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Other People’s Capital

John Lanchester: Conrad and Barbara Black, 14 December 2006

Conrad and Lady BlackDancing on the Edge 
by Tom Bower.
Harper, 436 pp., £20, November 2006, 0 00 723234 9
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... Conrad Black is not the only tycoon to have dreamed of global domination while buying and selling newspapers, and he is not the only tycoon to have had people fawning over him on the way up and shunning him on the way down; he is not the only tycoon to have lived large, issued writs and faced criminal charges; but he is the only tycoon with a wholly distinctive prose style ...

Rainy Days

Gabriele Annan, 18 September 1997

The File on H 
by Ismail Kadare, translated by David Bellos.
Harvill, 169 pp., £8.99, June 1997, 9781860462573
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... were at blood feud. The cover of The File on H shows three young peasants in their Sunday best – black from head to foot. They look threatening all right, but any photography buff will recognise one of August Sanders’s most frequently reproduced images. These young men are Germans. They are not going to shoot anyone, because that was not the tribal custom ...

Uncle Max

Patricia Craig, 20 December 1984

The man who was M: The Life of Maxwell Knight 
by Anthony Masters.
Blackwell, 205 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 631 13392 5
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Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of the Second World War 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 166 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 297 78481 1
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The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby’s Biggest Coup 
by Nicholas Bethell.
Hodder, 214 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 340 35701 0
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... announcing his subject’s date of birth; unlike most biographers, he gets it wrong. Charles Henry Maxwell Knight was born on 9 July 1900, not 4 September, under the sign of Cancer, not Virgo, however tempting it may be, for reasons which become clear in the course of the story, to assign him to the latter. Information about ...

Supermax

John Bayley, 8 December 1988

The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... other people is incorrigible, indeed obsessional. In his review of David Cecil’s biography of Max Beerbohm Malcolm Muggeridge allowed it to be a graceful job of work, but said it missed the real point about Beerbohm and his lifestyle, which was that he concealed his Jewish origins and was a crypto-homosexual. Of course! Something must explain Beerbohm ...

I Remember

W.G. Sebald, 6 October 2011

... still hear him softly snoring through the night, see him at dawn climb down the ladder: big gut black underpants, put on his sweat- shirt, baseball hat, get into jeans & trainers, zip up his plastic holdall, rub his stubbled face with both his hands ready for the journey. I’ll have a wash in Russia he said. I wished him the best of British. He replied ...

At the Barbican

Saul Nelson: Jean-Michel Basquiat, 4 January 2018

... Art, Rose Wylie: Quack Quack and now Basquiat: Boom for Real have brought the work of queer, black, elderly and female artists into mainstream exhibitions. Of course, Jean-Michel Basquiat is a star – it happened more or less instantly after his move from street graffiti to painting in 1981 – yet the current retrospective at the Barbican (until 28 ...

A Different Sort of Tory

Ronald Stevens: Max Hastings, 12 December 2002

Editor: An Inside Story of Newspapers 
by Max Hastings.
Macmillan, 398 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 333 90837 6
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... Something about the British press attracts Canadians. In the 1920s Max Aitken bought the Daily and Sunday Express, turned them into successful popular papers and became Lord Beaverbrook in the process. In the 1950s Roy Thomson bought Kemsley Newspapers, added the Times to his empire in 1966, and was similarly rewarded with a seat in the House of Lords ...

At the Shops

Alice Spawls, 21 September 2016

... Gareth Pugh’s Sycorax is the nearest to spectacle, dressed in a stiff funnel-necked ball-gown of black silk, embellished with heavy metal pendants. The shops compete, naturally, but advantages are bestowed on those with better faces (Max Mara profits unfairly from its double-storied glass and iron façade) while internal ...

German Scientist

M.F. Perutz, 8 January 1987

The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck as Spokesman for German Science 
by J.L. Heilbron.
California, 250 pp., £14.50, July 1986, 0 520 05710 4
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... who believed in his country right or wrong even when that country became the embodiment of evil. Max Planck is famous to this day for his introduction of the quantum theory. He was born in 1858 in Kiel, which was then part of Denmark. One of his formative memories was the triumphant entry in 1864 of Bismarck’s Prussian troops, which recovered the province ...

Prosecco Notwithstanding

Tobias Gregory: 21st-Century Noir, 3 July 2008

The Lemur 
by Benjamin Black.
Picador US, 144 pp., $13, June 2008, 978 0 312 42808 2
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... that crime fiction is only crime fiction. The Lemur, his third book under the pen name Benjamin Black, is a slim, efficient novel, elegantly done as such things go, in which literary pretensions are largely resisted and the proper conventions observed. There is the murder. There is the Beretta. There are multiple suspects. There is the CIA connection. There ...

Lobsters do not have eyelashes!

Joanna Biggs: Nell Freudenberger, 8 February 2007

The Dissident 
by Nell Freudenberger.
Picador, 427 pp., £14.99, March 2007, 978 0 330 49343 7
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... family’. The Travers family is scattered in a stereotypically Californian way. The son, Max, is doing community service after the police found a gun in the glove compartment of the car he was driving. Max had told the police that he wanted to kill himself. The daughter, Olivia, has come back from a school trip to ...

Undecidables

Stuart Hampshire, 16 February 1984

Alan Turing: The Enigma 
by Andrew Hodges.
Burnett, 587 pp., £18, October 1983, 0 09 152130 0
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... His early achievements in logic and mathematics became known to the British mathematician Max Newman, and to the great John von Neumann in Princeton. He already speculated simultaneously on the foundations of mathematics, in Hilbert’s and Gödel’s sense, and on the conceivable capacities and limits of computing machines, and this combination of ...

Dressed in black

Margaret Anne Doody, 11 March 1993

The Furies 
by Janet Hobhouse.
Bloomsbury, 296 pp., £15.99, October 1992, 0 7475 1270 1
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... description of the place, and particularly by certain writings of Thomas Hardy, Evelyn Waugh and Max Beerbohm, we know exactly what Oxford will be: unearthly bliss in the moment, and the object of sweet, aching nostalgia ever after.’ The novel appears to be about to deflate this notion of Oxford, treating it sceptically, ironically, with the distances and ...

The Dollar Tree

Tobias Jones, 11 December 1997

Hand To Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 436 pp., £15.99, November 1997, 0 571 17149 4
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... the writer, uses the pseudonym William Wilson, who himself writes about the improbably named Max Work, and is mistaken for Paul Auster, ‘of the Auster Detective Agency’. (The ‘Auster’ character always gets the smartest lines in the story, being allowed, for example, to expand on his pet theories about Don Quixote and the ...

Goings-On at Eagle Lake

Christopher Tayler: Barry Hannah, 29 November 2001

Yonder Stands Your Orphan 
by Barry Hannah.
Atlantic, 336 pp., £9.99, September 2001, 1 903809 16 9
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... than the other Eagle Lake inhabitants who populate Barry Hannah’s new novel. They include Max Raymond, a melancholy saxophonist looking for a vision of God; Byron Egan, a preacher and ex-biker, tattooed on the cheek with a Maltese cross and given to injecting himself with holy water at the pulpit; Melanie Wooten, a beautiful widow in her seventies ...

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