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Superhistory

Patrick Parrinder, 6 December 1990

Curfew 
by Jose Donoso, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Picador, 310 pp., £13.95, October 1990, 0 330 31157 3
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War Fever 
by J.G. Ballard.
Collins, 176 pp., £12.95, November 1990, 0 00 223770 9
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Great Climate 
by Michael Wilding.
Faber, 147 pp., £12.99, November 1990, 0 571 14428 4
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Honour Thy Father 
by Lesley Glaister.
Secker, 182 pp., £13.99, September 1990, 9780436199981
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... of these squabbling, down-at-heel literati would be comfortably at home in the pages of Olivia Manning. To the extent that it offers a kind of instant history, Curfew must already be a period piece. The nightly curfew, with its silence broken by the wailing of sirens and the droning of police helicopters, was lifted before the end of the Pinochet ...

For Australians only

Jill Roe, 18 February 1988

... vision may not differ all that much from the one contained in the celebrated final volume of Manning Clark’s History of Australia, subtitled The Old Dead Tree and the Young Tree Green, which shows what ‘grovelling’ to the British did for Australia between 1915 and 1935; but he’s his own man and no one ever claimed him as a radical ...

Ah, la vie!

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Lytton Strachey’s letters, 1 December 2005

The Letters of Lytton Strachey 
edited by Paul Levy.
Viking, 698 pp., £30, March 2005, 0 670 89112 6
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... his parents’ generation can still relish his devastating satire of the all-too-worldly Cardinal Manning or his shrewd portrait of the demons that drove the supposedly saintly Florence Nightingale. Yet Strachey himself seems less our contemporary now than he did when Michael Holroyd’s biography appeared in the late 1960s. Greeting the publication of ...

We Do Ron Ron Ron, We Do Ron Ron

James Meek: Welcome to McDonald’s, 24 May 2001

Fast-Food Nation 
by Eric Schlosser.
Allen Lane, 356 pp., £9.99, April 2001, 0 7139 9602 1
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... technology in order to make the things people wanted at the lowest prices. The main drawback was manning: people were the most inefficient, disordered and inconsistent moving parts of the assembly line. They got sick. They had to be paid. They had to be taught what to do. The solution was to strip workers of skills and confine them to narrow, repetitive ...

Because We Could

David Simpson: Soldiers and Torture, 18 November 2010

None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture 
by Joshua Phillips.
Verso, 237 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 1 84467 599 9
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... no information to hand over. Here again the manual becomes important: it interprets silence as the mark of a hardened terrorist, someone trained (as by the SERE unit) to keep mum under pressure. There is a name for this: ‘advanced resistance’. The typical response to it is to apply more and more pressure, a cycle known as ‘force drift’. The result in ...

Shag another

Katrina Forrester: In Bed with the Police, 7 November 2013

Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police 
by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis.
Faber and Guardian Books, 346 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 571 30217 8
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... In October 2010, a group of activists announced on the alternative news site Indymedia that Mark Kennedy, an undercover officer working with the NPOIU, had infiltrated them. Since then, a good deal of detail about the tactics of the NPOIU and SDS, the double lives its officers led and the people they exploited and betrayed, has been brought to ...

What Is Great about Ourselves

Pankaj Mishra: Closing Time, 21 September 2017

The Retreat of Western Liberalism 
by Edward Luce.
Little, Brown, 240 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 4087 1041 8
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The Fate of the West: Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea 
by Bill Emmott.
Economist, 257 pp., £22, May 2017, 978 1 61039 780 3
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The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics 
by David Goodhart.
Hurst, 256 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 84904 799 9
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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 143 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam 
by Douglas Murray.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, May 2017, 978 1 4729 4224 1
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... general election that he believed Theresa May could dominate British politics for a generation. Mark Lilla, a professor at Columbia and a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, wants the Democratic Party, which under Bill Clinton captured ‘Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny’, to abandon identity politics and help liberalism ...

Ghosting

Andrew O’Hagan: Julian Assange, 6 March 2014

... in Bungay every day. I’d make lunch, waiting for him to get off the phone or stop ranting about Mark Stephens, his lawyer. Sometimes he was ranting at Stephens, and I have a tape where you can hear each side of the conversation as they talk about money. During those days at the Bungay house I would try to sit him down with a new list of questions, and ...

Versailles with Panthers

James Davidson: A tribute to the Persians, 10 July 2003

From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire 
by Pierre Briant, translated by Peter Daniels.
Eisenbrauns, 1196 pp., $79.50, January 2002, 1 57506 031 0
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Ancient Persia from 550 BC to 650 AD: reissue 
by Josef Wiesehöfer, translated by Azizeh Azodi.
Tauris, 332 pp., £35, April 2001, 1 85043 999 0
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... this proved unnecessary, and the city was handed over intact: ‘And when day came and those manning the citadels realised the city had been taken and the King killed, they handed over the citadels . . . Cyrus ordered the heralds to make a proclamation that all Babylonians deliver up their arms, and he ordered that wherever weapons were found in a ...

I dream of him some day sitting in the dock

Tony Wood: Anna Politkovskaya, 24 June 2010

Nothing but the Truth: Selected Dispatches 
by Anna Politkovskaya.
Harvill Secker, 468 pp., £18.99, January 2010, 978 1 84655 239 7
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... years were passed under the sign of a stagnant Brezhnevism, an experience that clearly left its mark: in 2004 she was to describe herself as ‘a 45-year-old Muscovite who observed the Soviet Union at its most disgraceful in the 1970s and 1980s’. After studying journalism at Moscow State University and graduating in 1980, she started her first job at ...

Who do you think you are?

Jacqueline Rose: Trans Narratives, 5 May 2016

... and thereby denied them legal recognition of their gender. In 1986, female-to-male transsexual Mark Rees, in the first challenge to the ruling, lost his case at the European Court of Human Rights against the UK government for its non-recognition of his status as male, loss of privacy and barring his marriage to a woman. Only with the Gender Recognition Act ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I Didn’t Do in 2007, 3 January 2008

... have treated Huggins with more respect. 11 January. Picture in the Guardian of an American soldier manning a gun in Baghdad, stencilled on the front of the gun a death’s head. That’s why the war is lost. 25 January. I’ve taken to eating the occasional date, though it’s not a fruit I wholly like. Mam used to eat them when we were little, bought in small ...

Upriver

Iain Sinclair: The Thames, 25 June 2009

Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... my starting point: London Stone. This beacon, on the east bank of the Yantlet Creek, is said to mark the point at which the Thames merges with the North Sea. ‘From London Stone the ships set their course for the Nore lightship and the waves of the ocean. The song of the Thames has ended.’ Walking west, away from the creek, a wide-sky epic ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... rage’, his ‘calm, generous and open’ mother ‘a born peacemaker’ – left a two-fold mark on him: on the one hand, acquiring as a baby ‘the rock-bottom security that came from being unconditionally loved by his mother’, who bore him when she was 38; on the other, learning as a boy from the spectacle of his father the need for ‘strategies of ...

The Suitcase: Part Two

Frances Stonor Saunders, 13 August 2020

... office, which was directly opposite, took up the game, with generally poor results. Olivia Manning, loosely disguised as Harriet in The Balkan Trilogy, provides this commentary:She walked … across the square into the Calea Victoriei and, passing through the parrot-land of the Gypsy flower-sellers, reached the British Propaganda Bureau. No one was ...

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