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Angry or Evil?

Michael Wood: Brecht’s Poems, 21 March 2019

The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht 
translated by Tom Kuhn and David Constantine.
Norton, 1286 pp., £35, December 2018, 978 0 87140 767 2
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... There were other fevers around, though, and in 1933, the day after the Reichstag fire, as Kuhn and Constantine tell us, Brecht and his Jewish wife, Helene Weigel, left Germany. Several years of exile followed, principally in Denmark and the United States, and it is possible that exile didn’t really end when both of them returned to Berlin. Brecht was a ...

Don’t blame him

Peter Brown: Constantine, 23 April 2015

Constantine the Emperor 
by David Potter.
Oxford, 368 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 975586 8
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... Few rulers​ have set in motion developments of such momentous consequence as the emperor Constantine, with his conversion to Christianity in 312 and subsequent halting of the persecution of Christians, ratified a year later in the Edict of Milan. Over the 17 centuries since then, theologians, historians and even novelists, including Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code, have claimed that a change for the worse in the quality of Christianity (the kind of change an earlier age would have ascribed to supra-natural agents like the Devil or the Antichrist) can be personified in this rather flashy Roman emperor ...

Breathing in Verse

Theodore Ziolkowski: A rich translation of Hölderlin, 23 September 2004

Poems and Fragments 
by Friedrich Hölderlin, translated by Michael Hamburger.
Anvil, 823 pp., £19.95, March 2004, 0 85646 360 4
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... Leishman rendered many of the odes into graceful Alcaics and Asclepiads; Christopher Middleton and David Constantine, in contrast, resorted to looser paraphrases. Hamburger takes the more challenging route – with considerable success. The opening lines of ‘Bread and Wine’ catch the rhythm and flow of Hölderlin’s distichs: Round us the town is at ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... We won’t find, for instance, Burns Singer, one of the most original poets of the Fifties, or David Wright and John Heath-Stubbs. All three were friends of Graham, and their inclusion might have helped the Forties and Fifties out of their New Apocalypse v. Movement stand-off. Hamish Henderson, whose 1948 Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica (reprinted by ...

Was He One of Them?

J.G.A. Pocock, 23 February 1995

Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vols I-VI 
edited by David Womersley.
Allen Lane, 1114 pp., £75, November 1994, 0 7139 9124 0
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... David Womersley’s massive and elegant edition of Gibbon is the better timed because it comes a century after the edition scholars have been obliged to use as the nearest to a critical text. It was in 1896 that J.B. Bury brought out the first volume of his edition, which he reissued in 1909 and which until now has been considered standard ...

Dangerous Play

Mike Selvey, 23 May 1985

Gubby Allen: Man of Cricket 
by E.W. Swanton.
Hutchinson, 311 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 09 159780 3
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Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack: 1985 
edited by John Woodcock.
Wisden, 1280 pp., £11.95, April 1985, 0 947766 00 6
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... where he lapsed into a state of knee-knocking shock. Another Englishman, the Lancastrian David Lloyd, was hit a terrifying blow in the groin by Jeff Thomson. The following summer, I too hit him in the same region. I saw him later, ice packs clasped to his nether regions, and asked after his health. ‘After Thommo it were a pleasure,’ he ...

The Chief Inhabitant

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Jerusalem, 14 July 2011

Jerusalem: The Biography 
by Simon Sebag Montefiore.
Weidenfeld, 638 pp., £25, January 2011, 978 0 297 85265 0
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... came the enthusiastic chorus. You might say that the Jerusalem Syndrome began with King David. Once he had escorted Israel’s sacred Ark of the Covenant into the city, having conquered its Jebusite inhabitants and proclaimed it his capital, he danced in his exaltation ‘before the Lord with all his might … girded with a linen ephod’ – the ...

In Athens

Richard Clogg, 5 July 2012

... of Greece in the Second World War, a book published by the Ministry of Reconstruction in 1946, Constantine Doxiadis calculated that 1,200,000 Greeks were made homeless and five thousand schools wrecked during the occupation. Many Greeks regard German war reparations as inadequate and attempts are still being made to revive old claims, not least by the ...

The Ironist

J.G.A. Pocock: Gibbon under Fire, 14 November 2002

Gibbon and the ‘Watchmen of the Holy City’: The Historian and His Reputation 1776-1815 
by David Womersley.
Oxford, 452 pp., £65, January 2002, 0 19 818733 5
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... 16th chapters, which conclude the volume with a survey of Christian history before the victory of Constantine, instantly occasioned a fierce controversy over Gibbon’s evident unbelief and his use of irony to convey it, so that his writings on the history of the Church have been viewed through the glass of this controversy, and he is known as a polished and ...

Tacky Dress

Dale Peck, 22 February 1996

Like People in History: A Gay American Epic 
by Felice Picano.
Viking, 512 pp., $23.95, July 1995, 0 670 86047 6
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How Long Has This Been Going On? 
by Ethan Mordden.
Villard, 590 pp., $25, April 1995, 0 679 41529 7
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The Facts of Life 
by Patrick Gale.
Flamingo, 511 pp., £15.99, June 1995, 0 602 24522 2
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Flesh and Blood 
by Michael Cunningham.
Hamish Hamilton, 480 pp., £14.99, June 1995, 9780241135150
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... Naples; and a decade since the first Aids fiction started to show up: Robert Ferro’s Second Son, David B. Feinberg’s Eighty-Sixed, Allen Barnett’s beautiful The Body and Its Dangers. Today, as a result of political pressure as well as recognition of a growing gay readership, gay sections can be found in most bookshop chains, and independent gay ...

Ceremonies

Rodney Hilton, 21 January 1988

Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies 
edited by David Cannadine and Simon Price.
Cambridge, 351 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 521 33513 2
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... of fascinating studies, ranging from Babylon to 20th-century Ghana, from China to Madagascar. David Cannadine, in his Introduction, says that the topics covered are mainly pre-modern and therefore outside the scope of most professional historians. In their Acknowledgments, however, the two editors refer to the ‘rites of passage’ of contemporary heads ...

Enemy of the Enemies of Truth

Frank Kermode: The history of the footnote, 19 March 1998

The Footnote: A Curious History 
by Anthony Grafton.
Faber, 241 pp., £12.99, December 1997, 0 571 17668 2
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... for example, the celebrated demonstration by Lorenzo Valla, who died in 1457, that the Donation of Constantine was spurious. The Donation was an eighth or ninth-century fabrication that purported to be the instrument by which the Emperor Constantine had in the fourth century ceded to Pope Sylvester I dominion over Rome, all ...

Lunch

Jon Halliday, 2 June 1983

In the Service of the Peacock Throne: The Diaries of the Shah’s Last Ambassador to London 
by Parviz Radji.
Hamish Hamilton, 343 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 241 10960 4
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... up with attempts to win them over. Early on in his tenure, Radji lunches with a helpful figure, David Spanier, the Diplomatic Correspondent of the Times. Spanier tells him that there are only ‘about fifteen to twenty people who are the opinion-makers in the British press and suggests I establish regular dialogues with them. And he warns against attempts ...

Sea Slugs, Wombats, Microbes

Richard Fortey: Species Seekers, 28 April 2011

The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth 
by Richard Conniff.
Norton, 464 pp., £19.99, November 2010, 978 0 393 06854 2
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... believed – as most did – that all species had been created by the Almighty. The Jesuit Père David, who explored China in the 1860s, was propelled by his quest for God’s wonders, and careless of personal hardship. Exploration was by no means confined to rainforests. Conniff is particularly good on the early history of species ‘bagging’ in North ...

Rome’s New Mission

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Early Christianity, 2 June 2011

Christians and Pagans: The Conversion of Britain from Alban to Bede 
by Malcolm Lambert.
Yale, 329 pp., £30, September 2010, 978 0 300 11908 4
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... against the interlopers by inventing evangelistic exploits for ancient saints like Dyfrig or David. Malcolm Lambert is a judicious guide to the shifting opinions of scholars amid these quicksands, casting a sceptical eye even on Bede’s motives for glorifying and sanitising the Roman mission to the Anglo-Saxons. What makes Lambert’s account so ...

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