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Deep down

Julian Symons

28 June 1990
The Last World 
by Christoph Ransmayr, translated by John Woods.
Chatto, 202 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 7011 3502 6
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The End of Lieutenant Boruvka 
by Josef Skvorecky, translated by Paul Wilson.
Faber, 188 pp., £12.99, May 1990, 0 571 14973 1
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The Dwarves of Death 
by Jonathan Coe.
Fourth Estate, 198 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 1 872180 51 5
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Last Loves 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Grafton, 190 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 333 51783 0
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... and gigantic spiders. The whole confection is a muddled, grotesque piece of Germanic romanticism. John Woods’s beautifully lucid translation often emphasises the book’s mock profundity by its very clarity. At the heart of it is the contrast between Ovid’s and Ransmayr’s metamorphoses, pointed up by a 25-page ‘Ovidian Repertory’ of comparisons ...

Lost in the Woods

Nicholas Penny: Victorian fairy painting

1 January 1998
Victorian Fairy Painting 
edited by Jane Martineau.
Merrell, 200 pp., £25, November 1997, 1 85894 043 5
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... ideas. The most startling object in the exhibition, the frame composed of gilded twigs surrounding John Austen Fitzgerald’s spooky painting of a fairy-infested bird’s nest, is a three-dimensional development of the sort of border design common in illustrated books of the period. The most beautiful paintings in the exhibition, those by the little-known ...

Two Poems

John Burnside

7 October 2010
... to say they are together, but sometimes, when she dreams, she comes upon a scuffed trail in the woods, a beaten track where something killed was dragged and trodden down and hidden in the leaves. Its eyes are blind, and what it clutches in its broken hand, is painfully familiar, shreds of black and steel-grey, like that overcoat he wore the day he ...

Three Poems

John Burnside

10 September 2014
... Krüger I heard something out by the gate and went to look. Dead of night; new snow, the larch woods filling slowly, stars beneath the stars. A single cry it was, or so it seemed, though nothing I had recognised as native; and when it came again, I knew for sure. No badger there. No gathering of deer. Forgive me, if I choose not to believe the snow ...

French Air

John Sutherland

12 November 1987
The Foul and the Fragrant: Odour and the French Social Imagination 
by Alain Corbin, translated by Miriam Kochan.
Berg, 307 pp., £18, November 1986, 0 907582 47 8
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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 
by Patrick Süskind, translated by John Woods.
Penguin, 263 pp., £3.95, September 1987, 0 14 009244 7
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The Double Bass 
by Patrick Süskind, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 57 pp., £8.95, September 1987, 9780241120392
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... In his autobiographical papers, Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman?, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman, describes being piqued by an article in Science about how well bloodhounds can smell. Feynman hates not being best, and so he took time off from inventing the atom bomb (he was working at Los Alamos) to run an experiment. He had his wife handle certain coke bottles in an empty six-pack while he was out of the room for a couple of minutes ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest

22 March 2018
TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... even rewriting a little where necessary, Lees-Jeffries has added a fine introduction, ‘Into the Woods’, pieced together from Barton’s draft original and from portions of a discarded chapter; she has also appended a comprehensive bibliographical essay of her own, bringing the reader up to date with the large amount of related material published in the ...

Where the Apples Come From

T.C. Smout: What Makes an Oak Tree Grow

29 November 2007
by Oliver Rackham.
Collins, 609 pp., £25, September 2006, 0 00 720243 1
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Beechcombings: The Narratives of Trees 
by Richard Mabey.
Chatto, 289 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 1 85619 733 5
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Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 
by Roger Deakin.
Hamish Hamilton, 391 pp., £20, May 2007, 978 0 241 14184 7
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The Wild Trees: What if the Last Wilderness Is above Our Heads? 
by Richard Preston.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 1 84614 023 5
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... from the coppice stool after being pushed over by mammoths in the last interglacial? How do our woods, and the ways we have used them, compare with woods in other countries, for example in Japan? The largest and oldest wooden buildings in the world are in the complexes of ancient Japanese temples around Nara. Rackham is ...
4 September 1997
Edmund Burke: A Life in Caricature 
by Nicholas Robinson.
Yale, 214 pp., £30, October 1996, 0 300 06801 8
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The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Vol. III: Party, Parliament and the American War 1774-80 
edited by Warren Elofson and John Woods.
Oxford, 713 pp., £75, September 1996, 0 19 822414 1
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Edmund Burke and India: Political Morality and Empire 
by Frederick Whelan.
Pittsburgh, 384 pp., £39.95, December 1996, 0 8229 3927 4
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... Infinitely more profound and productive than his nearest 18th-century equivalent, Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, he was also far more prominent in national politics over a much longer span than John Milton or the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury in the 17th century, J.S. Mill in the 19th century, and Bertrand Russell ...


John Tranter

15 September 1988
... Humanism. Those ice reefs repeat the motto whispered by the snow-drifts on the north side of the woods and model villages: the sun has a favourite leaning, and the Nordic flaw is a glow alcohol can fan into a flame. And what is this truth that holds the grey shaking metal whole while we believe in it? The radar keeps its sweeping intermittent promises ...


John Burnside

5 April 2001
...  ...

Two Poems

John Burnside

4 December 2008
... St Hubert and the Deer He has come to a halt in the woods: snow on the path                and everything gone to ground in its silken lair; gone to ground              or folded in a death so quiet, he can almost taste the fade of hair and vein, the flesh gone into light and water          part-song                   lost in all this glister ...

Two Poems

John Burnside

6 September 2017
... but the rain. Before I came in, I stood in the drive to listen: an owl called, down in the woods by Gillingshill, then nothing, but for a drone I could not parse as music. The pibroch, I might have said; but I’ve never felt native so much as local and brief like the stone chill crossing the sands when the haar moves in. Curious, now, to think ...

Three Poems

John Burnside

12 September 2019
... in a net I seek to hold the wind. Ode to Hypnos Here is the angel of slumber, come from the woods to press a bloody talon to the glass; the erstwhile abolitionist of mardi gras, pure stranger to himself, he fabricates this ersatz Eden, trading bishoprics of light for milk and honey, words in Aramaic, a Weihnachtsmarkt of diet pills and Lauds. Here is ...

Impossible Wishes

Michael Wood: Thomas Mann

6 February 2003
The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Mann 
edited by Ritchie Robertson.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £45.50, November 2001, 9780521653107
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Thomas Mann: A Biography 
by Hermann Kurzke, translated by Leslie Willson.
Allen Lane, 582 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 7139 9500 9
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... of Mann’s writing, and even of the recent versions of Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain by John Woods. The failings are apparently mostly lexical and syntactical: ‘Knopf have once again employed a translator whose knowledge of German appears inadequate to the task, and who is capable of careless errors.’ Of course it’s good to get things ...

Poetry to Thrill an Oyster

Gregory Woods: Fitz-Greene Halleck

16 November 2000
The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck 
by John W.M. Hallock.
Wisconsin, 226 pp., £14.95, April 2000, 0 299 16804 2
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... as a mere imitator. Richard Dana thought his ‘Marco Bozzaris’ was America’s best lyric poem. John Quincy Adams referred to one of his poems in a speech to the House of Representatives in 1836. Most inexplicable of all, on 15 May 1877, fifty thousand people gathered in Central Park to see President Hayes unveil a statue of Halleck in the so-called ...

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