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‘Abu Nidal, Abu Shmidal’

Avi Shlaim, 9 May 1991

Israel’s Secret Wars: The Untold History of Israeli Intelligence 
by Ian Black and Benny Morris.
Hamish Hamilton, 603 pp., £20, February 1991, 0 241 12702 5
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... observers of the Israeli political scene who share a special interest in Israeli-Arab relations. Ian Black is the Guardian correspondent in Jerusalem and the author of Zionism and the Arabs. Benny Morris worked for the Jerusalem Post before it lurched to the right and is the author of the highly-acclaimed The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee ...

Black Electricities

John Sutherland, 30 October 1997

The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Vol. XXV: January-December 1850 
edited by Clyde de L. Ryals and K.J. Fielding.
Duke, 364 pp., £52, September 1997, 0 8223 1986 1
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by Thomas Carlyle, edited by K.J. Fielding and Ian Campbell.
Oxford, 481 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 0 19 281748 5
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... readers were not deluded). The abolitionists, McQuirk declared, had made of the West Indies ‘a black Ireland’ – with a population which was ‘free’ in name but degraded and destitute in condition. Not that the negroes, any more than the Irish, resented their degradation, so long as they had vegetables (potatoes or pumpkins) to keep the walls of ...


A. Craig Copetas: Yaaaggghhhh, 25 June 1992

... understandable given the current funeral atmosphere in England, but the psychic ramifications of Black Dogs are global in reach, and people we know are calling with questions. This is the reason the London Review has made contact, and why I’m sitting in a seedy hotel room in Uzbekistan writing about Black Dogs, instead ...

Three Poems

Ian Hamilton, 2 February 1984

... purple Than they were this time last year; The caverns of ‘your bridge’ Less brilliantly jet black than I remember them. Even from up here, though, I can tell It’s the same unfathomable prayer: If you were to look up now would you see Your moon-man swimming through the moonlit air? Colours Yes, I suppose you taught us something. That ...

Two Poems

Ian Hamilton, 19 April 2001

... not a scent Exactly, but on hot days or at night I do remember it As slightly burnt, or over-ripe: Black wheatfields, sulphur, skin. It’s noiseless too Although from time to time I think I’ve heard it Murmuring: a prayer Presumably, a promise or a plea. And no, It’s not at all substantial; that’s to say It’s substanceless, it’s not a thing That you ...

Europe or America?

Ian Gilmour, 7 November 2019

... struggled to reconcile the past she could not forget with the future she could not avoid’. Ian Gilmour reviewed the book in the ‘LRB’ of 10 December 1998. What he says seems apposite. The​ first political misjudgment was an almost universal overestimate of Britain’s postwar power and status. Nearly all the politicians and leading civil servants ...

Reluctant Psychopath

Colin MacCabe, 7 October 1993

My Idea of Fun 
by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 309 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 7475 1591 3
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... The photograph of the author on the jacket is warning enough. He is dressed all in black, poised as though ready to pounce; his eyes fix you through a cloud of smoke. The cigarette, which is positively belching fumes, is held at the precise angle guaranteed to cause the most severe nicotine staining of the fingers ...
... In different ways, most of Ian McEwan’s novels and stories are about trauma and contingency, and he is now best known as the great contemporary stager of traumatic contingency as it strikes ordinary lives. In The Child in Time, a child goes missing at a supermarket, and Stephen and Julie’s domestic existence is shattered; in Enduring Love, Clarissa and Joe witness the death of John Logan as he falls from a balloon, are changed for ever, and spend the rest of the novel trying to absorb the consequences of the spectacle; Black Dogs is in part about how Bernard Tremaine, a politician, scientist and rationalist, drifts away from his wife, June (and vice versa), because of what he deems her fanciful, emotional, overdetermined reading of the trauma that was meted out on her in 1946 by the black dogs of the title ...

Blowing It

Ian Hamilton, 6 March 1980

Breaking Ranks 
by Norman Podhoretz.
Weidenfeld, 385 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 297 77733 5
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... freeze froze even deeper. ‘But, but’ – and this with genuinely aghast reproach – ‘but, Ian, really, why? This little scene, or something very like it, was played out on at least three other occasions during my short visit. For me, the ‘why’ was clear enough. I knew Podhoretz somewhat, he was the editor of a literary/intellectual magazine ...

Ugly Stuff

Ian Hamilton, 15 October 1981

Beyond the Pale 
by William Trevor.
Bodley Head, 256 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 9780370304427
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The Black House 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 258 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 434 33518 5
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Lantern Lecture 
by Adam Mars-Jones.
Faber, 197 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 571 11813 5
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... short story is a form she ought to be restrained from dabbling in. Too many of the pieces in The Black House read like jottings for possible Patricia Highsmith novels: the childless professional couple who take in two geriatrics from the local Old Folks Home and find their lives gradually ‘taken over’; the group of bored New York socialites who resent ...

Plenty of Nothing

Ian Patterson, 29 June 2017

... sequence to watch them drive stout posts         bleak to look at into the dark ground the black lightless fen all about the aims of the whole bound in like a literary theory         snarled in rough cuts to earn a living to repudiate The hoover fades beneath a lethal march off this page         to another partiality from the air ...


Ian Hamilton: Wold Cup for Alexithymics, 15 July 1982

... goalkeeper learned his trade from the great German, Sepp Meier, and that is why he wears those black track-suit trousers. Meier gave them to him.’ Expert (chuckling): ‘I didn’t realise he was wearing track-suit trousers.’ The jester here was Ian St John, who from the very start has worn the air of a man who has ...

Half-Timbering, Homosexuality and Whingeing

Ian Sansom: Julian Barnes, 1 October 1998

England, England 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 272 pp., £15.99, September 1998, 0 224 05275 6
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... medical or clerical in its thoroughness, as if, rather than writing, Barnes was dispensing, from a black bag, or ministering from a sick-call set, prescribing lozenges or offering wafers. There is, for example, his anxious habit of indicating his theme in his opening sentences. Turning to page one of Talking It Over and reading that ‘My name is Stuart, and I ...

Real Questions

Ian Hamilton, 6 November 1986

Staring at the Sun 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 195 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 224 02414 0
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... his whole enterprise would have been seriously imperilled: This is what happened. On a calm, black night in June, 1941, Sergeant-Pilot Thomas Prosser was poaching over Northern France. His Hurricane 11B was black in its camouflage paint. Inside the cockpit, red light from the instrument panel fell softly on Prosser’s ...

Sexy Robots

Ian Patterson: ‘Machines Like Me’, 9 May 2019

Machines like Me 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 305 pp., £18.99, April 2019, 978 1 78733 166 2
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... a very short story by Diane Williams which came into my mind while I was reading Machines like Me, Ian McEwan’s 15th novel. It’s called ‘Machinery’ and it’s 104 words long. It ends: ‘For some idea of the full range of tools at his disposal, one would have to know what human longings are all about, a calm voice says calmly.’ McEwan has always been ...

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