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Gide’s Cuttlefish

John Bayley, 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 ...

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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... Henri Beyle 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 ...

I thought I saw Dante in Gonzagagasse

Jenny Diski: W.G. Sebald, 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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... Above all else we are concerned, in whatever form we let it take us, with memory. The idea of memory enables us to believe we can grasp the vanished past, historical or personal, and restructure its moments into a pattern that will give us in our continuing present, and them in the future, a coherent narrative of the time we have spent here ...

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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... There are​ so many Stendhals – art historian, music critic, travel writer, novelist, 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-Henri Beyle in 1783 ...

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 by before it was reprinted, and no publication – at least, none that I’m aware of – has taken any notice of the new Boydell Press edition ...

Let the cork out

John Bayley, 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 Henri Beyle, 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 ...

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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... 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 ...

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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... mon ami, the 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 ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... One of the great advantages of living on the offshore island otherwise describa ble 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 ...

Screaming in the Castle: The Case of Beatrice Cenci

Charles Nicholl: The story of Beatrice Cenci, 2 July 1998

... Beatrice Cenci was – to take a sample of soundbites over the centuries – a ‘goddess of beauty’, a ‘fallen angel’, a ‘most pure damsel’. She was also a convicted murderer. This is a charismatic combination, not least here in Italy, and her name has lived on, especially in Rome, where she was born and where she was executed in 1599 ...

The Meaninglessness of Meaning

Michael Wood, 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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... A diary, Roland Barthes suggested, provokes in its writer not the tragic question, ‘Who am I?’ but the comic question: ‘Am I?’ This elegant and amused remark 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 ...

Ravishing

Colm Tóin: 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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... Balzac’s​  Sarrasine tells the story of a young woman’s wonder at the strange appearance of an old man at a party in Paris. Balzac has tremendous fun describing the man. First his clothes: he is wearing ‘a white waistcoat embroidered with gold’ and ‘a shirt-frill of English lace, yellow with age, the magnificence of which a queen might have envied ...

Canetti and Power

John Bayley, 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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... 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 ...

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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... to have the feeling of entering a new world, to realise with sudden ecstasy that this was true being, where words and consciousness and the solitary self melted into one. ‘She gave me eyes, she gave me ears,’ wrote Wordsworth of his sister Dorothy. Virginia Woolf gave more than that: she gave, or seemed to give, the pure Private Life, quite separate ...

Republican King

Philippe Marlière: François Mitterrand, 16 April 2014

Mitterrand: A Study in Ambiguity 
byPhilip Short.
Bodley Head, 692 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84792 006 5
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... Mitterrand made history. On Antenne 2 – a state-run television channel – his face was broadcast to millions of French households. It took three seconds for the image to appear clearly, but it felt like an eternity. First, a bald head (which, at this stage, could have ...

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