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... One day they found him under the bed curled tight, pressed against the wall. For as long as they could remember he had been in the habit of hiding objects in boxes, in drawers, in holes he dug in the garden. Sometimes, when they sat down to a meal after calling for him in vain, he would suddenly appear from under the table. But when they found him that day under the bed it was different ...

A Human Kafka

Gabriel Josipovici, 5 March 1981

The World of Franz Kafka 
edited by J.P. Stern.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £9.95, January 1981, 0 297 77845 5
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... When Kafka died in 1924, not one of his novels had been published. He was known to a small circle – though Janouch’s testimony shows that that circle spread beyond his friends – as the author of a story about a man who turned into a beetle. Brod published The Trial in 1925, and followed it with The Castle (1926), America (1927) and a volume of short fragments and aphorisms, The Great Wall of China (1931 ...

The Hard Life and Poor Best of Cervantes

Gabriel Josipovici, 20 December 1979

Cervantes 
by William Byron.
Cassell, 583 pp., £9.95
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... Not much is known about Cervantes. He was born in 1547 in Alcalá de Henares, not far from Madrid. His grandfather, a specialist in fiscal law for the Inquisition, had amassed a fortune by shady means and then withdrawn to another city with a former mistress, leaving his children, to whom he had given no proper education, to fend for themselves. The burden of looking after the family fell on Rodrigo, Cervantes’s father, who had the unfortunate idea of becoming a surgeon to support his dependents ...

Meyer Schapiro’s Mousetrap

Gabriel Josipovici, 5 June 1980

Late Antique, Early Christian and Medieval Art: Selected Papers, Vol. 3 
by Meyer Schapiro.
Chatto, 414 pp., £20, April 1980, 0 7011 2514 4
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... I have always thought that there was a striking resemblance between Freud’s earliest case histories, which he published as Studies in Hysteria, and the Sherlock Holmes stories. In the Studies, as in Sherlock Holmes, we are presented with the man of wisdom to whom people bring their problems; who listens in silence; then asks a number of carefully considered questions; and who finally solves the mystery and restores things to the order they were in before tragedy struck – or at least unearths the culprit ...

Dante’s Mastery

Gabriel Josipovici, 21 August 1980

Dante 
by George Holmes.
Oxford, 104 pp., £95, April 1980, 0 19 287504 3
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The Divine Comedy: A New Verse Translation 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 455 pp., £8.95, April 1980, 9780856352737
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... No one, except perhaps Proust, has been able to express such a sense of totally unexpected joy as Dante, and what most often brings joy flooding through his body is the chance meeting with a revered ancestor or teacher. ‘O sanguis meus, O superinfusa gratia Dei,’ Cacciaguida greets him in Paradise, and Dante, turning in puzzlement to Beatrice, feels that ‘I had touched the limit both of my beatitude and of my paradise ...

Jews’ Harps

Gabriel Josipovici, 4 February 1982

Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse 
by T. Carmi.
Penguin, 608 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 14 042197 1
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... It is not often that a reviewer can say that the book under review has altered his entire conception of the past. Yet that is what I have to say about this book. It is, to begin with, the product of an extraordinary combination of love and scholarship. Not only is it the first anthology of Hebrew verse in any language to run from Biblical times to the present: it is a bilingual anthology, with the Hebrew and the English printed to face each other, and, though the English translations are not in verse, Carmi’s prose combines accuracy and grace to such a degree that readers without Hebrew will be able to enjoy the book almost as much as readers who have it, while those, like myself, who are in the process of learning the language or have only vague memories of it from the dim childhood past will find many hours of pleasure awaiting them as they patiently decipher the original with the help of the translations ...

Steps

Gabriel Josipovici, 3 December 1981

... He had been living in Paris for many years. Longer, he used to say, than he cared to remember. When my first wife died, he would explain, there no longer seemed to be any reason to stay in England. So he moved to Paris and earned his living by translating. He was an old-fashioned person, still put on a suit and tie to sit down to work, and a raincoat and hat when he went out ...

Imperfect Knight

Gabriel Josipovici, 17 April 1980

Chaucer’s Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary 
by Terry Jones.
Weidenfeld, 319 pp., £8.95, January 1980, 0 297 77566 9
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Chaucer, Langland and the Creative Imagination 
by David Aers.
Routledge, 236 pp., £9.75, January 1980, 9780710003515
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The Golden Age: Manuscript Painting at the Time of Jean, Duc de Berry 
by Marcel Thomas.
Chatto, 120 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7011 2471 7
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... The life of books is a mysterious thing. If an author is still read fifty years after his death there is a strong likelihood that he will be read five centuries from then. Chaucer, at any rate, has never been far from the consciousness of readers of English, and if the last twenty years have seen an amazing upsurge of interest in him in academic circles, this has fortunately not been balanced by his disappearance from the consciousness of the wider public ...

Picasso and Cubism

Gabriel Josipovici, 16 July 1981

Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective 
edited by William Rubin.
Thames and Hudson, 464 pp., £10.95, July 1980, 0 500 23310 1
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Picasso: His Life and Work 
by Roland Penrose.
Granada, 517 pp., £9.99, May 1981, 0 7139 1420 3
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Portrait of Picasso 
by Roland Penrose.
Thames and Hudson, 128 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 500 27226 3
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Viva Picasso: A Centennial Celebration, 1881-1981 
by Donald Duncan.
Allen Lane, 152 pp., £12.95, May 1981, 0 7139 1420 3
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Picasso: The Cubist Years, 1907-1916 
by Pierre Daix and Joan Rosselet.
Thames and Hudson, 376 pp., £60, October 1979, 9780500091340
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Picasso’s Guernica: The Labyrinth of Vision 
by Frank Russell.
Thames and Hudson, 334 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 0 500 23298 9
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... Le Mystère Picasso is how Clouzot entitled his famous film, in which the artist was seen at work before our eyes, and for most of its eight decades our century has been vainly trying to decipher that mystery. To talk about Picasso is to talk about the culture of our time, not just because his work has played such an important part in it, but because in the reactions to it we can discern nearly all the myths and clichés of the age ...

On the Verge of Collapse

John Sturrock, 19 August 1982

The Siren’s Song 
by Maurice Blanchot, edited by Gabriel Josipovici and Sacha Rabinovich.
Harvester, 255 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 85527 738 6
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... is the first chance English readers have had to experience Maurice Blanchot. If it is the case, as Gabriel Josipovici pre-emptively asserts in his introduction, that Blanchot ‘is, with Walter Benjamin, the finest literary critic of the century’, then we have been grievously remiss in leaving him for so long untranslated. For Blanchot isn’t new: he ...

Character References

Robert Taubman, 15 May 1980

The Echo Chamber 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Harvester, 154 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 85527 807 2
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Birthstone 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 160 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 575 02762 2
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Kingdom Come 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Secker, 352 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 436 06714 5
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A Gentle Occupation 
by Dirk Bogarde.
Chatto, 360 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 7011 2505 5
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Innocent Blood 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 276 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 571 11566 7
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... comment was ventured (‘Fort Alane’) is lost on both Peter and the reader. Very neatly, Gabriel Josipovici is introducing us not so much to his characters as to the method of his theoretically-aware kind of novel, which might be called the old nouveau roman in its latest or ‘deconstructionist’ phase: Paul de Man says deconstruction is about ...

Yak Sandwiches

Christopher Burns, 31 March 1988

Pleasure 
by John Murray.
Aidan Ellis, 233 pp., £10.50, October 1987, 0 85628 167 0
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Absurd Courage 
by Nobuko Albery.
Century, 254 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7126 1149 5
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Laing 
by Ann Schlee.
Macmillan, 302 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 333 45633 5
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The Part of Fortune 
by Laurel Goldman.
Faber, 249 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14921 9
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In the Fertile Land 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Carcanet, 212 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 85635 716 2
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... of vignettes. Carcanet Press brings memories of the heady Sixties days of Calder and Boyars, and Gabriel Josipovici fits naturally into such a Modernist, European-based list. His literary predecessors are Beckett, Brooke-Rose and the generation of experimentalists loosely associated with the nouveau roman. In The Fertile Land contains of 18 ...

Mortal Scripts

Christopher Norris, 21 April 1983

Writing and the Body 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Harvester, 142 pp., £15.95, September 1982, 0 7108 0495 4
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The Definition of Literature and Other Essays 
by W.W. Robson.
Cambridge, 267 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24495 1
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... In the present climate of polemical exchange one may doubt whether Gabriel Josipovici would take very kindly to being enlisted on the side of ‘literary theory’. Though his essays make reference to figures like Barthes and Derrida, they do so with an air of studied detachment, as if to forestall any charge of deeper complicity ...

Doomed

Graham Hough, 3 December 1981

Ah, but your land is beautiful 
by Alan Paton.
Cape, 270 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 02 241981 0
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A Flag for Sunrise 
by Robert Stone.
Secker, 402 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 9780436496813
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Something Else 
by Virginia Fassnidge.
Constable, 152 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 09 464340 7
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The Air We Breathe 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Harvester, 114 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 7108 0056 8
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... a cool certainty of technique that might well be applied to a larger and more resonant subject. Gabriel Josipovici is prominent among those who are anxious to free the novel from any hampering subservience to the outer world. He has been praised for ‘the concentration he has brought to bear on the form of the novel and the important question of what ...

Bible Stories

John Barton, 16 February 1989

The Book of God: A Response to the Bible 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Yale, 350 pp., £18.95, November 1988, 0 300 04320 1
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Who wrote the Bible? 
by Richard Elliott Friedman.
Cape, 299 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 224 02573 2
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... and within which it has usually been read: instead, it belongs to the world of ‘literature’. Gabriel Josipovici’s luminous and gentle book stands in an oblique relationship to this literary rediscovery of the Bible. Superficially it clearly belongs to the ‘Bible as literature’ movement, and shares that movement’s characteristic impatience ...

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