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Still messing with our heads

Christopher Clark: Hitler in the Head, 7 November 2019

Hitler: A Life 
by Peter Longerich.
Oxford, 1324 pp., £30, July 2019, 978 0 19 879609 1
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Hitler: Only the World Was Enough 
by Brendan Simms.
Allen Lane, 668 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 1 84614 247 5
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... the distinction seems (at least to Knausgaard) impossible to deny. Hence the rage he directs at Ian Kershaw, the author of the classic English-language biography. Knausgaard accuses Kershaw of adopting a dismissive attitude towards the young Hitler, of failing to warm to the passion and innocence of his subject. This excessively ...

The Wizard of Finella

E.E. Duncan-Jones, 24 January 1985

Mansfield Forbes and his Cambridge 
by Hugh Carey.
Cambridge, 154 pp., £15, October 1984, 0 521 25680 1
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... book’ or a widely read one, or even the cult of a few. A pity, whether one takes the view of Ian Parsons that it is a literary, historical and bibliographical treasure-house or that of Maynard Keynes, not perhaps incompatible, that its highest quality is ‘a certain magnificent Sillyness, using the word in its ancient sense – admirable and attractive ...

On Thatcher

Karl Miller, 25 April 2013

... when there were plenty of people to stand by their woman. Those who wrote about her included Ian Gilmour, W.G. Runciman, Neal Ascherson, Christopher Hitchens, R.W. Johnson, Ross McKibbin, E.P. Thompson, Tam Dalyell and Peter Clarke. What they wrote seemed excellent to me, with Runciman bearing the palm for aphoristic conciseness. In embarking on a ...

Loot

Ian Buruma, 9 March 1995

The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War 
by Lynn Nicholas.
Macmillan, 498 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 333 62652 4
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... war. Nicholas writes that the director of the Tate, John Rothenstein, rushed to Paris with Kenneth Clark in 1944, expecting to find impoverished French collectors and dealers eager to sell pictures at bargain prices. Instead they found (in Clark’s words) ‘a sense of prosperity and social gaiety, which made London seem ...

Cracker Culture

Ian Jackman, 7 September 2000

Irish America 
by Reginald Byron.
Oxford, 317 pp., £40, November 1999, 0 19 823355 8
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Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past 
by Richard White.
Cork, 282 pp., IR£14.99, October 1999, 1 85918 232 1
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From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish 
by Eamon Wall.
Wisconsin, 139 pp., $16.95, February 2000, 0 299 16724 0
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The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America 
edited by Michael Glazier.
Notre Dame, 988 pp., £58.50, August 1999, 0 268 02755 2
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... say’ about Irish Americans ‘is both true and false’, the historian of Irish America Dennis Clark has warned. This isn’t helped by the fact that it has been notoriously difficult to follow the progress of Irish immigrants after their arrival in the United States. The census fails again here. People were not asked where they were born until 1850; only ...

I, Lowborn Cur

Colin Burrow: Literary Names, 22 November 2012

Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 283 pp., £19.99, September 2012, 978 0 19 959222 7
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... Hurricane Bird; Gaviota Oscura; Gaviota Monja; Oiseau Fou; Touaou. But when the keen birdwatcher Ian Fleming needed a name that sounded as ordinary as possible, he had to look no further than the title page of Bond’s great work. Why does the name of an actual ornithologist sound so right as the name of a fictional spy? Why couldn’t Fleming have used ...
Sleaze: Politicians, Private Interests and Public Reaction 
edited by F.F. Ridley and Alan Doig.
Oxford, 222 pp., £10.99, April 1996, 0 19 922273 8
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Changing Trains: The Autobiography of Steven Norris 
Hutchinson, 273 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 0 09 180212 1Show More
The Quango Debate 
edited by F.F. Ridley and David Wilson.
Oxford, 188 pp., £10.99, September 1995, 9780199222384
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... the Tory Party. A huge flow of paper about Hamilton and his paymaster/co-plaintiff, the lobbyist Ian Greer, emerged for the first time. The decisive revelation was a tape-recorded conversation between Hamilton and the First Secretary to the Treasury, Michael Heseltine, in which Hamilton denied any ‘financial relationship’ with ...

When the Mediterranean Was Blue

John Bayley, 23 March 1995

Cyril Connolly: A Nostalgic Life 
by Clive Fisher.
Macmillan, 304 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 333 57813 9
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... indeed, proved something of a false start and anti-climax to anyone who arrived there with what K. Clark (already ‘a polished hawk-god in obsidian’) called ‘the millstone of promise hung round his neck’. Sligger Urquhart, the Dean of Balliol, a famous figure memorably evoked in A Dance to the Music of Time, seems in fact to have been one of those ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... Mervyn Peake, living on ‘this desperate edge of now’, or the mercurial evanescence of a Jim Clark or a Joe Orton, counts for little in the scales of achievement when weighed against such elephantine stamina and titanic endurance. This book is, unashamedly, perhaps inevitably, a monument to the loneliness of the long-distance runner, rather than a paean ...

Staying Alive in the Ruins

Richard J. Evans: Plato to Nato, 22 April 2021

Ruin and Renewal: Civilising Europe after World War Two 
by Paul Betts.
Profile, 536 pp., £25, November 2020, 978 1 78816 109 1
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... and artistic sophistication. When, in his television series Civilisation (1969), Kenneth Clark asked himself, ‘What is civilisation?’, the answer was: ‘I don’t know … But I think that I can recognise it when I see it.’ What Clark recognised was very much the ‘Western Civ’ idea, stretching back to ...

Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack: Chapman Pincher’s Scoops, 5 June 2014

Dangerous to Know: A Life 
by Chapman Pincher.
Biteback, 386 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 84954 651 5
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... Amery; industrialists in the arms business such as Arnold Weinstock of General Electric and the Clark brothers, who ran Plessey together with ‘two splendid shooting estates’; the old airplane maker Sir Thomas Sopwith, who owned a lovely stretch of the Test but also a grouse moor, which introduced Pincher to grouse and in turn to Viscount Slim and Sir ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen, 6 April 1995

Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... to see the plausibility of Williams’s account. We need only call to mind a passage from Alan Clark’s diaries. Clark, himself a second generation fringe-Bloomsbury figure, priding himself on his ‘irreverence’, records two occasions on which he broke into tears. The first was when he shot a heron which had been ...

MacDiarmid and his Maker

Robert Crawford, 10 November 1988

MacDiarmid 
by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... without unnecessary gloating. Still, one can’t help feeling at times that, understandably, the Clark Kent figure of Grieve is lost among the chorus of Stalinist MacDiarmidian Supermen. At those moments one is grateful for quotations from Valda Grieve, the poet’s widow. Her remarks can sketch a ‘Christopher’ whose human scale counterpoints the ...

Enemies of Promise

Angus Calder, 2 March 1989

Breach of Promise: Labour in Power 1964-1970 
by Clive Ponting.
Hamish Hamilton, 433 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12683 5
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James Maxton 
by Gordon Brown.
Fontana, 336 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 00 637255 4
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Forward! Labour Politics in Scotland 1888-1988 
edited by Ian Donnachie, Christopher Harvie and Ian Wood.
Polygon, 184 pp., £19.50, January 1989, 0 7486 6001 1
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... Palace, the museum of labour history on Glasgow Green. A bronze bust of Willie Gallacher by Ian Walters was not so much unveiled as proclaimed. It sits at the top of the building, in the room where Ken Currie’s controversial Rivera-style murals of working-class history can be seen around the ceiling: but the speeches were made in the Winter Garden ...

His Own Sort of Outsider

Philip Clark: Tippett’s Knack, 16 July 2020

Michael Tippett: The Biography 
by Oliver Soden.
Weidenfeld, 750 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4746 0602 8
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... Tippett is refreshingly free of old prejudices and stale arguments. (The previous standard text, Ian Kemp’s Tippett: The Composer and His Music, was sketchy on biographical detail and appeared in 1984, when there were still ten years of Tippett’s creative life to come.) Soden admires the early music, but argues consistently that Tippett’s essence is ...

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