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Loadsa Serious Money

Ian Taylor, 5 May 1988

Regulating the City: Competition, Scandal and Reform 
by Michael Clarke.
Open University, 288 pp., £25, May 1986, 9780335153817
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Regulating fraud: White-Collar Crime and the Criminal Process 
by Michael Levi.
Tavistock, 416 pp., £35, August 1987, 0 422 61160 3
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... the extraordinary sums of money involved,1 were quickly followed by the prosecution in Britain of Michael Collier. Chairman of Morgan Grenfell, the largest securities firm in the City of London, for making an instantaneous profit of £15,000 on the purchase of shares in a company he knew was about to be taken over. A steady series of cases involving ...

Buckle Up!

Tim Barker: Oil Prices, 31 May 2017

Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices 
by Robert McNally.
Columbia, 300 pp., £27.95, January 2017, 978 0 231 17814 3
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... and studiously avoids political controversy. The book expands on a pair of articles (written with Michael Levi) in Foreign Affairs, which argued that recent fluctuations in the price of oil marked the end of a period of relative stability that began in the late 1970s. The first piece ran in 2011, when the yearly average price of Brent crude exceeded $100 ...

The Problem of Reality

Michael Wood: Primo Levi, 1 October 1998

Primo LeviThe Tragedy of an Optimist 
by Myriam Anissimov, translated by Steve Cox.
Aurum, 452 pp., £25, September 1998, 1 85410 503 5
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... Myriam Anissimov’s biography of Primo Levi, first published in French two years ago, begins with a kind of stutter surrounding the writer’s end. The book’s Introduction, prologue and opening chapter all invoke his death, as if it were a threshold that had to be crossed but couldn’t be crossed without returning ...

It didn’t look like a bird

Michael Wood: The New Formalism, 26 August 2015

Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network 
by Caroline Levine.
Princeton, 173 pp., £19.95, January 2015, 978 0 691 16062 7
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... Structures​ don’t take to the streets’ was a famous Paris slogan of 1968, ‘Les structures ne descendent pas dans la rue.’ The implication was that structuralists didn’t take to the streets either, that current thought and theory represented only quietism. There was an echo here of a grand debate between Sartre and Lévi-Strauss, in which Sartre represented himself as engaged in history and Lévi-Strauss as a mere aesthete, dedicated to just watching things ...

Ripping Yarns

John Sutherland, 8 April 1993

Tennyson 
by Michael Thorn.
Little, Brown, 566 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 316 90299 3
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Tennyson 
by Peter Levi.
Macmillan, 370 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 333 52205 2
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... vestige of reticence or shame) was the petit mal, dread of whose grand sequel blighted his life. Michael Thorn opens with a deferential salutation to ‘Professor Martin’s magisterial biography’. This is, however, decoy fire. What follows is a prolonged undermining of The Unquiet Heart (often without naming the author or his book). Thorn has many bones ...

Risks

Tom Paulin, 1 August 1985

On the Contrary 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by Ewald Osers.
Bloodaxe, 126 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 906427 75 4
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The Lamentation of the Dead 
by Peter Levi.
Anvil, 40 pp., £2.95, October 1984, 0 85646 140 7
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Collected Poems 
by Peter Levi.
Anvil, 255 pp., £12, November 1984, 0 85646 134 2
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Elegies 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 64 pp., £7.50, March 1985, 0 571 13570 6
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Poems: 1963-1983 
by Michael Longley.
Salamander, 206 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 904011 77 1
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Making for the Open: The Chatto Book of Post-Feminist Poetry 
edited by Carol Rumens.
Chatto, 151 pp., £4.95, March 1985, 0 7011 2848 8
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Direct Dialling 
by Carol Rumens.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, March 1985, 0 7011 2911 5
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The Man Named East 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 137 pp., £4.95, March 1985, 0 7102 0014 5
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... with an oblique and cutting candour, a tubular coolness we must praise and praise again. Peter Levi, alas, is one of those dwindling, disinterested Arnoldians who can still be uncovered in the home of lost causes. Last year he became Professor of Poetry at Oxford and in his inaugural lecture announced: ‘Today is the feast of Crispinus and Crispianus; it ...

On the horse Parsnip

John Bayley, 8 February 1990

Boris Pasternak: The Tragic Years 1930-1960 
by Evgeny Pasternak.
Collins Harvill, 278 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 272045 0
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Boris Pasternak 
by Peter Levi.
Hutchinson, 310 pp., £17.95, January 1990, 0 09 173886 5
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Boris Pasternak: A Literary Biography. Vol.I: 1890-1928 
by Christopher Barnes.
Cambridge, 507 pp., £35, November 1989, 0 521 25957 6
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Poems 1955-1959 and An Essay in Autobiography 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Michael Harari and Manya Harari.
Collins Harvill, 212 pp., £6.95, January 1990, 9780002710657
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The Year 1905 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Chappell.
Spenser, £4.95, April 1989, 0 9513843 0 9
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... quotation from one of them, is if anything worse.) After this, it is a relief to learn from Peter Levi’s lively and delightful biography that Dr Zhivago (Dr Alive) was a name Pasternak had seen on the cover of a Moscow manhole, rather as Dickens claimed to have spotted a Copperfield and a Chuzzlewit on the signs of poor London shops. Quite apart from its ...

Sympathy for the Devil

Michael Wood, 16 October 1997

The Master and Margarita 
by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor.
Picador, 367 pp., £20, August 1997, 0 330 35133 8
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The Master and Margarita 
by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Penguin, 412 pp., £7.99, May 1997, 0 14 118014 5
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... in human goodness, combined with the quickness of his insight into others. St Matthew, here called Levi Matvei or Matthew Levi, is the fanatic follower, endlessly writing down the master’s sayings and getting them wrong. Woland goes on to other business: namely, a magic show which involves showering the audience with ...

Banality and Anxiety

Michael Mason, 19 March 1981

Thirty Seconds 
by Michael Arlen.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 211 pp., £5.50, February 1981, 0 374 27576 9
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The Crystal Bucket 
by Clive James.
Cape, 238 pp., £6.95, February 1981, 0 224 01890 6
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The Message of Television 
by Roger Silverstone.
Heinemann, 248 pp., £14.50, March 1981, 0 435 82825 8
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... of Norman Mailer and other modern American writers. All these books are from literary stables. Michael Arlen’s first appeared in the New Yorker, and comes to the British reader via two very respected publishing houses (Fabers, incidentally, are apparently issuing the American edition with its original binding and title-page, without their own imprint: a ...

In search of the Reformation

M.A. Screech, 9 November 1989

The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation 
by Alistair McGrath.
Blackwell, 223 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 631 15144 3
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Pastor and Laity in the Theology of Jean Gerson 
by Catherine Brown.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 521 33029 7
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Collected Works of Erasmus: Vols XXVII and XXVIII 
edited by A.H.T. Levi.
Toronto, 322 pp., £65, February 1987, 0 8020 5602 4
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... who refuses to acknowledge such a coarse bully as his successor. The books are worth buying for Dr Michael Heath’s edited translation of this work alone. I suppose Erasmus did write it, though he never acknowledged its paternity. The hardest task must have been Betty Radice’s in translating the inflated flatteries of the Panegyric for the Archduke Philip ...

Jamboree

John Sturrock, 20 February 1986

Handbook of Russian Literature 
edited by Victor Terras.
Yale, 558 pp., £25, April 1985, 0 300 03155 6
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Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time 
by Roman Jakobson, edited by Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy.
Blackwell, 208 pp., £25, July 1985, 0 631 14262 2
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Historic Structures: The Prague School Project 1928-1946 
by F.W. Galan.
Croom Helm, 250 pp., £22.50, May 1985, 0 7099 3816 0
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Mikhail Bakhtin 
by Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist.
Harvard, 398 pp., £19.95, February 1985, 0 674 57416 8
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The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics 
by M.M. Bakhtin and P.M. Medvedev, translated by Albert Wehrle.
Harvard, 191 pp., £7.50, May 1985, 0 674 30921 9
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Dialogues between Roman Jakobson and Krystyna Pomorska 
translated by Christian Hubert.
Cambridge, 186 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 521 25113 3
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The Dialogical Principle 
by Tzvetan Todorov, translated by Wlad Godzich.
Manchester, 132 pp., £25, February 1985, 0 7190 1466 2
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Rabelais and his World 
by Mikhail Bakhtin, translated by Hélène Iswolsky.
Indiana, 484 pp., $29.50, August 1984, 0 253 20341 4
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... was not at all Bakhtin’s story. He, like Jakobson, was well-born, into what Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist, in their clumsily written but valuable biography, call the ‘landless nobility’; his father was an itinerant bank manager, which meant that the Bakhtins were used to living in the provinces. In the winter of 1917/8, aged 22, Bakhtin was in St ...

Viscounts Swapping Stories

Michael Wood: Jacques Derrida, 1 November 2001

The Work of Mourning 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Pascale-Anne Brault.
Chicago, 272 pp., £16, July 2001, 0 226 14316 3
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A Taste for the Secret 
by Jacques Derrida and Maurizio Ferraris, translated by Giacomo Donis.
Polity, 161 pp., £13.99, May 2001, 0 7456 2334 4
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... the pieces are published here in English for the first time. The editors, Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, are sensitive to what might be ‘impolitic’ or ‘morbid’ about such a collection, but their introduction amply and lucidly justifies their assembly of these works, and the only snag with the book as a whole is that it makes certain rhetorical ...

Tarot Triumph

Edmund Leach, 4 September 1980

The Game of Tarot: from Ferrara to Salt Lake City 
by Michael Dummett.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £45, August 1980, 0 7156 1014 7
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Twelve Tarot Games 
by Michael Dummett.
Duckworth, 242 pp., £5.95, August 1980, 0 7156 1488 6
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... pursuits to write imitation Agatha Christie detective stories, so when I first learned that Michael Dummett, widely regarded as the most formidable philosopher of his generation, was about to publish a book about Tarot cards, I rather naturally assumed that it must be an exercise of this same recreational sort. In a certain very off-centre sense, my ...

Dynamite for Cologne

Michael Wood: James Meek, 21 July 2005

The People’s Act of Love 
by James Meek.
Canongate, 391 pp., £12.99, July 2005, 1 84195 654 6
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... never happened before, they were certain to happen again.’ This is the world of Kafka and Primo Levi, where the impossible keeps happening without damaging the idea of its impossibility. ‘The implausibility of their actions,’ Adorno astutely says of the National Socialists, ‘made it easy to disbelieve what nobody . . . wanted to believe.’ This is ...

On His Trapeze

Michael Wood: Roland Barthes, 17 November 2016

Barthes: A Biography 
by Tiphaine Samoyault, translated by Andrew Brown.
Polity, 586 pp., £25, December 2016, 978 1 5095 0565 4
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... On​ 2 December 1978 Roland Barthes reported to an audience at the Collège de France on his desire to change as a writer, and told them about a specific moment when the thought of a ‘conversion’ hit him: 15 April that year. Casablanca. The sluggishness of the afternoon. The sky clouds over, a slight chill in the air … a kind of listlessness … bears upon everything I do … The beginnings of an idea … to enter into literature, into writing, to write, as if I had never written before: to do only that ...

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