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The Thing

Michael Wood: Versions of Proust

6 January 2005
In Search of Lost Time: Vol. I: The Way by Swann’s 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 496 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118031 5
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol.II: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by James Grieve.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118032 3
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. III: The Guermantes Way 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Mark Treharne.
Penguin, 640 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118033 1
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. IV: Sodom and Gomorrah 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by John Sturrock.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 9780141180342
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. V: ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘The Fugitive’ 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Carol Clark and Peter Collier.
Penguin, 720 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118035 8
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. VI: Finding Time Again 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Ian Patterson.
Penguin, 400 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118036 6
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The Proust Project 
edited by André Aciman.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., $25, November 2004, 0 374 23832 4
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... chez la Duchesse’, or ‘chez une femme’? The first two at least have to do with someone’s house or flat, but the third one, in context, refers to things a woman may have at home or be wearing. JamesGrieve’s ‘on or about a faithful wife’ seems both brave and helpless. To take a more powerful and significant example, how to translate ‘comme la souffrance va plus loin en psychologie que la ...

The Fug o’Fame

David Goldie: Hugh MacDiarmid’s letters

6 June 2002
New Selected Letters 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Dorian Grieve.
Carcanet, 572 pp., £39.95, August 2001, 1 85754 273 8
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... One day, in the early years of the 20th century, a poetically-minded young man from the Scottish borders called Christopher Murray Grieve walked to Ecclefechan, the birthplace of Thomas Carlyle. It wasn’t a long way, but his trek was a gesture of hero-worship to one of the greatest Scotsmen and largest egos of the previous century ...
10 November 1988
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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... Before 1922 Hugh MacDiarmid did not exist. And only Christopher Murray Grieve would have dared to invent him. Alan Bold’s valuable biography points out that when the 30-year-old Grieve began to write in the Scottish Chapbook under the pseudonym ‘M’Diarmid’, he was already editing the magazine under his own name, reviewing for it as ‘Martin Gillespie’, and employing ...

Grieve​ not, but try again

N.A.M. Rodger: Submarines

21 September 2016
The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 
by Peter Hennessy and James​ Jinks.
Allen Lane, 823 pp., £12.99, June 2016, 978 1 84614 580 3
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... means, contributed powerfully to the creation of what became the Nazi party. The inscription on the 1923 naval officers’ war memorial at Mürwik read: ‘Nicht klagen, noch einmal wagen’ (‘Grieve not, but try again’). In the 1930s, the German navy prepared to try again with a new submarine division, but the British continued to misunderstand its intentions. They knew how dangerous a weapon ...
5 April 1984
Whaur Extremes Meet: The Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid 1920-1934 
by Catherine Kerrigan.
James​ Thin, 245 pp., £12.50, June 1983, 0 901824 69 0
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Elemental Things: The Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid 
by Harvey Oxenhorn.
Edinburgh, 215 pp., £15, March 1984, 0 85224 475 4
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Aesthetics in Scotland 
by Hugh MacDiarmid and Alan Bold.
Mainstream, 100 pp., £6.95, February 1984, 0 906391 60 1
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Annals of the Five Senses 
by Hugh MacDiarmid and Alan Bold.
Polygon, 161 pp., £6.50, July 1983, 0 904919 74 9
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Hugh MacDiarmid: The Terrible Crystal 
by Alan Bold.
Routledge, 251 pp., £9.95, August 1983, 0 7100 9493 0
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Hugh MacDiarmid (C.M. Grieve) 
by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 143 pp., £3.25, September 1982, 0 7073 0307 9
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The Thistle Rises: An Anthology of Poetry and Prose by Hugh MacDiarmid 
edited by Alan Bold.
Hamish Hamilton, 463 pp., £12.95, February 1984, 0 241 11171 4
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A Scottish Poetry Book 
by Alan Bold, Bob Dewar, Iain McIntosh and Rodger McPhail.
Oxford, 128 pp., £4.95, July 1983, 0 19 916029 5
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Edinburgh and the Borders in Verse 
by Allan Massie.
Secker, 97 pp., £5.95, August 1983, 0 436 27348 9
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... work with a further volume – a possibility, one gathers, once she is ready with ‘the detailed explanation of references’ without which ‘it is spurious to discuss a long poem like In Memoriam James Joyce’. This sort of background work ought to be done and she seems well-equipped to do it. Harvey Oxenhorn’s book is of a different character. It is a critical assessment of the kind which used ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The International’, ‘Duplicity’

9 April 2009
The International 
directed by Tom Twyker.
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directed by Tony Gilroy.
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... is nothing spectral about the ubiquitous crashes and bangs, the insistent maiming and killing of persons, the wholesale destruction of posh cars and real estate. The spectre is sorrow. From Batman to James Bond, every hero is grieving, stricken by a loss from which he can’t recover, whether of parents, mistress, wife or daughter. He – it’s always a he, the women in these movies just get to be ...

Protests with Parasols

Michael Wood: Proust, Dreyfus, Israel

20 December 2012
Proust among the Nations: From Dreyfus to the Middle East 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Chicago, 239 pp., £22.50, February 2012, 978 0 226 72578 9
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... undoubtedly have picked up the whiff of the social outsider.And what a whiff. Rose notes that neither of the Proust translations we have goes for the literal translation of puant: ‘stinking’. JamesGrieve has ‘rank outsider’ where Scott Moncrieff has ‘pestilent’. It’s true that ‘rank’ is a fine choice if we pay attention to its meaning as something other than an intensifier. But ...


Ian Sansom

11 December 1997
The Bounty 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 78 pp., £14.99, July 1997, 0 571 19130 4
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... the vision of the Tourist Board and the true Paradise lies the desert where Isaiah’s elations force a rose from the sand. It’s a big, bold blowsy note to open on, and not at all untypical. James Merrill, a poet of some breeding and considerable refinement, once remarked, in his essay ‘On Literary Tradition’, that ‘it’s a bit snotty to nudge the reader too obviously with references to ...


John Lanchester: The Rise and Rise of Ian Rankin

27 April 2000
Set in Darkness 
by Ian Rankin.
Orion, 415 pp., £16.99, February 2000, 0 7528 2129 6
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... was an autobiographical novel ‘all about a teenage boy living in a Fife mining town and dreaming of escape to Edinburgh’. He gave it to his father, who read it, ‘and went back to his bookshelf: James Bond, Where Eagles Dare’. So Rankin gave James Kelman’s first book to his father. His sort of thing, I thought. Working-class working man against the system. Dad couldn’t read it. Said it wasn ...
6 December 1984
... give it in through a half-window in the passage to Mrs Colne. It was like my Pollocks Toy Theatre – Mrs Colne might be whirling and skipping from the dresser to the iron pots on the old Aga, Sam Grieve the keeper might be back from the woods with birds’ tail feathers as bright as an actress’s plumed hat. Bella at those times was at the sink, invisible in the gloom of the far side of the old ...


Michael Wood

22 February 1996
James​ Whale: A Biography 
by Mark Gatiss.
Cassell, 182 pp., £12.99, July 1995, 0 304 32861 8
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... does as Baron Frankenstein, you brought the house down, or at least the studio thought you did. There are minor touches in this movie, as in its sequel Bride of Frankenstein, both of them directed by James Whale, which are just mysterious. Why is Frankenstein, called Victor in most versions of this story, including Mary Shelley’s, here called Henry? Why is his friend called Victor? The bereaved ...


Frank Kermode

5 September 1985
Family and Friends 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 187 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 224 02337 3
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... five novels goes, Anita Brookner has one basic theme, which she varies with considerable and increasing technical resource. All five books are quite short, and all have some of the qualities of what James called the beautiful and blest nouvelle, since they are intensive in plot and on the whole refuse the temptation to broaden into novels. This limitation, if that is the right word, is not at all the ...


John Kerrigan: Lost Shakespeare

6 February 1986
... and should appear in any edition with pretentions to completeness. What surprised me about Taylor’s Brag was its making so little of the other ascribed poem in Rawlinson 160: the Epitaph on Elias James. As Leslie Hotson showed some years ago, Shakespeare had links with a brewer of that name during his sojourn near St Andrew by the Wardrobe. Doubtless the Oxford editors felt that a single unfamiliar ...

Short Cuts

Stephen Sedley: The Supreme Court’s Judgment

2 March 2017
... who had been brought up in exile as a Roman Catholic, succeeded his brother Charles II as king and became ex officio head of the Church of England. On any view this was going to be a problem, and James II as he now was, egged on by his theological advisers, made the worst of it. Among other unwise moves he declared the Test Acts, which barred Catholics and dissenters from public office, to be of no ...
15 September 1988
Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... flames provided by his mother, and went behind the scene to watch the crematorium workers sorting her ashes. In the present volume he has also to record the death of his wife: ‘People who cry and grieve never remember. I never grieve and never forget.’ So he remembers being inconsiderate towards his unsatisfactory father (‘unlucky, untrained and unsuccessful’) and says he understands why Dr ...

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