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25 June 1987
Our Conquest 
by Gert Hofmann, translated by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 281 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 85635 687 5
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... is an unfortunate and an inferior. For all his ‘tall, fair-haired, pristine skull’, he suffers black-outs and headaches and periods of dizziness; indeed, hunger and pallor and loss seem to threaten him with becoming ‘transparent’. I cannot begin to say which predicament is closer to my father’s, Edgar’s or ‘ours’ – or if they are both equally ...

Five Poems

Günter Eich, translated by Michael Hofmann

25 March 2010
... happiness but how often does it agree to sit on our chairs. Examine your fingertips! If they are black, it is already too late. End of August The white bellies of dead fish loom among duckweed and rushes. Crows have wings to enable them to escape death. There are times I know that God is most concerned with the fate of snails. He builds them houses. We are ...

It’s a riot

Michael Ignatieff

20 August 1981
‘Civil Disturbances’: Hansard, Vol. 8, Nos 143-144, 16 July 1981 – 17 July 1981 
HMSO, £80Show More
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... and a coffee-coloured Britain. Tolerance does not require that every Englishman should have a black man for his neighbour or that every Asian should forget his cultural identity. Instead we must acknowledge and understand the existence of social pluralism. It is not surprising that the Times’s Englishman turns out not to include Asians or ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie

13 December 2007
American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... 1982, and Scott’s most successful works since then, on any terms, have been Gladiator (2000) and Black Hawk Down (2001). Until now, that is. It’s a pleasure to report that American Gangster is a stylish and intelligent contribution to the genre evoked by the title, a little overhaunted by past masterpieces and in the end perhaps dwarfed by them, but ...
16 February 1984
... with smoke and sights and consommations. The yellow Citröen sits up and fills its lungs, a black and white green-backed mongrel sees us off. The road skirts the airport like a stray runway. Incoming planes make as if to pick us off. Sometimes it divides: one half runs along the ground, the other makes a sudden hump – my fear of flyovers. A little ...
4 December 1986
... outlived himself at twenty-six ... There was one day he seemed to catch sunstroke. He fancied the black, scorched beard of a sheik would furnish him with some ‘capital paintbrushes’. Sailing up the Nile, on the Hecate, they spent Christmas Day eating boiled eggs and plum pudding, and playing cards for the captain’s soul. The temples at Luxor stood under ...

Two Poems

Michael Hofmann

6 July 1989
... had his life-sized picture in a colour tabloid, though his skin was white, and his blood almost black. It was said the Governor had wanted him dead. A dreadful indifference took me in the room full of Mexican tricolors – the same eagle on the same cactus chewing on the same worm – and in the room of mildly heretical old banknotes, the room with pious ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘BlacKkKlansman’

27 September 2018
... more than his dialogue does, perhaps more than any dialogue could. This is especially marked in BlacKkKlansman, which has been widely hailed as Lee’s return to form after a spell in the movie wilderness. The film opens with a shot of a railway yard littered with bodies, wounded, dead and dying. A woman crosses the screen from right to left, and the camera ...

Real Questions

Ian Hamilton

6 November 1986
Staring at the Sun 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 195 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 224 02414 0
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... his whole enterprise would have been seriously imperilled: This is what happened. On a calm, black night in June, 1941, Sergeant-Pilot Thomas Prosser was poaching over Northern France. His Hurricane 11B was black in its camouflage paint. Inside the cockpit, red light from the instrument panel fell softly on Prosser’s ...

The Ugly Revolution

Michael Rogin: Martin Luther King Jr

10 May 2001
I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr 
by Michael Eric Dyson.
Free Press, 404 pp., £15.99, May 2000, 0 684 86776 1
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The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 
edited by Clayborne Carson et al.
California, 637 pp., £31.50, May 2000, 0 520 22231 8
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... Conceived in slavery and dedicated to the proposition that black men are created unequal, the United States has attempted to come to terms with its longue durée of white supremacy only twice in its history. The first effort, made by black and white abolitionists in the period of nationalist expansion, and caught up in the conflict between slave and free labour modes of production, brought hereditary legal servitude to an end ...
3 April 1986
... drone, five notes, as inhibited and pleonastic as the title. My father bought a gramophone, a black box, and played late Beethoven on it, which my mother was always to associate with her miscarriage of that year. I was forever carrying it up to my room, and quietly playing through my infant collection of singles, Led Zeppelin, The Tremoloes, My Sweet ...

Three Poems

Michael Hofmann

5 May 1988
... with his father in Chagrin Falls, cigars, canes, plod shoes, a twin squeezed benignity in fat black double-breasted coats. He took up the hem of his father’s tombstone with his landless ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Stop-Loss’

8 May 2008
directed by Kimberly Peirce.
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... the war in Vietnam were slow in coming. Saigon fell in 1975, and Hal Ashby’s Coming Home and Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter both date from 1978. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was 1979. In their separate ways these films were all about damage done to Americans; any damage done to others was incidental, part of some larger story that wasn’t ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Shape of Water’

22 March 2018
... but all that seems to happen in this line is that the agent, Richard Strickland, played by Michael Shannon with fabulously nasty relish, tortures him with a cattle prod – and loses two fingers in the process. The creature is referred to as ‘the asset’, indeed ‘the most sensitive asset’ the facility has entertained, but this is wishful ...

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