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Diary

Karl Miller: On Doubles, 2 May 1985

... to a close: every few months came a further contribution – not a few of them from the pen of Martin Amis – to a subject which is widely supposed to be exhausted. To suppose it exhausted is not to be unable to suppose that its new works may be pathfinders: the subject presents both faces. At all events, I swallowed my anxieties and tackled The ...

Meg, Jo, Beth and Me

Elaine Showalter, 23 March 1995

Little Women 
directed by Gillian Armstrong.
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... 1949 remake, with June Allyson as Jo, Janet Leigh as Meg, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy and Margaret O’Brien as Beth. Peter Lawford played a glamorous Laurie – indeed, the screenplay describes Laurie as looking ‘not unlike our idea of Edgar Allan Poe’. Armstrong’s Little Women is the most British and Pickwickian of the movie versions, set in a vague ...

Overdoing the Synge-song

Terry Eagleton: Sebastian Barry, 22 September 2011

On Canaan’s Side 
by Sebastian Barry.
Faber, 256 pp., £16.99, August 2011, 978 0 571 22653 5
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... really been merely a catalogue of horrors? Is this the country that produced Ulysses and Flann O’Brien, exports culture rather than armaments and evolved in a handful of decades from a benightedly parochial nation to a liberal, multicultural one? You might well find little positive in the place if, like Barry, you consistently adopt the perspective of ...

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante, 18 November 1982

Legacies: Selected Poems 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alastair Reid and Andrew Hurley.
Faber, 179 pp., £8.75, September 1982, 0 374 18472 0
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... the island or rather archipelago. The other went before and after that unholy second coming. Edna O’Brien, poor girl, visited Cuba the way Alice travelled to the other side of the looking-glass – darkly but gladly. England can be so boring on a wet afternoon! Besides she had never tasted looking-glass milk. That’s what they call the daiquiri in ...

On (Not) Saying What You Mean

Colm Tóibín, 30 November 1995

... the Irish middle class, new and old, had, in the cabinet, voices of reason, such as Conor Cruise O’Brien and Garret FitzGerald, to lead them away from a notion of their Irish heritage as something dark, catastrophic and violent towards the bright light of European Union and Anglo-Irish Agreement. I went to secondary school in 1967, the first year of free ...

Marching Orders

Ronan Bennett: The new future of Northern Ireland, 30 July 1998

... have been joined by the barrister-turned-politician, Robert McCartney who, along with Conor Cruise O’Brien, founded the UKUP (that rogue ‘K’ is for ‘Kingdom’), to oppose further UUP sell-outs and the mayhem of a united Ireland. In last month’s Assembly elections there were also candidates who variously described themselves as UU, UUU, UL, UIV and ...

The Castaway

Jeremy Harding: Algeria’s Camus, 4 December 2014

Algerian Chronicles 
by Albert Camus, edited by Alice Kaplan, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Harvard, 224 pp., £11.95, November 2014, 978 0 674 41675 8
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Camus brûlant 
by Benjamin Stora and Jean-Baptiste Péretié.
Stock, 109 pp., €12.50, September 2013, 978 2 234 07482 8
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Meursault, contre-enquête 
by Kamel Daoud.
Actes Sud, 155 pp., €19, May 2014, 978 2 330 03372 9
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... to live and breathe in his fiction. This is​ a longstanding objection to La Peste. Conor Cruise O’Brien felt in 1970 that the ‘native question is simply abolished’ by the absence of Algerians from the novel, even though we assume they’re dying in larger numbers than the French. Things had gone downhill, ...

Flattery and Whining

William Gass: Prologomania, 5 October 2000

The Book of Prefaces 
edited by Alasdair Gray.
Bloomsbury, 639 pp., £35, May 2000, 0 7475 4443 3
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... good with pilaff, and can darn cotton socks like crazy.’ Indiscreet praise is still slander. Martin Samson says, endeavouring to ‘introduce’ The Ambassadors, that ‘the main purpose of an introduction, as usually written, seems to be the statement of a critical opinion of the literary work concerned. Possibly the best place for such an opinion would ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... violations of Palestinian rights as a result of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Martin Peretz and Michael Walzer wrote their ‘Israel Is Not Vietnam’ article, Ramparts was closed, and soon the American ‘Left’, with Walzer and Irving Howe leading the vociferously pro-Israel shift, turned sharply to the right, and from there to ...

He’ll have brought it on Himself

Colm Tóibín, 22 May 1997

Sex, Nation and Dissent in Irish Writing 
edited by Éibhear Walshe.
Cork, 210 pp., £40, April 1997, 1 85918 013 2
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Gooddbye to Catholic Ireland 
by Mary Kenny.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 320 pp., £20, March 1997, 1 85619 751 4
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... of the 1916 men were told and retold as perfect Christian parables.’ She quotes Conor Cruise O’Brien, who points out that the emphasis on the Catholic nature of the Rising made the partition of Ireland almost inevitable. But she is right to believe that the great turnaround in public opinion about the Rising between 1916 and 1918 had much to do with ...

Versatile Monster

Marilyn Butler, 5 May 1988

In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and 19th-century Writing 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 207 pp., £22.50, December 1987, 0 19 811726 4
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... on which colourful, emotive 19th-century writers such as Carlyle loved to draw. As Conor Cruise O’Brien observed, the spectre haunting Europe in the first sentence of The Communist Manifesto ‘walks for the first time in the pages of Burke’. Burke’s early opponents, English radicals such as Tom Paine and Mary Shelley’s parents William Godwin and ...

Southern Discomfort

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, 8 June 1995

The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism 
by Eugene Genovese.
Harvard, 138 pp., £17.95, October 1994, 0 674 82527 6
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... No circle in the South could match that intellectual array. Nevertheless, along with Michael O’Brien, Genovese has successfully revived interest in Southern antebellum thinkers whose obscurity, they claim, is unmerited. The Southern Tradition reaffirms his long-standing devotion to the pro-slavery thinkers but takes still greater delight in their ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford, 12 May 1994

The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... story itself becomes part of the process of surviving. One of the purest examples of this is Tim O’Brien’s ‘The Man I Killed’, a preternaturally lucid description of a young Vietnamese soldier blown up by the narrator’s grenade. O’Brien’s precise, almost entranced detailing of the star-shaped hole where one ...

You Have A Mother Don’t You?

Andrew O’Hagan: Cowboy Simplicities, 11 September 2003

Searching for John Ford: A Life 
by Joseph McBride.
Faber, 838 pp., £25, May 2003, 0 571 20075 3
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... as well as star of Bedtime for Bonzo. The person who today seems most like a real President is Martin Sheen, who plays one in The West Wing.1 George W. Bush – the less real real President – has settled for the part of a B-movie cowboy, and takes his role very seriously. Only the other day he was talking about ‘riding herd’ with the Middle East ...

Napoleon was wrong

Ian Gilmour, 24 June 1993

Capitalism, Culture and Decline in Britain 1750-1990 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Routledge, 182 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 415 03718 2
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British Multinational Banking 
by Geoffrey Jones.
Oxford, 511 pp., £48, March 1993, 0 19 820273 3
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Going for Broke: How Banking Mismanagement in the Eighties Lost Thousands of Billions of Pounds 
by Russell Taylor.
Simon and Schuster, 384 pp., £17.50, April 1993, 0 671 71128 8
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... way, after all, of denying a decline is to minimise the original rise. Yet, as Professor Patrick O’Brien points out in one of the essays in a very valuable collection, the rate of industrialisation in Britain was ‘unprecedented’ and was perceived as ‘rapid and astonishing particularly [by] observers from the mainland of Europe’. He concludes that ...

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