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Reality Is Worse

Adam Mars-Jones: Lydia Davis

16 April 2014
Can’t and Won’t 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 304 pp., £16.99, April 2014, 978 0 241 14664 4
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... or on the borderline (‘dreamlike waking experiences’ are counted here as dreams). There are also various ‘stories’ and one ‘rant’ drawn from Flaubert’s letters, most of them written to Louise Colet when he was working on Madame Bovary (of which Davis has published a translation). These are reliably sharper in tone and more highly coloured than anything Davis provides on her own account ...

Colonel Cundum’s Domain

Clare Bucknell: Nose, no nose

18 July 2019
Itch, Clap, Pox: Venereal Disease in the 18th-Century Imagination 
by Noelle Gallagher.
Yale, 288 pp., £55, March, 978 0 300 21705 6
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... to stick a pin in its subject as it inflates it. Like John Durant Breval’s The Progress of a Rake (1732), another poem in ten cantos which compares the grisly suicide of a young syphilitic to the noble death of Cato, it exposes the absurdity of the comparison and the forms of masculinity it props up.Women had their own heroic disease narratives. Memoirs of well-known prostitutes and bawds ...


Richard J. Evans: Hitler’s Aristocratic Go-Betweens

17 March 2016
Go-Betweens for Hitler 
by Karina Urbach.
Oxford, 389 pp., £20, July 2015, 978 0 19 870366 2
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... Alfred of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha; Princess Alexandra of Hohenlohe-Langenburg; Princess Beatrice de Orléans y Borbón, Duchess of Galliera; Prince Albert, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein; Princess Marie Louise of Anhalt; and Princess Alice of Teck. The First World War was a challenge to this high society of monarchs and aristocrats. The Russian-born Dowager Duchess of Coburg was denounced in Germany as a ...
27 May 1993
Flaubert–Sand: The Correspondence 
translated by Barbara Bray.
HarperCollins, 428 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 00 217625 4
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Correspondence. Tome III: janvier 1859 – décembre 1868 
by Gustave Flaubert, edited by Jean Bruneau.
Gallimard, 1727 pp., frs 20, March 1991, 2 07 010669 1
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Madame Bovary: Patterns of Provincial Life 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Francis Steegmuller.
Everyman, 330 pp., £8.99, March 1993, 1 85715 140 2
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Madame Bovary 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Geoffrey Wall.
Penguin, 292 pp., £4.99, June 1992, 0 14 044526 9
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... in 1863, routinely at first but gaining in style and idiosyncrasy as it becomes more regular, though without ever dominating this third volume as the wonderful letters Flaubert wrote to his mistress Louise Colet dominated the second. The hectic and intrusive Colet is by this date gone from Flaubert’s life, a ‘bonne Muse’ no longer requiring to be fended off by letter but sacrificed once and for ...
24 April 1997
Congo Journey 
by Redmond O’Hanlon.
Hamish Hamilton, 480 pp., £18, October 1996, 0 241 12768 8
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... for the first time, in the grand Linnaean manner. And the human indigenes of the forests – the native fauna of the genus Homo sapiens – could be interesting, helpful, loyal, brave, even noble (as well, of course, as savage and stupid). But they were not likely to find the bwana-sahib ridiculous; and if they did, it was clear that this was further evidence of the error of their ways. In O ...

When Ireland Became Divided

Garret FitzGerald: The Free State’s Fight for Recognition

21 January 1999
Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. Vol. I: 1919-22 
edited by Ronan Fanning.
Royal Irish Academy and Department of Foreign Affairs, 548 pp., £30, October 1998, 1 874045 63 1
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... minority were present at the first meeting of the Dáil Government in January 1919, but they elected a temporary cabinet of five people, the Foreign Affairs portfolio being allocated to Count George Noble Plunkett, who retained this post in the eight-member Cabinet established under Eamon de Valera’s presidency ten weeks later, in which Michael Collins was appointed Minister for Finance. Plunkett ...

Travels with My Mom

Terry Castle: In Santa Fe

16 August 2007
... who still live and work here.) There’s no escaping the whole degrading set-up, in which everyone – tourist and ‘native’ alike – is forced to play his or her prescribed role: Put-Upon Noble Savage or Sympathetic but Clueless White Person. Even the babbling brook gets roped into it. The foreign tourists, of whom there are a lot (since the dollar’s in the toilet), seem to have an easier ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth

23 January 2014
Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... If you had been living in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, would you have written such a story?’ Question 6 is: ‘What set of aesthetic values makes you think that the cheap is more valid than the noble and the slimy is more truthful than the sublime?’ This is the sort of cheap trick that gets school debating teams disqualified. The issue doesn’t go away just because you’ve surrounded it with ...

Germs: A Memoir

Richard Wollheim: Childhood

15 April 2004
... or anything I ever wrote. On the completion of finishing school, a family council decided that my mother should become a milliner, and an opening was found for her in an establishment in Paris named Louise, which, rumours say, doubled as a high-class maison de passe patronised by the Prince of Wales. However, my mother was determined to go on the stage, and she returned to London, and entered the ...

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