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In bed with the Surrealists

David Sylvester, 6 January 1994

Investigating Sex: Surrealist Research 1928-1932 
edited by José Pierre, translated by Malcolm Imrie.
Verso, 215 pp., £17.95, November 1992, 0 86091 378 3
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... time in La Révolution surréaliste; the other ten were unknown until a French edition edited by José Pierre appeared three years ago. This translation has an Afterword by Dawn Ades, characteristically learned, limpid and illuminating. Incidentally, Pierre’s use of the word ‘transcripts’ to describe the reports ...

Their Way

José Harris: On the Origin of Altruism, 12 March 2009

The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain 
by Thomas Dixon.
British Academy, 420 pp., £60, May 2008, 978 0 19 726426 3
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... social planners of those years, such as William Beveridge and Barbara Wootton in Britain, Pierre Laroque and Francis Netter in France, together with many campaigners for a united or federal postwar Europe, were heirs and exemplars of the positivist tradition of social, political and legal thought. Two generations earlier, in the mid-to-late-Victorian ...

Hungry Ghosts

Paul Connerton, 19 April 1990

Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Parts I-III 
edited by Michel Feher, Ramona Naddaff and Nadia Tazi.
Zone, 480 pp., £35.95, May 1989, 0 942299 25 6
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... constructed he has been followed more recently by, among others, Norbert Elias, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu and Mary Douglas. To these we must now add Fragments for a History of the Human Body, a collection edited by Michel Feher, with Ramona Naddaff and Nadia Tazi. The book is in three volumes, containing in all 48 essays, many of a remarkably high ...

Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

G. Cabrera Infante, 4 June 1981

... de Beauvoir, ltalo Calvino, Marguerite Duras, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Juan Goytisolo, André Pierre de Mandiargues, Alain Jouffroy, Joyce Mansour, Alberto Moravia, Octavio Paz and some others who couldn’t even pronounce the name of Padilla correctly, much less read his poems. It was a case of tit for tat. The European and Latin American intellectuals ...

Cheese and Late Modernity

Steven Shapin: The changing rind of Camembert, 20 November 2003

Camembert: A National Myth 
by Pierre Boisard, translated by Richard Miller.
California, 254 pp., £19.95, June 2003, 0 520 22550 3
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... In 1999, when the French peasant leader José Bové trashed a McDonald’s under construction near Montpellier, so becoming a national and, soon, international resistance hero, one motive for his virtuous vandalism was cheese. The Americans had unilaterally imposed trade restrictions on the excellent local Roquefort, and, if there was going to be no Roquefort in the US, there was no reason to tolerate the ‘McMerde’ double bacon cheeseburger in France ...

A Cézanne-Like Vision of Peaches

Lorna Scott Fox, 30 March 2000

Dreaming with His Eyes Open: A Life of Diego Rivera 
by Patrick Marnham.
Bloomsbury, 368 pp., £12.99, November 1999, 0 7475 4450 6
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Diego Rivera: The Detroit Industry Murals 
by Linda Bank Downs.
Norton, 202 pp., £35, March 2000, 0 393 04529 3
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... threw themselves into seem remote, even quaint, the Tres Grandes of the Mexican School – Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros – are often treated as a single entity. Where distinctions are made, the didacticism of Rivera’s work tends, and I believe deserves, to be unfavourably compared to the expressionist passion of Orozco, and even ...

Union Sucrée

Perry Anderson: The Normalising of France, 23 September 2004

Le Rappel à l’ordre: Enquête sur les nouveaux réactionnaires 
by Daniel Lindenberg.
Seuil, 94 pp., €10.50, November 2002, 2 02 055816 5
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Esquisse pour une auto-analyse 
by Pierre Bourdieu.
Raisons d'Agir, 142 pp., €12, February 2004, 2 912107 19 9
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La République mondiale des lettres 
by Pascale Casanova.
Seuil, 492 pp., €27.50, March 1999, 2 02 035853 0
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... of the past had yet to be thoroughly purged of its ambiguities: the Nation. This task fell to Pierre Nora. In his editorial on the tenth anniversary of Le Débat in 1990, Nora had hailed the ‘new cultural landscape’ of the country, and within another couple of years, he completed his own monumental contribution to it. Originating in a seminar at the ...

That Wooden Leg

Michael Wood: Conversations with Don Luis, 7 September 2000

An Unspeakable Betrayal: Selected Writings of Luis Buñuel 
translated by Garrett White.
California, 266 pp., £17.50, April 2000, 0 520 20840 4
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... They include Buñuel himself, as a monk; Serge Silberman, Buñuel’s producer; and the writer José Bergamín, an old friend of Buñuel’s. They also include the uncannily familiar figure of my old acquaintance the doctor, Buñuel’s pal José-Luis Barros. It took me a while to place the recognised face, and of course ...

The Next Fix

Lara Pawson: African Oil, 7 February 2008

Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil 
by Nicholas Shaxson.
Palgrave, 280 pp., £15.99, May 2007, 978 1 4039 7194 4
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Oil Wars 
edited by Mary Kaldor, Terry Lynn Karl and Yahia Said.
Pluto, 294 pp., £17.99, March 2008, 978 0 7453 2478 4
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Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil 
by John Ghazvinian.
Harcourt Brace, 320 pp., $25, April 2007, 978 0 15 101138 4
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... international warrant for his arrest in 2000. Working alongside Gaydamak on Angola were his friend Pierre Falcone, Mitterrand’s son Jean-Christophe, and Jean-Bernard Curial, who advised the French Socialist Party in the 1980s and was an old associate of the Angolan president, José Eduardo dos Santos. Another key figure ...

Maaaeeestro!

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: Gabriel García Márquez, 27 August 2009

Gabriel García Márquez: A Life 
by Gerald Martin.
Bloomsbury, 668 pp., £25, October 2008, 978 0 7475 9476 5
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... and politics. Its slightly ungrammatical title may have been chosen because the Spanish poet José Manuel Caballero Bonald (who was for a time in exile in Colombia and knew García Márquez) had already published a collection of verse called Vivir para contarlo (1969). In his autobiography García Márquez announces his tastes and literary affinities in ...

Apartheid’s Last Stand

Jeremy Harding, 17 March 2016

Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola since the Civil War 
by Ricardo Soares de Oliveira.
Hurst, 291 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 84904 284 0
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A Short History of Modern Angola 
by David Birmingham.
Hurst, 256 pp., £17.99, December 2015, 978 1 84904 519 3
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Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa 
by Piero Gleijeses.
North Carolina, 655 pp., £27.95, February 2016, 978 1 4696 0968 3
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A General Theory of Oblivion 
by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn.
Harvill, 245 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 1 84655 847 4
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In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre 
by Lara Pawson.
I.B. Tauris, 271 pp., £20, April 2014, 978 1 78076 905 9
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Cuito Cuanavale: Frontline Accounts by Soviet Soldiers 
by G. Shubin, I. Zhdarkin et al, translated by Tamara Reilly.
Jacana, 222 pp., £12.95, May 2014, 978 1 4314 0963 1
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... and state have remained inextricably bound together; and both perform the will of the president, José Eduardo dos Santos, who assumed office in an age of strongmen, between Margaret Thatcher’s first election victory in 1979 and Robert Mugabe’s in 1980. Thirty-six years later Dos Santos is still in power. Under his supervision, Angola is not just a ...

The Dark Side of Brazilian Conviviality

Perry Anderson, 24 November 1994

... on the eve of his inauguration, punctured all euphoria. A leading ornament of the dictatorship, José Sarney, a belletrist oligarch from the latifundia of Maranhão, whom Neves had chosen as his running-mate, took his place. The ideological anti-climax was acute. Brazil shuffled into the era of democratisation, common to Latin America, bewildered and ...

Wild about Misia

Clive James, 4 September 1980

Misia 
by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale.
Macmillan, 337 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 333 28165 9
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... to Misia and she always called him mon petit Ravel. She was even more moved by Debussy. In 1902 Pierre Louÿs invited friends to hear Debussy play Pelléas et Mélisande at an upright piano. As so often happened, Misia was the only woman present. She was there by right, since the composers respected her not just as a Muse but as the ideally-equipped ...

Velvet Gentleman

Nick Richardson: Erik Satie, 3 June 2015

A Mammal’s Notebook: The Writings of Erik Satie 
edited by Ornella Volta, translated by Antony Melville.
Atlas, 224 pp., £17.50, June 2014, 978 1 900565 66 0
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... before him he’d fallen in with a dodgy Spanish poet – J.P. Contamine de Latour, real name José Maria Vicente Ferrer Francisco de Paola Patricio Manuel Contamine, from Tarragona. Years later, Latour managed to piece together the following recollection: ‘We didn’t eat every day, but we never missed an aperitif. I remember a particular pair of ...

Don’t abandon me

Colm Tóibín: Borges and the Maids, 11 May 2006

Borges: A Life 
by Edwin Williamson.
Penguin, 416 pp., £9.99, August 2005, 0 14 024657 6
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... lost on him. In the months after his father’s death he wrote one of his great serious spoofs, ‘Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote’, a meditation, using a straight face and no ‘fine writing or purple patches’, on the idea of rewriting as an inspired enterprise, and on the concept of the writer as a force of culture imprisoned by language and time to ...

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