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28 October 1999
Václav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts 
by John Keane.
Bloomsbury, 532 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7475 4458 1
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... Lama or Nelson Mandela. And just as at the end of a fairy tale when the hero is rewarded for all his suffering by marrying the princess, he is married to a beautiful movie actress. Why, then, has JohnKeane chosen as the subtitle of his biography ‘A Political Tragedy in Six Acts’? In the Seventies, when Havel was still a relatively unknown Czech dissident writer, Keane played a crucial role in ...

The Interregnum

Martin Jacques: The Nation-state isn’t dead

5 February 2004
Empire of Capital 
by Ellen Meiksins Wood.
Verso, 182 pp., £15, July 2003, 1 85984 502 9
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Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Vintage, 134 pp., £6.99, May 2003, 0 09 945543 9
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Global Civil Society? 
by John Keane.
Cambridge, 220 pp., £40, April 2003, 0 521 81543 6
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Global Civil Society: An Answer to War 
by Mary Kaldor.
Polity, 189 pp., £45, April 2003, 0 7456 2757 9
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... dismissive of other cultures, and to justify imperialist adventurism on a scale far wider even than that used to threaten the ‘axis of evil’. The idea of global civil society, as Mary Kaldor and JohnKeane both suggest, also belongs to the 1990s. They argue that civil society is no longer confined to territorial borders – Kaldor refers to ‘the domestication of the international’ – and ...

Short Cuts

John​ Lanchester: Football and Currie

17 October 2002
... it worse. The players are richer, greedier and nastier, and almost mystically free from any sense of wider perspectives and responsibilities. If there were any doubt about that, the publication of Keane (Michael Joseph, £17.99), the autobiography of the Manchester United player, ghost-written by the footballer-turned-journalist Eamon Dunphy, would clear it up. The book has already been all over the ...

The Positions He Takes

John​ Barrell: Hitchens on Paine

30 November 2006
Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2006, 1 84354 513 6
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... had published no views that required endorsing. Paine was charged with seditious libel for publishing Part Two, and to escape arrest he fled to France, accompanied by the Wykehamist gentleman-lawyer John Frost, described by Hitchens as secretary of the London Corresponding Society. The LCS was a society of radical artisans, not a gentleman’s club, and its secretary was in fact the shoemaker Thomas ...

Subjects or Aliens?

Matthew Kelly: Postwar Irish Migration

9 October 2008
The Irish in Postwar Britain 
by Enda Delaney.
Oxford, 232 pp., £55, September 2007, 978 0 19 927667 7
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... recruit directly in Ireland. By the early 1950s roughly a third of the staff of London Transport were Irish, many of them young women. Among its employees was my grandfather Sean (known in Britain as John), who drove a District Line train until ill-health forced him to retire in the 1970s. Irish muscle was most useful to the expanding building trade, reviving the clichéd image of the Irish navvy. The ...

Diary

Anne Enright: Censorship in Ireland

21 March 2013
... it, and said that he did. Then he put the watch back. My father said: ‘So. Could you tell me what it is?’ ‘No,’ said the man, and he shook out his newspaper, leaving my father to walk away. John McGahern went to London in 1954 to work for a few months on the building sites: ‘When I walked off the boat at Holyhead to the waiting London train – and thought of Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens ...

Diary

John​ Lanchester: A Month on the Sofa

11 July 2002
... 29 May. Everyone I know is obsessed with Roy Keane’s tournament-ending public diatribe against the Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy. ‘Who the fuck do you think you are, having meetings about me? You were a crap player, you are a crap manager. The ...

Diary

Thomas Jones: The Last Days of eBay

19 June 2008
... Around the turn of the millennium, one of the friends of friends’ bands whose gigs I used occasionally to go to in the basements and back rooms of North London pubs was an indie guitar group called Keane. One Friday night in the early summer of 2001 at the Monarch on Chalk Farm Road, my girlfriend gave their manager (an ex-boyfriend of hers) a couple of quid for a homemade CD. ‘That’ll be worth a ...

Young and Old

John​ Sutherland

15 October 1981
Life Stories 
by A.L. Barker.
Hogarth, 319 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 7012 0538 5
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Many Men and Talking Wives 
by Helen Muir.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 7156 1613 7
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Good Behaviour 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 245 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 9780233973326
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A Separate Development 
by Christopher Hope.
Routledge, 199 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7100 0954 2
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From Little Acorns 
by Howard Buten.
Harvester, 156 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7108 0390 7
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Fortnight’s Anger 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 85635 376 0
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... did not mention her. At midsummer 1981, Good Behaviour was published in propria persona and became a best-seller in America and Ireland. In early autumn the novel was published in Britain, and Molly Keane joined six others on this year’s somewhat extended list of Booker Prize candidates. One might suspect hype in reports of this extraordinary come-back story. But in fact Good Behaviour is as ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel

4 July 1996
Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... Stalin’s unspeakable terror’, took place in 1956, not, as here, 1953 – an odd error for one who, among his many books, seems to give pride of place to a blockbuster history of the Cold War. Dr John Lewis, editor of the Modern Quarterly, so far from being, as Inglis would have it in one of his punchy characterisations, a ‘hard nut’ of the Communist Party, was an ex-Unitarian minister, much ...

Fergie Time

David Runciman: Sir Alex Speaks (again)

9 January 2014
My Autobiography 
by Alex Ferguson.
Hodder, 402 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 340 91939 2
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... into over a racehorse called Rock of Gibraltar, a subject he barely mentions in this book, one of many incidents he prefers to gloss over. Ferguson had a share in the horse with the Irish businessman John Magnier, a very wealthy man whose interests (in conjunction with his associate J.P. McManus) ranged from stud farms to currency trading. What started out as a bit of fun turned deadly serious once ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore

10 August 2000
Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... then, that the three finest novels to appear in Ireland between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s were about middle-aged women suffering. They were Moore’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955), John McGahern’s The Barracks (1961) and Aidan Higgins’s Langrishe, Go Down (1966). It is no coincidence, either, that the best novels about men in the period after independence dealt with figures in ...

Crow

Peter Campbell

5 January 1989
The Letter of Marque 
by Patrick O’Brian.
Collins, 284 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 9780241125434
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Klara 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 347 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 241 12527 8
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From Rockaway 
by Jill Eisenstadt.
Penguin, 214 pp., £3.99, September 1988, 0 14 010347 3
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The High Road 
by Edna O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £10.95, October 1988, 0 297 79493 0
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Loving and Giving 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 226 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 223 98346 2
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Tracks 
by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9780241125434
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... opinions, dies; a cousin puts Jack in the way of a seat in Parliament, and with this added influence his reinstatement on the Navy List is promised. Despite such plots O’Brian’s Aubrey novels, as John Bayley has said in this paper, are ‘emphatically not adventure stories, or the sort of mechanical marine thrillers which sprang up in the wake of C.S. Forester’. For one thing, delicacy and ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: Summer in Donegal

16 September 1999
... track, planning to fish one lough or the other. When I reach the house I find the postman has put some mail through the bedroom window, among it a Jiffy bag with a book in it from a Dublin friend, John, the nephew I recall of the Unionist doctor who found that bronze pin all those years ago. In the book, Trees of Ireland: Native and Naturalised, I read under Hazel: ‘Fruit, a true nut, egg-shaped ...
22 May 1997
Sex, Nation and Dissent in Irish Writing 
edited by Éibhear Walshe.
Cork, 210 pp., £40, April 1997, 1 85918 013 2
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Gooddbye to Catholic Ireland 
by Mary Kenny.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 320 pp., £20, March 1997, 1 85619 751 4
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... after the foundation of the state is not a history of prayer and devotion, of mass-going and vocations: it is a history of coercion and control. The figure who emerges from it most strongly is John Charles McQuaid, the Archbishop of Dublin between 1940 and 1972, who stopped Noel Browne, the Minister for Health in 1951, from introducing a health scheme for mothers, thereby bringing down the ...

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