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Disinformation

Phillip Knightley

8 July 1993
Deadly Illusions: The First Book from the KGB Archives 
by John Costello and Oleg Tsarev.
Century, 538 pp., £18.99, June 1993, 9780712655002
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... I did not get to Moscow until November the following year. It quickly became apparent that behind all this media activity was more than the new philosophy of freedom of information, as described by Costello in his afterword: ‘The Russian Intelligence Service has therefore set a new level of openness and has advanced the boundaries of intelligence and counter-intelligence history writing.’ The KGB ...
2 February 1989
Philby: The Life and Views of the KGB Masterspy 
by Phillip Knightley.
Deutsch, 291 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 233 98360 0
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Mask of Treachery: The First Documented Dossier on Blunt, MI5 and Soviet Subversion 
by John Costello.
Collins, 761 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 00 217536 3
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A Divided Life: A Biography of Donald Maclean 
by Robert Cecil.
Bodley Head, 212 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 370 31129 9
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The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors 
by Gordon Brook-Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 303 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 297 79464 7
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... Drawing on those conversations, Phillip Knightley has now published a revised version of the original Sunday Times book, Philby, the spy who betrayed a generation, which he co-authored in 1968. Mr JohnCostello has produced Mask of Treachery, dealing with Blunt, while Mr Robert Cecil has written a biography of his former Foreign Office colleague Donald Maclean. To round things out, we have The ...

A Frog’s Life

James Wood: Coetzee’s Confessions

23 October 2003
Elizabeth CostelloEight Lessons 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 233 pp., £14.99, September 2003, 0 436 20616 1
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... reads out a story about a writer asked to give a lecture. That writer is not an alter ego, though how much she shares with her creator is one of the device’s loitering teases. Her name is Elizabeth Costello, an Australian novelist born in 1928, famous like Coetzee for her rewriting of a classic novel (in Coetzee’s case, Robinson Crusoe; in Costello’s, Ulysses). The frame story allows Coetzee to ...

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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... the Nineties. Paradoxically, it is not composed but spoken. The voice that echoes through it, the voices rather, and the tones, are those of the old artificer, the father of the tribe, Simon Dedalus, John Stanislaus Joyce. Like the violins of Cremona, Dubliners, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake are the products of a joint concern, a family undertaking. Joyce himself was frank about this. As long as he had ...

Liars, Hypocrites and Crybabies

David Runciman: Blair v. Brown

2 November 2006
... problem at all. His innate cautiousness, and his apparently settled and blameless personal life, make him almost painfully eager not to fall into this trap. Not for Brown the ghastly contortions of John Prescott, happy to scourge the Tories for their failings as husbands and fathers in the dog days of the Major administration, but equally happy to try it on himself when a comely employee fell his ...

Fictioneering

Frank Kermode: J.M. Coetzee

8 October 2009
Summertime 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 266 pp., £17.99, August 2009, 978 1 84655 318 9
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... whites in blackface’. The attack left seven dead, two of them children. This overture is entirely concerned with South African politics. It has no evident connection with the Coetzee figure (‘John’ in the text), who is described as sharing a house with his father and spending most of his time not very usefully on repairing it. Certain passages italicised in the text are said by the ...

God wielded the buzzer

Christian Lorentzen: The Sorrows of DFW

11 October 2012
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 
by D.T. Max.
Granta, 352 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 84708 494 1
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... district. (He cast his first vote for Reagan; later he would vote for Ross Perot because ‘you need someone really insane to fix the economy’; but by the time he wrote about politics, profiling John McCain for Rolling Stone in 2000, he was basically a liberal Democrat.) His roommate Mark Costello became a lifelong confidant and sometime collaborator. (Costello is now a novelist in New York and ...

Tables and Chairs

Christopher Tayler: J.M. Coetzee

21 March 2013
J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing 
by J.C. Kannemeyer, translated by Michiel Heyns.
Jonathan Ball, 710 pp., R 325, October 2012, 978 1 86842 495 5
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Here and Now: Letters 2008-11 
by Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee.
Viking, 256 pp., $27.95, March 2013, 978 0 670 02666 1
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The Childhood of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 210 pp., £16.99, March 2013, 978 1 84655 769 9
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... Point (1992), and the icy ironic distance of Boyhood (1997) and Youth (2002), were seen as being splendidly in character. ‘After retiring from UCT and settling in Adelaide,’ Kannemeyer writes, ‘John Coetzee became a far more relaxed person.’ One symptom of this relative relaxation is the emergence, or re-emergence, since 2002, of a playful, inscrutably teasing side to his writing. In the ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1999

20 January 2000
... having much to do with Wittgenstein’s homosexuality. So we have lists of Trinity men who were Apostles, which of them were homosexuals and so on, Cornish dodgily assuming, as did Andrew Boyle and JohnCostello before him, that homosexuality is itself a bond and that if two men can be shown to be homosexual the likelihood is that they’re sleeping together. So we trail down that road looking for ...

The Atom School

Theo Tait: J.M. Coetzee

3 November 2016
The Schooldays of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 260 pp., £17.99, August 2016, 978 1 911215 35 6
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... issue with it (‘South Africa is not only a place of rape,’ Thabo Mbeki remarked). In Youth (2002), the second part of a quasi-autobiographical trilogy, we are told that the book’s protagonist, John, ‘can see no reason why people need to dance’: Dancing makes sense only when it is interpreted as something else, something that people prefer not to admit. That something else is the real thing ...

V-2 into Space

Adam Mars-Jones: Michael Chabon

2 March 2017
Moonglow 
by Michael Chabon.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £18.99, January 2017, 978 0 00 754891 0
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... low. A footnote casting doubt on something in the text can have an odd substantiating effect, as this one does: ‘When I was in graduate school I was startled to find this story’s source in The John Collier Reader, – or so I have always believed until this afternoon, when I first riffled, then paged carefully, front to back, back to front, through the local copy (Knopf, 1972) and discovered no ...

Like a Dog

Elizabeth Lowry: J.M. Coetzee

14 October 1999
Disgrace 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 220 pp., £14.99, July 1999, 0 436 20489 4
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The Lives of Animals 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Princeton, 127 pp., £12.50, May 1999, 0 691 00443 9
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... as anything Coetzee has ever written. It consists of two lectures framed, in the manner of a novel, by the story of a tense encounter between a mother and her son. The lecturer is Elizabeth Costello, a novelist who has been asked to deliver a series of talks on a subject of her choice at Appleton College (just as Coetzee was asked to deliver the Tanner Lectures, on which the book is based. Mise ...

tarry easty

Roy Foster: Joyce in Trieste

30 November 2000
The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-20 
by John​ McCourt.
Lilliput, 306 pp., £25, June 2000, 1 901866 45 9
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... not received its due. Ellmann devotes more than a quarter of his biography to the period, but the city remains firmly in the background; more strikingly, a recent book about the young Joyce by Peter Costello, which ends in 1914, provides much valuable new material about his Dublin background and youth but devotes only sixty of nearly four hundred pages to his time in Trieste. This has not gone unnoticed ...

Who does that for anyone?

Adam Shatz: Jean-Pierre Melville

20 June 2019
Jean-Pierre Melville: Le Solitaire 
by Bertrand Teissier.
Fayard, 272 pp., €22, October 2017, 978 2 213 70573 6
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Jean-Pierre Melville, une vie 
by Antoine de Baecque.
Seuil, 244 pp., €32, October 2017, 978 2 02 137107 9
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... early films were bookish, and rather talky. But in the early 1960s he began to hone back his dialogue. The first seven minutes of Le Samouraï (1967), in which Alain Delon plays the hitman Jef Costello, unfold silently; the heist in Le Cercle rouge (1970) goes on for half an hour without a sound, until Yves Montand’s character disables the security system of a jewellery store with a single rifle ...

Sunshine

David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise

15 April 1999
Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... on the sparring partnership of an unctuous straight man and a sly, grotesque clown. This is the mode in which Morecambe and Wise began, mimicking the hard-edged wise-guy contentiousness of Abbott and Costello and writing it small on the British variety stage. Very small. Their partnership was established in 1940 when both, already seasoned entertainers, were in their mid-teens. As Morecambe would later ...

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