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Dat’s de Truth

Terence Hawkes, 26 January 1995

Dancing to a Black Man’s Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin 
by Susan Curtis.
Missouri, 265 pp., £26.95, July 1994, 0 8262 0949 1
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King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era 
by Edward Berlin.
Oxford, 334 pp., £19.99, September 1994, 0 19 508739 9
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... no less, entitled A Guest of Honour. Even today, it has the air of a massive cultural oxymoron. Edward Berlin speculates that the libretto may celebrate Theodore Roosevelt’s politically dangerous invitation to a black man – the celebrated educationalist, Booker T. Washington – to dine at the White House. Styled a ‘ragtime opera’, A Guest of ...

Poor Jack

Noël Annan, 5 December 1985

Leaves from a Victorian Diary 
by Edward Leeves and John Sparrow.
Alison Press/Secker, 126 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 436 24370 9
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... In the Berlin restaurant Baron Kuno von Pregnitz, ignoring Mr Norris, suddenly asked the young Englishman: ‘And, excuse me, how are the Horse Guards?’ ‘Still sitting there.’ ‘Yes? I am glad to hear this. Ho! Ho! Ho! ... Excuse me, I can remember them very well.’ They had in fact been sitting there for longer perhaps than Christopher Isherwood knew ...


Edward Timms, 17 March 1988

The Temple 
by Stephen Spender.
Faber, 210 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 0 571 14785 2
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... Christopher and his Kind (1977) gives the most vivid account of the Weimar sub-culture, where ‘Berlin meant Boys.’ His earlier autobiographical writings, as he ruefully acknowledges, had been exercises in ‘avoiding the truth’. Similar equivocations had characterised Spender’s autobiography, World within World, published in 1951. Even at that date ...

Rosa with Mimi

Edward Timms, 4 June 1987

Rosa Luxemburg: A Life 
by Elzbieta Ettinger.
Harrap, 286 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 245 54539 5
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... relationship vividly recorded in Rosa’s letters. Supported by Jogiches, Rosa was able to move to Berlin (an arranged marriage that was no more than a formality enabled her to acquire German citizenship). The publication in 1898 of her brilliant pamphlet ‘Social Reform or Revolution?’ established her almost overnight as one of the leading left-wing ...

At Miss Whitehead’s

Edward Said, 7 July 1994

The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960-1972 
by Edmund Wilson, edited by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 968 pp., $35, July 1993, 0 374 26554 2
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... that many people I admired then – Martin Luther King, Reinhold Neibuhr, the Kennedys, Isaiah Berlin and Wilson himself – were also dedicated Zionists, totally opposed to anything like a Palestinian side. Wilson himself was a philo-semite, and particularly enthusiastic about scholar-warriors like Yigal Yadin, the Israeli general and archaeologist. For ...


Edward Timms, 19 April 1990

Thomas Mann and his Family 
by Marcel Reich-Ranicki, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Collins, 230 pp., £20, August 1989, 9780002158374
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... the Nazi seizure of power. He was able to remain in Germany until 1938, when he graduated from a Berlin grammar school. It was during this period that his lifelong passion for German culture began. That same autumn, however, he was deported by the Nazis to Poland, where he became a translator working for the Jewish Council of the Warsaw Ghetto. His fluent ...

Opportunity Costs

Edward Luttwak: ‘The Bombing War’, 21 November 2013

The Bombing War: Europe 1939-45 
by Richard Overy.
Allen Lane, 852 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 0 7139 9561 9
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... Gomorrah. Confident in its new strength, in November 1943 Bomber Command set out to destroy Berlin as Hamburg had been destroyed, planning then to destroy more cities until the Germans surrendered. But when it attacked Berlin, Bomber Command discovered that Germany had reacted to its summer victories with vastly ...

Shall we tell the children?

Paul Seabright, 3 July 1986

Melanie Klein: Her World and her Work 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hodder, 516 pp., £19.95, June 1986, 0 340 25751 2
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Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey 1924-1925 
edited by Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick.
Chatto, 360 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 7011 3051 2
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... When Alix Strachey, translator of Freud, went to Berlin in 1924 to seek psychoanalysis with Freud’s colleague, Karl Abraham, her most momentous acquisition, in an accumulation consisting inter alia of books, antique knick-knacks and (to a compulsive extent, on the evidence of her letters) of Apfeltorte under lashings of cream, was a then little-known child-analyst of Polish-Slovakian extraction named Melanie Klein ...

I am not a world improver

Christopher Turner: Building Seagram, 6 February 2014

Building Seagram 
by Phyllis Lambert.
Yale, 306 pp., £45, January 2013, 978 0 300 16767 2
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Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography 
by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst.
Chicago, 493 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 226 15145 8
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... Mies when articulating their styles, testament to his influence. Johnson, who had met Mies in Berlin in 1928 and curated a MoMA retrospective of his work in 1947, was Mies’s most vocal American champion and may have played a role in Lambert’s decision to give him the commission. Mies invited Johnson to collaborate with him on the building, which was ...


J.P. Stern: This great wall has fallen down, 7 December 1989

... station without first queuing up for platform tickets. What is happening in the eastern half of Berlin has its precedent in the Berlin not of Dr Goebbels but of Theodor Fontane’s novel, Before the Storm. 1813 was the year when, forced by a series of popular uprisings, the King of Prussia declared war on Napoleon’s ...

Mr Lukacs changes trains

Edward Timms, 19 February 1987

Georg Lukacs: Selected Correspondence 1902-1920 
translated by Judith Marcus and Zoltan Tar.
Columbia, 318 pp., $25, September 1986, 9780231059688
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... In a celebrated song Marlene Dietrich used to proclaim that she still had ‘a suitcase in Berlin’ (‘Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin’). The suitcase Lukacs left behind, on his long march towards Communism, turned up unexpectedly in Heidelberg in 1972 (one year after his death). He had deposited it there in ...

A Damned Nice Thing

Edward Luttwak: Britain v. Napoleon, 18 December 2014

Britain against Napoleon: The Organisation of Victory, 1793-1815 
by Roger Knight.
Penguin, 720 pp., £10.99, June 2014, 978 1 84614 177 5
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... Benjamin Bathurst, the good-looking son of the bishop of Norwich, tried to return home via Berlin and Hamburg in a light carriage in the guise of a German merchant (‘Baron de Koch’). He made it as far as Perleberg, west of Berlin, where his luxurious clothing seems to have attracted robbery and murder, with a ...

Conrad’s Complaint

Frank Kermode, 17 November 1983

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. I: 1861-1897 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 446 pp., £19.50, September 1983, 0 521 24216 9
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... in smaller collections containing his correspondence with one or more persons – for example, Edward Garnett, William Blackwood and Cunninghame Graham. Early letters to Polish friends and relations have been translated, and a series of about a hundred to Marguerite Poradowska appeared in the original French. However, it seems that ‘more than a third of ...

‘Beyond Criticism’

Eliane Glaser: Concentration Camp Memoirs, 20 November 2008

Under Two Dictators: Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler 
by Margarete Buber-Neumann, translated by Edward Fitzgerald.
Pimlico, 350 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 1 84595 102 3
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... Margarete Thüring was born in 1901 in Potsdam. After the 1918-19 revolution, she moved to Berlin and joined the youth movement of the German Communist Party (KPD). She trained as a nursery-school teacher and married Rafael Buber, the son of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. After their marriage broke down, Margarete lost custody of her two ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Swing Time’, 4 April 2019

... servant or manager; Helen Broderick as the friend who has seen it all before, several times; Edward Everett Horton as the dopey impresario whose every take is a double-take. Horton is missing from Swing Time, soon to be released in a newly restored version by the Criterion Collection, but everyone and everything else is there. Still, I now see all kinds ...

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