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Tea-Leafing

Duncan Campbell, 19 October 1995

The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... choose to call his book The Autobiography of a Thief ? It was, he says, a bit of homage to Jean Genet. The Thief’s Journal was being translated into English just as Bruce and Buster and Charlie were driving £2,631,684 in mail bags to Leather-slade Farm on 8 August 1963, with Tony Bennett singing ‘The Good Life’ on the radio. When Buster ...

Going Against

Frank Kermode: Is There a Late Style?, 5 October 2006

On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain 
by Edward Said.
Bloomsbury, 176 pp., £16.99, April 2006, 9780747583653
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Late Thoughts: Reflections on Artists and Composers at Work 
edited by Karen Painter and Thomas Crow.
Getty, 235 pp., $40, August 2006, 0 89236 813 6
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... or palliative scheme’, which makes it sound more like King Lear. The rest of the book is about Jean Genet, Lampedusa (and also Visconti’s film of The Leopard), Britten’s Death in Venice (and Thomas Mann’s novella): all cases in which it is easy enough for interpreters to discover or insert some version of lateness. There is nothing mechanical or ...

Bitch Nation

Musab Younis: ‘Sex, France and Arab Men’, 7 February 2019

Sex, France and Arab Men 
by Todd Shepard.
Chicago, 317 pp., £37.50, February 2019, 978 0 226 49327 5
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... Algerians I might not have been in favour of the FLN’ (the Algerian National Liberation Front), Jean Genet told Playboy in 1968. His remark became a rallying cry. In 1971, Tout!, then France’s most popular leftist periodical, published a manifesto under the heading ‘We have been buggered by Arabs.’ The signatories – ‘more than 343 ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... best book to date is Difficult Women, an unflattering account of his friendship with Sonia Orwell, Jean Rhys and Germaine Greer. He won’t be winning first prize for dignity, but he tells it pretty much like it was – and like he was, you imagine. But discretion is never his first instinct. As for Stephen himself, I sometimes wonder if he wants me to write ...

Jean-Paul

Alan Hollinghurst, 19 November 1981

Gemini 
by Michel Tournier, translated by Anne Carter.
Collins, 452 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 00 221448 2
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The Death of Men 
by Allan Massie.
Bodley Head, 249 pp., £6.50, October 1981, 0 370 30339 3
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Tar Baby 
by Toni Morrison.
Chatto, 309 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7011 2596 9
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... The Erl King. All his publishers have managed to come up with is an ambiguous commendation from Genet: ‘An exceptional, incomparable novel’. Le Roi des Aulnes is the only novel to have won the Prix Goncourt by unanimous decision, but Les Météores has enjoyed less acclaim, and it is not hard to see why: it is the work of a mind expanding under the ...

Not in the Mood

Adam Shatz: Derrida’s Secrets, 22 November 2012

Derrida: A Biography 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Andrew Brown.
Polity, 629 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 0 7456 5615 1
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... sense of his writing. Derrida’s thesis on Husserl revealed him to be, in the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s words, ‘fully armed and helmeted, like Athena’. All he lacked was ‘a certain youth, with its playfulness’. As a student he had frequent bouts of anxiety and depression. ‘I’m no good for anything except taking the world apart and ...

Wolfish

John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

Publisher 
by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... century, Maschler is English but not quite English enough. Like Anthony Blond, the publisher of Jean Genet and Harold Robbins, he is ‘A Jew Made in England’, as the title of Blond’s memoir had it. The outline of Maschler’s career also recalls that of John Calder, whose memoir, Pursuit, was published in 2001, to another general kicking. Born in ...
Bowie 
by Jerry Hopkins.
Elm Tree, 275 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 241 11548 5
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Alias David Bowie 
by Peter Gillman and Leni Gillman.
Hodder, 511 pp., £16.95, September 1986, 0 340 36806 3
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... dance, quoting older songs – ‘Look at that caveman go!’ – in a funny voice, giving ‘Jean Genie’ a smell of Jean Genet, chanting to a jolly tune: ‘All your nightmares came today, and it looks as if they’re here to stay!’ His movies, photographs and record covers are as decadent, ghostly and ...

It’s she, it’s she, it’s she

Joanna Biggs: Americans in Paris, 2 August 2012

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 289 pp., £17, May 2012, 978 0 226 42438 5
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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-80 
by Susan Sontag.
Hamish Hamilton, 544 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 241 14517 3
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... bohemia’, who worked for the Herald Tribune, and who some say was the inspiration for the Jean Seberg role in A bout de souffle. Sontag would write ecstatically of Sohmers – ‘It’s she, it’s she, it’s she’ – but they also gave each other bruises and pushed each other to tears. (When things got really bad, Sontag copied sentences from ...

Olallieberries

Stephanie Burt: D.A. Powell’s poems, 24 September 2009

Chronic: Poems 
by D.A. Powell.
Graywolf, 79 pp., $20, February 2009, 978 1 55597 516 6
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... and mourning and ecstasy and regret, all arrive together in Powell’s poems, as in the prose of Jean Genet, and it is a persistent, over-civilised folly to think that we can sort them out. Nor can we separate youth from maturity (the crematorium will always be close to the high school). The supposed stages of life (rebellious adolescence, committed ...

Diary

Edward Said: My Encounter with Sartre, 1 June 2000

... Once the most celebrated intellectual, Jean-Paul Sartre had, until quite recently, almost faded from view. He was already being attacked for his ‘blindness’ about the Soviet gulags shortly after his death in 1980, and even his humanist Existentialism was ridiculed for its optimism, voluntarism and sheer energetic reach ...

The Adulteress Wife

Toril Moi: Beauvoir Misrepresented, 11 February 2010

The Second Sex 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Constance Borde, translated by Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.
Cape, 822 pp., £30, November 2009, 978 0 224 07859 7
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... 38. She had just finished The Ethics of Ambiguity, and was wondering what to write next. Urged by Jean Genet, she went to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, on show for the first time after the war. Citizen Kane was also being shown in Paris for the first time, and Beauvoir was impressed: Orson Welles had revolutionised cinema. Politics was not an ...

One day I’ll tell you what I think

Adam Shatz: Sartre in Cairo, 22 November 2018

No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre and Decolonisation 
by Yoav Di-Capua.
Chicago, 355 pp., £26, March 2018, 978 0 226 50350 9
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The Stillborn: Notebooks of a Woman from the Student-Movement Generation in Egypt 
by Arwa Salih, translated by Samah Selim.
Seagull, 163 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 0 85742 483 9
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... In the spring​ of 1961, Frantz Fanon wrote to his publisher in Paris to suggest that he ask Jean-Paul Sartre for a preface to his anti-colonial manifesto, The Wretched of the Earth. ‘Tell him that every time I sit down at my desk, I think of him.’ For revolutionary intellectuals in the Third World, Sartre seemed miraculously uncontaminated by the paternalism – and hypocrisy – that gave the white left such a bad reputation ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... he befriended a thief called Benny Barnett, who taught him to steal cars and introduced him to Jean Lucinda Johnson, a precocious 16-year-old whose ‘skin was the warm reddish brown of a perfectly roasted turkey breast the moment it comes from the oven’. She would become his first wife. Himes quit college at 17, and began to pack a .44 calibre ...

What else can I do?

Sissela Bok, 1 September 1988

Sartre: A Life 
by Annie Cohen-Solal, translated by Anna Cancogni.
Heinemann, 591 pp., £17.95, October 1987, 0 434 14020 1
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Writing against: A Biography of Sartre 
by Ronald Hayman.
Weidenfeld, 487 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 297 79002 1
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Sartre: Romantic Rationalist 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 158 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 7011 3095 4
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... his Critique of Pure Reason as encompassing all the interests of his reason, were also those which Jean-Paul Sartre pursued throughout his life, however different he intended his answers to be from those of Kant. Few thinkers in our time have pressed these questions with Sartre’s perseverence and imagination: but his subtle ...

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