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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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... foggy tail. Rejected in his own country, the one-time toast of Broadway has finally to rely for validation on the subsidised theatre in England. Although he doesn’t entirely agree with this model, MartinGottfried 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 ...

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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... after the first. As the director of Film and impresario of many Beckett festivals and series, Schneider became Beckett’s quasi-official theatrical representative in the US, causing critics such as MartinGottfried 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 ...

Princes, Counts and Racists

David Blackbourn: Weimar

18 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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... as court musician, but Weimar was otherwise remarkably free of cultural associations until Duchess Anna 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 ...

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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... in their molecules. They may be prose, but they demand to be reacquired periodically in the way that 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 ...

Too Much for One Man

Thomas Penn: Kaiser Karl V

13 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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... attack, both from without – the formidable Ottoman armies of another young prince, Sultan Suleiman, 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 ...
29 July 2015
... or was told first hand, and have remembered things thus and so, which might make what I recall a mite 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 ...
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 ...
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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... Of the numerous 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 ...
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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... also was Molière in whose manifest morality and satire on cultural exhibitionism Wittgenstein 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 ...

Time Lords

Anthony Grafton: In the Catacombs

30 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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... they christened ‘grotesques’ and used to decorate Vatican loggie. Antiquaries took a serious interest 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 ...

Not Enough Delilahs

Andrew O’Hagan: Lillian Ross

4 July 2019
by Lillian Ross.
NYRB, 219 pp., £14.99, June, 978 1 68137 315 7
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... afterwards, at Barolo on West Broadway, she sat surrounded by Lewinsky and the other stars and didn’t 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 ...

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