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Little People Made Big

Neal Ascherson: In Love with the Cause

9 January 2014
Red Love: The Story of an East German Family 
by Maxim Leo, translated by Shaun Whiteside.
Pushkin, 264 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 1 908968 51 7
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The Jew Car 
by Franz Fühmann, translated by Isabel Fargo Cole.
Seagull, 257 pp., £13.50, June 2013, 978 0 85742 086 2
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... Werner Schwieger, one of MaximLeo’s grandfathers, hung out a big swastika banner after Hitler came to power. But he couldn’t get his father-in-law, Fritz, to accept one: Fritz was a left-winger. Twenty years later, in the German ...

Carry up your Coffee boldly

Thomas Keymer: Jonathan Swift

16 April 2014
Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World 
by Leo​ Damrosch.
Yale, 573 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 16499 2
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Parodies, Hoaxes, Mock Treatises: ‘Polite Conversation’, ‘Directions to Servants’ and Other Works 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Valerie Rumbold.
Cambridge, 821 pp., £85, July 2013, 978 0 521 84326 3
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Journal to Stella: Letters to Esther Johnson and Rebecca Dingley, 1710-13 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Abigail Williams.
Cambridge, 800 pp., £85, December 2013, 978 0 521 84166 5
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... and Swift plays the translation straight. He restores the comic deficit in the poem itself, a mock obituary projected into the voices of his friends and enemies. But he also makes clear that the maxim is there to implicate them, not him. Schadenfreude is the general human condition, not something peculiar to Swift, and about Swift himself the rest of the poem – a long one for him at almost five ...

The Reality Effect

Jon Day: 'Did I think this, or was it Lucy Ellmann?'

25 November 2019
Ducks, Newburyport 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Galley Beggar, 1030 pp., £13.99, September, 978 1 913111 98 4
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... her four children, considers language usage (the difference between ‘envy’ and ‘jealousy’ and ‘affect’ and ‘effect’; the misuse of ‘enormity’), thinks lovingly about her husband, Leo, mourns her dead parents, and despairs over the state of the environment, Trump’s presidency, mass shootings, and the historic genocides of indigenous people. ‘A lot of people think all I think ...
31 October 1996
A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 
by Orlando Figes.
Cape, 923 pp., £20, August 1996, 0 224 04162 2
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... General Brusilov, the Tsar’s finest general, who joined the Red Army out of patriotism; Dmitri Oskin, one of his peasant soldiers from Tula who became a Bolshevik cadre; the revolutionary writer Maxim Gorky; and the peasant Sergei Semenov, a Tolstoyan activist in a village not too far from Moscow. The photographs of these five, together with Lenin, Trotsky and Alexandra Kollontai, make up the ...


Peter Clarke

6 July 1995
The Path to Power 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 656 pp., £24, June 1995, 0 00 255050 4
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... It is not surprising to find that this indictment goes far beyond technical matters of monetary policy: more surprising, perhaps, to be reminded that the young MP for Finchley voted in favour of Leo Abse’s Bill on homosexuality and of David Steel’s Bill on abortion. ‘I now see that we viewed them too narrowly,’ she confesses as she looks back on these measures. The youth culture, with ...
17 December 1992
Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 520 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 7011 3998 6
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... content and moral force that they continue to mark a deep cleavage in Western philosophising. Jung may have meant that we start out as realists or nominalists and follow our assigned destinies. His maxim reaches far beyond that. We are either Plato’s friend or Aristotle’s friend. Murdoch brings her friends, Schopenhauer, Simone Weil, Anselm, Hume, Wittgenstein, Martin Buber, but above all Plato ...

The Getaway Car

Glen Newey: Machiavelli

21 January 2016
Machiavellian Democracy 
by John McCormick.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 0 521 53090 3
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Machiavelli in the Making 
by Claude Lefort, translated by Michael Smith.
Northwestern, 512 pp., £32.50, January 2012, 978 0 8101 2438 7
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Redeeming ‘The Prince’: The Meaning of Machiavelli’s Masterpiece 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Princeton, 189 pp., £18.95, October 2013, 978 0 691 16001 6
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... certain amount of knocking copy (‘Mandevil’) – but their reputations have been detoxified as Machiavelli’s hasn’t. In part that’s because of his irreligion and liking for blasphemy, which Leo Strauss claimed to find shocking. But those who see him as proselytising from an atheistical pulpit misidentify as inverse religiosity what often seems more like simple je-m’en-foutisme. The ...

Strange Little Woman

Ferdinand Mount: First and Only Empress

22 November 2018
Empress: Queen Victoria and India 
by Miles Taylor.
Yale, 388 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 0 300 11809 4
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Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent 
by Emily Hannam.
Royal Collections Trust, 256 pp., £45, June 2018, 978 1 909741 45 4
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Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-76 
by Kajal Meghani.
Royal Collections Trust, 216 pp., £29.95, March 2017, 978 1 909741 42 3
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... Fid. Def; Ind. Imp.​ Were there ever two more outrageous inscriptions on our coinage? Henry VIII remained defender of that particular faith for all of nine years, before Pope Leo X revoked the title he had himself conferred and excommunicated the defecting monarch. The claim was rebooted by a Protestant Parliament in 1544, but it was not quite the same, to say the least ...

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