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Colin Smith: Carlos the Jackal, 26 January 2012

... A week before Christmas, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal and already serving life for three murders, was given another life sentence at the Palais de Justice in Paris for masterminding a bombing campaign that killed 11 people, according to a witness turning one of them into mincemeat. In order to finish its business on schedule the court sat until just before midnight on Thursday, 15 December: the accused, asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed, nodded and took more than five hours to say it ...

Melancholy Actions

Charles Glass: Scuttling the French Fleet, 17 December 2009

England’s Last War against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42 
by Colin Smith.
Weidenfeld, 490 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 0 297 85218 6
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... who in his long career seized more than 40 English ships. In 1940, the first shots in what Colin Smith calls ‘England’s last war against France’ were exchanged between the two navies. Before the armistice of 22 June, de Gaulle and Churchill had urged the French government to commit its large fleet and its 400,000-man colonial army in Africa ...

The Meaninglessness of Meaning

Michael Wood, 9 October 1986

The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962-1980 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Cape, 368 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 224 02302 0
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Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith.
Cape, 172 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 224 02267 9
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The Fashion System 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Matthew Ward and Richard Howard.
Cape, 303 pp., £15, March 1985, 0 224 02984 3
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The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art and Representation 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard.
Blackwell, 312 pp., £19.50, January 1986, 0 631 14746 2
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The Rustle of Language 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard.
Blackwell, 373 pp., £27.50, May 1986, 0 631 14864 7
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A Barthes Reader 
edited by Susan Sontag.
Cape, 495 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 224 02946 0
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Barthes: Selected Writings 
edited by Susan Sontag.
Fontana, 495 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 00 636645 7
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Roland Barthes: A Conservative Estimate 
by Philip Thody.
University of Chicago Press, 203 pp., £6.75, February 1984, 0 226 79513 6
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Roland Barthes: Structuralism and After 
by Annette Lavers.
Methuen, 300 pp., £16.95, September 1982, 0 416 72380 2
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by Jonathan Culler.
Fontana, 128 pp., £1.95, February 1983, 0 00 635974 4
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... first book, Writing Degree Zero, with Elements of Semiology, was translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith in 1967, and this volume is now reissued. The Fashion System appears in English for the first time, and Barthes’s solemnity here looks more and more like a deadpan act, or a feat of self-discipline, or perhaps both: Buster Keaton at the ...

Endless Uncertainty

Colin Kidd: Adam Smith’s Legacy, 19 July 2001

Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet and the Enlightenment 
by Emma Rothschild.
Harvard, 366 pp., £30.95, June 2001, 0 674 00489 2
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... Among the intellectual figures who have shaped the modern world Adam Smith stands out as someone who doesn’t frighten the laity, might be positively welcomed indeed by middle England. Should the neighbours catch a glimpse of the Wealth of Nations sitting on the bookshelf alongside Thatcher’s memoirs or the latest Delia Smith, there’s no risk of ostracism ...

Maiden Aunt

Colin Kidd: Adam Smith, 7 October 2010

Adam SmithAn Enlightened Life 
by Nicholas Phillipson.
Allen Lane, 345 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 7139 9396 7
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Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and moral theory 
by Fonna Forman-Barzilai.
Cambridge, 286 pp., £55, March 2010, 978 0 521 76112 3
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... the Scots invented Thatcherism, long before I was thought of.’ The Scot she meant was Adam Smith, a figure popularly identified as the founder of economics, an apostle of capitalism and honoured prophet of the new right. It was exasperating for Thatcher, and a pleasing irony for her opponents, that the nation of Adam ...

The Least Worst Place

Colin Dayan: ‘Supermax’ Prisons, 2 August 2007

Bad Men: Guantanamo Bay and the Secret Prisons 
by Clive Stafford Smith.
Weidenfeld, 307 pp., £16.99, April 2007, 978 0 297 85221 6
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... Imagine what it would be like to have worked for more than twenty years, as Clive Stafford Smith has, defending death-row inmates in the American South, only to find oneself in Guantánamo, what the military calls ‘the least worst place’, trying to win the trust of men who have not even been put on trial, who have not been accused of anything, but ...

Bastard Gaelic Man

Colin Kidd, 14 November 1996

The Correspondence of Adam Ferguson 
edited by Vincenzo Merolle.
Pickering & Chatto, 257 pp., £135, October 1995, 1 85196 140 2
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... alike, while the New Right delights in a pedigree which reaches back to David Hume and Adam Smith. In the United States scholars have established the influence of Francis Hutcheson, Hume and Smith on the American Revolution and the making of the Constitution. This view has been widely disseminated – to the liberal ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Who’s the arts minister?, 5 April 2001

... for the Arts, Labour peer and otherwise big-haired all-rounder – lavished praise on Chris Smith. He ended with an anecdote about a meeting in the Cabinet Room at No. 10 the other week. The Prime Minister and Chris Smith had shepherded together a score or so of us from the arts world . . . A strange sound was ...
... a thousand wee anvils, xylophones clicking like hail. – How shall the gongs be tuned? asked the smith: Deep-voiced, in the tuning called ‘Brave Sea’ or shriller, in the pitch called ‘Burnt Tamarind’? – What is best for the Gamelan of Samara, the Love God? asked the other. – ‘A Field of Flowering Pandanus’, said the ...

A British Bundesrat?

Colin Kidd: Scotland and the Constitution, 17 April 2014

... state is no more than a highly inconvenient and thus insignificant truth. The Scottish jurist T.B. Smith took the Union at face value and refused to accept the subaltern status of Scots law within what had become by default a Greater English state. Why, Smith asked, did Section 70 of the Army Act of 1955 incorporate the ...

Time to Mount Spain

Colin Burrow: Prince Charles’s Spanish Adventure, 2 September 2004

The Prince and the Infanta: The Cultural Politics of the Spanish Match 
by Glyn Redworth.
Yale, 200 pp., £25, November 2003, 0 300 10198 8
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... Never trust a man called Smith. Or rather, don’t trust him if he has a fake beard and is travelling with another man called Smith who also has a fake beard. This is one of the profound moral lessons which emerge from one of the most extraordinary incidents in 17th-century English history ...

The End of Labour?

Colin Kidd, 8 March 2012

... party leader also felt constrained to observe the Home Rule commitments of his predecessor, John Smith. Of course, once devolution had been achieved, matters were simpler: as members of a UK-wide party, Labour politicians in the new Scottish Parliament were expected to follow the party line dictated by Blair from London, notwithstanding the supposed autonomy ...

Mother One, Mother Two

Jeremy Harding: A memoir, 31 March 2005

... To think back at all is to fall quickly, almost instinctively, on two names – Colin, the name of my adoptive father, and Maureen, the name of my adoptive mother – and on the significant word ‘adopted’, which has the weight of a name. Appended to this little trio of terms, like an intake of breath at the end of a short annoucement, is the nameless presence of the ‘birth mother’, as she’s mostly called by adoption experts: the first mother, that’s to say, also the eternal mother-in-waiting ...


Kwame Dawes: A Story of American Racism, 8 February 1996

... the media attention ‘race issues’ receive in this country – the O.J. Simpson verdict, Susan Smith alleging that a black man killed her children, the Million Man March and Louis Farrakhan, Colin Powell and his non-bid for office, Affirmative Action and so on and on. Anyone would think that Americans talk about race all ...

A Pound a Glimpse

Daniel Smith: Epilepsy, 16 November 2017

A Smell of Burning: The Story of Epilepsy 
by Colin Grant.
Cape, 242 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 0 224 10182 0
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The End of Epilepsy? A History of the Modern Era of Epilepsy, 1860-2010 
by Dieter Schmidt and Simon Shorvon.
Oxford, 208 pp., £39.99, September 2016, 978 0 19 872590 9
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... decades ago disappeared, or has it merely become less visible, less garish? A Smell of Burning, Colin Grant’s fourth book (he has also written about reggae and about Marcus Garvey), is preoccupied by questions of stigma – haunted by them, even. The book is a hybrid of memoir, medical history and social history of a kind that has become familiar in the ...

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