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It wasn’t a dream

Ned Beauman: Christopher Priest, 10 October 2013

The Adjacent 
by Christopher Priest.
Gollancz, 432 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 575 10536 2
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... of the shortlist for last year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel, Christopher Priest wrote on his blog that part of the award’s purpose is to prove to ‘the larger world’ that science fiction ‘is a progressive, modern literature, with diversity and ambition and ability, and not the pool of generic rehashing that the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Prestige’, 14 December 2006

The Prestige 
directed by Christopher Nolan.
October 2006
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... In Christopher Nolan’s movies men are always losing their minds: to revenge and an old phobia in Batman Begins; to a clinical condition in Insomnia; to the vagaries of a crippled short-term memory in Memento. The hero of this last film can drive a car and kill people, remember how his dead wife looked and what she said; but he doesn’t know where he is at any given moment, or why he is there, or what he said a few minutes before ...

A Country Priest

Christopher Burns, 1 August 1985

... when I lifted it away, was damp. I sniffed it, half afraid of the smell of death. ‘Are you a priest?’ she asked. Her breath smelled like a dog’s. ‘I am. Don’t you recognise me?’ She looked at me as if she did not understand at all. ‘I have known you for some years,’ I said. ‘Am I dying, Father?’ I averted my eyes. ‘I shall sit beside ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr, 21 February 2019

... variegated clergy were taking stock. Were they rivals or fellow travellers? A Russian Orthodox priest made cautious small talk with a young man in extravagant blue and red robes who turned out to be a follower of the Western Orthodox rite from a monastery near Dumfries. At 11.40 a.m., the wandsmen ushered the growing crowd into a tiny courtyard outside the ...

Give me a Danish pastry!

Christopher Tayler: Nordic crime fiction, 17 August 2006

The Priest of Evil 
by Matti-Yrjänä Joensuu, translated by David Hackston.
Arcadia, 352 pp., £11.99, May 2006, 1 900850 93 1
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by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, translated by Lois Roth.
Harper Perennial, 288 pp., £6.99, August 2006, 0 00 723283 7
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Borkmann’s Point 
by Håkan Nesser, translated by Laurie Thompson.
Macmillan, 321 pp., £16.99, May 2006, 0 333 98984 8
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The Redbreast 
by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett.
Harvill Secker, 520 pp., £11.99, September 2006, 9781843432173
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by Arnaldur Indridason, translated by Bernard Scudder.
Harvill Secker, 313 pp., £12.99, August 2006, 1 84655 033 5
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... cross-dressing serial killer through a tunnel beneath Helsinki, Timo Harjunpää, the hero of The Priest of Evil by Matti-Yrjänä Joensuu, pulls out his gun and then pauses to consider the health and safety implications of what he’s doing. ‘He recalled that this communal tunnel was used for almost everything: water and ...

But Little Bequalmed

Christopher Tayler: Louis de Bernières’s Decency, 2 September 2004

Birds without Wings 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 625 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 436 20549 1
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... sepulchral by the attenuated and dancing shadows’? By page 35, a ‘portentous and dignified’ priest has made an appearance, and on page 42 there’s talk of religion’s ‘tendentious but unchanging certainties’. But it’s hard to relax until page 44, where, in the space of three paragraphs, someone’s ‘intrinsic and extraordinary ...

The Rat Line

Christopher Driver, 6 December 1984

The Fourth Reich 
by Magnus Linklater, Isabel Hilton and Neal Ascherson.
Hodder, 352 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 340 34443 1
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I didn’t say goodbye 
by Claudine Vegh.
Caliban, 179 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 904573 93 1
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... stage-sets include Italy and Spain, Germany and the Americas; its characters a Croatian Catholic priest called Draganovic and Major Robert d’Aubuisson of Salvador. If British involvement and documentation seem minimal, this may simply be because that famous repository of guilty secrets, the Foreign Office, ‘deliberated for six months, then announced that ...

Runagately Rogue

Tobias Gregory: Puritans and Others, 25 August 2011

The Plain Man’s Pathways to Heaven: Kinds of Christianity in Post-Reformation England, 1570-1640 
by Christopher Haigh.
Oxford, 284 pp., £32, September 2009, 978 0 19 921650 5
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... the reflection? In a new study of English popular religion based on ecclesiastical court records, Christopher Haigh finds that Dent’s four characters represent widely held attitudes. While Dent invented them as useful stereotypes, his book succeeded because people recognised them and the things he had them say. Court records and books like Dent’s can be ...

The Vicar of Chippenham

Christopher Haigh: Religion and the life-cycle, 15 October 1998

Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 641 pp., £25, May 1998, 0 19 820168 0
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... Cressy’s book). The compulsory recording of baptisms, marriages and burials made the officiating priest a bureaucratic executive, carrying out his instructions and doing the paperwork afterwards. Ritual acts became formal outlines, with registers to prove they took place as they should and the priest had done his job. From ...

It’s Been a Lot of Fun

David Runciman: Hitchens’s Hitchens, 24 June 2010

Hitch-22: A Memoir 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 435 pp., £20, June 2010, 978 1 84354 921 5
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... In his book about religion, Peter Hitchens has a lot more to say about his brother Christopher than Christopher has to say about Peter in his book about himself.* ‘Some brothers get on,’ Peter writes mournfully, ‘some do not. We were the sort that just didn’t.’ He continues: At one stage – I was about nine, he nearly 12 – my poor gentle father actually persuaded us to sign a peace treaty in the hope of halting our feud ...

The Queen Bee Canticles

David Harsent, 6 January 2011

... for Christopher Penfold The Queen and the Philosopher Sun on the sea running white, sun on white walls, yes, on the thick shoulders of the fishermen as they fanned their nets, sun as an engine, a trapdoor, a compass, Democritus in his cell the window framing sea and sky, blue climbing on blue, a glaze shaken by the heat, as she drifted in and held heavy in the thickening air ...

Among the Flutterers

Colm Tóibín: The Pope Wears Prada, 19 August 2010

The Pope Is Not Gay 
by Angelo Quattrocchi, translated by Romy Clark Giuliani.
Verso, 181 pp., £8.90, June 2010, 978 1 84467 474 9
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... at the end of the three-day Irish Episcopal Conference last March, by the bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones, a member of the Bishops’ Liaison Committee for Child Protection, who accused the media of being ‘unfair and unjust’: ‘Could I just say with all this emphasis on cover-up, the cover-up has gone on for centuries, not just in the Church ...


John Bossy, 4 April 1996

The New Oxford History of England. Vol. II: The Later Tudors 
by Penry Williams.
Oxford, 628 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 19 822820 1
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... that they are too many. Of the 40, Catholics get ten and a bit, and Williams has followed Christopher Haigh in downsizing the Elizabethan Catholic mission into a bomb that failed to go off. This leaves an awful hole in the story: it was a real bomb, and blew up a lot of things, including the planter. I don’t think it is grinding an axe to claim that ...

God bless Italy

Christopher Clark: Rome, Vienna, 1848, 10 May 2018

The Pope Who Would Be King: The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe 
by David I. Kertzer.
Oxford, 474 pp., £25, May 2018, 978 0 19 882749 8
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... red velvet papal cap and dressed himself in the black cassock and broad-brimmed hat of a country priest. Half an hour later, in a state of great agitation, he left the papal audience chamber in the Quirinale Palace by an internal stairway and tiptoed down to the courtyard, where a carriage was waiting for him. The French ambassador to the Holy See, the duc ...

The Crowe is White

Hilary Mantel: Bloody Mary, 24 September 2009

Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor 
by Eamon Duffy.
Yale, 249 pp., £19.99, June 2009, 978 0 300 15216 6
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... an illiterate Cardiff fisherman. William Hunter was 19 years old, a silk-weaver’s apprentice; a priest sneered at him: ‘It is a merye worlde when such as thou arte shall teache us what is the truth.’ Thomas Tomkins, a weaver, was burned after Edmund Bonner, bishop of London, had forcibly shaved off his long evangelist’s beard ‘so he wold loke like a ...

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