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Gehenna

Walter Kendrick

2 August 1984
The Brothers Singer 
by Clive Sinclair.
Allison and Busby, 176 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 85031 275 2
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The Penitent 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Singer.
Cape, 170 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 224 02192 3
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... When Isaac Bashevis Singer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, not everyone was gratified. Clive Sinclair begins The Brothers Singer with a quotation from a BBC radio interview broadcast minutes after the award had been announced: the ‘astounded’ interviewer suspected that ‘some kind of American Mafia’ was at work in the Nobel Committee, while the ‘serious’ Professor Bradbury, discounting this theory, ascribed Singer’s triumph to ‘the domination of American writing in the world today ...

They can’t do anything to me

Jeremy Adler: Peter Singer

20 January 2005
Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna 
by Peter Singer.
Granta, 254 pp., £15.99, July 2004, 1 86207 696 0
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... broach the subject. Today, by contrast, a scarred identity earns almost universal respect. Peter Singer’s Pushing Time Away reflects this shift. He used to be, he says, far too busy writing his philosophy to bother with his grandfather. It was only when he noticed an affinity between his work on ‘practical ethics’ and his maternal grandfather’s wish ...
17 September 1998
Shadows on the Hudson 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Sherman.
Hamish Hamilton, 560 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 0 241 13940 6
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Isaac Bashevis SingerA Life 
by Janice Hadda.
Oxford, 254 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 19 508420 9
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... The posthumous English publication of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s mammoth novel Shadows on the Hudson has created such a tumel. Critics have been arguing about the quality of the novel, originally serialised in 1957-58 in the New York Yiddish newspaper the Forward; and about the reasons Singer did not have it translated during his lifetime ...

How good was he?

Iain Fenlon: Antonio Salieri

6 July 2000
Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera 
by John Rice.
Chicago, 648 pp., £66.50, April 1999, 0 226 71125 0
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... and musical justification. Salieri’s apotheosis, conducted under the benevolent gaze of Emperor Joseph II, began in earnest with the curious history of Les Danaïdes, an opera to an Italian libretto which Gluck commissioned from Calzabigi and then had translated into French by François Du Roullet and Theodor Tschudi. Gluck did not set Les Danaïdes ...
5 March 1987
Hotel Savoy 
by Joseph Roth, translated by John Hoare.
Chatto, 183 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 7011 2879 8
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... When Joseph Roth was asked once to write about his earliest memory, he described how as a baby he had seen his mother strip his cradle and hand it over to a strange woman, who ‘holds it to her chest, as though it were some trifling object of negligible dimensions, speaks for a long time, smiles, showing her long yellow teeth, goes to the door and leaves the house ...
20 October 1994
Closing Time 
by Joseph Heller.
Simon and Schuster, 464 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 671 71907 6
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... Logic is doubtless unshakeable,’ Joseph K. thinks towards the end of The Trial, ‘but it cannot withstand a man who wants to go on living.’ He is wrong, of course, since he is killed within a page by the brutal logic of the novel he is in. But there is a logic that resists such logic, and one of its masters is Joseph...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: Too Bad about Mrs Ferri

20 September 2001
... getting a shave at the Park Sheraton Hotel on Seventh Avenue. The Gallo brothers made the hit: Joseph ‘Crazy Joe’, Larry, and Albert ‘Kid Blast’. They were accompanied by an ugly little torpedo named Joseph ‘Joe Jelly’ Giorelli, who finished the job with a bullet to the back of Anastasia’s head. These four ...

Swoonatra

Ian Penman

1 July 2015
Sinatra: London 
Universal, 3 CDs and 1 DVD, £40, November 2014Show More
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... arch of touring big bands. But a hesitant jockeying for power had started up among band leaders, singers, agents and arrangers,and what came next would surprise nearly everyone.When Sinatra’s new booking agency, GAC, persuaded the owners of New York’s Paramount Theatre to add him to its big New Year show, their driven young client had none of the star ...

Zip the Lips

Lorna Scott Fox: A novel plea for silence

2 June 2005
Your Face Tomorrow 1: Fever and Spear 
by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Chatto, 376 pp., £17.99, May 2005, 9780701176754
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The Man of Feeling 
by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Vintage, 135 pp., £7.99, February 2005, 0 09 945367 3
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... conventional ambitions. The first-person narrator of this book is, as usual, an outsider, an opera singer who spends most of his time in foreign hotels on tour. This estranged position allows him to make many peevish observations about the general crassness around him, but here it’s convincingly in character: Marías paints a fastidious, endearingly ...

Manliness

D.A.N. Jones

20 December 1984
Last Ferry to Manly 
by Jill Neville.
Penguin, 165 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 14 007068 0
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Down from the Hill 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 218 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 246 12517 9
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God Knows 
by Joseph Heller.
Cape, 353 pp., £8.95, November 1984, 0 224 02288 1
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Wilt on High 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 236 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780436458118
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... in Limbo.’ God Knows has a lightning flash on the cover, looking like Mosley’s armlet, but Joseph Heller’s novel is not deliberately anti-Jewish. It is meant to be an autobiography of King David, the sweet singer of Israel, as told by a wisecracking New Yorker who fancies himself as a Jewish wit. Cocteau once said ...

Nobody is God

Robert Taubman

4 February 1982
Rabbit is Rich 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 467 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 233 97424 5
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Charlotte: Life or Theatre? 
by Charlotte Salomon.
Allen Lane, 784 pp., £30, September 1981, 0 7139 1425 4
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Weights and Measures 
by Joseph Roth.
Peter Owen, 150 pp., £7.50, January 1982, 0 7206 0562 8
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November 
by Rolf Schneider.
Hamish Hamilton, 235 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 241 10347 9
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... between this newcomer and Charlotte, then an art student, and her stepmother Paulinka, an opera singer. The author’s irony dwells on all her characters, but inside the story her heroine Charlotte, though romantically in love, employs her own irony both on Daberlohn and on herself. But most of the text of the book comes from him: his theory of masks, death ...
4 August 1988
The Drowned and the Saved 
by Prime Levi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Joseph, 170 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 7181 3063 4
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... of mind, all of which are virtually unknown in Italy, except by some sophisticated readers of Joseph Roth, Bellow, Singer, Malamud, Potok, and of course yourself. Levi’s explained intention does not mean that there is no autobiography in the book. The wish to evoke a Jewish resistance to Nazism relates to a history ...

Cards on the Table

Mary Ann Caws: Robert Desnos and Surrealism for the masses

3 June 2004
Robert Desnos, Surrealism, and the Marvellous in Everyday Life 
by Katharine Conley.
Nebraska, 270 pp., £37.95, March 2004, 0 8032 1523 1
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... of Desnos’s involvement in the Surrealist group, and his hopeless love for Yvonne George, a singer of sea shanties at the Olympia Theatre in Paris. The history of its refinding, rewriting, translation in a slightly different version after it was published in Czech by Joseph Stuna – a student who found Desnos in the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Irishman’

25 November 2019
... shot. At the beginning of The Age of Innocence (1993) the camera zooms slowly in to the face of a singer on stage at the opera. We see wrinkles, make-up, the line on the forehead where the wig begins. All very realistic, even real, but in reality only a person hanging from the ceiling like a spider could see what we are seeing on the screen. At such moments ...

Hoo-Hooing in the Birch

Michael Hofmann: Tomas Tranströmer

15 June 2016
Bright Scythe: Selected Poems 
by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patty Crane.
Sarabande, 207 pp., £13, November 2015, 978 1 941411 21 6
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... or abroad. Poets liked him. Seamus Heaney of course liked him, but so did others as dissimilar as Joseph Brodsky, Andrew Motion and (one of his first translators) Robert Bly. Poets were drawn to translate him too: fellow Northerners like Robin Fulton (for a long time now a resident of Norway, though 48 years ago for small reward he was teaching me geography ...

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