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An Unfinished Project

Fredric Jameson, 3 August 1995

The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940 
edited by Theodor Adorno and Manfred Jacobson, translated by Evelyn Jacobson.
Chicago, 651 pp., £39.95, May 1994, 0 226 04237 5
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T.W. Adorno/Walter Benjamin: Briefwechsel 1928-40 
edited by Henri Lonitz.
Suhrkamp, 501 pp., DM 64, April 1994, 3 518 58174 0
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... Walter Benjamin was not a letter writer of the order of Lawrence or Flaubert, for whom the medium of the letter seems to fill a need, not for mere self-expression, but for some larger exercise of the personality in exasperation or enthusiasm, in that almost instinctive enlargement of reaction to things which others find in unmotivated physical activity ...

Pale Ghosts

Jeremy Harding, 12 January 1995

The Electronic Elephant: A Southern African Journey 
by Dan Jacobson.
Hamish Hamilton, 373 pp., £17.99, June 1994, 0 241 13355 6
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Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela 
Little, Brown, 630 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 316 90965 3Show More
None to Accompany Me 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 324 pp., £15.99, September 1994, 0 7475 1821 1
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The Rift: The Exile Experience of South Africans 
by Hilda Bernstein.
Cape, 516 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 224 03546 0
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... Dan Jacobson grew up in the diamond town of Kimberley, South Africa. England was one of the places he looked to for inspiration. As it turned out, his interest in English literature and his habit of falling on copies of the New Statesman were ways of sending ahead. From his description of Kimberley on a Saturday afternoon in Time and Time Again (1985), it is obvious why he hankered for another life, the further away the better: Helpless with boredom, stupefied by their own nullity, town and sky yawned at one another ...

Happy Valleys

Dan Jacobson, 18 November 1982

White Mischief 
by James Fox.
Cape, 293 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 224 01731 4
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Earth to Earth 
by John Cornwell.
Allen Lane, 174 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 7139 1045 3
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... scene re-enacted by farmers, eight thousand feet above the steaming seaboard.’ That is how Evelyn Waugh, who passed through Kenya at the beginning of the Thirties, was nostalgically to recall what he had found there. This sentence is not quoted in White Mischief, though Waugh’s name is invoked a couple of times in the book, and its title alludes to ...

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