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History Man

John Robertson

4 November 1993
G.B. Vico: The Making of an Anti-Modern 
by Mark Lilla.
Harvard, 225 pp., £29.95, April 1993, 0 674 33962 2
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The Rehabilitation of Myth: Vico’s ‘New Science’ 
by Joseph Mali.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £35, September 1992, 0 521 41952 2
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... he suggested, however, was that Vico’s closest intellectual affinities lay with the later 18th-century philosophers of the Counter-Enlightenment, with the Germans Hamann, Jacobi and Herder and with Joseph de Maistre. Virtually alone and entirely unrecognised, Vico had participated in the subversion of some of the most cherished convictions of the Enlightenment even before they had been fully worked ...

Don’t Just Do Something, Talk

Slavoj Žižek: the financial crisis

10 October 2008
... average opinion to be.‘ We are forced to make choices without having the knowledge that would enable us to make them; or, as John Gray has put it: ‘We are forced to live as if we were free.’ Joseph Stiglitz recently wrote that, although there is a growing consensus among economists that any bailout based on Henry Paulson’s plan won’t work, ‘it is impossible for politicians to do nothing ...

Report from Sirius B

Jeremy Harding: ‘Phantom Africa’

22 March 2018
Phantom Africa 
by Michel Leiris, translated by Brent Hayes Edwards.
Seagull, 711 pp., £42, January 2017, 978 0 85742 377 1
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... as the next assignment. Mussolini’s invasion, two years after the mission’s triumphant return, would throw him off course. He fell back on the founding Dakar-Djibouti discovery: the Dogon of Mali, a relatively isolated people with dazzling origin myths and a fastidious, poetic sense of interaction with the ancestors – real and mythic – which came to a pitch of expression at funerals and ...
11 April 2013
Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa 
by Catherine Higgs.
Ohio, 230 pp., £24.95, June 2012, 978 0 8214 2006 5
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... São Tomé and its tiny neighbour Príncipe, so he decided to set about investigating labour conditions on the islands. Being, as he said, too busy to look into the matter himself, he commissioned Joseph Burtt, a middle-aged utopian who had abandoned banking to live in a commune in Gloucestershire, to go on his behalf. The commune had begun to falter, and Burtt was casting around for a purpose in ...

The Suitors

Stephen W. Smith: China in Africa

19 March 2015
China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa 
by Howard French.
Knopf, 285 pp., £22.50, June 2014, 978 0 307 95698 9
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... highway between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire in record time, ‘after ten years of waiting for our Western partners to get off the ground’, as President Sassou N’Guesso still complains. In Mali, the scheme of irrigating 1.2 million hectares – a target set long ago by the French coloniser – no longer seems a mirage; in 2011, Ghana obtained $3 billion, the first tranche of a $13 billion ...

Chop and Burn

Adam Mars-Jones: Annie Proulx

27 July 2016
Barkskins 
by Annie Proulx.
Fourth Estate, 717 pp., £18.99, June 2016, 978 0 00 723200 0
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... labourers before settling on the land they earn by their work – and members of both families are still present in the book seven hundred pages later. René Sel marries a Mi’kmaw woman called Mali (really Mari, but she can’t manage the ‘r’ sound), a happy union even if the idea was not his. René’s master, rising in the world, made an advantageous marriage and wanted to regularise his ...
30 March 1989
Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace 
by Peter Fuller.
Chatto, 260 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 7011 2942 5
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Seeing through Berger 
by Peter Fuller.
Claridge, 176 pp., £8.95, November 1988, 1 870626 75 3
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Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain. Vol. IX: Since the Second World War 
edited by Boris Ford.
Cambridge, 369 pp., £19.50, November 1988, 0 521 32765 2
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Ruskin’s Myths 
by Dinah Birch.
Oxford, 212 pp., £22.50, August 1988, 9780198128724
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The Sun is God: Painting, Literature and Mythology in the 19th Century 
edited by J.B. Bullen.
Oxford, 230 pp., £27.50, March 1989, 0 19 812884 3
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Artisans and Architects: The Ruskinian Tradition in Architectural Thought 
by Mark Swenarton.
Macmillan, 239 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 333 46460 5
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... on a fairly large scale seem still to be what art students are most encouraged to make. Critics now incline to applaud in them evidence of a strenously physical relationship with paint. Thus Mali Morris, Lucy Ellmann tells us, works ‘with acrylic on unstretched canvas on the floor ... pulling gobs of paint a little way or densely caking colour on, with rough or gentle strokes. The paint ...

At the Crossroads Hour

Lewis Nkosi: Chinua Achebe

12 November 1998
Chinua Achebe: A Biography 
by Ezenwa-Ohaeto.
Curry, 326 pp., £25, November 1997, 0 253 33342 3
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... in his book is a paraphrase without a trace of dissent: ‘Achebe illustrates the insistence on human presence in the traditional Mbari art and contrasts this with its absence in the works of Joseph Conrad.’ Well, is there no ‘human presence’ in works like Nostromo or even Lord Jim? This is not the kind of critical biography which, by offering a certain description of a life, can transform ...

We came, we saw, he died

Jackson Lears: Clinton’s Creed

5 February 2015
Hard Choices 
by Hillary Clinton.
Simon and Schuster, 635 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 1 4711 3150 9
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HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton 
by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.
Hutchinson, 440 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 0 09 195448 2
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... energise military intervention. It was all very exciting, but not everyone was convinced that American military involvement was a good idea. The secretary of defense Robert Gates, the vice president Joseph Biden and the former Nato commander Wesley Clark were all opposed, while Clinton, the UN ambassador Susan Rice and national security council aide Samantha Power urged action. Obama was typically ...

The Uninvited

Jeremy Harding: At The Rich Man’s Gate

3 February 2000
... at the asylum-seeker’s bitter privilege. Others spoke well of the kindness they’d been shown while travelling through Algeria. One morning in the camp, a giant of a man from Cameroon called Joseph announced that Algeria might be a dangerous place for Algerians, but ‘not for us blacks’. He couldn’t say why – ‘perhaps it’s something in the Koran.’ Joseph was 25. He had crossed most ...

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