronin 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 old parsnip. But if the plotting flags, the humour ...

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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... it may be worth adding that his brother’s account – as it reads to me – is corroborated by Anthony Cronin 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 – ‘and a rum lot too, as the devil said when ...

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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... and never wrote anything else of comparable sustained exactness. All of which makes the title of Anthony Cronin’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 curiosities which ...

Flann O’Brien’s Lies

Colm Tóibín, 5 January 2012

... hotel, had called Joyce ‘that refurbisher of skivvies’ stories’. As O’Brien’s biographer Anthony Cronin 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 enemies.’ In 1961 O’Brien wrote to his editor: ‘If ...

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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Eleutheria 
by Samuel Beckett, translated by Barbara Wright.
Faber, 170 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 9780571178261
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... 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 (largely disagreeable) memories of the pre-natal (according to ...

Anti-Writer

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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... critical undertones’). Prematurely aged and alcoholic – according to his friend and biographer Anthony Cronin, 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 writer. The failure to find an American publisher for ...

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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... from The Life of Riley, a satire and semi-autobiography published in 1964 by the Irish novelist Anthony Cronin: 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 never be cleanly swept out. There were long queues ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett, 5 April 2007

... the same time as Pinter was Patrick Magee, who was born in Armagh in 1924. Beckett’s biographer Anthony Cronin 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 a hypnotic ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien, 24 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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... main, certainly our most detailed source for this story is an item that seems to be out of print: Anthony Cronin’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 and ...

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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... a fall from a horse (but was it really a car crash? did he really fall from his horse?). The poet Anthony Cronin, 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 Minister for Agriculture, he had stood ...

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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... which dominated Beckett’s own household. They were bohemians. They gave parties at which, as Anthony Cronin 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 worldly ambitions and many vague and high-toned ...

The Exotic West

Peter Burke, 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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... 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 has also attracted much attention from historians of ...

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