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Hound of Golden Imbeciles

John Sturrock: Homage to the Oulipo

29 April 1999
Oulipo Compendium 
edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie.
Atlas, 336 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 947757 96 1
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... literary form. They are by nature escapologists, or, as Jacques Roubaud has it in his very graceful introduction to the Compendium (very gracefully translated by the Oulipo’s senior foreign member, Harry Mathews): ‘An Oulipian author is a rat who himself builds the maze from which he sets out to escape.’ A year after sharing in the foundation of the Oulipo, Raymond Queneau published what remains ...

Don’t lock up the wife

E.S. Turner: Georgina Weldon

5 October 2000
A Monkey among Crocodiles: The Life, Loves and Lawsuits of Mrs Georgina Weldon 
by Brian Thompson.
HarperCollins, 304 pp., £19.99, June 2000, 0 00 257189 7
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... the one which was plastered over the buses. ‘Spy’ had a fine full-length study of her in Vanity Fair (it appears, with a short biography, in the recently reissued In ‘Vanity Fair’, by Roy Matthews and Peter Mellini).* When she was 20 she was painted by G.F. Watts, who was besotted with her and called her his Bambina. At the height of her notoriety she was caricatured in Punch and elsewhere. In ...

Diary

Peter Craven: On the Demidenko Affair

16 November 1995
... of art or at least an ambition thereunto. Then, on 19 August, the Brisbane Courier Mail published an article revealing that Helen Demidenko’s real name was Helen Darville and that her parents were Harry and Grace Darville, from Scunthorpe. The story was big enough to move the recent death of a very famous Australian Rules footballer (known as ‘Mr Football’, he received a state funeral) off the ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones

8 January 1987
The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... divided into two gangs easily distinguished by their appearance. There were curly-haired, pretty-mouthed cricketers, Bob Cherry and Tom Merry (Simon Raven’s favourite), and the manly, righteous Harry Wharton. On the darker side, smoking and slacking behind the fives court, were the bad boys, ugly and envious – Darcy, the chinless wonder, Bunter, the gross and hideous glutton, Vernon-Smith, the ...
4 November 1982
Powers of the Press: The World’s Great Newspapers 
by Martin Walker.
Quartet, 401 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 7043 2271 4
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Goodbye Gutenberg: The Newspaper Revolution of the 1980s 
by Anthony Smith.
Oxford, 367 pp., £3.95, January 1982, 9780198272434
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New Technology and Industrial Relations in Fleet Street 
by Roderick Martin.
Oxford, 367 pp., £17.50, October 1981, 9780198272434
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News Ltd: Why you can’t read all about it 
by Brian Whitaker.
Minority Press Group, 176 pp., £3.25, June 1981, 0 906890 04 7
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... the outcome of elections. If this were really so, how could one explain how Britain has ever returned a Labour government, given that the overwhelming majority of newspapers are anti-Labour; or how Harry Truman was able to win his Presidential election when only 4 per cent of American papers (measured in terms of readership) supported him? There was a newspaper poll in the Forties which showed that a ...
21 February 1991
About Turn. The Communist Party and the Outbreak of the Second World War: The Verbatim Record of the Central Committee Meetings 1939 
edited by Francis King and George Matthews.
Lawrence and Wishart, 318 pp., £34.95, November 1990, 9780853157267
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... CAN and MUST be won.’ A few days later, an editorial appeared under the headline: ‘To betray Poland is to betray Britain.’ On 14 September the Party published a pamphlet by general secretary Harry Pollitt entitled ‘How to Win the War’. It declared: ‘To stand aside from this conflict, to contribute only revolutionary-sounding phrases while the fascist beast rides roughshod over Europe ...

Go and get killed, comrade

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Spanish Civil War

21 February 2013
Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle against Fascism 
by Richard Baxell.
Aurum, 516 pp., £25, September 2012, 978 1 84513 697 0
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I Am Spain: The Spanish Civil War and the Men and Women Who Went to Fight Fascism 
by David Boyd Haycock.
Old Street, 363 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 1 908699 10 7
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... in the saddle’, where men and women wore blue overalls, looked one another in the eye and said tu – struck him as ‘worth fighting for’. He ended up on the front in Aragon somewhat by chance. Harry Pollitt, the general secretary of the British Communist Party, had flatly denied his request to join the International Brigades: his accent and background made him politically suspect. The ...

The Unrewarded End

V.G. Kiernan: Memories of the CP

17 September 1998
The Death of Uncle Joe 
by Alison Macleod.
Merlin, 269 pp., £9.95, May 1997, 0 85036 467 1
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Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party 
by Francis Beckett.
Merlin, 253 pp., £9.95, August 1998, 0 85036 477 9
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... of the CP (we thought of it simply as ‘the Party’) to its 43rd and final Congress in 1991. One of the strong points of Beckett’s book is its wealth of portraits of individuals, among them Harry Pollitt and Johnny Campbell; Willie Gallacher and Phil Piratin, two of the very few who found a way into Parliament; Palme Dutt the Swedish-Indian, more theologian than political thinker; and Bert ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names

23 September 2010
A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... gave him. Perhaps, at the end of the fifth century, the elite in democratic Athens had turned to simpler names, just as the middle classes in England at the end of the 20th century turned to Jack, Harry, Max and Ben. Whatever his real name, the fact that scholars in the Hellenistic period found it unbelievable that the great philosopher could be a ‘Plato’ – they preferred that his real name be ...

Memoirs of a Pet Lamb

David Sylvester: A Memoir

5 July 2001
... and always had a slight Northern accent. He was one of a large family: Abe; then Bec, the one girl; then my father, Philip, called Phil but Phishel at home, from his Hebrew name, Feisal; then Jack, Harry, Sid, Dave and Louis. Their father was a tailor, one who earned too little, with all those mouths to feed, to be able to buy shoes for his children to wear to school. At 13 or 14 my father got a job ...
19 February 1987
The Market for Glory: Fleet Street Ownership in the 20th Century 
by Simon Jenkins.
Faber, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 571 14627 9
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The End of the Street 
by Linda Melvern.
Methuen, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 413 14640 5
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... the game (to be bent, broken and ignored) and the ferocity of the play remained the same. Roy Thomson, benign among proprietors, has come and gone, picking up a peerage in the process. So has Victor Matthews, moving from building-site to Fleet Street and out again in less than ten years. The free or cut-price offers of dictionaries and flower-pots in the 1930s have given way to bingo and cash prizes. As ...

Cadres

Eric Hobsbawm: Communism in Britain

26 April 2007
The Lost World of British Communism 
by Raphael Samuel.
Verso, 244 pp., £19.99, November 2006, 1 84467 103 8
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Communists and British Society 1920-91 
by Kevin Morgan, Gidon Cohen and Andrew Flinn.
Rivers Oram, 356 pp., £16.99, January 2007, 978 1 85489 145 7
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Bolshevism and the British Left, Part One: Labour Legends and Russian Gold 
by Kevin Morgan.
Lawrence and Wishart, 320 pp., £18.99, March 2007, 978 1 905007 25 7
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... the war was not as yet de-industrialisation but the rise of secondary employment and formal education, both forces de-proletarianising what had been an essentially working-class body. In the 1950s, Harry Pollitt could still veto the appointment of the middle-class former student George Matthews as his successor and insist on the worker John Gollan. Some twenty years later the industrial organisers of ...

When the Costume Comes Off

Adam Mars-Jones: Philip Hensher

14 April 2011
King of the Badgers 
by Philip Hensher.
Fourth Estate, 436 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 0 00 730133 1
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... who had no reason or every good reason to be there. The circumstances of China’s disappearance are likely to stir tabloid echoes in the reader’s mind, and before too long the name of Shannon Matthews will pop up – but Hensher is too wily to follow that case very closely, and enjoys laying a trail that combines real clues and pieces of misdirection. The trick of incorporating genre features into ...

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante

18 November 1982
Legacies: Selected Poems 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alastair Reid and Andrew Hurley.
Faber, 179 pp., £8.75, September 1982, 0 374 18472 0
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... and by any means from an island surrounded by barbed wire and infested with policemen. The rest of the article is Graham Greene chasing Fidel Castro all over Cuba, the way his Holly Martin pursued Harry Lime all over Vienna in The Third Man. He doesn’t know yet that his Caribbean hero is actually the villain of the piece. Greene writes about Celia Sanchez, a feminine factotum of Castro’s, and ...

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