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Hypnotise Her

Thomas Jones: Axel Munthe’s exaggerations

29 January 2009
Axel Munthe: The Road to San Michele 
by Bengt Jangfeldt, translated by Harry Watson.
Tauris, 381 pp., £25, March 2008, 978 1 84511 720 7
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... in April 1891. In December 1892 she ‘asked him to be her doctor and her companion during her stay in Italy the following winter’. Their ‘union of souls’, as Jangfeldt (or his translator, HarryWatson) quaintly puts it, ‘took place in Venice in May 1893’. The relationship lasted until Victoria’s death in 1930, though it was severely strained during the First World War. Victoria, the ...

Red Stars

John Sutherland

6 December 1984
Wild Berries 
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Antonia Bovis.
Macmillan, 296 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 333 37559 9
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The Burn 
by Vassily Aksyonov, translated by Michael Glenny.
Hutchinson, 528 pp., £10.95, October 1984, 0 09 155580 9
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Fellow Travellers 
by T.C. Worsley.
Gay Men’s Press, 249 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 907040 51 9
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The Power of the Dog 
by Thomas Savage.
Chatto, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7011 3939 0
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The Fourth Protocol 
by Frederick Forsyth.
Hutchinson, 448 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 09 158630 5
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The Set-Up 
by Vladimir Volkoff, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Bodley Head, 397 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 370 30583 3
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... himself recollected in World within World. In 1933, the poet (in the novel a novelist) became friendly with an ex-guardsman, Tony Hyndman (called ‘Jimmy Younger’ in Spender’s autobiography, ‘HarryWatson’ by Worsley and ‘a secretary’ by Hugh Thomas in his history of the Spanish Civil War). The relationship went sour, Spender married, and Tony-Jimmy-Harry, fired by the doctrines he had ...
16 February 2017
Mayakovsky: A Biography 
by Bengt Jangfeldt, translated by Harry Watson.
Chicago, 616 pp., £26.50, January 2015, 978 0 226 05697 5
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Volodya: Selected Works 
by Vladimir Mayakovsky, edited by Rosy Carrick.
Enitharmon, 312 pp., £14.99, November 2015, 978 1 910392 16 4
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... When​ Vladimir Mayakovsky shot himself in 1930, some Soviet writers interpreted it as an act of protest: stifled by political censorship, he couldn’t go on. In the decades since, the suicide of the great poet of the Revolution has been seen as the Soviet Union’s point of no return. This is the view taken by the Swedish scholar Bengt Jangfeldt in this biography, the first significant non-Soviet ...

Diary

Katherine Arcement: Fanfic

7 March 2013
... and he can feel his nose start to run. The wood of the broomstick feels unnaturally hard beneath his hand. His throat feels tight. He jumps. My habit took hold in 2006, not long before the last Harry Potter and Twilight novels came out (in 2007 and 2008 respectively) and the year I got a laptop for Christmas. It was a relief no longer to have to make furtive use of the shared home computer. I’d ...

Launch the Icebergs!

Tim Lewens: Who Was Max Perutz?

15 November 2007
Max Perutz and the Secret of Life 
by Georgina Ferry.
Chatto, 352 pp., £25, July 2007, 978 0 7011 7695 2
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... was convinced enough of his own standing to ask Georgina Ferry to write his biography. But he also realised that few people knew what he was famous for. In spite of her book’s title, reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Ferry never suggests that Perutz was famous for discovering the secret of life. So what was his involvement in the discovery? What, for that matter, is the ...

Fancy Patter

Theo Tait: Holmes and the Holocaust

31 March 2005
The Final Solution 
by Michael Chabon.
Fourth Estate, 127 pp., £10, February 2005, 0 00 719602 4
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... had even hit the water. Holmes returned to London – via Florence, Tibet, Persia, Mecca, Khartoum and Montpellier (where he undertook a little research into coal-tar derivatives) – to surprise Dr Watson at his Paddington consulting rooms some years later, in the guise of an elderly bibliophile. By the time of Holmes’s resurrection in ‘The Empty House’ (1903), Arthur Conan Doyle heartily ...

Brief Encounters

Andrew O’Hagan: Gielgud and Redgrave

5 August 2004
Gielgud's Letters 
edited by Richard Mangan.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 297 82989 0
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Secret Dreams: A Biography of Michael Redgrave 
by Alan Strachan.
Weidenfeld, 484 pp., £25, April 2004, 0 297 60764 2
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... Tony Hyndman, also a lover of Stephen Spender’s (who calls him Jimmy Younger in World within World) and a character in T.C. Worseley’s autobiographical novel Fellow Travellers (Worseley calls him HarryWatson). But Strachan’s intention is always to give Redgrave the benefit of his own doubts: For part of that time the dutiful son, adoring husband and doting father was still involved in his ...
21 February 1980
The Children’s Book of Comic Verse 
edited by Christopher Logue.
Batsford, 160 pp., £3.95, March 1980, 0 7134 1528 2
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The Children’s Book of Funny Verse 
edited by Julia Watson.
Faber, 127 pp., £3.95, September 1980, 0 571 11467 9
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Bagthorpes v. the World 
by Helen Cresswell.
Faber, 192 pp., £4.50, September 1980, 0 571 11446 6
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The Robbers 
by Nina Bawden.
Gollancz, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1980, 0 575 02695 2
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... putting nettles in your grandma’s bed. There is also (chosen by Christopher Logue) the ‘musical student from Sparta [who] was a truly magnificent farter’. Beyond him he does not venture. Julia Watson stops with the old man of Blackheath who sat on his set of false teeth. Calamity and the gruesome, the crude and the slapstick, are given a suitable amount of space, and Harry Graham is perhaps ...

One Chapter More

Leah Price: Ectoplasm

6 July 2000
Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle 
by Daniel Stashower.
Penguin, 472 pp., £18.99, February 2000, 0 7139 9373 1
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... Conan Doyle. His book’s most compelling character turns out to be not Sir Arthur (who comes across as a Watsonian gentleman more distinguished for decency than for brains) but his sometime friend Harry Houdini. Remembered today as an escape artist who was one of the first Hollywood stuntmen, Houdini was equally well known during his lifetime for his campaign against spiritualism. Houdini’s ...
25 April 1991
... Dell. Greene’s literary use of Catholicism will hardly stand up to comparison with that of his contemporaries over the Channel – Claudel, Bernanos or Mauriac. Everyone loves a whisky priest or a Harry Lime: indeed, everyone loves just the kind of character whom Greene was good at creating – the seedy modernised Byronic hero, whose braised integrity and solitary virtue come out on top, or whose ...
20 October 1994
Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me 
by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey.
Century, 468 pp., £17.99, September 1994, 0 7126 6012 7
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Greta & Cecil 
by Diana Souhami.
Cape, 272 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 224 03719 6
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... 14 million for two and a half weeks’ work on Superman needs money is, I suppose, merely to display a failure of imagination. But there was, after all, a selfless, literary motive behind it all: Harry Evans of Random House told Brando ‘that if his company published a book about a movie star, the profits would enable him to publish books by talented unpublished authors that might not make money ...

Diary

Rose George: In Dewsbury

17 November 2005
... the ring-road, with its Shoddy & Mungo painted sign along the brickwork. The council bought it for a pittance, ‘because everyone just saw the mills as places of drudgery,’ says Margaret Watson, the deputy editor of the Dewsbury Reporter, and the child and niece of mill-workers. ‘They were blackened, ugly – who wanted them?’ Bed manufacturers and businessmen, mostly. Stephen Battye, a ...

So Many Handbags, So Little Time

Andrew O’Hagan: The Bling Ring

20 June 2013
The Bling Ring 
by Nancy Jo Sales.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £7.99, May 2013, 978 0 00 751822 7
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... the correctional facility. ‘Oh, I’m sure,’ Alexis said, ‘just as I was … I would have girls come up to my cell door and just stare at me.’ Cut to the present day and you’ll find Emma Watson from Harry Potter playing our main girl in the movie, while back in the territory west of the Ventura Freeway, Alexis has just had a baby. The baby is called Harper, not after Harper Lee, but after ...

Falling in love with Lucian

Colm Tóibín: Lucian Freud’s Outer Being

10 October 2019
The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth, 1922-68 
by William Feaver.
Bloomsbury, 680 pp., £35, September, 978 1 4088 5093 0
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... in a cottage in Wales when Freud was 18 and produced a little book of drawings and poems together. (Years later, Freud cut the Spender poems out of the book, ‘deeming them superfluous’.) Peter Watson, who funded Horizon, also began to enjoy Freud’s company. ‘He helped me very much, looked at my pictures and bought things and gave me money and books,’ Freud said. ‘He had pictures that I ...

Long Live Aporia!

Hal Foster: William Gaddis

24 July 2003
Agapē Agape 
by William Gaddis.
Atlantic, 113 pp., £9.99, January 2003, 1 903809 83 5
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The Rush for Second Place: Essays and Occasional Writings 
by William Gaddis, edited by Joseph Tabbi.
Penguin, 182 pp., $14, October 2002, 0 14 200238 0
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... industry), Woolworth (merchandising), Eastman (photography), Morgan (credit), Ford (assembly line, plant police), Pullman (model town), Mary Baker Eddy (applied ontology), Taylor (time studies), Watson (behaviourism), Sanger (sex) etc, etc.’ Clearly Gaddis is concerned less with mechanisation per se than with the ‘more pervasive principle of organisation’ which continues to govern ...

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