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Wu-wei

Jonathan Barnes, 24 July 1986

The World of Thought in Ancient China 
by Benjamin Schwartz.
Harvard, 490 pp., £23.50, January 1986, 0 674 96190 0
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... Emperor Han Wu-ti declared Confucianism the official cult of the State. Such is the main plot of Benjamin Schwartz’s history of ancient Chinese thought. The concept of ‘thought’ is in principle construed in the most generous way possible. But in practice Schwartz concentrates his attention on the moral, social ...

How far shall I take this character?

Richard Poirier: The Corruption of Literary Biography, 2 November 2000

Bellow: A Biography 
by James Atlas.
Faber, 686 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 571 14356 3
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... the complete, ten-year span of its writing. The author, James Atlas, whose biography of Delmore Schwartz appeared in 1977 and who is the general editor of the Penguin Lives Series, was given full access to Bellow’s letters and unpublished manuscripts and final permission to quote all the passages he wanted to use. He was free to interview anyone ...

The End

Malcolm Bull, 11 March 1993

Posthistoire: Has History Come to an End? 
by Lutz Niethammer, translated by Patrick Camiller.
Verso, 176 pp., £19.95, January 1993, 0 86091 395 3
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When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture 
by Paul Boyer.
Harvard, 488 pp., £23.95, September 1992, 9780674951280
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... Like Kant’s misinterpretation of the angel of Revelation 10, the angel in the ninth of Walter Benjamin’s ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ stands between history and the future. He has come to end the destruction of what he would like to think are the last days. But he cannot. Time continues; history is not at a close; the winds of change ...

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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... 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 became a brief ...

The View from the Top

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: Upland Anarchists, 2 December 2010

The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland South-East Asia 
by James C. Scott.
Yale, 442 pp., £16.99, January 2011, 978 0 300 16917 1
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... on Latin America following the Iberian conquest, including the work of Frank Salomon and Stuart Schwartz on forms of adaptation, ethnic reinvention (or ethnogenesis) and mestizaje in its aftermath. This famously brought down on the two American historians the Olympian wrath of Lévi-Strauss, who denounced them in L’Homme in 2001. Salomon and ...

More than a Million Names

Mattathias Schwartz: American Intelligence, 16 June 2016

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror 
by Michael Hayden.
Penguin, 464 pp., £21.99, February 2016, 978 1 59420 656 6
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... exonerated after execution are significant enough to justify sparing the other 96 per cent. It was Benjamin Franklin who said it was folly to trade ‘essential liberty’ for ‘a little temporary safety’. According to Hayden, we must also consider the number of innocent people who may be killed in a future terrorist attack. ‘What might be admirable for a ...

Out of the blue

Mark Ford, 10 December 1987

Meeting the British 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 53 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 571 14858 1
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Partingtime Hall 
by James Fenton and John Fuller.
Salamander, 69 pp., £7.50, April 1987, 0 948681 05 5
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Private Parts 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 72 pp., £4.95, June 1987, 9780701132064
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Bright River Yonder 
by John Hartley Williams.
Bloodaxe, 87 pp., £4.95, April 1987, 1 85224 028 8
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... Malick, lots of Yeats, lots and lots of Masefield’s ‘Cargoes’, Scott Fitzgerald, Delmore Schwartz, Marilyn Monroe, Un Chien Andalou, Hart Crane, Ben Hur... An index to proper names in the book would be several pages long. This all-pervasive cosmopolitan glamorousness, often treated ironically, is most vivid in ‘7, Middagh Street’. 7, Middagh ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... Benjamin​ Moser begins his biography with a bang: ‘Susan Sontag was America’s last great literary star.’ In my gaudier moments I prefer to think of Sontag as American literature’s first and last great screen star. Transcending staid text, she was projected into the avid imaginations of legions of onlookers who didn’t know Walter Benjamin from Walter Brennan ...

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