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Christopher Prendergast: Sarah Palin’s Favourite Frenchman

2 December 2010
... Hands up who knows that a major source of Tea Party ideological fervour is a long-forgotten 19th-century French economist – French no less (it wasn’t so long ago that John Kerry was derided for being ‘a bit French’). Indeed, hands up who has even heard of Frédéric Bastiat. The name, canonical and talismanic in Tea Party circles, means nothing to most British economists. Nineteenth-century ...

The Thing

Michael Wood: Versions of Proust

6 January 2005
In Search of Lost Time: Vol. I: The Way by Swann’s 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 496 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118031 5
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol.II: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by James Grieve.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118032 3
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. III: The Guermantes Way 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Mark Treharne.
Penguin, 640 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118033 1
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. IV: Sodom and Gomorrah 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by John Sturrock.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 9780141180342
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. V: ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘The Fugitive’ 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Carol Clark and Peter Collier.
Penguin, 720 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118035 8
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. VI: Finding Time Again 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Ian Patterson.
Penguin, 400 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118036 6
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The Proust Project 
edited by André Aciman.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., $25, November 2004, 0 374 23832 4
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... a reasonable touch of emphasis. But should we get rid of the plural? And why has Patterson switched ‘the’ to ‘a’? Quoting the same sentence in his preface to the full set of new translations, ChristopherPrendergast writes: ‘all paradises are lost paradises.’ This is impeccably aphoristic, and assumes that false paradises are just not paradises at all. Proust himself could be more accommodating ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Prendergast: Student Loans

6 January 2011
... A ‘progressive’ system means, broadly speaking, that some people pay more than others for the same benefit, on the grounds that they can afford to, just as some pay more taxes, both absolutely and proportionally, to fund government services. There can be no doubt that the Coalition policy on student debt is ‘progressive’ in the sense that some will pay (back) more than others depending on how ...

Unreal City

Michael Wood

7 October 1993
Paris and the 19th Century 
by Christopher Prendergast.
Blackwell, 283 pp., £35, June 1993, 0 631 15788 3
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... No one lives in this carefully edited place, but it is full of people. I think (I hope) upbeat enjoyments of the tourist city are still possible – more possible, and more permissible, than ChristopherPrendergast suggests – and they are surely more appealing than the glum romanticising of awfulness by which many city-dwellers manage simultaneously to accuse and congratulate themselves. But of ...

Diary

Christopher Prendergast: Piss where you like

17 March 2005
... of all the others.’ Some months later I returned to Mount Pleasant with instructions for the stonemason. Doubtless a good Catholic, he didn’t so much as blink when I asked him to chisel: ‘Jim Prendergast, Communist. 1914-1974.’ I went back the next day and the job was done. I paid the mason his 70 quid, then set off back to London. Years later, on a trip to Ireland with Wynne Godley, I asked him to ...

La Bête républicaine

Christopher Prendergast

5 September 1996
The Dreyfus Affair: ‘J’Accuse’ and Other Writings 
by Emile Zola, edited by Alain Pagès, translated by Eleanor Levieux.
Yale, 208 pp., £25, June 1996, 0 300 06689 9
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Zola: A Life 
by Frederick Brown.
Farrar, Straus, 888 pp., £37.50, May 1996, 0 374 29742 8
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... In September 1894, the Intelligence Bureau of the French Army intercepted a memorandum (the so-called ‘bordereau’) sent to the German military attaché in Paris, informing him that important details concerning French national defence would shortly be communicated to the Germans. The military authorities were baffled as to the source, but suspicion fell on Captain Alfred Dreyfus, at the time serving ...

Tears in the Café Select

Christopher Prendergast

9 March 1995
Paris Interzone: Richard Wright, Lolita, Boris Vian and Others on the Left Bank 1946-1960 
by James Campbell.
Secker, 305 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 436 20106 2
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Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties 
by Peter Lennon.
Picador, 220 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 330 31911 6
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The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press 
by John de St Jorre.
Hutchinson, 332 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 09 177874 3
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... Paris figures in the titles of both James Campbell’s and Peter Lennon’s books, but this is a restricted, specialised Paris. Campbell takes us into something called the ‘Interzone’ (the term is odd, and troublesome), inhabited by assorted exiles, misfits and drop-outs during the Fifties and late Forties. Lennon’s jaunty impressionistic book takes us into the Sixties, with an account of his ...

I am a Cretan

Patrick Parrinder

21 April 1988
On Modern Authority: The Theory and Condition of Writing, 1500 to the Present Day 
by Thomas Docherty.
Harvester, 310 pp., £25, May 1987, 0 7108 1017 2
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The Order of Mimesis: Balzac, Stendhal, Nerval, Flaubert 
by Christopher Prendergast.
Cambridge, 288 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 521 23789 0
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... may think of other writers, he himself is an author who wants and expects to be listened to. The genre to which On Modern Authority belongs – currently a rather overcrowded one – is summed up by ChristopherPrendergast in The Order of Mimesis as ‘a critique of authority in which, from the terms of the critique itself, what is at once presumed and indefensible is the authority of the critique ...

Horrible Dead Years

Christopher Prendergast

24 March 1994
Baudelaire 
by Joanna Richardson.
Murray, 602 pp., £30, March 1994, 0 7195 4813 6
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... as having something to do with the larger forces and configurations of the 19th-century world. One would have thought, for example, that, after Edward Said’s Orientalism and the important work of Christopher Miller on Baudelairean ‘exoticism’, the youthful trip to the Ile de la Réunion would have produced something more analytically strenuous than references to ‘his Oriental odyssey ...

‘I am not dead’

Christopher Prendergast: H.C. Andersen

8 March 2001
Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller 
by Jackie Wullschlager.
Allen Lane, 506 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 7139 9325 1
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... Can it be, as Jackie Wullschlager maintains, that in the 1840s and 1850s Hans Christian Andersen was ‘the most famous writer in Europe’, and that ‘two centuries after his birth Andersen is still not appreciated as the world-class author that he undoubtedly was, as representative of the European Romantic spirit as Balzac or Victor Hugo’? These are grand claims and, if they’re true, we might ...

Hitchcocko-Hawksien

Christopher Prendergast

5 June 1997
Projections 7 
edited by John Boorman and Walter Donohue.
Faber, 308 pp., £11.99, April 1997, 0 571 19033 2
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. I: The Fifties. Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge, 312 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 15105 8
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. II: The Sixties. New Wave, New Cinema, Re-evaluating Hollywood 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge, 363 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 15106 6
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. III: 1969-72. The Politics of Representation 
edited by Nick Browne.
Routledge, 352 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 02987 2
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... In Martin Scorsese’s Casino, Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) remarks that Las Vegas is about ‘selling people dreams for cash’ and, in a memorable elaboration of this cliché, that ‘it does for us what Lourdes does for hunchbacks and cripples.’ Much the same has been said about the culture of cinema, and how Scorsese’s film stands in relation to its subject is an interesting question. In ...

By the Width of a Street

Christopher Prendergast: Literary geography

29 October 1998
An Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 
by Franco Moretti.
Verso, 206 pp., £16, August 1998, 1 85984 883 4
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... Somewhere around the middle of An Atlas of the European Novel, in a discussion of images of London in the 19th-century novel, Franco Moretti throws in a parenthetical aside on the whereabouts of his publisher (‘in a rather bleak part of Soho’). It’s a sort of joke, consistent with the laidback tone that Moretti seems able to combine effortlessly with high intellectual endeavour. It’s not often ...

Amused, Bored or Exasperated

Christopher Prendergast: Gustave Flaubert

13 December 2001
Flaubert: A Life 
by Geoffrey Wall.
Faber, 413 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 571 19521 0
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... And so another literary ‘life’, framed, as is the custom, by a beginning (childhood) and an ending (death), although Geoffrey Wall, on retiring from his story, decorates the frame with a nicely incongruous detail: ‘Flaubert’s coffin, too big to fit into the grave, had to be left stuck at an angle, headfirst, and only halfway into the earth.’ Flaubert’s novels are packed with grotesque contingencies ...

Making the world

Christopher Prendergast

16 March 1989
Gillette, or The Unknown Masterpiece 
by Honoré de Balzac, translated by Anthony Rudolf.
Menard Press, 64 pp., £5.95, December 1988, 0 903400 99 5
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... In his Souvenirs sur Paul Cézanne, Emile Bernard records a conversation in which he raised with Cézanne the topic of Balzac’s Le Chef-d’Oeuvre Inconnu – the story of the fictional painter Frenhofer, who spends ten years trying to create the perfect picture of a woman but ends up painting what, in the story itself (which mixes fiction with 17th-century fact), the young Nicolas Poussin describes ...

Happy Babble

Christopher Prendergast

7 March 1996
Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton 
by Mark Polizzotti.
Bloomsbury, 754 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 7475 1281 7
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... Imagine a ‘movement’, not retrospectively constructed by the tidy, potty-trained minds of academics, but consciously created by its actors with a view to putting an end to the culture of potty-training (perhaps one of the meanings of Duchamp’s notorious urinal). Surrealism was such a creature. It was a ‘movement’ in the sense of having a whole apparatus: committees, bureaux, meetings, manifestos ...

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