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Greater Croatia

Mark Thompson, 13 May 1993

... The famous gentility of Zagreb is wearing thin. Croatia’s tidy capital has been degraded by almost two years of war, as has the regime which has held power since the free elections of 1990. Across the country, queues for black bread form before dawn. Subsidised by the state, black bread is far cheaper than other kinds; with the average monthly wage sinking below the equivalent of £40, only one in five Croatians employed, quarter of a million displaced persons, and half a million destitute Bosnian refugees, many people need to save about 20p on the daily loaf ...

How should they remember it?

John Foot: War in the Alps, 9 April 2009

The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-19 
by Mark Thompson.
Faber, 455 pp., £9.99, April 2009, 978 0 571 22334 3
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... but the front stretched west through Trentino and Alto Adige, and it was here that what Mark Thompson describes as ‘the white war’ really took place. The spectacular paths that lead to the mountain refuges high above Pinzolo were built to serve the front line on the peaks above – in some places it was more than 3500 metres high – and ...

It’s a Knock-Out

Tom Nairn, 27 May 1993

The Spirit of the Age: An Account of Our Times 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 388 pp., £20, February 1993, 1 85619 204 0
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... In his brilliant account of collapsing Yugoslavia, A Paper House, Mark Thompson meets a leader of the Vojvodina Ruthenes called Professor Julijan Tamas. Since 1989 this tiny people has been struggling back into political existence. In 1991 they managed to stage the first World Congress of Ruthenes and just before that the first Bible in Ruthenian had finally appeared ...

‘Auntie Mabel doesn’t give a toss about Serbia’

Jo Glanville: The World Service, 25 August 2011

... which the BBC secured the licence fee – frozen at the current level – for the next six years. Mark Thompson, the BBC’s director general, told me in June that the Foreign Office’s continuing control is ‘a fine constitutional point’ which can be addressed in the next charter renewal – no more threatening, he believes, than the potential the ...

Charmed Lives

Patrick Parrinder, 23 April 1987

Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew: An Italian Story 
by Dan Vittorio Segre.
Peter Halban, 273 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 1 870015 00 2
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To the Land of the Reeds 
by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Jeffrey Green.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £9.95, February 1987, 0 297 78972 4
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Enchantment 
by Daphne Merkin.
Hamish Hamilton, 288 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 241 12113 2
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Ernesto 
by Umberto Saba, translated by Mark Thompson.
Carcanet, 166 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 85635 559 3
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... genres, then it may be said that a conviction of his own good fortune is the distinguishing mark of the memoirist. The memoirs of famous sportsmen, actors and television personalities seem constantly to be saying: ‘Look what a fortunate person I am!’ There are primitive and more or less magical reasons for the perennial popularity of such ...

Diary

Sean Maguire: In Sarajevo, 10 September 1992

... the other. Fresh mounds of earth press up to the boundaries of the graveyard. Plain wooden planks mark each plot, a different shape for each religion, with white plastic lettering spelling out name and life-span. There is a certain rigid beauty to the multiple symmetry of the dates. The Sarajevans didn’t expect to be troubled by the instability of ...

What are we telling the nation?

David Edgar: Thoughts about the BBC, 7 July 2005

Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC 
by Georgina Born.
Vintage, 352 pp., £10.99, August 2005, 0 09 942893 8
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Building Public Value: Renewing the BBC for a Digital World 
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... Tom Courtenay and Joanna Lumley – and was ‘bought’ in 1998 by the then BBC2 controller Mark Thompson for broadcast at Christmas. Andrew Davies symbolised the great success of 1990s BBC drama: the reinvention of the classic serial, whose high points (including Davies’s Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch) were produced under the wing of ...

Memories of Tagore

E.P. Thompson, 22 May 1986

... Western Orientalism and of Eastern Occidentalism, both of which Tagore confounded. Edward John Thompson (1886-1946) was then an educational missionary at the Wesleyan College at Bankura. He had published several volumes of verse, and was approaching proficiency in Bengali. After a brief meeting in Calcutta, Tagore invited him to visit him at his school ...

Witchiness

Marina Warner: Baba Yaga, 27 August 2009

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg 
by Dubravka Ugrešić, translated by Ellen Elias Bursác, Celia Hawkesworth and Mark Thompson.
Canongate, 327 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84767 066 3
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... Dubravka Ugrešić’s Baba Yaga Laid an Egg is the latest, most inventive and most substantial volume in Canongate’s series of revisioned myths. The first was Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, a harsh retelling in Penelope’s voice of the concluding scenes of the Odyssey. With her own special bite, Atwood singles out for dramatic treatment the girls who worked in the palace and fraternised with Penelope’s suitors; she reminds us how pitilessly Odysseus orders them to be hanged, every one ...

Rolodex Man

Mark Kishlansky, 31 October 1996

Liberty against the Law: Some 17th-Century Controversies 
by Christopher Hill.
Allen Lane, 354 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 7139 9119 4
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The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary England: An Essay on the Fabrication of 17th-Century History 
by Alastair MacLaclan.
Macmillan, 431 pp., £13.99, April 1996, 0 333 62009 7
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... It is becoming difficult to remember how influential Christopher Hill once was. When E.P. Thompson dedicated Whigs and Hunters to ‘Christopher Hill – Master of more than an old Oxford college’ he was recognising Hill’s stature as a historian, academic and public figure. From his perch as Master of Balliol, he presided over the education of future mandarins and exerted an influence on the intellectual life of Britain ...

What’s Missing

Katrina Navickas: Tawney, Polanyi, Thompson, 11 October 2018

The Moral Economists: R.H. Tawney, Karl Polanyi, E.P. Thompson and the Critique of Capitalism 
by Tim Rogan.
Princeton, 263 pp., £30, December 2017, 978 0 691 17300 9
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... Tawney’s book also served as a warning against the moral perils of a market economy. E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, published in 1963, was ‘surely the most widely read and most influential work of history published in English during the 20th century’. Thompson, like Tawney, lamented ...

Short Cuts

Helen Thompson: West Ham Disunited, 25 April 2018

... from the streets where fans-turned-players like Martin Peters, the future World Cup winner, and Mark Noble, a future club captain, first learned to pass a ball. In 2006, the team conceded an injury-time equaliser in the cup final, three minutes away from winning West Ham’s first silverware in 26 years. A few months after that, the families who had owned ...

Unmaking mysteries

Mark Ridley, 1 September 1983

Pluto’s Republic 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 351 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 1 921777 26 5
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... childish understanding of science; J.B.S. Haldane, despite his political ineptitude; and D’Arcy Thompson. But more importantly, Medawar uses unscientific ideas to explore his own philosophy of science. Practising scientists rarely bother to develop their philosophy; some are called upon from time to time to deliver their thoughts upon the ...

Spookery, Skulduggery

David Runciman: Chris Mullin, 4 April 2019

The Friends of Harry Perkins 
by Chris Mullin.
Scribner, 185 pp., £12, March 2019, 978 1 4711 8248 8
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... least not yet. Instead, the book follows the fortunes of Perkins’s former press secretary, Fred Thompson, who was portrayed in the first novel (and especially by Keith Allen who played him in the TV version) as a proto Seumas Milne, all flinty attitudes and angry disdain for the bastards trying to do down his boss. But this isn’t Milne’s story ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson, 19 February 2015

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... An outsider​ by birth as well as by disposition, Flora Thompson took solitary pleasure in observing her fellow villagers. She stored away characters and scenes from an early age – the naughty children who pulled her hair, Queenie who spoke to bees, the annual pig killing, May Day, the harvest – but published nothing until she was in her thirties, and nothing on her childhood until her early sixties ...

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