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Back to Reality

David Edgar: Arthur Miller and the Oblong Blur, 18 March 2004

Arthur Miller: A Life 
by Martin Gottfried.
Faber, 484 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 571 21946 2
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... on the subsidised theatre in England. Although he doesn’t entirely agree with this model, Martin Gottfried is a New York drama critic and his new biography of Miller certainly outlines the orthodox view. The second son of a New York coat manufacturer bankrupted in the Depression, Miller burst onto Broadway with four plays which called the ...

Sorry to be so vague

Hugh Haughton: Eugene Jolas and Samuel Beckett, 29 July 1999

Man from Babel 
by Eugene Jolas.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 300 07536 7
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No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider 
edited by Maurice Harmon.
Harvard, 486 pp., £21.95, October 1998, 0 674 62522 6
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... became Beckett’s quasi-official theatrical representative in the US, causing critics such as Martin Gottfried to argue that it was ‘desperately important to break his hammerjack on staging Beckett’. In the last letter, a euphoric Schneider reports back on Billie Whitelaw’s success in Footfalls and Rockaby (playing ‘an old hag’ twice in a ...

Princes, Counts and Racists

David Blackbourn: Weimar, 19 May 2016

Weimar: From Enlightenment to the Present 
by Michael Kater.
Yale, 463 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 0 300 17056 6
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... Amalia, a niece of Frederick the Great, began to gather writers at her court. In 1772 Christoph Martin Wieland was hired as tutor to the crown prince, the classic occupation of the late 18th-century man of letters. Goethe arrived three years later, fresh from the Europe-wide success of The Sorrows of Young Werther. He recommended another polymath, Johann ...

Call it magnificence

Michael Hofmann: Antonio Muñoz Molina, 20 December 2018

Like a Fading Shadow 
by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Camilo A. Ramirez.
Serpent’s Tail, 310 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78125 894 1
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... otherwise only poetry does. It doesn’t even sound like a book I’d like. It’s the story of Martin Luther King’s murderer, James Earl Ray, mostly on the run in 1968, and mostly for a couple of weeks in Lisbon, spliced with reflection on a crisis (he of course doesn’t use such a word) in Muñoz Molina’s early life twenty years later, when his ...
... closer to the facts of the matter. Doris Lessing left behind two ex-husbands, Frank Wisdom and Gottfried Lessing, and the two young children of her marriage to Frank. Men do this all the time – desert the family, shall we say, in one form or another – but we assume, partly because of sloppy, ill-considered thinking and partly with some element of ...

Too Much for One Man

Thomas Penn: Kaiser Karl V, 23 January 2020

Emperor: A New Life of Charles V 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Yale, 760 pp., £25, May 2019, 978 0 300 19652 8
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... who styled himself Sahib-kiran or ‘world conqueror’ – and within, in the form of the Martin Luther-inspired religious reform which threatened to tear the Holy Roman Empire apart.Charles would rise to all these challenges. That he might be the monarch who would not only keep Christendom together but project it into new corners of the globe was an ...

Günter Grass’s Uniqueness

J.P. Stern, 5 February 1981

... With the deaths of Thomas Mann in 1955 and of Bertolt Brecht and Gottfried Benn in 1956, a major era in the history of German literature comes to an end. These three are not only the greatest writers of their age, they are also its witnesses. Each of them worked in a different genre: Thomas Mann in the convoluted, partly essayistic prose of his novels, Bert Brecht in the drama and narrative poetry of social dialectics, Benn in the lyrical poetry of radical Modernism ...

Whereof one cannot speak

George Steiner, 23 June 1988

Wittgenstein. A Life: Young Ludwig 1889-1921 
by Brian McGuinness.
Duckworth, 322 pp., £15.95, May 1988, 0 7156 0959 9
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... delighted. What mattered supremely were certain works of Goethe, the soberly-crafted fictions of Gottfried Keller and, first and foremost, the works of Tolstoy and of Dostoevsky. It was these two titans, instinct with the question of God and of human ethical imperatives in the face of God’s presence or absence, who led to St Augustine and to ...

Heil Heidegger

J.P. Stern, 20 April 1989

Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie 
by Hugo Ott.
Campus Verlag, 355 pp., DM 48, December 1988, 3 593 34035 6
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... biographical publications on the most problematic of 20th-century philosophers, Hugo Ott’s Martin Heidegger: Toward his Biography stands out as the most detailed and scrupulously accurate. But caveat lector: there is a great deal here that we would not think of as conduct becoming a philosopher or the academic profession in general. It cannot have been ...

Time Lords

Anthony Grafton: In the Catacombs, 31 July 2014

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs 
by Paul Koudounaris.
Thames and Hudson, 189 pp., £18.95, September 2013, 978 0 500 25195 9
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... in the Cloaca Maxima and other sewers. But the Via Salaria discovery was made in a new era. Martin Luther and other Protestants had mounted a challenge to the traditions of the church. Efforts to rebut their ideas had failed, and the support of rulers who converted had enabled some of the Reformers to build new churches of their own. At the Council of ...

Not Enough Delilahs

Andrew O’Hagan: Lillian Ross, 4 July 2019

by Lillian Ross.
NYRB, 219 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 68137 315 7
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... ask any questions. She ate her supper and remarked at one point that the new pop star Ricky Martin looked like a fake. A director who was with us had been the subject of two of her pieces for ‘Talk of the Town’. He later told me he realised at the party that Lillian didn’t think of him as a friend. ‘In a perfectly nice way,’ he said, ‘I had ...

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