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Prosecco Notwithstanding

Tobias Gregory: 21st-Century Noir

3 July 2008
The Lemur 
by Benjamin Black.
Picador US, 144 pp., $13, June 2008, 978 0 312 42808 2
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... because he thinks he can write a thriller that is also a work of art. John Banville, to his credit, understands that crime fiction is only crime fiction. The Lemur, his third book under the pen name BenjaminBlack, is a slim, efficient novel, elegantly done as such things go, in which literary pretensions are largely resisted and the proper conventions observed. There is the murder. There is the Beretta ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe

2 April 2014
The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... most darkly glowing luminants has observed’ is the way the narrator of The Infinities (2009), a riff on Kleist’s Amphitryon set in a parallel universe, introduces a line from Nietzsche.) As ‘BenjaminBlack’, though, he’s shown himself willing to turn out workmanlike crime stories, and some of his best non-Black novels – among them The Book of Evidence (1989) and The Untouchable (1997) – ...

White Hat/Black​ Hat

Frances Richard: 20th-Century Art

6 April 2006
Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism 
by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois and Benjamin​ H.D. Buchloh.
Thames and Hudson, 704 pp., £45, March 2005, 0 500 23818 9
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... referred to, again tautologically, as ‘Theory’. Somewhere along the line, art history majors with professors worth their salt will encounter, severally or federated, the critics Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Hal Foster and Rosalind Krauss. This quartet have been working together since the 1970s, and are currently co-editors of the journal October. Founded in 1976 and subtitled ‘Art/Theory ...

Hindsight Tickling

Christopher Tayler: Disappointing sequels

21 October 2004
The Closed Circle 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 433 pp., £17.99, September 2004, 0 670 89254 8
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... non-Winshaw characters. The novel even stages a debate about the dangers of its own sharp focus on politics (the object of Michael’s affections complains that he’s ‘too dogmatic’, too ‘black and white’), while the tragi-farcical ending collapses the different levels of reality in a surprising and effective way. In The House of Sleep, on the other hand, a kinky, right-wing mad scientist ...


Karl Miller

21 October 1982
On the Black​ Hill 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 249 pp., £7.50, September 1982, 0 224 01980 5
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... which supplanted, historical research on Dahomey in the era of the slave trade. His third theme is encoded in his surname. Chatwin’s twins are hill farmers from the wild Welsh Marches, Lewis and Benjamin Jones. They are identical, monozygotic, and are capable of telepathic communion: ‘He gave up washing for fear of reminding himself that – at that same moment – Lewis might be sharing someone ...

Through the Trapdoor

Jeremy Harding: Walter Benjamin’s Last Day

19 July 2007
The Narrow Foothold 
by Carina Birman.
Hearing Eye, 29 pp., £7, August 2006, 9781905082100
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... the authorities. Hans was in central France at a camp in Vernuche; Lisa was near the Pyrenees in a ‘women’s camp’ in Gurs, which had been holding refugees from Spain. (Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin’s sister Dora were also interned at Gurs, while Benjamin had spent several weeks in Vernuche.) As the Germans advanced deeper into France and the administration reeled, evasion or negotiated exit ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Oscars

26 February 2009
... Sidney Poitier, who always looks nice, but in the year of Martin Luther King’s death – an event which held up the ceremony by two days – it was quite something to see two films in which a black man appeared not only to assert himself but to do so with a certain degree of moral disdain. In the Heat of the Night has a scene in which Mr Tibbs is slapped by a white man and slaps him right back ...

Kafka’s Dog

P.N. Furbank

13 November 1997
The Treasure Chest 
by Johann Peter Hebel, translated by John Hibberd.
Libris/Penguin, 175 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 14 044639 7
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... title, with his companionable, slyly didactic, never quite predictable manner, became an essential feature of his persona as author. Hebel was the son of a weaver and a peasant’s daughter from the Black Forest. With the help of his father’s employer, a well-to-do Swiss officer in the French Army, he was enabled to attend the Karlsruhe Gymnasium, where he trained for the Lutheran ministry, and ...

No More Whining

Frank Lentricchia

3 April 1997
... by the trials of O.J. Simpson, that one may tell the most truth. The man in question had been a famous athlete who became – thanks to a delightful, long-running TV commercial – white America’s black teddy bear. How cuddly he was, how handsome and rich. He flashed a smile of infinite reassurance; spoke standard American English with a standard American accent. The real O.J. Simpson, who had grown ...

Is he winking?

Joseph J. Ellis: Benjamin​ Franklin

20 March 2003
Benjamin​ Franklin 
by Edmund S. Morgan.
Yale, 339 pp., £19.95, October 2002, 0 300 09532 5
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... When Thomas Jefferson was introduced as the new American Ambassador to France in 1784, legend has it that the French minister asked if he was Benjamin Franklin’s replacement, and Jefferson replied that he was merely Franklin’s successor; no one could replace him. Whether or not the story is true, it conveys Franklin’s stature as the only ...

Say hello to Rodney

Peter Wollen: How art becomes kitsch

17 February 2000
The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience 
by Celeste Olalquiaga.
Bloomsbury, 321 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7475 4535 9
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... and, at the same time, a theoretical enquiry into the nature of kitsch and a defence of it – or certain aspects of it – against the opprobrium under which it usually falls. Drawing on Walter Benjamin, her mentor in such matters, she sketches out a distinction between two contrasting types of kitsch – the nostalgic, which is bad, and the melancholic, which is good. The nostalgic is characterised ...

Our Slaves Are Black

Nicholas Guyatt: Theories of Slavery

4 October 2007
Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World 
by David Brion Davis.
Oxford, 440 pp., £17.99, May 2006, 0 19 514073 7
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The Trader, the Owner, the Slave 
by James Walvin.
Cape, 297 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 0 224 06144 5
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The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000 
by Colin Kidd.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £16.99, September 2006, 0 521 79324 6
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The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview 
by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese.
Cambridge, 828 pp., £18.99, December 2005, 0 521 85065 7
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... rise of antislavery in Britain and America coincide with an intensification of racial thinking? David Brion Davis’s Inhuman Bondage throws light on the process by which slavery became exclusively black. There were many European precedents for white slavery, not only in the classical period but in the trading networks of the late medieval Mediterranean. The word ‘slave’ derives from sclavus, or ...
1 August 1985
... fairytales and penny dreadfuls, is entitled ‘Bessere Luftschlösser’ (Better Castles m the Air). Bloch’s passion for aerial and low life excursions was one of his many bonds with Walter Benjamin, the outstanding critical mind among his younger German contemporaries and, like Klemperer, an early admirer of Geist der Utopie. It was surely thanks to Bloch and his essay on Offenbach’s Tales of ...


Edward Luttwak: In Deep Water in Bolivia

3 April 1997
... An inferno!’ was how they cursed the endless track through the lowlands, though it was not hell that came to mind. There was no burning heat, and with cascades of rain every few hours, and black clouds gathering beforehand that obscured the sun, it was not even warm. Instead it was wet, wet from above and wet below. Here and there the red-earth roadway had withstood the rains, but for the ...


Benjamin​ Markovits: Austin weird

1 September 2005
... fashioned out of milk cartons, that kind of thing. You can get weak Austin beer, or Newcastle Brown Ale, or cappuccinos; nobody will notice if you spend all day there and order nothing. A man in black skinny jeans and tightly-laced high-tops is trying to explain the workings of his favourite hallucinogen. ‘It’s got a neurotransmitter diode,’ he says, ‘which basically means that it shuts ...

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