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Very Tight Schedule

Theo Tait, 1 June 2000

Driving the Heart 
by Jason Brown.
Cape, 224 pp., £10, January 2000, 0 224 06053 8
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... Brown’s version of trauma and domestic dysfunction sometimes has a pre-packaged feel to it. (As Karl French pointed out in relation to American Beauty, the term ‘dysfunctional family’ feels almost tautologous nowadays.) Driving the Heart insistently fingers parents as mad, ill, absent or damaging: the focus of resentment and rage. The household is ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 23 October 2014

... People​ said things about Karl, but not often to his face. He might like the things or he might not, and that did not always depend on whether they were intended as compliments or the opposite. Personal remarks could be returned with interest, hot or cold. Whichever way, he remembered them with accuracy.I can think of two personal remarks about Karl, in his early years, which reached him and went down well ...

Nothing goes without saying

Stanley Cavell, 6 January 1994

The Marx Brothers: ‘A Day at the Races’, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Duck Soup’ 
introduced by Karl French.
Faber, 261 pp., £8.99, November 1993, 0 571 16647 4
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... hovering over a destroyed landscape. A few years ago, on a walk during a conference break, a French philosopher and I exchanged friendly regrets that we were not, as it were, culturally better prepared to do the promise of each other’s work more explicit justice in our own. He reported that American friends of his had been urging him to read Emerson ...

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... for these differences is not hard to seek, given the dominance of the Annales school in post-war French historiography. For them, the aim was une histoire à part entière – embracing all human activity – as Lucien Febvre expressed it: the duty of the historian was to record ‘the total social fact’ – a phrase from Marcel Mauss which reflects the ...

Conrad’s Complaint

Frank Kermode, 17 November 1983

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. I: 1861-1897 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 446 pp., £19.50, September 1983, 0 521 24216 9
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... been translated, and a series of about a hundred to Marguerite Poradowska appeared in the original French. However, it seems that ‘more than a third of Conrad’s extant correspondence – close to 1500 letters – has not yet been made available.’ Since Professor Karl, who makes this statement, elsewhere speaks of 3500 ...

Northern Laughter

Karl Miller: Macrone on Scott, 10 October 2013

The Life of Sir Walter Scott 
by John Macrone, edited by Daniel Grader.
Edinburgh, 156 pp., £65, February 2013, 978 0 7486 6991 2
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... An acid test for the degree of candour achieved in Scott biography is the treatment given to his French wife. Macrone is not outspoken, but he does permit himself a breath of discrimination here. ‘Her memory is adored by the rustic population, and the “gude Leddy Scott” is a name never mentioned but with humble affection and gratitude,’ Macrone ...

Homage to Marginality

Tony Tanner, 7 February 1980

Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives 
by Frederick Karl.
Faber, 1008 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 571 11386 9
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... Conrad’s Polish Background, edited and introduced by Zdzislaw Najder (to which I think Professor Karl is indebted for much of his Polish material); the minute and meticulous tracings of Conrad’s every movement by Norman Sherry, who not only told us when Conrad was in, say, Bangkok, but on which side of which streets he walked along; the more contentious ...

Karl’s Darl

M. Wynn Thomas, 11 January 1990

William Faulkner: American Writer 
by Frederick Karl.
Faber, 1131 pp., £25, July 1989, 9780571149919
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William Faulkner 
by David Dowling.
Macmillan, 183 pp., £6.95, June 1989, 0 333 42855 2
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... to prevail – once Malcolm Cowley’s Portable selection had, with some assistance from the French, put Yoknapatawpha County on the literary map in 1946. From then on, an increasing number of readers discovered that this relatively obscure Mississippean had written not one but a whole series of awesome novels – ‘full of the land dug out of his skull ...


Karl Miller: Smiley and Bingham, 9 May 2013

A Delicate Truth 
by John le Carré.
Viking, 310 pp., £18.99, April 2013, 978 0 670 92279 6
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The Man Who Was George Smiley: The Life of John Bingham 
by Michael Jago.
Biteback, 308 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 1 84954 513 6
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... le Carré owed his success.’ (To Bingham, moreover, David Cornwell owed his pen-name, via the French for ‘the square’.) The novelist Bingham liked plots, as might a man who was both a novelist and a runner of agents. He didn’t like the ‘fluffy stuff’ of character-creation. Jago admires him and his works, while being willing to call him ...

A World Gone Wrong

Rebecca Karl: Chinese Workers in WW1, 1 December 2011

Strangers on the Western Front: Chinese Workers in the Great War 
by Xu Guoqi.
Harvard, 336 pp., £26.95, February 2011, 978 0 674 04999 4
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... as a wartime contract worker. Having passed the stringent medical administered by the Chinese and French authorities, he travelled to Hong Kong and then in several stages crossed to Europe. He was put to work in France, where for 19 months he laboured ten-hour days, moving in a tightly circumscribed circuit between his designated place of work and the camps ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Habits, 1 March 1984

... in Gerrard Street. This was the best coffee I ever found. The shop was kept by two elderly French ladies, who also kept a French café next door. After about five years the two elderly ladies sold out to two rather casual young men who kept the name of Legrain and the No 5 coffee. This kept me going until the ...
Revolutionary France, 1770-1880 
by François Furet, translated by Antonia Nevill.
Blackwell, 630 pp., £40, December 1992, 0 631 17029 4
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... hailed (or criticised, depending on the context) as the ‘king’ of the Bicentenary of the French Revolution. He seemed to be everywhere, on television, in the newspapers, and adorning the pages of almost every glossy magazine. Foreign reporters featured him in pieces on the celebration. Even his absence from the international scholarly meeting at the ...

A Rock of Order

Christopher Clark: Through Metternich’s Eyes, 8 October 2020

Metternich: Strategist and Visionary 
by Wolfram Siemann, translated by Daniel Steuer.
Harvard, 900 pp., £31.95, November 2019, 978 0 674 74392 2
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... February, exacting a further three thousand casualties (and conceding only five hundred). Further French victories followed at Montmirail and Chateau-Thierry, with more than five thousand allied casualties. At the Battle of Vauchamps on 14 February, seven thousand Prussians were killed or wounded. The consequence of a campaign which was only being carried on ...
... by a British writer, and that British and American enthusiasts alike have profoundly depended on French initiatives: but it is not impossible, it is even likely, that such contributions may come. Many opponents of deconstruction would admit that Roland Barthes, whose death occurred the other day, was highly talented, and they could well have been moved by ...

Was she Julia?

Stephen Spender, 7 July 1983

Code Name ‘Mary’: Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground 
by Muriel Gardiner.
Yale, 200 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 300 02940 3
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... is also being psychoanalysed and looking after her child. At the time of the bombardment of the Karl Marx Hof, a block of workers’ tenements, by police and soldiers of Chancellor Dollfuss’s Fascist government, she becomes a very active member of the anti-Fascist resistance in Austria. Apart from the fact that Julia comes to a tragic end, the ...

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