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The Road to Sligo

Tom Paulin, 17 May 1984

Poetry and Metamorphosis 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Cambridge, 97 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 521 24848 5
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by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 120 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 19 211958 3
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Conversation with the Prince 
by Tadeusz Rozewicz, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Anvil, 206 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 85646 079 6
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Passions and Impressions 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 396 pp., £16.50, October 1983, 0 571 12054 7
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An Empty Room 
by Leopold Staff, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £3.25, March 1983, 0 906427 52 5
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... D.M. Thomas’s shoddy translations of Pushkin and Akhmatova should have received more attention. Leopold Staff, who died in 1957, was one of the founding fathers of modern Polish literature and his sophisticated simplicity won the admiration of Milosz, Rozewicz and other leading poets. In Czerniawski’s translation of ‘Ars’ there is a Horatian ...

How powerful was the Kaiser?

Christopher Clark: Wilhelm II, 23 April 2015

Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900-41 
by John Röhl, translated by Sheila de Bellaigue and Roy Bridge.
Cambridge, 1562 pp., £45, February 2014, 978 0 521 84431 4
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... In January​ 1904, King Leopold II of Belgium was invited to Berlin to attend a birthday dinner for Kaiser Wilhelm II. The two monarchs were seated next to each other and everything was going nicely until the Kaiser suddenly brought up the question of a possible future French attack on Germany. In the event of a war between Germany and France, Wilhelm explained, he would expect the Belgians to side with Germany ...

Send more blondes

Bernard Porter: Spies in the Congo, 20 October 2016

Spies in the Congo: The Race for the Ore that Built the Atomic Bomb 
by Susan Williams.
Hurst, 369 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 84904 638 1
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... Arabs and then Europeans. Then the Europeans took it over, or, to be precise, one European, King Leopold II of the Belgians, who presented himself – the old monster – as a humanitarian, and was given the Congo as a personal fiefdom to prevent his more powerful neighbours squabbling over it. (There’s still a statue of him, incidentally, in the Jardin du ...

Ça va un peu

Adam Shatz: Congo, 23 October 2014

Congo: The Epic History of a People 
by David Van Reybrouck.
Fourth Estate, 656 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 00 756290 9
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... French to Jason Stearns, to say nothing of Adam Hochschild’s study of the Free State, King Leopold’s Ghost, and Neal Ascherson’s The King Incorporated. David Van Reybrouck’s enormous history is the latest addition to this literature. Van Reybrouck is a Dutch-speaking Belgian journalist whose father was working as an electrical engineer in Katanga ...


Tariq Ali: Richard Sorge’s Fate, 21 November 2019

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent 
by Owen Matthews.
Bloomsbury, 448 pp., £25, March 2019, 978 1 4088 5778 6
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... The​ skills of the three top Soviet spies of the 20th century – Richard Sorge, Leopold Trepper and Ignace Poretsky/Reiss (better known as Ludwik) – remain unmatched. Sorge has always attracted particular attention. Ian Fleming called him the ‘most formidable spy in history’; other admirers included John le Carré, Tom Clancy and General MacArthur ...

Eclipse of Europe

Brian Bond, 3 June 1982

End of the Affair: The Collapse of the Anglo-French Alliance 1939-40 
by Eleanor Gates.
Allen and Unwin, 630 pp., £15, February 1982, 0 04 940063 0
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The Strategy of Phoney War: Britain, Sweden and the Iron Ore Question 1939-1940 
by Thomas Munch-Petersen.
Militärhistoriska Forlaget, 296 pp., £8, October 1981, 91 85266 17 5
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... to what was expected to be a long, attritional war. Against this, however, there was no joint-staff organisation; a complicated command structure just about adequate for a static war; and a communications network barely adequate even in peace conditions. A French staff officer likened Gamelin’s headquarters to a ...

You can’t put it down

Fintan O’Toole, 18 July 1996

The Fourth Estate 
by Jeffrey Archer.
HarperCollins, 550 pp., £16.99, May 1996, 0 00 225318 6
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Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press 
by Matthew Engel.
Gollancz, 352 pp., £20, April 1996, 9780575061439
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Newspaper Power: The New National Press in Britain 
by Jeremy Tunstall.
Oxford, 441 pp., £35, March 1996, 0 19 871133 6
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... labour back to central and East London’. In the Sixties and Seventies, about a third of all staff journalists on British national newspapers worked outside London. Now, less than a tenth do so. And those who work in London have to do about three times as much work. Roughly the same number of journalists work in London as in the Sixties. But there are ...

I try not to think too hard

Greg Afinogenov: The End of Tsarist Russia, 4 February 2016

Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the End of Tsarist Russia 
by Dominic Lieven.
Allen Lane, 429 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 84614 381 6
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Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire 
by Joshua Sanborn.
Oxford, 304 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 0 19 874568 6
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... Bonch-Bruevich, a major-general in the tsar’s service and head of the Red Army’s general staff, who outlived Stalin, is the outstanding example – few of the men and women who shaped the public affairs of the empire in 1914 held any power in 1924. Dominic Lieven’s new book, Towards the Flame, tries to make sense of the suicidal decision that ...

Haddock blows his top

Christopher Tayler: Hergé’s Redemption, 7 June 2012

Hergé: The Man who Created Tintin 
by Pierre Assouline, translated by Charles Ruas.
Oxford, 276 pp., £9.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 983727 4
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Hergé, Son of Tintin 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Tina Kover.
Johns Hopkins, 394 pp., £15.50, November 2011, 978 1 4214 0454 7
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... niece and Siamese cat, which according to Peeters he sometimes took for walks on a lead. Leopold III surrendered on 27 May; placed under house arrest in his palace at Laeken, he tried to come to an arrangement with Hitler and refused to acknowledge the government in exile, all of which would cost him his position later on. Hergé took his cue from ...


Gabriele Annan, 7 February 1991

Reminiscences and Reflections 
by Golo Mann, translated by Krishna Winston.
Faber, 338 pp., £25, January 1991, 0 571 15151 5
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... they got to the end of a lap. The young prince was a pupil, and always addressed as Sie by the staff, whereas the other boys were Du; he wasn’t allowed to wear gloves in the cold, though, hardiness being a Salem fetish. Hardiness and comradeship were promoted by ‘hikes’ and more ambitious expeditions, and those were fun – Mann took part in a ...

Rachel and Her Race

Patrick Parrinder, 18 August 1994

Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875-1945 
by Bryan Cheyette.
Cambridge, 301 pp., £35, November 1993, 0 521 44355 5
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The Jewish Heritage in British History: Englishness and Jewishness 
edited by Tony Kushner.
Cass, 234 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7146 3464 6
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... against the Graf von Schwabing, the arch-German spy who, at a secret meeting of the Chiefs of Staff, successfully impersonates the First Sea Lord. Buchan’s fiction contains more offhand remarks about the Jews than it does Jewish characters. Cheyette lays great stress on an early story, ‘The Grove of Ashtaroth’, in which a Jewish settler in a remote ...

When in Bed

David Blackbourn, 19 October 1995

Reflections on a Life 
by Norbert Elias.
Polity, 166 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 7456 1383 7
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The Civilising Process 
by Norbert Elias.
Blackwell, 558 pp., £50, March 1994, 0 631 19222 0
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... life was fitful. He held a research fellowship at the LSE, moved to Cambridge with the rest of its staff during the war, and was later briefly interned as an alien on the Isle of Man (C.P. Snow helped to get him released). After the war he taught extra-mural classes in London, then in 1954 joined the sociology department at Leicester. There, Elias remained ...

Young Brutes

R.W. Johnson: The Amerys, 23 February 2006

Speaking for England: Leo, Julian and John Amery: The Tragedy of a Political Family 
by David Faber.
Free Press, 612 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 7432 5688 3
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... had been a Hungarian Jew and Leo himself had been attacked by Lord Haw-Haw as ‘the half-Jew Leopold Amery’. At one stage Jack asserted that the victory of the German armies was ‘necessary in order that small children shall no longer be the victims of the Jews’. He also attempted to recruit British POWs to fight for the Nazis; this, not ...

Exporting the Royals

Robert Tombs, 7 October 1993

Maximilian and Juárez 
by Jasper Ridley.
Constable, 353 pp., £16.95, March 1993, 0 09 472070 3
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Maximilian’s Lieutenant: A Personal History of the Mexican Campaign, 1864-7 
by Ernst Pitner, translated and edited by Gordon Etherington-Smith.
Tauris, 256 pp., £35, October 1993, 9781850435600
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... Charlotte was the beautiful and ambitious daughter of the most successful off-the-peg monarch, Leopold I of the Belgians, who had shown since 1831 how ersatz German royalty could offer a new and shaky state stability, dignity, neutrality and valuable connections. Maximilian was said to have moderately liberal inclinations. In reality, as Ridley neatly puts ...

One of Hitler’s Inflatables

Mark Mazower: Quisling, 20 January 2000

Quisling: A Study in Treachery 
by Hans Fredrik Dahl, translated by Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife.
Cambridge, 452 pp., £30, May 1999, 0 521 49697 7
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... found the situation much improved. When the work ended, he decided not to return to the General Staff: he accepted an offer of early retirement and settled in Paris, where he studied, working on Universism, writing articles about the Russian Revolution and browsing in secondhand bookstores. Only now he was not alone. In Russia he had acquired not one but ...

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