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Toxin in the System

Michael Peel: In Nigeria, 5 February 2015

... 14 February, is expected to be the most closely contested for 35 years or more. President Goodluck Jonathan and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are riding on the back of a decade of decent economic growth and there is evidence of better governance in some areas. Jonathan’s supporters claim that if he wins a second ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... remarks, though they will seem truisms to many actors, are distanced, as in a time-warp, from Jonathan Miller’s handsome, thoughtful book about ‘directors’ theatre’, Subsequent Performances. This book is, among other things, an apologia for Miller’s own work as a drama director and an essay on the effects of Time upon the Drama. He is always ...

When you’d started a world war

Blake Morrison: Walter Kempowski, 20 June 2019

Homeland 
by Walter Kempowski, translated by Charlotte Collins.
Granta, 240 pp., £14.99, November 2018, 978 1 78378 352 6
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... it’s not about his ancestors and it’s set at the time he was writing it, in the late 1980s. Jonathan Fabrizius, its central figure, is 43 years old and lives comfortably enough, in small part thanks to his earnings as a freelance journalist but chiefly thanks to the uncle who brought him up after the death of his parents and who still sends him a ...

Don’t laugh

Amit Chaudhuri: Hari Kunzru, 8 August 2002

The Impressionist 
by Hari Kunzru.
Hamish Hamilton, 435 pp., £12.99, April 2002, 0 241 14169 9
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... to exchange one identity for another. Towards the end of the section we find Bobby walking with Jonathan Bridgeman, a bibulous young man who has grown up in the colonies. His parents are dead and he has no other family to speak of. He is soon to sail to England, to attend a public school and then Oxford. His financial arrangements are in the hands of a ...

Gabble, Twitter and Hoot

Ian Hacking: Language, deafness and the senses, 1 July 1999

I See a Voice: A Philosophical History of Language, Deafness and the Senses 
by Jonathan Rée.
HarperCollins, 399 pp., £19.99, January 1999, 0 00 255793 2
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... Jonathan Rée takes some tomfoolery from Shakespeare for his title and uses it to create his own striking metaphor. The middle part of his book is about sign languages for the deaf: voices that one sees. The same trope served Oliver Sacks in Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf (1989), but there is more to it than that for Rée ...

God loveth adverbs

Jonathan Glover, 22 November 1990

Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity 
by Charles Taylor.
Cambridge, 601 pp., £25.95, November 1989, 0 521 38331 5
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... used to be different and suggests how they came to be as they are. His aim is make us see our own post-Enlightenment culture in historical perspective, so that we can stand back and see its characteristic strengths and weaknesses. The book is a loose, baggy monster of philosophy. This is partly because it is written in an almost intolerably verbose and ...

The Lobby Falters

John Mearsheimer: Charles Freeman speaks out, 26 March 2009

... which he maintains an extremely close relationship’. Prominent pro-Israel journalists such as Jonathan Chait and Martin Peretz of the New Republic, and Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, quickly joined the fray and Freeman was hammered in publications that consistently defend Israel, such as the National Review, the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly ...

Openly reticent

Jonathan Coe, 9 November 1989

Grand Inquisitor: Memoirs 
by Robin Day.
Weidenfeld, 296 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 297 79660 7
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Beginning 
by Kenneth Branagh.
Chatto, 244 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 0 7011 3388 0
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Storm over 4: A Personal Account 
by Jeremy Isaacs.
Weidenfeld, 215 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79538 4
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... Renaissance Theatre Company than he decides to direct and star in a film of Henry V; he combines post-production on Henry V with writing his autobiography. He whizzes from meeting to meeting and deal to deal, occasionally dropping by at the theatre at seven o’clock to knock off a quick performance of Hamlet. ‘I must never play Hamlet under these ...

Survivors

Jonathan Steinberg, 18 December 1986

Strangers in their own Land: Young Jews in Germany and Austria Today 
by Peter Sichrovsky and Thomas Keneally.
Tauris, 177 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 1 85043 033 0
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Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland 
by Malgorzata Niezabitowska and Tomasz Tomaszewski, translated by William Brand and Hanna Dobosiewicz.
Friendly Press, 272 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 914919 05 9
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The Jews in Poland 
edited by Chimen Abramsky, Maciej Jachimczyk and Antony Polonsky.
Blackwell, 264 pp., £29.50, September 1986, 0 631 14857 4
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... history from the earliest Jewish settlement in Poland to the position of Jews in the politics of post-war Poland. There are moving contributions from Wladislaw Bartoszewski and Teresa Prekerowa who lived through the events they describe, and there is a powerful polemical piece by Yisrael Gutman on the historiography of Polish-Jewish relations during the ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... to sofa, cameras capturing their full range of blank expression, the Parsnip and Pimpernel of the post-punk demi-monde. They were compadres but very different writers. McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, a tale of coke squalor and eventual redemption, had a big schmaltzy heart beating in its pigeon breast. Less than Zero, a shockeroo begun when Ellis was a ...

Tact

Jonathan Coe, 20 March 1997

The Emigrants 
by W.G. Sebald, translated by Michael Hulse.
Harvill, 237 pp., £14.99, June 1996, 1 86046 127 1
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... there is no shortage of bad novels which purport to concern themselves with the Holocaust and its post-traumatic effects, and then grimly fail to rise to the occasion. To take only one of the most recent and wretched examples, D.M. Thomas’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a lurid tale of concentration camp abuse and its psychosexual fall-out among the victims in ...

Diary

Jonathan Steele: Neo-Taliban, 9 September 2010

... the ISI in particular. He made a point of resisting their advances when he took up his diplomatic post in Islamabad, seeing them as ill-intentioned and manipulative. Pakistan ‘is so famous for treachery that it is said they can get milk from a bull,’ he writes. ‘They use everybody, deceive everybody.’ Some of his anger comes from his childhood in ...

On the Make

Thomas Jones: Jonathan Lethem, 6 September 2001

Gun, with Occasional Music 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Faber, 262 pp., £5.99, August 2001, 0 571 20959 9
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... Jonathan Lethem’s first novel is set at an indeterminate time in the not too distant future. The United States – and possibly the whole world – is now run by the Inquisition, also known as the Office. You need a licence to ask questions. Everyone has to carry a card which registers how much ‘karma’ they have: the level can be increased or reduced at the discretion of an Office inquisitor – once it drops below zero, you’re taken off to the deep freeze ...

How to Make a Market

John Lloyd, 10 November 1994

Eternal Russia: Yeltsin, Gorbachev and the Mirage of Democracy 
by Jonathan Steele.
Faber, 288 pp., £17.50, March 1994, 0 571 16368 8
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Post-Communist Societies in Transition 
by John Gray.
Social Market Foundation, 45 pp., £8, February 1994, 1 874097 30 5
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... of thought, especially on but not confined to the Left, holds that the reform of Russia and other post-Communist states is being carried out in such a way as to destroy rather than improve them. The villains are held to be the international financial institutions (IFIs), such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and with them the ...

Gobsmacked

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare, 16 July 1998

Lyric Wonder: Rhetoric and Wit in Renaissance English Poetry 
by James Biester.
Cornell, 226 pp., £31.50, May 1997, 0 8014 3313 4
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Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvellous 
by Peter Platt.
Nebraska, 271 pp., £42.75, January 1998, 0 8032 3714 6
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Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder 
by T.G. Bishop.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £32.50, January 1996, 0 521 55086 6
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The Genius of Shakespeare 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 386 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 330 35317 9
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... the key to Renaissance courtly poetry in its strategies for eliciting astonishment. Back home, Jonathan Bate is gobsmacked by the sheer Genius of Shakespeare. It’s perhaps as well to remember that in cooler moments Jonson complained that ‘Shakespeare wanted Art’ and Milton berated Charles I for preferring the Bard to more serious ...

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