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Toad in the Hole

Geoffrey Wall: Tristan Corbière, 16 July 1998

These Jaundiced Loves: A Translation of Tristan Corbière’s ‘Les Amours Jaunes’ 
by Christopher Pilling.
Peterloo, 395 pp., £14.95, April 1997, 1 871471 55 9
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... Corbière kept the flattened, desiccated, leathery little corpse of a toad nailed to the wall just above the mantelpiece of the family home in Roscoff. The toad lacked the agreeable narcissism of the emblems chosen by most of his contemporaries – swans, albatrosses, skylarks and nightingales – and it had none of the charm of Nerval’s ...

A Gloomy Duet

Geoffrey Wall, 3 April 1997

Louis Bouilhet: Lettres à Gustave Flaubert 
edited by Maria Cappello.
CNRS, 780 pp., frs 490, April 1996, 2 271 05288 2
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... Gustave Flaubert to Louis Bouilhet, 6 September 1850: In the midst of my weariness and my discouragement when the bile kept rising into my mouth, you were the Selzer water that made life digestible for me. You re-invigorated me, like a tonic bath. When I was groaning with self-pity, feeling all alone, I used to say to myself: ‘Look at him’ and I would get back to work with renewed energy, You were my supreme moral emblem, and my perpetual edification ...

Two Letters from Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet

Gustave Flaubert, translated by Geoffrey Wall, 22 June 1995

... Croisset, 15-16 May 1852. Saturday-Sunday, 1 a.m.The small hours of Sunday morning find me in the middle of a page that has taken me all day and is still far from finished. I am putting it aside to write to you, and in fact it may perhaps take me into tomorrow evening, since I often spend several hours looking for a word, and since I have several to find, it is quite likely that you would still be waiting all next week if I were to wait until I had finished ...

Amused, Bored or Exasperated

Christopher Prendergast: Gustave Flaubert, 13 December 2001

Flaubert: A Life 
by Geoffrey Wall.
Faber, 413 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 571 19521 0
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... framed, as is the custom, by a beginning (childhood) and an ending (death), although Geoffrey Wall, on retiring from his story, decorates the frame with a nicely incongruous detail: ‘Flaubert’s coffin, too big to fit into the grave, had to be left stuck at an angle, headfirst, and only halfway into the earth.’ Flaubert’s novels are ...

Diamond Daggers

Stephen Wall, 28 June 1990

Death’s Darkest Face 
by Julian Symons.
Macmillan, 272 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 333 51783 0
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by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 281 pp., £12.99, June 1990, 0 571 14332 6
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by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 296 pp., £13.99, March 1990, 0 670 83241 3
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... actor belatedly trying to discover what crime or crimes his father may have committed long ago. Geoffrey Elder is introduced as a former friend, now deceased, by Julian Symons himself, who purports merely to have edited the thespian’s posthumous ms. Symons admits to shaping and sharpening the presentation of Elder’s findings, and to cutting out ...
... breath of oxlips, wintersweet, jasmine, and Stanley Spencer’s tall Corinthian hyacinths on the wall. The old clock in a fancy waist- coat cleared its throat and, poker-faced, pointed to Margaret’s room. I must have slipped in without sound or gust, for on the mantelpiece the frieze had thawed and bountiful Ceres bowed from a festal chariot drawn by ...

Writer’s Writer and Writer’s Writer’s Writer

Julian Barnes: ‘Madame Bovary’, 18 November 2010

Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways 
by Gustave Flaubert and Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 342 pp., £20, November 2010, 978 1 84614 104 1
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... 1948), ‘A Story of Provincial Life’ (Alan Russell, 1950), ‘Provincial Lives’ (Geoffrey Wall, 1992), or ‘Provincial Ways’ (Lydia Davis). No one, as far as I can see, has adopted the cousinly subtitle of Middlemarch, ‘A Study of Provincial Life’. Several translators simply delete it – even, surprisingly, Steegmuller ...

May he roar with pain!

John Sturrock, 27 May 1993

Flaubert–Sand: The Correspondence 
translated by Barbara Bray.
HarperCollins, 428 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 00 217625 4
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Correspondence. Tome III: janvier 1859 – décembre 1868 
by Gustave Flaubert, edited by Jean Bruneau.
Gallimard, 1727 pp., frs 20, March 1991, 2 07 010669 1
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Madame Bovary: Patterns of Provincial Life 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Francis Steegmuller.
Everyman, 330 pp., £8.99, March 1993, 1 85715 140 2
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Madame Bovary 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Geoffrey Wall.
Penguin, 292 pp., £4.99, June 1992, 0 14 044526 9
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... of the novel. Of the two versions Steegmuller’s is the freer, at times rather surprisingly so. Geoffrey Wall’s a far stricter alternative, taking no liberties with the French that I could spot but reading well just the same. No cause here for Flaubert to complain, as he did back in 1862, when the continuing lack of a translation of his novel in ...

Act like Men, Britons!

Tom Shippey: Celticity, 31 July 2008

The History of the Kings of Britain 
by Geoffrey of Monmouth, edited by Michael Reeve, translated by Neil Wright.
Boydell, 307 pp., £50, November 2007, 978 1 84383 206 5
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The History of the Kings of Britain 
by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Broadview, 383 pp., £8.99, January 2008, 978 1 55111 639 6
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... that there might be some doubt about its authenticity. Much of the phenomenon must be ascribed to Geoffrey of Monmouth. Born some thirty years after the Norman Conquest, Geoffrey, with his Norman name and strong Welsh connections, was probably the child of a mixed marriage. His achievement was to inject old Celtic tradition ...


Geoffrey Hawthorn: Tribute to Ayrton Senna , 9 June 1994

... the championship as he could be. Schumacher was in Senna’s mirror the second before he hit the wall on the Tamburello corner. It’s a notorious place – Gerhard Berger hit it in 1989, at a survivable angle – but anyone of experience would have known that. It’s impossible yet to be sure what it was that caused Senna suddenly to brake before he crashed ...

So Much Smoke

Tom Shippey: King Arthur, 20 December 2018

King Arthur: the Making of the Legend 
by Nicholas Higham.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 300 21092 7
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... Still, Nennius’s Arthur might have remained in scholarly oblivion had he not been picked up by Geoffrey of Monmouth 300 years later, and expanded into a whole book of his Historia Regum Britanniae. This immensely successful work – more than 200 surviving manuscripts, and translations into Old French, Middle English, Welsh and even Icelandic – brought ...


Donald Davie, 11 June 1992

In the Circumstances: About Poems and Poets 
by Peter Robinson.
Oxford, 260 pp., £35, May 1992, 0 19 811248 3
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... now that there was always something odd about Peter Robinson’s being the editor, in 1985, of Geoffrey Hill: Essays on His Work, from the Open University Press. Robinson’s sensibility, particularly as one had encountered it in his poems, pointed away from the aloofness of Hill’s attitude to his public, and away from Hill’s lofty and recherché ...

On Trying to Be Portugal

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Zionist Terrorism, 6 August 2009

‘A Senseless, Squalid War’: Voices from Palestine 1945-48 
by Norman Rose.
Bodley Head, 278 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 224 07938 9
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Major Farran’s Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain’s War against Jewish Terrorism 1945-48 
by David Cesarani.
Heinemann, 290 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 434 01844 4
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... accept ‘Jewish colonisation’: it had either to stop or to proceed ‘behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach’. But there were other paradoxes. He said that he had no wish to oppress the Arabs, still less to ‘transfer’ or expel them, and he may have meant it. And yet not only did he insist that a Jewish majority ...

The Laying on of Hands

Alan Bennett, 7 June 2001

... Also thinking how English these occasions tended to be was the young priest in charge, Father Geoffrey Jolliffe. Father Jolliffe was Anglican but with Romish inclinations that were not so much doctrinal as ceremonial and certainly sartorial. Amiable, gregarious and plump, he looked well in the cloak he generally went about in, a priest with a bit of a ...

The Finchley Factor

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Thatcher in Israel, 13 September 2018

Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East 
by Azriel Bermant.
Cambridge, 274 pp., £22.99, September 2017, 978 1 316 60630 8
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... Thatcher’s death the self-proclaimed ‘very right-wing’ historian Andrew Roberts wrote in the Wall Street Journal that ‘her support for Israel was lifelong and unwavering.’ All this is quietly and comprehensively demolished by Bermant, who has scoured both the Israeli and the British archives, and interviewed many of the surviving political players ...

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