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Cousinhood

David Cannadine, 27 July 1989

The Social Politics of Anglo-Jewry 1880-1920 
by Eugene Black.
Blackwell, 428 pp., £35, February 1989, 9780631164913
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The Persistence of Prejudice: Anti-Semitism in British Society during the Second World War 
by Tony Kushner.
Manchester, 257 pp., £29.95, March 1989, 0 7190 2896 5
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The Club: The Jews of Modern Britain 
by Stephen Brook.
Constable, 464 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 09 467340 3
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... three books under review. The most important, the most detailed and the most scholarly is that by Eugene Black. The central question he seeks to answer is deceptively simple. How did the Jewish cousinhood, the Rothschilds, the Samuels, the Cohens and their relatives, all of whom were proudly élitist and profoundly assimilationist in their ...

Fouling the nest

Anthony Julius, 8 April 1993

Modern British Jewry 
by Geoffrey Alderman.
Oxford, 397 pp., £40, September 1992, 0 19 820145 1
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... if one wants to understand the politics of the community in its formative years, one must read Eugene Black; the arrival of East European Jewry has been illuminatingly detailed by Lloyd Gartner; the career of Lord Jakobovits, the present Chief Rabbi’s predecessor, has been better analysed by Chaim Bermant, as has the role of the Jewish grandees, or ...

Best of All Worlds

James Oakes: Slavery and Class, 11 March 2010

Slavery in White and BlackClass and Race in the Southern Slaveholders’ New World Order 
by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese.
Cambridge, 314 pp., £14.99, December 2008, 978 0 521 72181 3
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... In 1965 Eugene Genovese published his first book, The Political Economy of Slavery, a stunning reinterpretation of the antebellum South. Although he wrote as a Marxist, he revived the bourgeois critique of slavery most closely associated with Adam Smith. The class conflict that might have driven the history of the South was stifled, he argued, by the slave owners’ paternalism towards their slaves and by their hegemony over farmers who did not own slaves ...

Our Slaves Are Black

Nicholas Guyatt: Theories of Slavery, 4 October 2007

Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World 
by David Brion Davis.
Oxford, 440 pp., £17.99, May 2006, 0 19 514073 7
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The Trader, the Owner, the Slave 
by James Walvin.
Cape, 297 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 0 224 06144 5
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The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000 
by Colin Kidd.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £16.99, September 2006, 0 521 79324 6
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The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview 
by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese.
Cambridge, 828 pp., £18.99, December 2005, 0 521 85065 7
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... Brion Davis’s Inhuman Bondage throws light on the process by which slavery became exclusively black. There were many European precedents for white slavery, not only in the classical period but in the trading networks of the late medieval Mediterranean. The word ‘slave’ derives from sclavus, or Slav, and the vast majority of slaves in Western Europe ...

Bobbery

James Wood: Pushkin’s Leave-Taking, 20 February 2003

Pushkin: A Biography 
by T.J. Binyon.
HarperCollins, 731 pp., £30, September 2002, 0 00 215084 0
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... It is in some ways unfortunate that Tchaikovsky set Eugene Onegin to music, not Rossini, the composer of deep shallows. Pushkin, according to T.J. Binyon’s remarkable biography, became ‘addicted’ to Rossini while living in Odessa, where an Italian opera company was visiting, and though Binyon makes nothing of it, it rather blares at us, as writers’ tastes in music so often do (Joyce’s love of Puccini, for instance, or Auden’s dislike of Brahms ...

I want to howl

John Lahr: Eugene O’Neill, 5 February 2015

Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts 
by Robert Dowling.
Yale, 569 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 300 17033 7
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... a pity party among American playwrights, the antisocial, alcoholic, self-dramatising misery named Eugene Gladstone O’Neill would win the door prize. At the age of 21, already making a myth of his sense of doom, O’Neill was calling himself ‘the Irish luck kid’. By then, he’d been thrown out of Princeton (‘Ego’ was his nickname), fathered a son ...

The Village Life

James Meek: Pushkin in English, 6 June 2019

Novels, Tales, Journeys 
by Aleksandr Pushkin, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Penguin, 512 pp., £9.99, October 2017, 978 0 241 29037 8
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... response to an anti-literary countryside was to make literature. His masterpiece, the verse novel Eugene Onegin, opens with the protagonist’s uncle dying in his manor house.* Later, the house, the estate and its serfs pass to Onegin, who, sated with Petersburg high society, moves to the country to take possession. He finds a pastoral idyll of a house above ...

Looking for Mrs Kelly

Betsy Blair: Files on the Fifties, 4 June 1998

... The hard information is pathetic. On each page the word ‘confidential’ is crossed out in heavy black ink and marked ‘Declassified on 11/4/97’. Page 1 reads: Foreign Service of the United States of America American Embassy Paris 8, France. Date: December 28, 1955 To: Director FBI From: Legat, Paris Subject: ELIZABETH WINIFRED B. KELLY ...

Friends

Eugene Goodheart, 16 March 1989

The company we keep: An Ethics of Fiction 
by Wayne Booth.
California, 485 pp., $29.55, November 1988, 0 520 06203 5
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... Sixties he and his colleagues at the University of Chicago could ignore the distress of a young black assistant professor, Paul Moses, who declared that he would no longer teach Huckleberry Finn because he found the portrayal of Jim offensive. Booth remembers with more than a twinge of conscience that he and his colleagues found the challenge to Mark ...

Under the Steinway

Jenny Diski: Marco Roth, 7 March 2013

The Scientists: A Family Romance 
by Marco Roth.
Union Books, 196 pp., £14.99, January 2013, 978 1 908526 19 9
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... family romance, as the book is subtitled, with added Aids, kilims and inheritance threats. Eugene Roth, who ran a sickle-cell anaemia clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital, was the son of a man who married for money and to get on, and he suffered as a child would under those circumstances. He called himself and his family ‘middle class’, which included ...

Bully off

Susannah Clapp, 5 November 1992

Dunedin 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 341 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 434 44048 5
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... a place of lush temptations and hazards – of bubbling geysers, sweet-briared verandas and black thighs. It is a place where a family’s lives are narrowed by an oppressive father – while the father’s own fantasy and fancy wander. It is also a place where the family’s maid-servants, though preyed upon by their master, are in the end allowed ...

The Whole Sick Crew

Thomas Jones: Donna Tartt, 31 October 2002

The Little Friend 
by Donna Tartt.
Bloomsbury, 555 pp., £16.99, October 2002, 0 7475 6211 3
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... Dufresnes, 12 years old, ‘sturdily built, like a small badger, with round cheeks, a sharp nose, black hair bobbed short, a thin, determined little mouth’. When she was a baby, her big brother Robin was murdered, hanged from the tree in the front yard on Mother’s Day. The culprit has never been found. It’s a bizarre crime: this is not how children get ...

The Nutcracker

Jon Stallworthy, 17 September 1987

... Monde, a part in a continuous historical play I was helping to write all day, white-tie reception, black-tie dinner, five-star brandy and five-star dreams: a canter in the Bois … Maxim’s … So there I was in a dim Chancery, all day the very model of a modern Second Secretary, reviewing files on Molotov or drafting, when the show-trial circus ...

A Fragment of Ibykos Translated Six Ways

Anne Carson, 8 November 2012

... north wind ablaze with lightning, rushing from Aphrodite accompanied by parching madnesses, black, unastonishable, powerfully, right up from the bottom of my feet [it] shakes my whole breathing being. [fr. 286 as ‘Woman’s Constancy’ by John Donne] In woman, on the one hand, those contracts being purposed by change and falsehood, where ...

Games-Playing

Patrick Parrinder, 7 August 1986

The Golden Gate 
by Vikram Seth.
Faber, 307 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13967 1
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The Haunted House 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 139 pp., £8.95, June 1986, 0 330 29175 0
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Whole of a Morning Sky 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 156 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 86068 774 0
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The Piano Tuner 
by Peter Meinke.
Georgia, 156 pp., $13.95, June 1986, 0 8203 0844 7
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Tap City 
by Ron Abell.
Secker, 273 pp., £10.95, July 1986, 0 436 00025 3
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... taken a gamble and broken the rules. The Golden Gate is written in the stanza form of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, made familiar to English readers by Sir Charles Johnston’s Penguin Classics translation, which Seth handsomely acknowledges. The use of this form to tell a story of contemporary Californian life would have daunted a less determined and ...

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