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Once a Syrian, always a Syrian

Maria Margaronis: Joseph O’Neill, 8 March 2001

Blood-Dark Track: A Family History 
by Joseph O'Neill.
Granta, 338 pp., £16.99, February 2001, 1 86207 288 4
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... British officials and documents distinguish his family’s community from the Turks. From Sir Denis Wright, Mayers’s successor in Mersin, O’Neill learns that contrary to his family’s self-presentation as pillars of Turkish society, the Syrians were in fact ‘disliked, mistrusted and envied by the Turks because of their origin, their religion ...

Doers of Mischief on Earth

Robert Fisk, 19 January 1989

The Shah’s Last Ride: The Story of the Exile, Misadventures and Death of the Emperor 
by William Shawcross.
Chatto, 463 pp., £15.95, January 1989, 9780701132545
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... of the Shah has a special cynicism all its own. The Foreign Office enlisted as their emissary Sir Denis Wright, who had been British Ambassador to Iran between 1963 and 1971, and – according to Shawcross – dispatched him off to the Shah’s latest refuge in the Bahamas under the false name of ‘Edward Wilson’; Sir ...

The Fall of the Shah

Malise Ruthven, 4 July 1985

Shah of Shahs 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand.
Quartet, 152 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 7043 2473 3
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The Pride and the Fall: Iran 1974-1979 
by Anthony Parsons.
Cape, 160 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 224 02196 6
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Iran under the Ayatollahs 
by Dilip Hiro.
Routledge, 416 pp., £20, January 1985, 9780710099242
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Obbligato: Notes on a Foreign Service Career 
by William Sullivan.
Norton, 279 pp., £13.95, October 1984, 0 393 01809 1
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Envoy to the Middle World: Adventures in Diplomacy 
by George McGhee.
Harper and Row, 458 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 06 039025 5
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The Persians amongst the English 
by Denis Wright.
Tauris, 273 pp., £17.95, February 1985, 1 85043 002 0
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... The somewhat one-sided love-affair between the Persian élite and the British is the main theme of Denis Wright’s entertaining and informative book. The more sophisticated Persians, as so often happens, adopted the forms rather than the substance of their models, which usually meant that the ordinary people got the worst of both worlds. The first ...

Just Like Cookham

Neal Ascherson: Stanley Spencer in China, 19 May 2011

Passport to Peking: A Very British Mission to Mao’s China 
by Patrick Wright.
Oxford, 591 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 19 954193 5
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... Chinese regime and had played a leading part in securing the Geneva Accords. It was, as Patrick Wright puts it, ‘one of the last occasions, only two years before the Suez crisis, on which Britain exerted a decisive influence on international politics’. Zhou began to employ a ‘come and see’ strategy, inviting Western delegations to visit the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Blade Runner 2049’, 2 November 2017

Blade Runner 2049 
directed by Denis Villeneuve.
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... and the time of the sequel’s action, 2049, not all that far away. The new movie, directed by Denis Villeneuve, goes out of its way to bypass the first impression and to insist on the second. The weather is still terrible: torrential rain for much of the film, with some elegant snow now and then for scenic reasons. Los Angeles still looks like a ...

Morituri

D.A.N. Jones, 23 May 1985

Secret Villages 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 170 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 571 13443 2
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Miss Peabody’s Inheritance 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 157 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 670 47952 7
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Mr Scobie’s Riddle 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Penguin, 226 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 14 007490 2
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The Modern Common Wind 
by Don Bloch.
Heinemann, 234 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 434 07551 5
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Fiskadoro 
by Denis Johnson.
Chatto, 221 pp., £9.50, May 1985, 0 7011 2935 2
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... missing hands and feet, throats that can be seen through the space where the nose ought to be. Denis Johnson is another American writer who has attempted a large theme in a novel not-for-the-squeamish. Fiskadoro is about desolate survivors in Florida after a nuclear war. It is rather like a teenager’s ‘fantasy-book’, except that the prose is ...

Joining the Gang

Nicholas Penny: Anthony Blunt, 29 November 2001

Anthony Blunt: His Lives 
by Miranda Carter.
Macmillan, 590 pp., £20, November 2001, 0 333 63350 4
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... risk-taking that Steiner has in mind seem to refer to the attacks on his scholarship by Denis Mahon, but the logic of this argument is impossible to follow. Some close friends also supposed that Blunt must have got a kick out of danger, and Dadie Rylands, who knew him very well as a young man, noted that he liked to be ‘melted and tempted’ by ...
Who Framed Colin Wallace? 
by Paul Foot.
Macmillan, 306 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 333 47008 7
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... who helped maintain the minority Labour government in power was fair game. Thanks to Peter Wright’s revelations we are more or less familiar with what went on in this period, though it is important to say that Wallace was the first to make public admission of these campaigns, well before Wright. Homosexual smears ...

Diamonds on your collarbone

Anne Hollander, 10 September 1992

Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham 
by Agnes DeMille.
Hutchinson, 509 pp., £20, April 1992, 0 09 175219 1
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Blood Memory: An Autobiography 
by Martha Graham.
Macmillan, 279 pp., £20, March 1992, 0 333 57441 9
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... an American artist in the undomesticated tradition that includes Emily Dickinson and Frank Lloyd Wright, someone who made things in the risky artistic spirit that seeks personal sources and methods, programmatically refusing to begin by using what lies to hand. Her stage uses of the body, for example, eliminated the whole pictorial memory of represented ...

Ballooning

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 June 1986

The Unknown Conan Doyle: Letters to the Press 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 377 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 436 13303 2
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... from his acceptance as genuine of absurd photographs faked by two enterprising small girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. This final phase of eccentricity and sheer gullibility had succeeded upon a long lifetime’s interest in spiritualism and psychical research. In his later twenties Doyle was beginning to organise séances, and the first of these to ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... conferences and trips – men like Josselson, Lasky, Tom Braden (later a TV personality), Denis de Rougemont, Cord Meyer, John Hunt, Nicolas Nabokov (a minor composer, Vladimir’s cousin) – and dozens of willing operatives, engaged, as Braden saw it, in the battle against ‘ignoramuses, or, to put it more politely, people who just don’t ...

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