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Cuba Down at Heel

Laurence Whitehead, 8 June 1995

The Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Documents 
Brassey (US), 376 pp., £15.95, March 1994, 9780028810836Show More
The Cuban Revolution: Origin, Course and Legacy 
by Marifeli Pérez-Stable.
Oxford, 252 pp., £16.95, April 1994, 0 19 508406 3
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Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis and the Soviet Collapse 
by James Blight, Bruce Allyn and David Welch.
Pantheon, 509 pp., $27.50, November 1993, 0 679 42149 1
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Castro’s Final Hour: The Secret Story Behind the Coming Downfall of Communist Cuba 
by Andrés Oppenheimer.
Simon and Schuster, 474 pp., $25, July 1992, 0 671 72873 3
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Revolution in the Balance: Law and Society in Contemporary Cuba 
by Debra Evenson.
Westview, 235 pp., £48.50, June 1994, 0 8133 8466 4
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The Problem of Democracy in Cuba: Between Vision and Reality 
by Carollee Bengelsdorf.
Oxford, 238 pp., £32.50, July 1994, 0 19 505826 7
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Back from the Future: Cuba under Castro 
by Susan Eva Eckstein.
Princeton, 286 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 691 03445 1
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Fidel Castro 
by Robert Quirk.
Norton, 898 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 393 03485 2
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Healing the Masses: Cuban Health Politics at Home and Abroad 
by Julie Feinsilver.
California, 307 pp., £35, November 1993, 0 520 08218 4
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Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution 
by Thomas Paterson.
Oxford, 364 pp., £22.50, July 1994, 0 19 508630 9
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... Even after 35 years, the simplest questions about Cuban politics remain almost beyond the reach of objective analysis. Is the Castro regime a tyranny which can only perpetuate itself by resort to repression, as the Cuban-American community in Miami and elsewhere insists? Or does it persist, despite the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the deepening economic crisis, essentially because it incarnates a national identity struggling for survival against the engulfing pressure of US political, economic and cultural expansionism? Is the regime doomed to collapse, with only the ruthlessness of the Jefe Máximo to delay the inevitable? Or has it so transformed Cuban society that the next generation are bound to construct their future largely on the foundations laid down by the Revolution? In 1962, we now learn from The Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Documents, the CIA answered such questions in the following terms: The Castro regime retains the positive support of about 20 per cent of the population, but dissent is increasing ...

Our Jack

Julian Symons, 22 July 1993

Imagination of the Heart: The Life of Walter de la Mare 
by Theresa Whistler.
Duckworth, 478 pp., £25, May 1993, 9780715624302
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... persistent Mary Bracegirdle which contemporary poets he likes best. The reply comes instantly: ‘Blight, Mildew and Smut’. Mary is taken aback, disbelieving, tries desperately to change what she has heard. Perhaps Denis had really said: ‘Squire, Binyon and Shanks’, ‘Childe, Blunden and Earp’, even ‘Abercrombie, Drink-water and Rabindranath ...

White Lies

James Campbell: Nella Larsen, 5 October 2006

In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Colour Line 
by George Hutchinson.
Harvard, 611 pp., £25.95, June 2006, 0 674 02180 0
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... she said. “I thought maybe you were just another wop or something.”’ Twenty years earlier, James Weldon Johnson, a black man who served as American consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua during the Theodore Roosevelt and William H. Taft administrations, opened his novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) with the sentence: ‘I know that in ...

Erasures

Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine, 30 July 1998

... on Irish radio in 1995 and published in The Great Irish Famine: The Thomas Davis Lecture Series, James Donnelly remarked thatthroughout the rest of the Famine years, the Gregory clause or ‘Gregoryism’ became a byword for the worst miseries of the disaster – eviction, exile, disease and death. When in 1874 Canon John O’Rourke, the parish priest of ...

Tales from the Bunker

Christopher Hitchens, 10 October 1991

... thing, its greens and fairways provide the only remaining enclosed parkland in a city where urban blight is an increasing problem. For another, its caddies are young and competitive and hire themselves out on a basis of keen but friendly rivalry. My own selection of Hassan, a lad of no more than twelve summers, proved especially fortunate. After judicious ...

Under threat

Frank Kermode, 21 June 1984

Tributes: Interpreters of our Cultural Tradition 
by E.H. Gombrich.
Phaidon, 270 pp., £17.50, April 1984, 0 7148 2338 4
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... dialectic relativism and metaphysical optimism – all un-Popperian and all certain to blight thinking about the relation of the arts to the times. The tribute to Hegel accordingly ends with the remark that although we cannot deny the critic his prejudices and his dreams of the future, he has, theoretically, no right ‘to operate with the slogans ...

Our Founder

John Bayley: Papa Joyce, 19 February 1998

John Stanislaus Joyce: The Voluminous Life and Genius of James Joyce’s Father 
by John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello.
Fourth Estate, 493 pp., £20, October 1997, 1 85702 417 6
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... see the case of Shakespeare as of some significance here. Had Shakespeare been an Irishman, which James Joyce in some of his most felicitous moments liked to imagine him, he would not be the Shakespeare we know. For one thing he would have been the founder not of a worldwide empire but of a potent personal mythology. As Coleridge long ago pointed out, it was ...

Squealing

Ian Buruma, 13 May 1993

Gower: The Autobiography 
by David Gower and Martin Johnson.
Collins Willow, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 00 218413 3
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... for hard cash!’ For a real dose of cultural pessimism, however, one should turn to C.L.R. James, the Marxist writer from Trinidad. In his masterful book Beyond a Boundary, he sets the rot of English cricket in 1932, with Douglas Jardine’s (remember Heffer’s ‘touch of the Jardines’) Bodyline tour of Australia. To recapitulate very briefly, Mr ...

Duas Cervejas

James C. Scott: Ford’s Utopia, 8 October 2009

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City 
by Greg Grandin.
Metropolitan, 416 pp., $27.50, June 2009, 978 0 8050 8236 4
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... about to reach a critical level: leafhoppers, white flies, various caterpillars, red mites, leaf blight and fungi crippled and killed many of the trees. Expensive fumigation followed; in the end, the company was reduced to picking insects off the trees by hand. The search for pest-resistant stock was renewed, but it turned out that the most resistant trees ...

A Novel without a Hero

Christopher Ricks, 6 December 1979

The Mangan Inheritance 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 336 pp., £5.50
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... off from New York to Ireland to find out whether or not he is the great-great-grandson of the poet James Clarence Mangan. Jamie’s father had once halfheartedly tried this, but he wasn’t prey to a sufficiently insatiable hunger for the quest. But then it is Jamie, not his father, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the man in an heirloom daguerrotype which ...

Gorgon in Furs

D.D. Guttenplan: Paula Fox, 12 December 2002

Borrowed Finery: A Memoir 
by Paula Fox.
Flamingo, 256 pp., £12, August 2002, 0 00 713724 9
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... there were few birds, and poison ivy and Virginia creeper flourished in the acid earth. The elm blight had destroyed those trees not already harmed by frequent droughts. Elm blight is the least of it. The Bentwoods’ farmhouse has been broken into and vandalised – lamps shattered, paintings defaced, clothes cut with ...

It’s the plunge that counts

Heathcote Williams: Waterlog by Roger Deakin, 19 August 1999

Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain 
by Roger Deakin.
Chatto, 320 pp., £15.99, May 1999, 0 7011 6652 5
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... streams and seashores of these islands, instead of the motorways, car-parks and Little Chefs that blight the instincts of the traveller who is eager to commune with what is left of raw nature. ‘In the night sea at Walberswick,’ Deakin observes, ‘I have seen bodies fiery with phosphorescent plankton striking through neon waves like dragons.’ The more ...

Great Thoughts

E.S. Turner, 7 May 1981

The Macmillan Treasury of Relevant Quotations 
edited by Edward Murphy.
Macmillan, 658 pp., £3.95, August 1980, 0 333 30038 6
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... to find unhackneyed passages. Indeed, the search for the unhackneyed has cast something of a blight over the book. Though some very civil views are expressed about the Bible there is nothing from that work itself. Shakespeare has four or five indifferent lines. Keats is represented by his prose and an obscurely naughty joke he is said to have passed on ...

Diary

Clive James, 18 March 1982

... Stalin’s last acolyte And faithful killer gently from the stage. The mental stature of potato blight Left him unchallenged as the Party sage: The perfect man to make sure Ideology Maintained its power to torture by tautology. They bury Suslov in the Kremlin wall: A tribute to his cranial rigidity. Propped up like that the bricks will never ...

Hm, hm and that was all

Rosemary Hill: Queen Mary, 6 December 2018

The Quest for Queen Mary 
by James Pope-Hennessy, edited by Hugo Vickers.
Zuleika, 335 pp., £25, September 2018, 978 1 9997770 3 6
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... their friends, to say that someone ‘sat there like Queen Mary’ was to indicate that a terminal blight had been cast over the occasion. James Pope-Hennessy, born in 1916, belonged to that generation. He came from a distinguished Catholic and literary family and was a friend of many of his most interesting ...

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