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Britain’s Thermonuclear Bluff

Norman Dombey and Eric Grove, 22 October 1992

... fission device, with a yield of 25 kilotons, had been successfully tested in the Monte Bello islands off Australia in October 1952. Getting this far had not been particularly difficult. Penney and several members of his team had been members of the Manhattan Project in the US during the war and knew what to do. The main problem was to accumulate ...

Unwritten Masterpiece

Barbara Everett: Dryden’s ‘Hamlet’, 4 January 2001

... that left to himself he would have filled his whole book with Prologues and Epilogues. Or again, Keith Walker, in his Oxford Poetry Library selection, confines himself almost entirely (after Mac Flecknoe, parts of Absalom and Achitophel, ‘To the Memory of Mr Oldham’, ‘St Cecilia’s Day’, and the ‘Lady’s Song’) to translations and Fables. All ...

A Kind of Greek

Jeremy Harding: Frank Thompson, 7 March 2013

A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson 
by Peter Conradi.
Bloomsbury, 419 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 1 4088 0243 4
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... garden at Boars Hill in 1931: a photographer in a Calcutta studio might have unfurled a backdrop labelled ‘Britain: Home Counties’ and positioned the great man in front of it. It was on this visit that Gandhi told his host he would never say ‘farewell to India’ – the title of E.J.’s most recent book – and went on to explain: ‘You are India’s ...

Cute, My Arse

Seamus Perry: Geoffrey Hill, 12 September 2019

The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 148 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 19 882952 2
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... in the marvellous introduction to The Oxford Book of Modern Verse where Yeats is describing the rebellious poets of his youth who wanted to kick over Victorian moralism: they thought of poetry, he says, as ‘a tradition like religion and liable to corruption’. And what about the queen? In 2011 the queen made the first state visit by a British monarch to an ...

Alas! Deceived

Alan Bennett: Philip Larkin, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 570 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 571 15174 4
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... like a Fifties novel of provincial life, though not one written by him so much as by John Wain or Keith Waterhouse. Indeed Ruth sounds (or Larkin makes her sound) like Billy Liar’s unsatisfactory girlfriend, whose snog-inhibiting Jaffa Billy hurls to the other end of the cemetery. Having laid out a grand total of 15s. 7d. on an evening with Ruth, Larkin ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... I: The FireII: The BuildingIII: The AftermathIV: The NarrativeV: Whose Fault?VI: The RebellionVII: The FactsFilm AudioI: The FireIt was​ a clear day and you could see for miles. From her flat on the 23rd floor, Rania texted one of her best friends from back home and they talked about facts. Who you love is a fact and the meals you cook are facts ...

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