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Aunts and Uncles

Michael Hofmann

19 November 1992
A Feast in the Garden 
by George Konrad, translated by Imre Goldstein.
Faber, 394 pp., £14.99, October 1992, 0 571 16623 7
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Wartime Lies 
by Louis Begley.
Picador, 198 pp., £5.99, August 1992, 0 330 32099 8
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by Carmelo Samona, translated by Linda Lappin.
Carcanet, 131 pp., £13.95, August 1992, 0 85635 990 4
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by Thomas Healy.
Polygon, 161 pp., £7.95, July 1992, 0 7486 6121 2
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... about it, like a running commentary on a game of subbuteo football: his dangerous seducer with his wheeled suitcase; his pathetic nest-building sexpots of women; his terminally self-admiring writers. LouisBegley’s Wartime Lies won the Ernest Hemingway and Aer Lingus prizes when it came out last year, and the paperback carries glowing tributes from Christopher Hope and Paul Bailey. I don’t find ...

All he does is write his novel

Christian Lorentzen: Updike

4 June 2014
by Adam Begley.
Harper, 558 pp., £25, April 2014, 978 0 06 189645 3
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... that hardly troubled him after the age of 25, when his first mature attempt at a novel was turned down. (Called Home, it was dismantled and used for spare parts.) But one gets the sense from Adam Begley’s sharp and diverting biography that he felt a little bit dead anytime a piece under his byline (or, in the old New Yorker, with his name at the end) wasn’t on the newsstands. ‘Johnny knew it ...


Emilie Bickerton

22 November 2018
The Great Nadar: The Man behind the Camera 
by Adam Begley.
Tim Duggan, 247 pp., £12.99, July 2018, 978 1 101 90262 2
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... Like​ the knives of Chinese jugglers’, Charles Bataille said of his friend Félix Nadar, ‘turbulent, unexpected, terrifying’. Adam Begley’s biography describes a life lived so frenetically, it’s surprising it lasted so long – Nadar died at the age of ninety, in 1910. Yet he is remembered today primarily for the stillness and ...
10 June 2010
... He also knew that, as the question of what the tribunal knew or did not know would be virtually impossible to settle in law, he was almost certain to be found guilty. ‘It is impossible,’ LouisBegley writes in his recent book about the affair, Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters, ‘to overstate Zola’s courage.’2 Zola’s trial was billed as the social event of the decade. It was the place ...

Sad Stories

Adam Begley

5 January 1989
Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... to say that early in life she was married to Robert Lowell and was friends with Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom and Delmore Schwartz, and that later she married A.J. Liebling and was friends with Louis Auchincloss, Wilfrid Sheed and Howard Moss, does not suffice. Roberts hopes to add spice to his book by playing detective with Stafford’s medical record – this also does not suffice. Stafford ...

Who Owns Kafka?

Judith Butler

3 March 2011
... of belonging was similarly vexed (and became a subject of dispute with Gershom Scholem), made famous one of Kafka’s quips about the Jewish people: ‘My people, provided that I have one.’ As LouisBegley has recently made clear in a quite candid biographical essay, Kafka remained not only in two minds about Jewishness, but sometimes quite clearly torn apart. ‘What have I in common with Jews ...

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