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Religion is a sin

Galen Strawson: Immortality!, 2 June 2011

Saving God: Religion after Idolatry 
by Mark Johnston.
Princeton, 198 pp., £16.95, August 2009, 978 0 691 14394 1
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Surviving Death 
by Mark Johnston.
Princeton, 393 pp., £24.95, February 2010, 978 0 691 13012 5
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... Saving God and Surviving Death: Mark Johnston has gone for the double, and I’m tempted to think he has succeeded, on his own terms, many of which seem about as good as terms get in this strange part of the park. I don’t, however, agree with his reasons or share his motive for attempting to explain how we can survive death, and I doubt the necessity of some of the matériel in his admittedly fabulous argumentative armamentarium ...

Catacomb Graffiti

Clive James, 20 December 1979

Poems and Journeys 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 97 pp., £3.90
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Eugene Onegin 
by Alexander Pushkin, translated by Charles Johnston.
Penguin Classics, 238 pp., £1.50
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... Appearing unannounced in 1977, Charles Johnston’s verse rendering of Eugene Onegin established itself immediately as the best English translation of Pushkin’s great poem there had yet been. It was an impressive performance even to those who could not read the original. To those who could, it was simply astonishing, not least from the technical angle: Johnston had cast his Onegin in the Onegin stanza, a form almost impossibly difficult in English, and had got away with it ...

The Shoreham Gang

Seamus Perry: Samuel Palmer, 5 April 2012

Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer 
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Bloomsbury, 382 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7475 9587 8
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... see in pictures such as The Magic Apple Tree and In a Shoreham Garden – works, Rachel Campbell-Johnston says in her new biography, ‘of mad splendour’. ‘In a Shoreham Garden’ (c.1830). Palmer has generally been well served by his modern biographers. The landmark in the field is Geoffrey Grigson’s Samuel Palmer: The Visionary Years ...


John Mullan: Eric Griffiths, 23 May 2019

If Not Critical 
by Eric Griffiths, edited by Freya Johnston.
Oxford, 248 pp., £25, March 2018, 978 0 19 880529 8
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The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry 
by Eric Griffiths.
Oxford, 351 pp., £55, July 2018, 978 0 19 882701 6
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... describe the intricate working of literary texts, was largely contained in his lectures. Now Freya Johnston, one of his former students, has edited a collection of ten of them, selected from ‘hundreds’. As she explains in her introduction, this was possible because Griffiths, unlike many lecturers, never extemporised, but scripted every word of his ...


Mike Kirby: Discharged, 31 July 2014

... were the direct descendants of Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Real monsters. You saw the Mark 5 and Mark 7 bombs and you knew they weren’t fire-crackers. The Mark 7 was about two and a half feet in diameter, about 15 feet long and weighed 1700 pounds. We didn’t have to ...

Monstrous Offspring

Freya Johnston: The Rabbit-Breeder’s Hoax, 8 October 2020

The Imposteress Rabbit Breeder: Mary Toft and 18th-Century England 
by Karen Harvey.
Oxford, 211 pp., £16.99, January, 978 0 19 873488 8
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... world, “Monstrous Women should bring forth Monsters.”’ Outlandish events were supposed to mark the beginning of the apocalypse and the hybrid beasts issued from Toft’s womb must herald the end of time. Whiston thus flipped the usual version of the story: the doctors had not been deceived and then found out; rather, they had exposed a truly monstrous ...

No wonder it ached

Dinah Birch: George Eliot, 13 May 1999

The Journals of George Eliot 
edited by Margaret Harris and Judith Johnston.
Cambridge, 447 pp., £55, February 1999, 0 521 57412 9
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George Eliot: The Last Victorian 
by Kathryn Hughes.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £20, November 1998, 1 85702 420 6
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... some in Gordon Haight’s magisterial work as editor and biographer. Margaret Harris and Judith Johnston have now provided a very welcome and complete edition of all the diaries and journals, covering the years between Eliot’s union with Lewes in 1854, when she was 35, and her death in 1880. Only around a quarter of this text has not previously been ...


Claude Rawson, 1 October 1981

The Sinking of the Titanic 
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Carcanet, 98 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 85635 372 8
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Paul Celan: Poems 
translated by Michael Hamburger.
Carcanet, 307 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 85635 313 2
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Talk about the Last Poet 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 78 pp., £4.50, July 1981, 0 370 30434 9
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... is not an ornament for the horror but the exact measure of its unspeakability. Sir Charles Johnston, a distinguished retired diplomat, is probably best-known to readers as the translator of the recently Penguined Eugene Onegin, said to be the best English version of Pushkin’s poem. The title of his new book comes from a review by Clive James in the ...

Outfox them!

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Stalin v Emigrés, 8 March 2012

Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union 1921-41 
by Michael David-Fox.
Oxford, 396 pp., £35, January 2012, 978 0 19 979457 7
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Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-41 
by Katerina Clark.
Harvard, 420 pp., £25.95, November 2011, 978 0 674 05787 6
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Being Soviet: Identity, Rumour and Everyday Life under Stalin 
by Timothy Johnston.
Oxford, 240 pp., £55, August 2011, 978 0 19 960403 6
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Stalin’s Last Generation: Soviet Postwar Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism 
by Juliane Fürst.
Oxford, 391 pp., £63, September 2010, 978 0 19 957506 0
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All This Is Your World: Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad after Stalin 
by Anne Gorsuch.
Oxford, 222 pp., £60, August 2011, 978 0 19 960994 9
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... Perhaps the same was true of the Westernising intellectuals.The Great Purges of the late 1930s mark a shift in both Clark’s book and David-Fox’s. Many of the Stalinist Westernisers (including Koltsov, Tretiakov and Arosev) were killed, along with Comintern functionaries, German literary exiles and many other resident foreigners. Litvinov ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Handwriting, 8 November 2012

... character. Joined-up writing is not the only way to acquire literacy skills and the mechanical mark inscribed by depressing a key is easier to execute than the sign traced with a pen or pencil. Our predecessors were never faced with the possibility, which haunts the thinking of people like Hamilton, that learning cursive script before your fingers rattle a ...
... in his sense of the autonomy of ideas – suggesting the style of that last of the literati, Mark Pattison – but if we reify Scottish wissenschaft with the political history of the place we can go far towards accounting for the power of present intellectual developments. One element of this is straightforwardly political. The 1707 Union didn’t mean ...

Vienna discovers its past

Peter Pulzer, 1 August 1985

Refugee Scholars in America: Their Impact and their Experiences 
by Lewis Coser.
Yale, 351 pp., £25, October 1984, 0 300 03193 9
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The Viennese Enlightenment 
by Mark Francis.
Croom Helm, 176 pp., £15.95, May 1985, 0 7099 1065 7
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The Jews of Vienna, 1867-1914: Assimilation and Identity 
by Marsha Rozenblit.
SUNY, 368 pp., $39.50, July 1984, 0 87395 844 6
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... the scholarly research on both in the post-war period has been in English, as the names of William Johnston, William McGrath, Carl Schorske, Allan Janik, Stephen Toulmin, Andrew Whiteside and John Boyer testify.* There are a number of plausible reasons for this. The first and most obvious is the great diaspora of Central European scholars brought about by the ...

On the Lower Slopes

Stefan Collini: Greene’s Luck, 5 August 2010

Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 580 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 224 07921 1
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... Greenes’, as they were known (to distinguish them from the ‘Hall Greenes’), made enough of a mark on history to merit extended discussion in this book. Raymond, the eldest brother, became a leading doctor and mountaineer, taking part in the 1933 Everest expedition. Graham became a writer. Hugh Carleton became a journalist and eventually director-general ...

Opprobrious Epithets

Katrina Navickas: The Peterloo Massacre, 20 December 2018

Peterloo: The Story of the Manchester Massacre 
by Jacqueline Riding.
Head of Zeus, 386 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 1 78669 583 3
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... of marchers led by the more militant Manchester reformers – John Bagguley, Samuel Drummond, John Johnston and William Benbow – set off from St Peter’s Field for London to petition the prince regent to dismiss his ministers. The radicals went out of their way to demonstrate their knowledge of legal and constitutional precedent. Taking Major Cartwright’s ...


Adam Mars-Jones: Olga Tokarczuk, 5 October 2017

by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft.
Fitzcarraldo, 400 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 1 910695 43 2
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... if it didn’t tap into a deep pop-cultural memory of John Travolta’s voice.) Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston, one of Cioran’s translators, described her job in the introduction to On the Heights of Despair as equivalent to the experience of Jacob, who wrestled with an angel all night long – ‘the translator struggles silently with the author until he ...

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