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Uncle Max

Patricia Craig, 20 December 1984

The man who was M: The Life of Maxwell Knight 
by Anthony Masters.
Blackwell, 205 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 631 13392 5
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Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of the Second World War 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 166 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 297 78481 1
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The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby’s Biggest Coup 
by Nicholas Bethell.
Hodder, 214 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 340 35701 0
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... Like most biographers, Anthony Masters starts by announcing his subject’s date of birth; unlike most biographers, he gets it wrong. Charles Henry Maxwell Knight was born on 9 July 1900, not 4 September, under the sign of Cancer, not Virgo, however tempting it may be, for reasons which become clear in the course of the story, to assign him to the latter ...

What if it breaks?

Anthony Grafton: Renovating Rome, 5 December 2019

Engineering the Eternal City: Infrastructure, Topography and the Culture of Knowledge in Late 16th-Century Rome 
by Pamela Long.
Chicago, 369 pp., £34, November 2018, 978 0 226 59128 5
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... efforts to suppress the city’s courtesans had failed completely. The playwright and pamphleteer Anthony Munday, who visited Rome in 1579, dismissed the relics as ‘rotten bones, which they make the people credite to be the bones of Saintes’. Even the invitation to watch a Jesuit flagellate himself, and then to imitate him, left Munday unexcited. When the ...

As the Lock Rattles

John Lanchester, 16 December 2021

Breathtaking: Inside the NHS in a Time of Pandemic 
by Rachel Clarke.
Abacus, 228 pp., £9.99, September 2021, 978 0 349 14456 6
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Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy 
by Adam Tooze.
Allen Lane, 354 pp., £25, September 2021, 978 0 241 48587 3
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Failures of State: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus 
by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott.
Mudlark, 432 pp., £20, March 2021, 978 0 00 843052 8
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Covid by Numbers: Making Sense of the Pandemic with Data 
by David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters.
Pelican, 320 pp., £10.99, October 2021, 978 0 241 54773 1
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The Covid Consensus: The New Politics of Global Inequality 
by Toby Green.
Hurst, 294 pp., £14.99, April 2021, 978 1 78738 522 1
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... people bring them things’ – and the data supports that idea. In David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters’s excellent collection of Covid statistics, Covid by Numbers, we learn that three of the jobs with the highest UK levels of Covid mortality were chefs, cab drivers and bus drivers. No surprises there. The less well-off people are, the less ...

Heroes of Our Time

Karl Miller, 19 May 1988

The Monument 
by T. Behrens.
Cape, 258 pp., £11.95, May 1988, 0 224 02510 4
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The Passion of John Aspinall 
by Brian Masters.
Cape, 360 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 224 02353 5
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... guards, to Vienna, and on to London, where she fell among art historians and was counselled by Anthony Blunt. Like the author of the book, who is a painter and who was then at the Slade, she discovered, he tells us, that ‘the people with the beautiful faces were also, mysteriously, the ones it was most fun to be with.’ The self-proclaimed ...

Diary

Marina Warner: Why I Quit, 11 September 2014

... of commas?’) I try to bring in Renaissance ideas of imitatio, and teach by example, of past masters and mistresses. Creative writing can be a way of reading, and it fires up students who, used to browsing Wikipedia, can be reluctant to read a whole book. It’s a direct, though unforeseen, consequence of those radical 1960s ideas of valuing individuals ...

Masters of Art

John Sutherland, 18 December 1980

Loon Lake 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Macmillan, 258 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 333 30641 4
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Alice fell 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.50, November 1980, 0 224 01872 8
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The Covenant 
by James Michener.
Secker, 873 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 436 27966 5
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Ancesteral Vices 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 231 pp., £6.50, November 1980, 0 436 45809 8
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... brief segment in Chapter 14 concerning Cambridge University two years before the unmasking of Sir Anthony Blunt as the notorious “fourth man”. My own inquiries had led me to his trail, or to that of someone exactly like him.’ A complaint against Centennial was that its social-Darwinistic denial that any species, tribe, race or nation had inherent ...

A Platter of Turnips

Esther Chadwick: Rembrandt’s Neighbours, 7 January 2021

Black in Rembrandt’s Time 
edited by Elmer Kolfin and Epco Runia.
WBooks, 135 pp., £20, April 2020, 978 94 6258 372 6
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... of a Spanish interpreter, Josias Doria, they appointed three men – Christoffel Capitano, Anthony and Francisco – as their heirs. Diogo and the three witnesses were familiar with the location. They had been to the notary’s office before, to authorise Josias Doria to collect wages owed to them by a shipmaster – perhaps these were among the assets ...

Those Limbs We Admire

Anthony Grafton: Himmler’s Tacitus, 14 July 2011

A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’ ‘Germania’ from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich 
by Christopher Krebs.
Norton, 303 pp., £18.99, June 2011, 978 0 393 06265 6
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... surrounds his dwelling with an open space.’ He also remarked that in Germany, masters and slaves ‘spend their days amid the same flocks and on the same ground’, and that their sons, ‘naked and filthy, grow up with those limbs and bodies that we admire’. For Vico, it was the work of a moment to pull these phrases together and elicit ...

In one era and out the other

John North, 7 April 1994

Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship. Vol II: Historical Chronology 
by Anthony Grafton.
Oxford, 766 pp., £65, December 1993, 0 19 920601 5
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... When Swift, in his Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding, insisted that fiddlers, dancing-masters, heralds and masters of the ceremony were greater pedants ‘than Lipsius, or the elder Scaliger’, there must have been readers who asked themselves whether he wasn’t confusing Julius Caesar Scaliger, one of the ...

At the Guggenheim

Hal Foster: David Smith, 9 March 2006

... in art history, this isn’t false, despite the immediate catch that his greatest follower, Anthony Caro, is English. Yet it does play too neatly into the usual story of Modernist art: that it was smashed by Fascism and totalitarianism in prewar Europe, then triumphally restored in postwar America as the analogue of American Freedom. A good show ...

Hook and Crook

Peter Clarke, 15 August 1991

Suez 
by Keith Kyle.
Weidenfeld, 656 pp., £25, May 1991, 0 297 81162 2
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... of the Suez Canal. The possibility of military operations by the former imperialist masters of the region was the object alike of Egyptian propaganda and American concern. Nor did it take much imagination to foresee that Israel might characteristically conclude that aggression was the best form of self-defence. This opened up the possibility of ...

Spies and Secret Agents

Ken Follett, 19 June 1980

Conspiracy 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 639 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 575 02846 7
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The Man Who Kept the Secrets 
by Thomas Powers.
Weidenfeld, 393 pp., £10, April 1980, 0 297 77738 6
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... Anthony Summers’s argument is remarkably simple. There is a tape-recording of the gunfire which killed President Kennedy. The third and fourth shots are too close together to have come from a single gun. Two guns means two gunmen, and two gunmen make a conspiracy. But who was in the conspiracy? Well, Lee Harvey Oswald was ...

Eating people is right

Paul Delany, 21 February 1985

Modern Times 
by Peter York.
Heinemann, 128 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 434 89260 2
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Face Value: The Politics of Beauty 
by Robin Tolmach Lakoff and Raquel Scherr.
Routledge, 312 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 7100 9742 5
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... exactly what they want? Modern Times ranges from ‘Neurotic Boy Outsiders’ (James Dean, Anthony Perkins et al) to ‘The Fairisle Years’ (Chariots of Fire, Brideshead Revisited), with passing looks at Babytime, Bryan Ferry, Reactionary Chic, and Not Shaving. The most substantial part of York’s book is ‘Designtime’, an anatomy of the people ...

Short Books on Great Men

John Dunn, 22 May 1980

Jesus 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Oxford, 102 pp., June 1980, 0 19 283016 3
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Aquinas 
by Anthony Kenny.
Oxford, 86 pp., June 1980, 0 19 287500 0
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Pascal 
by Alban Krailsheimer.
Oxford, 84 pp., June 1980, 0 19 287512 4
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Hume 
by A.J. Ayer.
Oxford, 102 pp., June 1980, 0 19 287528 0
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Marx 
by Peter Singer.
Oxford, 82 pp., June 1980, 0 19 287510 8
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... life is both centrally important and irretrievably contentious. The personnel of the ‘Modern Masters’ series may simply map the credal disorder of our days, the fitful intellectual allegiances of a society of masterless persons. Past Masters, however, are, or at any rate ought to be, figures of historically proven ...

Excellent Enigmas

Christopher Reid, 24 January 1980

Lies and Secrets 
by John Fuller.
Secker, 70 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 436 16753 0
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Crossing 
by John Matthias.
Anvil, 125 pp., £3.25, October 1980, 0 85646 035 4
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Growing Up 
by Michael Horovitz.
Allison and Busby, 96 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 85031 232 9
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Report to the Working Party. Asylum. Otiose [preceded by] After 
by Anthony Barnett.
Nothing Doing, 121 pp., £4.80, August 1980, 0 901494 17 8
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... as Henry James is not so odd. We should thank John Fuller, when he follows both these difficult masters, for reminding us what the literrary imagination can do in confronting the ineffable. Some of the poems in Lies and Secrets are long and even garrulous, but in a way that is dramatically appropriate. John Matthias’s Crossing also contains extensive ...

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