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... Two of the finest works of post-war Sicilian fiction were published in Italy in 1958: Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard and Leonardo Sciascia’s Sicilian Uncles, a collection of three (in subsequent editions four) stories dealing with themes from Sicily’s history and experience of foreign intervention which had also interested Lampedusa ...

Villa Lampedusa

Marina Warner, 5 January 1989

The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe di Lampedusa 
by David Gilmour.
Quartet, 223 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 0 7043 2564 0
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... and prestige, rather than new loves or old, the character of The Leopard’s originator emerges in David Gilmour’s entertaining and astute biography. There is at times, but only at times, an excess of reserve – caught from his subject’s own fastidiousness? In the brief, lyrical memoir Lampedusa wrote in 1955, he invoked with unequivocal passion the ...

Sicilian Vespers

David Gilmour, 19 September 1985

... In the courtyard of the Villa Lampedusa, a few miles from Palermo, Frisian cows pick their way carefully through the rubble. Their home is a wasteland of defunct objects: broken boxes, squashed petrol cans, a clutter of old bath tubs. The villa itself is deserted, its broken shutters creaking with languor in the hot afternoon breeze. The façade is cracked and pockmarked, the stucco has faded to a mild ochre, but the Rococo ceilings are still intact – delicate, highly-wrought arrangements of fruit and flowers ...

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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... Hitchens was right to go West. He needed lusher plains of political corruption across which to spread himself. He needed a country of wide horizons and myopic international vision. And he needed an administration of almost limitless power and quite exceptional stupidity. Then he could be happy, indulging in the lethal, jugulating kind of journalism at which he excels ...

It’s as if he’d never existed

Anthony Pagden, 18 July 1985

The Transformation of Spain: From Franco to the Constitutional Monarchy 
by David Gilmour.
Quartet, 306 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 9780704324619
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... nation. This transition is one of the most remarkable events of the post-war years and, as David Gilmour says in what is by far the best general account of the phenomenon to have appeared so far, it was the King who made it possible. The greatest threat to Spanish democracy came, and still comes, from the Army. Franco had risen to power through ...

Gentlemen’s Gentlemen

David Gilmour, 8 February 1990

... Novels dealing with childhood memory are frequently said to be ‘Proustian’. Those describing the decline of an aristocracy are likely to be labelled ‘Lampedusian’. The people responsible for these ugly, usually unsuitable adjectives are sometimes reviewers but more often the culprits are publishers. A successful novel from last year was described on the cover as reminiscent of Lampedusa, chiefly because it took place in a part of Southern Italy (as it happens, the wrong part ...

Homage to the Provinces

Michael Wood, 28 May 1992

Barcelona 
by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 575 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 00 272078 7
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Barcelonas 
by Manuel Vazquez Montalban, translated by Andrew Robinson.
Verso, 210 pp., £17.95, May 1992, 0 86091 353 8
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Cities of Spain 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 214 pp., £17.95, March 1992, 0 7195 4833 0
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Red City, Blue Period: Social Movements in Picasso’s Barcelona 
by Temma Kaplan.
California, 266 pp., $30, April 1992, 0 520 07507 2
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... put up. It’s certainly an interesting legacy for an Olympic city. ‘Between 1919 and 1923,’ David Gilmour writes, ‘there were more than seven hundred political assassinations in Catalonia’; and Temma Kaplan documents in some detail a large number of bombings, strikes and executions. The bourgeois paradise was also the ...

Blood Ba’th

David Gilmour, 2 February 1989

Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East 
by Patrick Seale.
Tauris, 552 pp., £19.95, October 1988, 1 85043 061 6
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... as he had once been duped by Kissinger, he was now comprehensively duped by the Israelis. At Camp David Sadat and Carter even thought they could handle Begin and Dayan, a pitiful notion when one compares those two naive and fundamentally decent men with the Israeli duo, two of the toughest and most obstinate characters in 20th-century politics. Asad’s fears ...

Diary

David Gilmour: In Spain, 5 January 1989

... not built until 1929, but neither its architectural style nor its date of construction dissuaded David Lean from using it in Lawrence of Arabia: little more than Jack Hawkins and a few khaki figures was needed to transform it into Britain’s Cairo ...

Felipismo

David Gilmour, 23 November 1989

The Spanish Socialist Party: A History of Factionalism 
by Richard Gillespie.
Oxford, 520 pp., £40, January 1989, 0 19 822798 1
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... Camilo Jose Cela, the recent Nobel Prizewinner, remarked a few years ago that Spain remained ‘excessive’ in all things. ‘This country either destroys you or it puts you on its altars.’ Spanish excesses, the contrasts of landscape and architecture, the sensuality and austerity that exist side by side, often in the same person, have long appealed to outsiders ...

Fusi’s Franco

David Gilmour, 4 February 1988

Franco 
by Juan Pablo Fusi, translated by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.
Unwin Hyman, 202 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 04 923083 2
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... Francisco Franco’s uprising in 1936 provoked powerful emotional reactions in Europe and aggravated the continent’s political divisions. Nearly three years later he completed his conquest of Spain on the eve of a war which engulfed the whole of Europe and led to the destruction of his principal international allies. The circumstances of his rebellion, coupled with European events over the following decade, have since made it difficult for writers to look objectively at Franco’s rule ...

Diary

David Gilmour: On Richard Cobb, 21 May 1987

... I first met Richard Cobb at my Balliol interview one late evening in December 1970. The encounter was, by any measurement, a failure. In the ‘interests’ section of my entrance form, I had made the mistake of declaring membership of the Committee for Freedom in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea. Cobb, who was plainly bored at having to conduct interviews after dinner, asked me brusquely which liberation group in Angola I supported and why ...

Calcutta in the Cotswolds

David Gilmour: What did the British do for India?, 3 March 2005

Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India 
by Elizabeth Buettner.
Oxford, 324 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 19 924907 5
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... Certain families,’ Kipling wrote in his story ‘The Tomb of His Ancestors’, ‘serve India generation after generation as dolphins follow in line across the open sea.’ It was common indeed for three generations of the same family to spend their careers in India; often it was four, sometimes five, occasionally six. A number of Britons (or Anglo-Indians as they were called) could boast that both sides of their family had been in India for more than a hundred years ...

So Much to Hate

Bernard Porter: Rudyard Bloody Kipling, 25 April 2002

The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 351 pp., £22.50, March 2002, 0 7195 5539 6
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... would die of throat cancer. He also claimed the Liberal Government had killed King Edward VII. David Gilmour, who does the best he can to defend Kipling against his detractors, insists that some of this was not intended ‘personally’, but it is hard to see how that could be. In fact Kipling comes over as a deeply unsympathetic character in this ...

Ariel the Unlucky

David Gilmour, 5 April 1990

Warrior: The Autobiography of Ariel Sharon 
by Ariel Sharon and David Chanoff.
Macdonald, 571 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 356 17960 5
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The Slopes of Lebanon 
by Amos Oz, translated by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura.
Chatto, 246 pp., £13.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3444 5
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From Beirut to Jerusalem 
by Thomas Friedman.
Collins, 541 pp., £15, March 1990, 0 00 215096 4
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Pity the nation: Lebanon at War 
by Robert Fisk.
Deutsch, 622 pp., £17.95, February 1990, 0 233 98516 6
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... Palestine has less connection with the modern world than with the picturesque towns engraved by David Roberts in the 19th century. Old men still talk about their orange groves and their old stone houses in Jaffa, remembering every tree and every stone, and one doesn’t have the heart to tell them that the houses have been bulldozed and the orchards have ...

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