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The Miller’s Tale

J.B. Trapp, 4 November 1993

Erasmus: His Life, Work and Influence 
by Cornelis Augustijn, translated by J.C. Grayson.
Toronto, 239 pp., £16.25, February 1991, 0 8020 5864 7
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Erasmus: A Critical Biography 
by Léon-E. Halkin, translated by John Tonkin.
Blackwell, 360 pp., £45, December 1992, 0 631 16929 6
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Erasmus, Man of Letters: The Construction of Charisma in Print 
by Lisa Jardine.
Princeton, 278 pp., £19.95, June 1993, 0 691 05700 1
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... shows a mill being brought back into use under the eye of God the Father. Christ is emptying St John’s eagle out of a sack into a hopper to join St Matthew’s angel, St Mark’s lion, St Luke’s ox and St Paul with his sword. They are ground into the pure flour of hope, faith and love, scooped up and bagged by Erasmus the miller under the supervision of ...

Who’s in charge?

Chalmers Johnson: The Addiction to Secrecy, 6 February 2003

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers 
by Daniel Ellsberg.
Viking, 498 pp., $29.95, October 2002, 0 670 03030 9
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... or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem’ was a recipe for failure. In July 1964, however, he was asked by John McNaughton, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, to join him in the Pentagon as his special assistant. The Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, had given McNaughton responsibility for co-ordinating strategy towards ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... was. Many contenders have tried to render Cavafy, but the edition Hockney came across must be John Mavrogordato’s, published by the Hogarth Press in 1951 (Rex Warner wrote the introduction). When Hockney’s prints were published a few years later, in 1967, Stephen Spender, a friend and early advocate, collaborated on a new translation with the ...

Riding the Night Winds

Ron Ridenhour, 22 June 1995

Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden: Return to Vietnam and Cambodia 
by Tim Page.
Touchstone, 248 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 0 671 71926 2
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In the Lake of the Woods 
by Tim O’Brien.
Flamingo, 306 pp., £5.99, April 1995, 0 00 654395 2
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In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam 
by Robert McNamara.
Random House, 432 pp., $27.50, April 1995, 0 8129 2523 8
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... the whodunnit in which the puzzle apparently remains unsolved. Did O’Brien’s protagonist, John Wade, murder his wife? Or not? And what happens to Wade himself? O’Brien does not tell you – at least not directly. The conundrum has so confounded most American reviewers that, after a few lines detailing the primary components of the central plot ...

Losing the War

Robert Dallek, 23 November 1989

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam 
by Neil Sheehan.
Cape, 861 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 224 02648 8
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... at home and for military defeat abroad. In his compelling biographical and historical study of John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam, Neil Sheehan focuses our attention on this sorry chapter in American foreign affairs. A prize-winning reporter in Saigon for United Press International and the New York Times, Sheehan also won distinction as the journalist ...

A Belated Encounter

Perry Anderson: My father’s career in the Chinese Customs Service, 30 July 1998

... my father, the Chinese Maritime Customs. But this work, much of it from the distinguished hand of John Fairbank, was mostly concerned with the 19th-century origins of the institution, shedding less light on modern times. For its more recent history, it was not even very clear where the records lay: the best contemporary guide to Chinese archives, produced in ...

Somewhat Divine

Simon Schaffer: Isaac Newton, 16 November 2000

Isaac Newton: The ‘Principia’ Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy 
translated by I. Bernard Cohen.
California, 974 pp., £22, September 1999, 0 520 08817 4
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... the West Indies, and cometary and tidal observations from the Straits of Magellan to the Gulf of Tonkin, he was able to identify the centripetal force acting on planets, moons and the Earth itself with a universally acting gravity to which every particle of matter was susceptible. It was proportional to the bodies’ masses and weakened as the square of ...

Why read Clausewitz when Shock and Awe can make a clean sweep of things?

Andrew Bacevich: The Rumsfeld Doctrine, 8 June 2006

Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq 
by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.
Atlantic, 603 pp., £25, March 2006, 1 84354 352 4
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... prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States’. The notorious Tonkin Gulf Resolution of 1964 was a straitjacket compared to this spacious grant of authority. Even when the subsequent war on terror produced massive intelligence failures, operational ineptitude, the abuse of detainees and warrantless wiretaps, the White House ...

Why the bastards wouldn’t stand and fight

Murray Sayle: Mao in Vietnam, 21 February 2002

China and the Vietnam Wars 1950-75 
by Qiang Zhai.
North Carolina, 304 pp., $49.95, April 2000, 0 8078 4842 5
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None so Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam 
by George Allen.
Ivan Dee, 296 pp., $27.50, October 2001, 1 56663 387 7
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No Peace, No Honour: Nixon, Kissinger and Betrayal in Vietnam 
by Larry Berman.
Free Press, 334 pp., $27.50, November 2001, 0 684 84968 2
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... of Moscow and the dominion of the world. Americans are readily alarmed, sometimes even panicked. John Foster Dulles, who worked for Truman and then became Secretary of State to Eisenhower, with a single-mindedness matching Mao’s lashed together a ring-fence around China, designed to contain the eastern end of the presumed Sino-Soviet monolith as Nato ...

Whose sarin?

Seymour M. Hersh, 19 December 2013

... real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... whole Vietnam intervention began with a consciously contrived military provocation in the Gulf of Tonkin, followed by a carefully-told lie to the Senate. But can we tell the schoolchildren that? Then again, it now looks very much like being established that the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 went behind President Carter’s back and made a private understanding ...

I figured what the heck

Jackson Lears: Seymour Hersh, 27 September 2018

Reporter 
by Seymour M. Hersh.
Allen Lane, 355 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 0 241 35952 5
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... AP’s Washington Bureau in the summer of 1965. Lyndon Johnson had just stage-managed the Gulf of Tonkin incident into a congressional carte blanche that would dramatically widen the US war in Vietnam. Hersh, soon the senior AP man in Washington, was quickly introduced to the mendacity at the heart of the war. In 1966, he watched as Robert McNamara, the ...

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