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Third Way, Old Hat

Ross McKibbin: Amnesia at the Top

3 September 1998
... that if you treat your own supporters worse than you treat those of your opponents you will get credit for it. Blair and Brown might ponder the fact that the last Labour Chancellor to do it was Denis Healey, and that led directly to the Winter of Discontent. Which brings us back to Frank Field and Gordon Brown’s money. Field’s departure from the Government did not cause a peep; not one ...

Plot 6, Row C, Grave 15

Malcolm Gaskill: Death of an Airman

8 November 2018
... returned from sorties almost hysterical, shaking, gabbling, smoking cigarettes to the butt; others were silent. Many pilots were superstitious, and planes often carried talismans and trinkets – DenisWinter, in The First of the Few, calls this ‘mystical ballast’. By the spring of 1917, the tone of Fernald’s letters had altered: they were no longer jocular – he had been fond of quips and ...

Surrealism à la Courbet

Nicholas Penny: Balthus

24 May 2001
Balthus: Catalogue raisonné of the Complete Works 
by Jean Clair and Virginie Monnier.
Abrams, 576 pp., £140, January 2000, 0 8109 6394 9
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by Nicholas Fox Weber.
Weidenfeld, 650 pp., £30, May 2000, 0 297 64323 1
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... mother, the muse of Rilke, were both enthusiastic admirers of Piero. Furthermore, Balthus had been urged to emulate the Italian primitives by the French Symbolist and defender of Classicism, Maurice Denis. On his return from Italy he painted murals of the Good Shepherd and the Four Evangelists in a Swiss church. In the winter of 1927 he turned his attention to the streets and quais of Paris, perhaps ...

Boxes of Tissues

Hilary Mantel

6 March 1997
As If 
by Blake Morrison.
Granta, 245 pp., £14.99, February 1997, 1 86207 003 2
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... Blake Morrison begins his account of the murder of James Bulger with a delicate diversion into the story of the Children’s Crusade. The year 1212: at Saint-Denis, a boy of 12 begins to preach. He has received word from God that it is the mission of Christian children to free the Holy Land from the infidel. He draws crowds, draws followers: boys and girls ...
1 July 1982
When things of the spirit come first 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Patrick O’Brian.
Deutsch, 212 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 0 233 97462 8
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Union Street 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 266 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 9780860682820
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Lady Oracle 
by Margaret Atwood.
Virago, 346 pp., £3.50, June 1982, 0 86068 303 6
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Bodily Harm 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 302 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02016 1
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Hearts: A Novel 
by Hilma Wolitzer.
Harvester, 324 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 9780710804754
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by Amanda Hemingway.
Faber, 236 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 571 11875 5
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December Flower 
by Judy Allen.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 7156 1644 7
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... accepting oracles or ready-made values.’ Heroines thus programmed to fail or to succeed invite a rather schematic narrative treatment, however tense their temporary engagements with such figures as Denis, the layabout disciple of Rimbaud, Pascal, the uncommitted archaeologist, and Marie-Ange, the crypto-lesbian theosophist. Only in ‘Chantal’ does the technical range expand, allowing a rich and ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton

5 November 1981
Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... the formidable Berlin intellect at war in the corridors of US power will be disappointed. Although – a trifle immodestly – he claims in his Introduction that his material was considered by Denis Brogan in London to be ‘the Ariadne’s thread through the labyrinths of American politics’, it is hard to see Berlin as Theseus in these reports, which veer from matters of local American ...


William Rodgers: Party Conference Jamboree

25 October 1990
... wanted to speak about the Gulf, but wasn’t called. Instead, Conference listened respectfully to formal monologues by Front-Bench speakers, some of whom had watched from the floor when, in 1976, Denis Healey, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, had fought to be given five minutes of Conference time to put his case. With red roses (pink next year?) being thrown to the delegates from the platform and ...


Frank Kermode

27 July 1989
The Pleasures of Peace: Art and Imagination in Post-War Britain 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Faber, 367 pp., £12.99, June 1989, 0 571 13722 9
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... a remarkable number of connections, and to discuss a remarkable number of books, films, buildings and paintings. At the very outset you find within a couple of pages The Great Tradition, A Girl in Winter, a poem by Kingsley Amis, Four Quartets, Brideshead Revisited, Nineteen Eighty-Four, William Cooper, Angus Wilson, Horizon, architectural Modernism and the Festival of Britain. Just as you think ...

Ten Poets

Denis​ Donoghue

7 November 1985
Selected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 124 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 9780856355950
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Collected Poems: 1947-1980 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 837 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 670 80683 8
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Instant Chronicles: A Life 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 58 pp., £4.50, April 1985, 9780019211970
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Selected Poems 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 596 8
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Selected Poems 
by Jeffrey Wainwright.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 598 4
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Selected Poems 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 112 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 594 1
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The Price of Stone 
by Richard Murphy.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, May 1985, 0 571 13568 4
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Selected Poems 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 121 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 597 6
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Selected Poems 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 585 2
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From the Irish 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 78 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 331 8
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... such virtuosity, such opportunistic skill, but presumably it’s good to have more than you need. You might, just possibly, have to direct a boy-actor in the role of Hermione’s statue in The Winter’s Tale; and even if you don’t, there may be other occasions for reflecting upon the disproportion between a crude means and an uncanny end. Against Camillo’s advice in the play, Morgan makes a ...


Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine

30 July 1998
... Their bodily strength gone and spirits depressed, they have not the power to exert themselves sufficiently to earn the ordinary day’s wages,’ the chairman of the Board of Works wrote. The winter of 1846-47 was exceptionally cold, and a great majority of Irish labourers and potato farmers did not normally work much in the winter months, and no one owned heavy clothes. (Since there was nothing ...

Downhill from Here

Ian Jack: The 1970s

27 August 2009
When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies 
by Andy Beckett.
Faber, 576 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 571 22136 3
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... economic decline . . . inflation, stagnation and rising unemployment . . . deteriorating industrial relations’. Nearly 30 million working days were lost to strikes in 1979, mainly during the Winter of Discontent – more than in any other year. We know what happens next in the script. The country rejects the worn-out panaceas of the Labour administration and elects Margaret Thatcher, and she ...

Down with Weathercocks

Tom Stammers: Mother Revolution

30 November 2017
Liberty or Death: The French Revolution 
by Peter McPhee.
Yale, 468 pp., £14.99, July 2017, 978 0 300 22869 4
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... as its Jacobin twin. The sans-culottes who had been the shock troops of the radical republic saw their clubs smashed and their neighbourhoods redrawn. Food shortages, rampant inflation and a pitiless winter conspired to exacerbate popular suffering. The capital’s tollgates, ripped down in 1789, were up and running again by 1798. Slaves who had fought for their freedom were coerced into labouring on ...

Gorilla with Mobile Phone

Theo Tait: Michel Houellebecq

9 February 2006
Houellebecq non autorisé: enquête sur un phénomène 
by Denis​ Demonpion.
Maren Sell, 377 pp., €20, August 2005, 2 35004 022 4
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The Possibility of an Island 
by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Gavin Bowd.
Weidenfeld, 345 pp., £12.99, November 2005, 0 297 85098 9
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... by sex, given to sociological conjecture and blasé, sometimes very funny asides. In Plateforme (2001, translated as Platform, 2003) he is even called Michel. Nevertheless, it’s a shock, on reading Denis Demonpion’s biography, to learn quite how much of Houellebecq’s life has been thrust raw – though often distorted – into his novels. It’s no surprise that his first novel is, like many ...

Wrong Trowsers

E.S. Turner

21 July 1994
A History of Men’s Fashion 
by Farid Chenoune, translated by Deke Dusinberre.
Flammarion/Thames & Hudson, 336 pp., £50, October 1993, 2 08 013536 8
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The Englishman’s Suit 
by Hardy Amies.
Quartet, 116 pp., £12, June 1994, 9780704370760
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... picture Beau Brummell fiddling with a zip, still less trying to engage the elusive component parts on one of those bum-freezing outdoor coats, an operation which wastes thousands of man-hours every winter. Who loves zips, other than the television producers who show us gentlemen audibly operating them as they exchange information in those obligatory urinal scenes? Chenoune does not wholly ignore the ...

Complete Internal Collapse

Malcolm Vale: Agincourt

18 May 2016
The Hundred Years War, Vol. IV: Cursed Kings 
by Jonathan Sumption.
Faber, 909 pp., £40, August 2015, 978 0 571 27454 3
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by Anne Curry.
Oxford, 272 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 0 19 968101 3
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The Battle of Agincourt 
edited by Anne Curry and Malcolm Mercer.
Yale, 344 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 300 21430 7
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24 Hours at Agincourt: 25 October 1415 
by Michael Jones.
W.H. Allen, 352 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 7535 5545 3
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Agincourt: Henry V, the Man-at-Arms and the Archer 
by W.B. Bartlett.
Amberley, 447 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 1 4456 3949 9
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... unified by hatred of its perfidious neighbour. Sumption notes the beginnings of a concerted move on Henry V’s part towards an agreed and potentially durable Anglo-French peace settlement in the winter of 1421-22. What was Henry V’s bottom line? The retention of Normandy and the ancestral Plantagenet lands in Aquitaine as territories held in full sovereignty, independent of the French crown? Or ...

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