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All I can do

Carole Angier, 21 June 1984

Jean Rhys: Letters 1931-1966 
edited by Francis Wyndham and Diana Melly.
Deutsch, 336 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 223 97567 2
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... Jean Rhys always said, and certainly believed, that she didn’t want to be a writer. She only wrote, she said, because she was unhappy, and when she was happy, as she was in her twenty years of marriage to her third husband, she didn’t write at all. Now comes this extraordinary book to prove that this simply wasn’t true. Jean was only half-like one of her heroines: passive, incompetent, decoratively doomed ...

‘Heimat’ and History

Carole Angier, 22 January 1987

... Edgar Reitz’s Heimat is not just a brilliant film about Germany. It is a brilliant film about our time, anywhere – perhaps about any time anywhere. The war between continuity and change, staying at home and leaving home, is part of the human condition. This war is the true subject of Reitz’s huge and absorbing masterpiece. It begins in 1919, when Europe has destroyed itself and the future is moving to the new world, America ...

One Thing

John Bayley, 22 November 1990

Jean Rhys 
by Carole Angier.
Deutsch, 780 pp., £15.99, November 1990, 0 233 98597 2
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A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym 
by Hazel Holt.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 333 40614 1
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... gentle and gentlemanly types who wanted to cherish her, though they seldom or never succeeded. As Carole Angier acutely observes, she gravitated towards men with ‘social confidence and inner uncertainty’. Adultery and promiscuity were, oddly enough, not her problems: she craved, or thought she did, ‘the twins freedom and safety’ (dissimilar ...

Probably Quite Coincidental

Michael Wood: Silences for Sebald, 6 January 2022

Speak, Silence: In Search of W.G. Sebald 
by Carole Angier.
Bloomsbury, 617 pp., £30, August 2021, 978 1 5266 3479 5
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... it suicide, because at times Sebald himself seemed to think of little else. One theory cited by Carole Angier combines the first and the third of these views. Commenting on Sebald’s repeatedly saying that he ‘had never intended to live beyond fifty’, a friend and student wondered whether ‘he chose to end his life anyway, by simply undermining ...

Travelling in the Classic Style

Thomas Laqueur: Primo Levi, 5 September 2002

Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics 
by Robert Gordon.
Oxford, 316 pp., £45, October 2001, 0 19 815963 3
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Primo Levi 
by Ian Thomson.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 09 178531 6
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The Double Bond: Primo Levi, a Biography 
by Carole Angier.
Viking, 898 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88333 6
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... out, only Elie Wiesel sells more books on the subject in the United States.) The biographies by Carole Angier and Ian Thomson are thus important less because they explain his gifts than because his life – broadly understood – is a model for living in the shadow of moral collapse. Of the two Lives, the journalist Thomson’s is vastly to be ...


Elizabeth Young, 25 February 1993

The Case of Anna Kavan 
by David Callard.
Peter Owen, 240 pp., £16.95, January 1993, 0 7206 0867 8
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... which they were rescued by kind and perspicacious publishers. Both achieved fame posthumously. Carole Angier, Rhys’s biographer, tells us that Rhys suffered from ‘borderline personality disorder’, features of which are addiction, isolation and paranoia. For what it’s worth this diagnosis must also apply to Kavan. Kavan’s best novel Ice, in ...

Bang, Crash, Crack

Elizabeth Lowry: Primo Levi, 7 June 2007

A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories 
by Primo Levi, translated by Ann Goldstein and Alessandra Bastagli.
Penguin, 164 pp., £20, April 2007, 978 0 7139 9955 6
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... a verse from Coleridge as epigraph to The Drowned and the Saved. And yet, as Levi’s biographer Carole Angier has pointed out, to privilege the image of Levi as recorder over that of storyteller is to distort his achievement. Levi wrote at least three short stories before the war (two, ‘Lead’ and ‘Mercury’, can be found in The Periodic ...

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