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Her Boy

R.W. Johnson: Mark Thatcher, 16 November 2006

Thatcher’s Fortunes: The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher 
by Mark Hollingsworth and Paul Halloran.
Mainstream, 415 pp., £7.99, July 2006, 1 84596 118 8
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The Wonga Coup: The British Mercenary Plot to Seize Oil Billions in Africa 
by Adam Roberts.
Profile, 304 pp., £9.99, June 2006, 1 86197 934 7
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... Town and Table Mountain. Among those who have bought houses here are Earl Spencer, Elton John and Michael Douglas, but the oddity is that, while you might assume, as you drive through its wonderful avenues, that Constantia’s residents are nothing if not respectable, you’d be dead wrong, because not only did Mark set himself up in palatial style here but ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando, 5 December 2019

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... not to mention a pain in the neck. Imagine what it’s like for the writer. Or for Marlon.William Mann does not have the field to himself. There are at least a dozen biographies of Brando, or memoirs that depend on his presence. The weightiest of these is Peter Manso’s, published in 1994, when Brando still had ten years to live. (...


Daniel Johnson, 20 June 1996

The Dear Purchase: A Theme in German Modernism 
by J.P. Stern.
Cambridge, 445 pp., £40, February 1995, 0 521 43330 4
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... partly modelled on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. The third, a collaboration with the classicist Michael Silk, was a formidably detailed study of the genesis, significance and legacy of The Birth of Tragedy. One celebrated but parenthetical aside in that work was accorded cardinal importance in Stern’s writings: ‘for only as an aesthetic phenomenon is ...

Out of the Cage

Tom Nairn: Popping the bubble of American supremacy, 24 June 2004

After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order 
by Emmanuel Todd, translated by C. Jon Delogu.
Constable, 288 pp., £8.99, July 2004, 1 84529 058 5
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Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power 
by George Soros.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £12.99, January 2004, 0 297 84906 9
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... gain control, and insist on the absolute primacy of military values and homeland defence, as Michael Mann shows in Incoherent Empire (2003). In today’s USA this conversion is especially tempting: the military are widely popular, because their values are perceived as contrary to those of neoliberal economics: the army is seen as a place where rules ...


Peter Burke, 20 March 1986

Velazquez: Painter and Courtier 
by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 322 pp., £35, March 1986, 0 300 03466 0
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El Greco and his Patrons: Three Major Projects 
by Richard Mann.
Cambridge, 164 pp., £35, February 1986, 0 521 30392 3
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... Now that works such as Francis Haskell’s Patrons and Painters (first published in 1963) and Michael Levey’s Painting at Court (1971) have made the social history of art respectable, it is becoming quite difficult to remember the time when it was virtually restricted, or abandoned, to a handful of Central European Marxist émigrés such as Frederick ...

Lost in the rain

Michael Wood, 24 January 1991

The General in his Labyrinth 
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Edith Grossman.
Cape, 285 pp., £13.99, January 1991, 0 224 03083 3
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... the motions of an amputated limb. Or at least that Bolivar can’t renounce power, that as Thomas Mann says in a similar context, we can’t live morally or spiritually from not wanting. We would have to want something else, like Bolivar’s friend and favourite Antonio Jose de Sucre, who prefers his family to the lures of high office. Not that the preference ...

Philip Roth’s House of Fiction

Michael Mason, 6 December 1979

The Ghost Writer 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 180 pp., £4.95
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... undiscriminatingly idolatrous of all literary forbears: Kafka, Gogol, James, Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, Chekhov etc. There is something very American in this comprehensive deference to literary celebrity. It’s true that all these writers deserve great respect, but a bit too good to be true that nobody, in Roth’s world, is ill-judging enough to conceive a ...

Just a Devil

Michael Wood: Kristeva on Dosto, 3 December 2020

by Julia Kristeva.
Buchet/Chastel, 256 pp., €14, March, 978 2 283 03040 0
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At the Risk of Thinking: An Intellectual Biography of Julia Kristeva 
by Alice Jardine.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £19.99, January, 978 1 5013 4133 5
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... Auteurs de ma vie’. Earlier titles included works by Stefan Zweig on Tolstoy, Thomas Mann on Schopenhauer, Paul Valéry on Descartes, and contributions from living writers such as Marie-Hélène Lafon (on Flaubert) and Michel Schneider (on Pascal). The series was started in 2016, and the most recent book in the set, before Kristeva’s, was a ...

Manly Scowls

Patrick Parrinder, 6 February 1986

An Artist of the Floating World 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 206 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13608 7
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Revolutionary Road 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 337 pp., £4.50, January 1986, 0 413 59720 2
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Young Hearts Crying 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 347 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 9780413597304
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by Ita Daly.
Cape, 144 pp., £8.95, January 1986, 0 224 02833 2
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... have been more misleading than this one. Nor is it just a question of writers like Proust and Mann, who may be said to belong to the last flowering of the 19th century. In the 1980s the tradition of setting a certain kind of novel ‘one generation back’ in time remains as vital as ever. We are accustomed to the paradox that most people’s notions of ...

A Word Like a Bullet

Michael Hofmann: Heinrich Böll, 18 July 2019

The Train Was on Time 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Penguin, 108 pp., £8.99, April 2019, 978 0 241 37038 4
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... born in 1917, awarded the Nobel Prize in 1972 (the first German writer thus honoured since Thomas Mann in 1929 – Hermann Hesse having adopted Swiss citizenship, and Nelly Sachs Swedish) and died in 1985. He was an early instance, an avatar, of the writer as right thinker, as influencer, like Rushdie, like Solzhenitsyn, like Pasolini: his was the public ...
The Bayreuth Ring 
BBC2, October 1982Show More
directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg.
Edinburgh Film Festival, September 1982
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by Lucy Beckett.
Cambridge, 163 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 521 22825 5
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Wagner and Literature 
by Raymond Furness.
Manchester, 159 pp., £14.50, February 1982, 0 7190 0844 1
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Wagner to ‘The Waste Land’: A Study of the Relationship of Wagner to English Literature 
by Stoddart Martin.
Macmillan, 277 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 333 28998 6
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Wagner and Aeschylus: ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Oresteia’ 
by Michael Ewans.
Faber, 271 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 0 571 11808 9
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... study can stand by Deryck Cooke’s magisterial I saw the world end (1979) and the long essay by Michael Tanner in the Faber Wagner Companion (1979). The other three recent books are built on shakier foundations. Ewans, the author of a fine study of Janáček’s operas, here traces the allegedly strong Aeschylean influence on Wagner, while Furness and ...

Not Just Yet

Frank Kermode: The Literature of Old Age, 13 December 2007

The Long Life 
by Helen Small.
Oxford, 346 pp., £25, December 2007, 978 0 19 922993 2
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... refer to these claims. Among the novels about which she has most to say is Death in Venice. Thomas Mann was 35 when he met the original of the boy Tadzio, whose beauty prevents Aschenbach from achieving ‘Platonic sublimation’. Consequently, Mann, with his aesthetic imperative, cannot offer ‘a primarily moral account of ...

Princes, Counts and Racists

David Blackbourn: Weimar, 19 May 2016

Weimar: From Enlightenment to the Present 
by Michael Kater.
Yale, 463 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 0 300 17056 6
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... In March 1932​ , Thomas Mann visited Weimar in central Germany. For the last thirty years of the 18th century, this modestly sized town was home to Goethe, Schiller, Herder and Wieland, but by the 1930s it had become a hotbed of the radical right. ‘The admixture of Hitlerism and Goethe affects one strangely,’ Mann wrote in ‘Meine Goethereise ...


Nigel Hamilton: Writing Books, and Selling Them, 23 October 1986

... still quiet – a far cry from its days as a fruit and flower nexus. I read in the Observer that Michael Caine’s father had worked in one of the London markets. Now the Market – like Caine – is gentrified, no stalls, shops or clientele operating much before 11 a.m. The figures, when we spread them out on our desk, are still below profitability, but ...


Terry Eagleton, 28 April 1994

What a Carve Up! 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 512 pp., £15.50, April 1994, 0 670 85362 3
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... epoch, just as they do the life of the novel’s voyeuristic, emotionally autistic narrator, Michael Owen, whose finger hovers constantly by the freeze-frame button as he drools over videos. The Thatcherite Eighties were all about emotionally retarded men excitedly glued to screens, manipulating signs to conjure fortunes into being as arbitrarily as the ...

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