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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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... hear about that: it is held to be a tasteless riddle. This is a comedy to make the reader doleful. Don Bloch, an American, writes about hospitals and medicine without any attempt to be funny. The Modern Common Wind is about leprosy in Kenya and could fairly be advertised as ‘not for the squeamish’. The narrator is supposed to be an African and the ...

From the Other Side

David Drew, 18 July 1985

... Question: What is the basic idea in your philosophy? Bloch: That I cannot see anything at very close quarters, anything that presents itself in front of my eyes. There has to be distance ... Proverbs express it very simply: ‘The weaver knows not what he weaves’; ‘At the foot of the lighthouse there is no light’; ‘The prophet is without honour in his own country ...

Watch your tongue

Marina Warner, 20 August 1992

Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love 
by Howard Bloch.
Chicago, 308 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 226 05973 1
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Women of the Renaissance 
by Margaret King.
Chicago, 328 pp., £13.50, December 1991, 0 226 43618 7
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The Lady as Saint: A Collection of French Hagiographical Romances of the 13th Century 
by Brigitte Cazelles.
Pennsylvania, 320 pp., £35, November 1991, 9780812230994
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Heavenly Supper: The Story of Maria Janis 
by Fulvio Tomizza, translated by Anne Jacobson Shutte.
Chicago, 184 pp., £19.95, December 1991, 0 226 80789 4
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Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance 
by Tina Krontiris.
Routledge, 192 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 415 06329 9
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... against the counterfeit of women’s fascination and the seductions of their tongues. As Howard Bloch points out in his short and combative study Medieval Misogyny, the flesh was seen as feminine, set in opposition to soul or mind, and the spirit wears the body like a concealing garment; to adorn this fleshly raiment with yet more artifice and paint doubled ...

From the Other Side

David Drew, 1 August 1985

... If the function of music in Bloch’s philosophy is that of parable and metaphor, detour and short-cut, the case against dissociating such excursions from their philosophical base is not inconsiderable. But the 1974 anthology, Zur Philosophie der Musik, was excused from answering it by the personal significance it manifestly had and by the historical one that the Busoni volume enhanced ...

Migne and Moody

Graham Robb, 4 August 1994

God’s Plagiarist: Being an Account of the Fabulous Industry and Irregular Commerce of the Abbé Migne 
by R. Howard Bloch.
Chicago, 162 pp., £19.95, June 1994, 0 226 05970 7
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... the Patrologia Latina (218 volumes) and the Patrologia Graeca (166 volumes). But, as R. Howard Bloch explains, Migne not only herded all the Church Fathers together and sold them using marketing techniques that are a Modernist work of art in their own right, he also published four hundred other books under the collective title Bibliothèque universelle du ...

Literary Man

J.I.M. Stewart, 7 June 1984

Hilaire Belloc 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 398 pp., £12.95, April 1984, 0 241 11176 5
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... French ancestry derived from a 17th-century Nantes wine-merchant whose name was Moses Belloc or Bloch, and reminds us that Bloch is the name chosen by Proust to mark the unambiguously Jewish family with which the young Marcel tangled for a time, so perhaps during the months that the young Belloc chose to spend as a ranker ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland, 21 April 1988

Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... world. But, as he disarmingly reminds us, there is worse literary company than Lovecraft, Leiber, Bloch, Matheson and Jackson. ‘I could, for example, be an “important” writer like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a “brilliant” writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat macrobiotic foods ...

Motoring

Frank Kermode: James Lees-Milne, 30 November 2000

Deep Romantic Chasm: Diaries 1979-81 
by James Lees-Milne, edited by Michael Bloch.
Murray, 276 pp., £22.50, October 2000, 0 7195 5608 2
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A Mingled Measure: Diaries 1953-72 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 325 pp., £12.99, October 2000, 0 7195 5609 0
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Ancient as the Hills: Diaries 1973-74 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £12.99, October 2000, 0 7195 6200 7
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... as rather grand paperbacks, along with an eighth, a final hardback selection made by Michael Bloch. They all have titles like Ancestral Voices, Caves of Ice, Through Wood and Dale, Midway on the Waves and Prophesying Peace, and it will not escape the notice of the literate public that they are all derived, one with a bit of a spin on it, from ‘Kubla ...

Cosmic Neutrality

Fredric Jameson: ‘Lucky Per’, 20 October 2011

Lucky Per 
by Henrik Pontoppidan, translated by Naomi Lebowitz.
Lang, 558 pp., £44, November 2010, 978 1 4331 1092 4
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... problem is that the artist novel faces form-problems and contradictions of its own, which Ernst Bloch identified in a famous series of essays. For it is not enough to tell the reader that your protagonist is a genius, you must prove it somehow. But how? By inserting a work within the work, and giving a sample of his achievements (which may well be better ...

Reasons

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 April 1983

A Treatise on Social Theory. Vol. I: The Methodology of Social Theory 
by W.G. Runciman.
Cambridge, 350 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24906 6
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... to Calcutta, he wrote to Ellis, he had read the Iliad and the Odyssey, Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso, Don Quixote, Gibbon on Rome, Sismondi on France, Mill on India, ‘the seven thick folios of Biographica Brittanica’ and ‘the 70 volumes of Voltaire’. Once there, he took to ‘passing the three or four hours before breakfast in reading Greek and ...

Singing the Blues

Noël Annan, 22 April 1993

A History of Cambridge University. Vol. IV: 1870-1990 
by Christopher Brooke.
Cambridge, 652 pp., £50, December 1992, 9780521343503
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... with three servants, sent his sons to public schools but never took a holiday abroad. Today no don can afford to buy a house there, and few can pay boarding-school fees; so a professor has more choice how to spend his income (which, Brooke might have added, is less in real terms than a professor’s income sixty years ago). To Brooke the pest’s inquiries ...

Determinacy Kills

Terry Eagleton: Theodor Adorno, 19 June 2008

Theodor Adorno: One Last Genius 
by Detlev Claussen.
Harvard, 440 pp., £22.95, May 2008, 978 0 674 02618 6
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... supreme creation known as the individual may hold untrammelled sway. Discussing the prosody of Don Juan is all very well, but how on earth did Byron get to Sintra on a club foot? As far as such literary prurience goes, Claussen remains high-mindedly Teutonic. Beyond a discreet allusion to the fact that female students found him attractive, a fact the ...

Unliterary, Unpolished, Unromantic

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Merchant of Prato’, 8 February 2018

The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City 
by Iris Origo.
Penguin, 400 pp., £10.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 29392 8
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... opening words – epigraphic if not actually placed as an epigraph – are by the historian Marc Bloch: ‘L’historien ressemble à l’ogre de la fable. Là où il flaire la chair humaine, il sait que là est son gibier.’ It is a potent image, at once menacing and playful. The historian is like the ‘ogre of fairy tales’ because when ‘he scents ...

What kind of funny is he?

Rivka Galchen: Under Kafka’s Spell, 4 December 2014

Kafka: The Years of Insight 
by Reiner Stach, translated by Shelley Frisch.
Princeton, 682 pp., £24.95, June 2013, 978 0 691 14751 2
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Kafka: The Decisive Years 
by Reiner Stach, translated by Shelley Frisch.
Princeton, 552 pp., £16.25, June 2013, 978 0 691 14741 3
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... note: I could live and I do not live. The second major reason – perhaps it is all really one, I don’t seem to be able to sort them apart now – is the idea: ‘What I have toyed with is really going to happen. I have not bought myself off by my writing. I died my whole life long and now I will really die. My life was sweeter than other people’s and my ...

Union Sucrée

Perry Anderson: The Normalising of France, 23 September 2004

Le Rappel à l’ordre: Enquête sur les nouveaux réactionnaires 
by Daniel Lindenberg.
Seuil, 94 pp., €10.50, November 2002, 2 02 055816 5
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Esquisse pour une auto-analyse 
by Pierre Bourdieu.
Raisons d'Agir, 142 pp., €12, February 2004, 2 912107 19 9
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La République mondiale des lettres 
by Pascale Casanova.
Seuil, 492 pp., €27.50, March 1999, 2 02 035853 0
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... on the court. He had just been elected to the Académie française, but had not yet had time to don the green and gold, grip his sword and be received among the Immortals.But well before the end he had begun to express misgivings. Certainly, Gaullism and Communism were for all practical purposes extinct. The Socialist Party had abandoned its absurd ...

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