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19 June 1986
The Siege: The Saga of Zionism and Israel 
by Conor Cruise​ O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 798 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 297 78393 9
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... ConorCruise O’Brien has enjoyed a career of variety and distinction: diplomat, politician, man of letters, an expert on Africa, Irish history and French literature. International affairs have interested him ...

Lordspeak

R.W. Johnson

2 June 1988
Passion and Cunning, and Other Essays 
by Conor Cruise​ O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 293 pp., £18, March 1988, 0 297 79280 6
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God Land: Reflections on Religion and Nationalism 
by Conor Cruise​ O’Brien.
Harvard, 97 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 674 35510 5
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... themselves directly oppressed, the masks of power and the paradoxes of oppression were lessons in drama and in wit. Easily, too easily, irony became a way of life and the witty Irishman was born.’ ConorCruise O’Brien has been that sort of witty Irishman for many decades now and the present book of essays displays once again his wonderful range of talents: a beautiful command of the language ...

Diary

Ronan Bennett: The IRA Ceasefire

22 September 1994
... and go to check the newspapers. The Independent has a well-informed and balanced piece by David McKittrick on the genesis of the ceasefire. He seems cautiously optimistic. Not so that other old ham, ConorCruise O’Brien, writing on the same newspaper’s opinion pages. O’Brien sees the timing of the ceasefire as evidence of a Machiavellian plot to divert attention away from the Dublin Government ...
25 June 1992
The Conquerors 
by André Malraux, translated by Stephen Becker.
Chicago, 198 pp., £8.75, December 1991, 0 226 50290 2
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The Temptation of the West 
by André Malraux, translated by Robert Hollander.
Chicago, 122 pp., £8.75, February 1992, 0 226 50291 0
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The Walnut Tree of Altenburg 
by André Malraux, translated by A.W. Fielding.
Chicago, 224 pp., £9.55, April 1992, 0 226 50289 9
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... had the same capacity to translate his personal adventure into a meeting with history and a dialogue of civilisation.’ Two of the three authors who preface the reprints endorse this lofty estimate. ConorCruise O’Brien, in his Foreword to The Walnut Trees of Altenburg, which Malraux wrote during World War Two, declares: ‘The author was probably imagining, in historical retrospect, a happier ...

The Cruiser

Christopher Hitchens

22 February 1996
On the Eve of the Millennium: The Future of Democracy through an Age of Unreason 
by Conor Cruise​ O’Brien.
Free Press, 168 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 02 874094 7
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... the obituarist may creep in, causing one to be sanctimonious about the virtues in order to appear generous about the backslidings. Hypocrisy waits at every intersection. But it remains the fact that ConorCruise O’Brien has been one of the great stylists of our time, whether writing about France, Britain, Ireland or Africa. It further remains a fact that his has been a voice attuned to the discourse ...

Bogey Man

Richard Mayne

15 July 1982
Camus: A Critical Study of his Life and Work 
by Patrick McCarthy.
Hamish Hamilton, 259 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 241 10603 6
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Albert Camus: A Biography 
by Herbert Lottman.
Picador, 753 pp., £3.95, February 1981, 0 330 26262 9
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The Narcissistic Text: A Reading of Camus’s Fiction 
by Brian Fitch.
Toronto, 128 pp., £12.25, April 1982, 0 8020 2426 2
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The Outsider 
by Albert Camus, translated by Joseph Laredo.
Hamish Hamilton, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1982, 0 241 10778 4
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... is practised blindly on the Algiers streets and which may any day strike down my mother or my family. I believe in justice but I will defend my mother before justice.’ Even so judicious a critic as ConorCruise O’Brien, writing 13 years later, saw fit to comment: ‘The defence of his mother required support for the French army’s pacification of Algeria.’ It was not so simple. In pre-war ...
30 October 1997
Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency 
by Stephen Knott.
Oxford, 258 pp., £19.50, November 1996, 0 19 510098 0
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The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 
by Conor Cruise​ O’Brien.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 367 pp., £25, December 1996, 1 85619 637 2
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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson 
by Joseph Ellis.
Knopf, 365 pp., $26, February 1997, 0 679 44490 4
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Slave Laws in Virginia 
by Philip Schwarz.
Georgia, 253 pp., $40, November 1996, 0 8203 1831 0
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... dogmatically Jacobin in his politics, Jefferson emerged as the chief villain of the Federalist-Whig interpretation of history, whose unlikely, and apparently unconscious, present-day continuator is ConorCruise O’Brien. In The Long Affair O’Brien presents himself as an original and incorruptible outsider prepared not only to challenge the vested interests of Jeffersonian hagiography, but to ...

Further Left

R.W. Johnson

16 August 1990
Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Hogarth, 357 pp., £9.99, July 1990, 0 7012 0903 8
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Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 398 pp., £18, July 1990, 0 7011 3361 9
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... fact that Podhoretz, an immodest man who has much about which to be modest, so got under the skin of intellectuals in the Eighties. He was definitively despatched by Gore Vidal some long while ago. ConorCruise O’Brien then took his furious turn at the coconut shy. And here is Hitchens, lobbing adjectives like grenades in the same cause. It’s all too much. One can’t easily imagine anyone ...

Ireland at Swim

Denis Donoghue

21 April 1983
The Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1977-1981 
edited by M.P. Hederman and R. Kearney, with a preface by Seamus Heaney.
Blackwater Press/Colin Smythe, 930 pp., £25, October 1982, 9780905471136
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A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers 
by Hugh Kenner.
Knopf, 352 pp., $16.95, April 1983, 0 394 42225 2
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... Ireland is interminable and frustrating. No one is thinking. Everyone is merely repeating an emotion he has found effective: effective, in the sense of making him and his position familiar. Why does ConorCruise O’Brien exercise his intelligence when he writes for the Observer and turn out vulgar rubbish for the Irish Times? Is it merely that he despises the Irish readers who were sufficiently ...

Opportunities

David Gilmour

1 June 1989
Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 357 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 7011 3459 3
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... is an excellent defence of George Orwell which is somewhat reminiscent of Orwell’s own essay in defence of Kipling. Hitchens lines up the most formidable detractors (Raymond Williams, Edward Said, ConorCruise O’Brien), quotes them fairly and at length, and then demolishes them. He even follows Orwell’s injunction that a writer should be particularly severe with the work of his friends (in this ...
9 April 1992
Minotaur: Poetry and the Nation State 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 298 pp., £15.99, January 1992, 0 571 16308 4
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... affiliations one reads and criticises good books. This seems to be a reasonable, if innocuous prescription – until, that is, it is put into practice by Paulin: and then, to judge by his analysis of ConorCruise O’Brien in Ireland and the English Crisis, it can become a formidable engine. The main thesis is that O’Brien changed his engagement with his own community when, through a sort of ...

Diary

John Horgan: The Current Mood in Dublin

19 December 1985
... One of the most extraordinary and unexpected results of the recent Anglo-Irish Agreement is that it has united in opposition to it (albeit for widely differing reasons) Mr Paisley, Mr Gerry Adams, Dr ConorCruise O’Brien and Mr Charles Haughey. Another is that it has divided Fianna Fail into two very unequal sections. Whether this realignment manifests itself in an increase in the number of deaths ...

On Robert Silvers

Andrew O’Hagan: Remembering Robert Silvers

19 April 2017
... bellows could sometimes kindle a different flame in you, giving you a way of writing about Britain at one remove, or seeing literary history more panoramically, as he had a preference for doing. ConorCruise O’Brien once explained to me how Irish writers first train their hopes on London before training them on New York. I’m not Irish and I’m not really at one with America, but I’ve always ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: In Washington

7 February 1991
... to the guilty realisation that unless Saddam Hussein shows some corking battlefield form pretty soon, they are going to look both silly and alarmist. Surely this cannot have been what they intended? ConorCruise O’Brien once told me that when he took the Irish chair in the United Nations, Ireland having joined rather late, he found his delegation seated alphabetically next to Israel. The Dublin ...
24 February 1994
The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography and Commented Anthology of Edmund Burke 
by Conor Cruise​ O’Brien.
Minerva, 692 pp., £8.99, September 1993, 0 7493 9721 7
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... ConorCruise O’Brien’s majestic study takes rise from two lines of Yeats: American colonies, Ireland, France and India Harried, and Burke’s great melody against it. The problem is how to use the first ...

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