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The French are not men

Michael Wood: L’affaire Dreyfus

6 September 2017
Lettres à la marquise: correspondance inédite avec Marie Arconati Visconti 
by Alfred Dreyfus, edited by Philippe Oriol.
Grasset, 592 pp., £19, March 2017, 978 2 246 85965 9
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... foreseeable and scandalous’, a wonderful combination in its way, and we might apply the phrase to many incidents in our world. I didn’t find it in yesterday’s newspaper, though. The historian MarcelThomas uses it in his remarkable book, published in 1989, on Charles Marie Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, the man who was the spy that Alfred Dreyfus wasn’t. Thomas is thinking of Esterhazy’s ...

Imperfect Knight

Gabriel Josipovici

17 April 1980
Chaucer’s Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary 
by Terry Jones.
Weidenfeld, 319 pp., £8.95, January 1980, 0 297 77566 9
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Chaucer, Langland and the Creative Imagination 
by David Aers.
Routledge, 236 pp., £9.75, January 1980, 9780710003515
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The Golden Age: Manuscript Painting at the Time of Jean, Duc de Berry 
by Marcel Thomas.
Chatto, 120 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7011 2471 7
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... those of the representatives of the three great orders or estates? Can it be a coincidence that the Knight and the Parson begin and end the work, the latter explicitly linking the pilgrimage to St Thomas’s shrine with that other pilgrimage we all have to make to the heavenly Jerusalem? The critic who wants to cast doubt on such points needs to do more than amass facts: he needs to provide us with ...


Edward Timms

19 April 1990
Thomas​ Mann and his Family 
by Marcel​ Reich-Ranicki, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Collins, 230 pp., £20, August 1989, 9780002158374
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... As the debate about German identity enters a new phase, the work of Marcel Reich-Ranicki acquires a special interest. His career crosses several ideological frontiers: from Pilsudski’s Poland to Hitler’s Germany, from the Communist East to the capitalist West, from ...

Two Sonnets

Anne Carson

3 February 2011
... who stands there listening. Let’s think about varieties of listening. For perhaps the first fifteen years of their existence Shakespeare’s sonnets were private poems. Before the London bookseller Thomas Thorpe printed them in 1609 they circulated as manuscripts copied by hand, given from friend to friend. You might have kept yours in an English-made cabinet with drawers. Let’s think about ...

The Thing

Michael Wood: Versions of Proust

6 January 2005
In Search of Lost Time: Vol. I: The Way by Swann’s 
by Marcel​ Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 496 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118031 5
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol.II: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower 
by Marcel​ Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by James Grieve.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118032 3
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. III: The Guermantes Way 
by Marcel​ Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Mark Treharne.
Penguin, 640 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118033 1
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. IV: Sodom and Gomorrah 
by Marcel​ Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by John Sturrock.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 9780141180342
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. V: ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘The Fugitive’ 
by Marcel​ Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Carol Clark and Peter Collier.
Penguin, 720 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118035 8
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. VI: Finding Time Again 
by Marcel​ Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Ian Patterson.
Penguin, 400 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118036 6
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The Proust Project 
edited by André Aciman.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., $25, November 2004, 0 374 23832 4
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... strangeness of translation’ may be a ‘privileged place’ for our encounter with this great novel. This was certainly my experience with this version. I was reading a writer who was recognisably Marcel Proust, and I learned in the process what I should have known already: that Proust’s style, so often a matter of striking analogies, dizzying speculation and an irony which prefers paradox to ...

Protests with Parasols

Michael Wood: Proust, Dreyfus, Israel

20 December 2012
Proust among the Nations: From Dreyfus to the Middle East 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Chicago, 239 pp., £22.50, February 2012, 978 0 226 72578 9
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... the very core of what it means to be a Jew’.Rose opens her book with the diary Dreyfus kept on Devil’s Island, later published as Five Years of My Life. It is one of the ironies of the affair, as MarcelThomas pointed out some time ago, that Dreyfus was less informed than most people of the developments in his case, and the title of Thomas’s book, L’Affaire sans Dreyfus (1961), does not, as it ...

In the Gasworks

David Wheatley

18 May 2000
To Ireland, I 
by Paul Muldoon.
Oxford, 150 pp., £19.99, March 2000, 0 19 818475 1
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by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £7.99, February 1999, 0 571 19762 0
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The Birds 
translated by Paul Muldoon, by Richard Martin.
Gallery Press, 80 pp., £13.95, July 1999, 1 85235 245 0
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Reading Paul Muldoon 
by Clair Wills.
Bloodaxe, 222 pp., £10.95, October 1998, 1 85224 348 1
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... Marcel Aymé’s novel Le Passemuraille, about a man who can walk through walls, would have interested Thomas Caulfield Irwin (1823-92). Irwin is cited in Paul Muldoon’s To Ireland, I for a neighbourly dispute he was having with one John O’Donovan. ‘He says I am his enemy,’ Irwin wrote, ‘and watch ...

Arty Party

Hal Foster: From the ‘society of spectacle’ to the ‘society of extras’

4 December 2003
Relational Aesthetics 
by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Matthew Copeland.
Les Presses du réel, 128 pp., €9, March 2002, 2 84066 060 1
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by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Jeanine Herman.
Lukas and Sternberg, 88 pp., $19, October 2001, 0 9711193 0 9
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Interviews: Volume I 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Charta, 967 pp., $60, June 2003, 9788881584314
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... by Rirkrit Tiravanija – is a notion of art as an ephemeral offering, a precarious gift (as opposed to an accredited painting or sculpture); and in the second two instances (by Liam Gillick and by Thomas Hirschhorn), a notion of art as an informal probing into a specific figure or event in history or politics, fiction or philosophy. Although each type of work can be tagged with a theoretical pedigree ...

The Planet That Wasn’t There

Thomas​ Jones: Phantom Planets

19 January 2017
The Hunt for Vulcan: How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet and Deciphered the Universe 
by Thomas​ Levenson.
Head of Zeus, 229 pp., £7.99, August 2016, 978 1 78497 398 8
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... sound reasons, that a small planet known as Vulcan lurked invisibly close to the Sun, inside the orbit of Mercury. How that belief came about, and how Einstein came to demolish it, is the subject of Thomas Levenson’s eye-opening book.Pluto lost its planetary status ten years ago after a group of astronomers, Brown among them, discovered another object of roughly the same size orbiting the Sun beyond ...
4 July 1996
Djuna Barnes 
by Philip Herring.
Viking, 416 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 670 84969 3
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... New York but the Times’. She moved into a ‘cavernous old house’ in Greenwich Village with sundry trendies and their visitors – Alfred Stieglitz, Edna St Vincent Millay, Eugene O’Neill and Marcel Duchamp, among others. She was connected with the Provincetown Players and the Little Review. She had affairs with decadents of both sexes, she wrote about their lives and their haunts in newspapers ...

At Tate Modern

Rosemary Hill: Alexander Calder

3 March 2016
... until 3 April), ‘exist beyond the confines of “fine art”’. Calder’s reputation centres on the fact that he reintroduced moving sculpture to high culture by inventing what his friend Marcel Duchamp named the ‘mobile’. Yet some of the anxiety signalled by all those inverted commas is still perceptible in this thoughtful and delightful exhibition, the largest ever of Calder’s work ...

Mann v. Mann

Colm Tóibín: The Brother Problem

3 November 2011
House of Exile: War, Love and Literature, from Berlin to Los Angeles 
by Evelyn Juers.
Allen Lane, 400 pp., £25, May 2011, 978 1 84614 461 5
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... The imposing house on Stockton Street in Princeton where Thomas Mann lived between 1938 and 1941 is these days owned by the Catholic Church. The main room is large enough for a congregation to assemble, and now contains pews and an altar. At either end of this ...

Other Selves

John Bayley

29 October 1987
How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... better in their novels and stories than in an autobiography, in which they simply put it all down, with various degrees of relaxation and garrulity. A memoir by Proust, instead of a novel by Marcel, is a depressing thought. Such reflections are prompted by Mary McCarthy’s latest book. There was something challenging and stimulating, a bracing offer of American romance, about A Charmed Life ...

Drowned in Eau de Vie

Modris Eksteins: New, Fast and Modern

21 February 2008
Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond 
by Peter Gay.
Heinemann, 610 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 434 01044 8
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... a broader frame of mind distinguished by ballooning malaise and irony. While he shies away from definition because of the contradictory manifestations of Modernist effort – how does one reconcile Thomas Mann and Andy Warhol? – he can’t help but see the Modernist instinct as essentially an affirmative urge. Two-thirds of the way through his book, Gay states bluntly that ‘liberalism’ was the ...

No looking at my elephant

Mary Wellesley: Menageries

15 December 2016
Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England 1100-1837 
by Caroline Grigson.
Oxford, 349 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 19 871470 5
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... with entries under, say, ‘Elephant’, such as ‘African, Henry III’s’, ‘Duke of Devonshire’s’ and ‘Effect of music on’. She also has an ear for language and quotes judiciously. Thomas Clark, the proprietor of a menagerie in Exeter Change in London, had an Indian rhinoceros in 1790 which was extraordinarily docile and had a temperament ‘equal to that of a tolerably tractable pig ...

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