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She’s not scared

Thomas Jones: Niccolò Ammaniti

6 September 2017
by Niccolò Ammaniti, translated by Jonathan Hunt.
Canongate, 261 pp., £12.99, August 2017, 978 1 78211 834 3
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... The novel​ that made Niccolò Ammaniti internationally famous, his fourth, Io non ho paura (2001, translated into English by JonathanHunt as I’m Not Scared), is set in the long hot summer of 1978, in an isolated hamlet surrounded by cornfields in an unspecified part of southern Italy. The narrator, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano, is ...

Flower Power

P.N. Furbank: Jocelyn Brooke

8 May 2003
'The Military Orchid’ and Other Novels 
by Jocelyn Brooke.
Penguin, 437 pp., £10.99, August 2002, 0 14 118713 1
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... relaxing and with nothing more demanded of him, he can see his day as a pattern, ‘a framework within which happiness could spring into sudden unexpected bloom, like a flower from the bare rock’. JonathanHunt, who is at work on a biography of Brooke, argues in his percipient preface to the Penguin edition that, for Brooke’s narrator as a child, the Orchis militaris ‘seems to embody all the ...

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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... work over fantasy. Towards the close of the ‘Rukhsana’ section, however, comes the most brilliant set piece in the book, the best evidence of Kunzru’s talent and vast organisational skills. A hunt has been arranged in honour of a visitor, Sir Wyndham Braddock, ‘His Majesty’s Resident in the Combined Punjab States’, and his wife, Lady Aurelia. ‘Had it been at all possible, Sir Wyndham ...

Loving Dracula

Michael Wood

25 February 1993
Bram Stoker’s Dracula 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
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Suckers: Bleeding London Dry 
by Anne Billson.
Pan, 315 pp., £4.99, January 1993, 0 330 32806 9
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... Bram Stoker’s Dracula (as distinct from Bram Stoker’s Dracula) begins with a canny bit of Orientalism. The English solicitor Jonathan Harker is travelling to the Carpathians to meet his client Count Dracula. ‘The impression I had,’ Harker says of crossing the Danube at Budapest, ‘was that we were leaving the West and entering ...
6 February 1986
Literature and Popular Culture in 18th-Century England 
by Pat Rogers.
Harvester, 215 pp., £22.50, April 1985, 0 7108 0981 6
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Eighteenth-Century Encounters: Studies in Literature and Society in the Age of Walpole 
by Pat Rogers.
Harvester, 173 pp., £22.50, April 1985, 0 7108 0986 7
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Order from Confusion Sprung: Studies in 18th-Century Literature from Swift to Cowper 
by Claude Rawson.
Allen and Unwin, 431 pp., £30, August 1985, 0 04 800019 1
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Jonathan​ Swift 
edited by Angus Ross and David Woolley.
Oxford, 722 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 19 281337 4
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... makes them seem like Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta, respectively. In The Great Cat Massacre (1984) Robert Darnton described a night in Paris in the late 1730s when two apprentice printers went on the hunt for cats and staged a mock-trial before hanging them, to the raucous delight of their apprentice colleagues: the episode, as Darnton tells it, was an instance of elaborately vengeful symbolism in ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud

21 June 2001
Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan​ Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... These biographies of John Gielgud by Jonathan Croall and Sheridan Morley are quite hard to tell apart. They are of much the same size, bear handsome pictures of the actor in old age on the front of their dust-jackets, and are, inevitably ...
13 June 1991
Edmund Blunden: A Biography 
by Barry Webb.
Yale, 360 pp., £18.50, December 1990, 0 300 04634 0
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... One of the many excellent photographs Barry Webb has assembled shows Blunden going out to bat with Rupert Hart-Davis, in a match between Jonathan Cape and the Alden Press. That was in 1938. Blunden looks miniature, a frail determined Don Quixote with eagle nose and jaw, who had persuaded the burly Yorkshireman as they set out for the crease ...
9 April 2009
High Society in the Third Reich 
by Fabrice d’Almeida.
Polity, 294 pp., £17.99, November 2008, 978 0 7456 4312 0
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... the Schaumburg-Lippes, 20 from the Hohenlohes and so on. In all, it seems that between a third and half of the eligible members of German princely families joined the party. As the American scholar Jonathan Petropoulos observed in his study of the princes of Hessen, if princes had constituted a profession, ‘they would have rivalled physicians as the most Nazified in the Third Reich (doctors ...

Players, please

Jonathan​ Bate

6 December 1984
The Oxford Book of War Poetry 
edited by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 358 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 19 214125 2
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Secret Destinations 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 69 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 333 38268 4
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Fast Forward 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211967 2
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Dark Glasses 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 71 pp., £3.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2875 5
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... had quoted the note that went with the manuscript of ‘Aristocrats’: ‘Lt Col. J.D. Player’ – what better name? – ‘killed in Tunisia, Enfidaville, Feb. 1943, left £3000 to the Beaufort hunt, and directed that the incumbent of the living in his gift should be “a man who approves of hunting, shooting, and all manly sports, which are the backbone of the nation”.’ To judge from this ...

Flat Feet, Clever Hands

Alison Jolly: Eastern ground apes

7 October 2004
Lowly Origin: Where, When and Why Our Ancestors First Stood Up 
by Jonathan​ Kingdon.
Princeton, 396 pp., £22.95, May 2003, 0 691 05086 4
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... Someday our great-great-grandchildren will stride out onto the savannah, because you and I have found better things to do with our hands than walk on them. You and I are the eastern ground apes of Jonathan Kingdon’s Lowly Origin: suggested occupants of one of the last great blank spaces on the map of human evolution. Kingdon is a defiant eccentric in the world of anthropology. He is a wonderful ...

Two Jackals on a Leash

Jamie McKendrick: Eugenio Montale

1 July 1999
Eugenio Montale: Collected Poems 1920-54 
translated by Jonathan​ Galassi.
Carcanet, 626 pp., £29, November 1998, 1 85754 425 0
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... In Provence a singer out of breath or a poet without inspiration is said to have broken mirrors. In ‘Reading Montale’, an essay appended to his translation of the poet’s first three books, Jonathan Galassi considers the old and especially Mediterranean association of poet and cicada and its recurrence in Montale’s poems. Feeble sistrum in the wind of a lost cicada, no sooner touched than ...
5 March 1981
The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... through the qualifying rounds in competition of this class. The scribblers and men of ideas do reasonably well, at least in the later period: Darwin but not Newton, for instance, W.T. Stead but not Jonathan Swift. The system of cross-reference goes a long way in both remedying and explaining some disparities of treatment. It means that the reader whose thirst for knowledge is not slaked by the entry ...

Effing the Ineffable

Glen Newey: Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century by Jonathan​ Glover

25 November 1999
Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century 
by Jonathan​ Glover.
Cape, 469 pp., £18.99, October 1999, 0 224 05240 3
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... In bookshops ‘Holocaust’ literature gets shelved, with more aptitude than the stores realise, under ‘Religion’. As misrepresentations go, it’s not bad: a deity created in our own image. Jonathan Glover’s book is not exclusively about the Holocaust, but unlike many other atrocities chronicled in this lengthy codex it bags a section to itself, and the culminating one: the Final Solution as ...

Planes, Trains and SUVs

Jonathan​ Raban: James Meek

7 February 2008
We Are Now Beginning Our Descent 
by James Meek.
Canongate, 295 pp., £16.99, February 2008, 978 1 84195 988 7
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... the reader may remember Actaeon’s fate, transformed by Artemis into a stag and torn to pieces by his own hounds, thereby becoming an early victim of, as it were, friendly fire. It’s not quite The Hunt for Red October, but the quest for Astrid/Artemis in a warring world has enough suspenseful twists and turns, set against many thousand miles of continuously changing geography, to keep the novel ...

Trouble at the Fees Office

Jonathan​ Raban: Alice in Expenses Land

11 June 2009
... as long as I can remember, MPs have been coming down in the world. Fifty years ago, they were very big cheeses indeed: glamorously remote figures who showed up late and left early when they attended hunt balls, civic receptions, Remembrance Day ceremonies and the occasional Rotary Club dinner. One could easily go for years without spotting one in the wild. But all that’s changed. Now that MPs hold ...

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