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Flaubert’s Bottle

Julian Barnes, 4 May 1989

Flaubert: A Biography 
by Herbert Lottman.
Methuen, 396 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 413 41770 0
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... Record also retitled his last novel Bouvard et Peluchet). The first proper study of Flaubert, by Emile Faguet (1899; Englished in 1914), firmly and misleadingly declared that the writer’s affair with Louise Colet ‘may be considered as the only sentimental episode of any importance in Flaubert’s life’. In 1967 Enid Starkie prefaced her two-volume ...

At Tate Britain

Julian Bell: Van Gogh, 1 August 2019

... mode. It was only by attention to specifics – by staring at ‘a few clods of earth’, he told Emile Bernard, rather than by conjuring up ‘stars too big’ – that painters could lay hold on any sort of ‘modern reality’. And so we also have the Chair’s humbler successor, a low stone bench in the garden of the Saint-Rémy asylum painted from an ...

A Flat in Neuilly

Douglas Johnson, 3 February 1983

Ideology and Experience: Anti-Semitism in France at the time of the Dreyfus Affair 
by Stephen Wilson.
Associated University Presses, 812 pp., £30, August 1982, 0 8386 3037 5
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Cinq Années de ma Vie 
by Alfred Dreyfus.
Maspéro, 263 pp., frs 15
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La Républic et les Juifs après Copernic 
by Schmuel Trigano.
Les Presses d’Aujourd’hui, 272 pp., frs 75, April 1982, 2 901386 03 2
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... was perceived as such at the time. He has redoubtable support for this view from contemporaries. Zola wrote that the Affair was the history of the crucifixion of the Jew, and Péguy saw Dreyfus as a symbol of the destiny of Israel, of the Jew being offered as a sacrifice for the salvation of other nations. Dr Wilson goes on to assure us that Dreyfus’s ...

No flourish was too much

Bridget Alsdorf: Out-Tissoted, 13 August 2020

James Tissot 
by Melissa Buron et al.
Prestel, 354 pp., £55, October 2019, 978 3 7913 5919 9
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... a comparison that was at best a backhanded compliment. Others called him ‘a kind of artistic Zola’, which was intended as an outright insult. But they agreed his talent was undeniable, full of ‘amazing truth and observation’. Before arriving in London, Tissot had published caricatures of European royalty in Vanity Fair. The editor introduced him to ...

For Those Who Don’t Know

Julian Bell: Van Gogh’s Letters, 5 November 2009

Vincent van Gogh: The Letters 
edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker, translated by Michael Hoyle et al.
Thames and Hudson, 2180 pp., £395, October 2009, 978 0 500 23865 3
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... rocketed over the following decades, various volumes came out: letters to artist friends, notably Emile Bernard, were joined in 1914 by an edition of those sent to Theo, by far his most frequent correspondent. The 1963 single-volume selection that I bought in my student days was drawn from a co-ordinated English text published in 1927. In common, I ...


Peter Campbell, 4 July 1985

Degas: His Life, Times and Work 
by Roy McMullen.
Secker, 517 pp., £18.50, March 1985, 9780436276477
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Degas: The Dancers 
by George Shackelford.
Norton, 151 pp., £22.95, March 1985, 0 393 01975 6
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Degas Pastels, Oil Sketches, Drawings 
by Götz Adriani.
Thames and Hudson, 408 pp., £35, May 1985, 0 500 09168 4
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Bricabracomania: The Bourgeois and the Bibelot 
by Rémy de Saisselin.
Thames and Hudson, 189 pp., £12.50, February 1985, 0 500 23424 8
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... his barbed mots in his own style. Whistler concluded his with ‘a shrill “Eh what?” ... Zola with a patronising hein mon bon ... Degas with a loud dites quoi?’ Jacques-Emile Blanche compared him to a cavalry major on the drill ground: ‘If he makes a gesture it is imperious, expressive, like his drawing. But he ...

Goodbye to Mahfouz

Edward Said, 8 December 1988

... short span of time. He is not only a Hugo and a Dickens, but also a Galsworthy, a Mann, a Zola and a Jules Romains. Surrounded therefore by politics, and to a very great degree caught up in the contests of the native as well as the international environment, the Arabic novel is truly an embattled form. Mahfouz’s allegorical trilogy, Awlad Haritna ...

In and Out of the Panthéon

Thomas Laqueur: Funerals, politics and memory in France, 20 September 2001

Funerals, Politics and Memory in Modern France 1789-1996 
by Avner Ben-Amos.
Oxford, 425 pp., £55, October 2000, 0 19 820328 4
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Monumental Intolerance: Jean Baffier, a Nationalist Sculptor in Fin-de-Siècle France 
by Neil McWilliam.
Pennsylvania State, 326 pp., £58.95, November 2000, 0 271 01965 4
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... regime were never warm, refused to have anything to do with the Panthéon after its arch enemy, Zola, was reburied there in 1908. The Unknown Soldier would go instead to the Arc de Triomphe, on the same day that the heart of Gambetta was reburied in the Panthéon and less than two weeks before the assassinated Socialist Prime Minister Jean Jaurès was ...

The Egg-Head’s Egger-On

Christopher Hitchens: Saul Bellow keeps his word (sort of), 27 April 2000

by Saul Bellow.
Viking, 254 pp., £16.99, April 2000, 0 670 89131 2
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... with the now notorious remark that the Papuans had no Proust and the Zulus had no … was it Zola? He wrote a crabbed and resentful account of a visit to the Holy City, which seemed to some of us to be an Arab v. Jewish allegory of the fears and resentments – about black populism and demagogy in New York and Chicago – which have been more cheaply ...

A Rage for Abstraction

Jeremy Harding, 16 June 2016

The Other Paris: An Illustrated Journey through a City’s Poor and Bohemian Past 
by Luc Sante.
Faber, 306 pp., £25, November 2015, 978 0 571 24128 6
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How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Allen Lane, 427 pp., £20, June 2015, 978 1 84614 602 2
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... beyond. Le Petit Journal, a scurrilous right-wing Republican daily, which rounded on Dreyfus, then Zola, took up the cudgels on behalf of oppressed Afrikaners. Among the sins it couldn’t forgive the British was the deadpan expression of Joseph Chamberlain, secretary of state for the colonies, when he toured the battlefields of South Africa. The paper had a ...

Summarising Oneself

Julian Barnes: Degas’s Vanity, 19 November 2020

The Letters of Edgar Degas 
edited by Theodore Reff.
Wildenstein Plattner Institute, 1464 pp., £150, June, 978 0 9988175 1 4
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... his father having converted from Judaism. The break came on 13 January 1898, the very day Zola published J’Accuse. Degas was dining with the Halévys; their sons had invited some of their friends, and these young strangers expressed Dreyfusard opinions. A week later, Degas wrote to Louise taking his leave of them all. It is a sad yet dignified ...

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