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17 February 2000
The Charterhouse of Parma 
byHenri B. Stendhal, translated byRichard Howard.
Modern Library, 688 pp., £20.95, January 1999, 0 679 60245 3
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... The best thing on Stendhal in English is an essay by Lytton Strachey in which he remarks the way the author denovelises the novel while skilfully retaining all its traditional apparatus. Stendhal’s imagination is a kind of parody of Scott’s: his sensibility is itself its own journal and his own memoir. Reviewing Stendhal’s last book, The Charterhouse of Parma, when it appeared in 1839 ...

Englishing Ourselves

F.W.J. Hemmings

18 December 1980
Stendhal 
byRobert Alter.
Allen and Unwin, 285 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 04 928042 2
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... HenriBeyle was born in what could reasonably count as Year I of the modern era, since it was then, in 1783, that the independence of the United States was formally recognised by the European powers. Stendhal made his appearance 34 years later, when a travel guide to Italy was published in Paris as the work of ‘M. de Stendhal, officier de cavalerie’. Had that pseudonymous cavalry officer, Beyle in ...
3 February 2000
Vertigo 
byW.G. Sebald, translated byMichael Hulse.
Harvill, 263 pp., £16.99, December 1999, 1 86046 623 0
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... of our desire not to get lost in eternity, to hang onto the brief fact of life. Attempting to prolong our stay on the planet through physical survival and reproduction (and their refinements) may be the main priority, but recording our time here is pretty much what we do with our considerable spare brain capacity. Well, we have to do something with it, and it passes the time that would have ...

Lucky Lucien

Stephen Vizinczey

20 February 1986
Lucien Leuwen 
byStendhal, translated byH.L.R. Edwards.
Boydell and Brewer, 624 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 85115 228 7
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... In his preface to The White Devil Webster speaks of ‘those ignorant asses who visiting stationers’ shops, their use is not to inquire for good books but new books’. I’m reminded of Webster by the fact that one of Stendhal’s great novels was not translated into English until 1951, 33 years had to go bybefore it was reprinted, and no publication – at least, none that I’m aware of ...

A Pair of Yellow Gloves

Tim Parks: Stendhal’s ‘Italian Chronicles’

18 October 2017
Italian Chronicles 
byStendhal, translated byRaymond MacKenzie.
Minnesota, 344 pp., £20.99, May 2017, 978 1 5179 0011 3
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... political pundit, opera buff, soldier, bureaucrat, diplomat, sparkling conversationalist and incorrigible womaniser – that the reader may despair of conceiving any overall project undertaken by the man baptised Marie-HenriBeyle in 1783. Aside from ‘Stendhal’ there were scores of pseudonyms, any number of unfinished writings and thousands of letters and journal pages in which Beyle ...

Extenuating Circumstances

Adam Phillips: Paul Steinberg

19 July 2001
Speak You Also: A Survivor’s Reckoning 
byPaul Steinberg, translated byLinda Coverdale.
Allen Lane, 176 pp., £9.99, May 2001, 0 7139 9540 8
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... to formulate new accusations … rather, to furnish documentation for a quiet study of certain aspects of the human mind’ – there is an account that is a kind of accusation of a man Levi calls Henri. There are several character sketches of his fellow inmates, but the two pages on Henri are unusually troubled. Levi tends to know what he thinks of the people he remembers, but something about Henri ...
26 October 1989
Foucault’s Pendulum 
byUmberto Eco, translated byWilliam Weaver.
Secker, 641 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 436 14096 9
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The Open Work 
byUmberto Eco, translated byAnna Cancogni.
Radius, 285 pp., £9.95, October 1989, 0 09 175896 3
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... Stendhal, or Lieutenant HenriBeyle, as he then was, irritated his shivering companions round the campfire on the retreat from Moscow by chuckling aloud over a tattered copy of Voltaire’s Diatribe of Dr Akakia. But laughing at human folly is more often a comfortable activity reserved for the study and the reading-room. At one moment ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett

7 November 1985
... One of the great advantages of living on the offshore island otherwise describable as the landmass of Europe and Asia is that by so doing one may avoid all direct contact with the English literary establishment, which I have nonetheless managed to enter with the publication of a novel called Wales’ Work.1 In Paris, where I ...
9 October 1986
The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962-1980 
byRoland Barthes, translated byLinda Coverdale.
Cape, 368 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 224 02302 0
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Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology 
byRoland Barthes, translated byAnnette Lavers and Colin Smith.
Cape, 172 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 224 02267 9
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The Fashion System 
byRoland Barthes, translated byMatthew Ward and Richard Howard.
Cape, 303 pp., £15, March 1985, 0 224 02984 3
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The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art and Representation 
byRoland Barthes, translated byRichard Howard.
Blackwell, 312 pp., £19.50, January 1986, 0 631 14746 2
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The Rustle of Language 
byRoland Barthes, translated byRichard Howard.
Blackwell, 373 pp., £27.50, May 1986, 0 631 14864 7
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A Barthes Reader 
edited bySusan Sontag.
Cape, 495 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 224 02946 0
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Barthes: Selected Writings 
edited bySusan Sontag.
Fontana, 495 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 00 636645 7
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Roland Barthes: A Conservative Estimate 
byPhilip Thody.
University of Chicago Press, 203 pp., £6.75, February 1984, 0 226 79513 6
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Roland Barthes: Structuralism and After 
byAnnette Lavers.
Methuen, 300 pp., £16.95, September 1982, 0 416 72380 2
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Barthes 
byJonathan Culler.
Fontana, 128 pp., £1.95, February 1983, 0 00 635974 4
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... goes some way towards explaining why Barthes, who reflected much on his life and published a book called Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, should not have kept a diary. The comic question can’t be confronted, it can only be circumvented, played with, smiled at. Of course, if you didn’t think it was funny, or if you were sure of the answer, you could keep a diary: but you wouldn’t be ...

Ravishing

Colm Tóibín: Sex Lives of the Castrati

7 October 2015
The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds 
byMartha Feldman.
California, 454 pp., £40, March 2015, 978 0 520 27949 0
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Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage and Music in the Life of Atto Melani 
byRoger Freitas.
Cambridge, 452 pp., £22.99, May 2014, 978 1 107 69610 5
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... death’s head’. The smell he exuded added to the sport; it was ‘a musk-like odour of the old dresses which a duchess’s heirs exhume from her wardrobe during the inventory’. Who could the man be? The story cuts to an earlier time when the sculptor Sarrasine, who had gone to live in Italy in 1758, fell in love with a singer, La Zambinella, who is described in as much luscious detail as the ...

Screaming in the Castle: The Case of Beatrice Cenci

Charles Nicholl: The story of Beatrice Cenci

2 July 1998
... of popular sympathy. There have been many literary treatments of the story, the most famous of which is Shelley’s verse-drama, The Cenci, written in 1819. Other writers drawn to the subject include Stendhal, Dickens, Artaud and Alberto Moravia. The appeal of the story is partly lurid – a pungent mix of Renaissance sex and violence; a sense of dark deeds behind the closed doors of a prominent Roman ...

One Herring in a Shoal

John Sturrock: Raymond Queneau

8 May 2003
Oeuvres complètes: Tome II: Romans I 
byRaymond Queneau, edited byHenri​ Godard.
Gallimard, 1760 pp., €68, April 2002, 2 07 011439 2
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... last of the eight novels laid end to end in this life-enhancing volume, the footling but resilient Pierrot works on and off at a fairground, where his job description includes steering teenage girls by hand past a jet of air that wraps their skirts around their thighs. Low-tech as sideshows go no doubt, but it helps to sustain the morale of the laddish tendency at the Palace de la Rigolade, or ...
17 December 1981
Auto da Fé 
byElias Canetti, translated byC.V. Wedgwood.
Cape, 464 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 224 00568 5
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The Tongue Set Free: Remembrance of a European Childhood 
byElias Canetti, translated byJoachim Neugroschel.
Continuum, 268 pp., $12.95, June 1979, 0 8164 9103 8
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The Human Province 
byElias Canetti, translated byJoachim Neugroschel.
Continuum, 281 pp., $12.95, June 1978, 0 8164 9335 9
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Crowds and Power 
byElias Canetti, translated byCarol Stewart.
Penguin, 575 pp., £2.95, October 1978, 0 14 003616 4
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Kafka’s Other Trial: The Letters to Felice 
byElias Canetti, translated byChristopher Middleton.
Marion Boyars, 121 pp., £5.95, October 1976, 0 7145 1136 6
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The Voices of Marrakesh: A Record of a Visit 
byElias Canetti, translated byJ.A. Underwood.
Marion Boyars, 103 pp., £5.50, January 1978, 0 7145 2579 0
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The Conscience of Words 
byElias Canetti, translated byJoachim Neugroschel.
Continuum, 246 pp., $12.95, May 1979, 0 8164 9334 0
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... Henry James writes of a very grand lady that she had ‘an air of keeping, at every moment, every advantage’. Paradoxically, the same would be true of the literary personality of Elias Canetti. Behind its approachable modesty, its avoidance of every publicity and image-making process, there is a loftiness, an assurance, a stance of absolute ...

Superchild

John Bayley

6 September 1984
The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited byAnne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
byAngelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... a free-floating poetic awareness, an otherness wholly and excitingly up-to-date. Such at least was the experience of many young persons in the years following her death; and such still seems to be the experience of young readers who discover her today. But there is something wrong, very wrong, somewhere: there is contradiction at the heart of it all. Her Diary shows what it is. For its appeal ...

Diary

Perry Anderson: Forget about Paris

23 January 2014
... Absolutism and the Revolution that followed it. In modern times, its element of truth lies in the exceptional position of Paris as political and intellectual centre of the nation, a position occupied by no other city in a European society of comparable size. Madrid, Rome, Berlin may be capitals, but to their rank as seats of government corresponds no such predominance in culture, where Barcelona ...

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