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In the Twilight Zone

Terry Eagleton, 12 May 1994

The Frankfurt School 
by Rolf Wiggershaus, translated by Michael Robertson.
Polity, 787 pp., £45, January 1994, 0 7456 0534 6
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... for much speculation of this kind, but his Teutonic thoroughness, rendered into lucid English by Michael Robertson, does marvellous justice to his materials. He has even dug out Erich Fromm’s great-grandfather, who would sit in his shop all day deep in the Talmud, and when a customer entered ask him whether he couldn’t find another shop to go to. If ...

Three Poems

Michael Hofmann, 22 June 1995

... some Durex, you let him fuck you. – He was kind of lonesome, as the words go. Litany For Robin Robertson Dear god,         let me remember these months of transition in a room on the Harrow Road, the traffic muffled by a plastic sheet, the facing ziggurats with their satellite dishes and tea-towels out to dry, a lengthwise Brazilian flag curtaining ...

Farewell Sovereignty

Stephen Sedley: The Case for the Regicides, 9 February 2006

The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold 
by Geoffrey Robertson.
Chatto, 429 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 7011 7602 4
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... history, save by a handful of historians of the trial who have written him off as a hack. Geoffrey Robertson has set out to rescue him from the enormous disregard of posterity, and from the ignominy of his death in 1660 by hanging, drawing and quartering. Robertson is a practising barrister and has served as the president of ...

The Great War Revisited

Michael Howard, 23 April 1987

The Myriad Faces of War: Britain and the Great War 1914-1918 
by Trevor Wilson.
Polity, 864 pp., £35, September 1986, 9780745600932
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British Strategy and War Aims 1914-1916 
by David French.
Allen and Unwin, 274 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 04 942197 2
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The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 319 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 09 466980 5
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... not between ‘Westerners’ and ‘Easterners’ – between those who believed with Haig and Robertson that the war could only be won on the Western Front and those, like Lloyd George and Churchill, who believed in ‘knocking away the props’ – but between those who believed in a traditional British strategy of minimal military and maximal economic ...

Send no postcards, take no pictures

John Redmond, 21 May 1998

One Train 
by Kenneth Koch.
Carcanet, 74 pp., £7.95, March 1997, 9781857542691
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A World where News Travelled slowly 
by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Faber, 53 pp., £6.99, January 1997, 0 571 19160 6
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A Painted Field 
by Robin Robertson.
Picador, 98 pp., £6.99, February 1997, 0 330 35059 5
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... is looser in style and the tone is now more personal, there is a lingering coolness. Like Michael Hofmann, Greenlaw has a fondness for paired, unexpected adjectives delivered in a clipped prose-like manner: ‘This privacy is teenage,/collective’; ‘The hill has its nightlife, amiable, averted’. Rather like the quasi-journalistic ethos of ...

Hoo-Hooing in the Birch

Michael Hofmann: Tomas Tranströmer, 16 June 2016

Bright Scythe: Selected Poems 
by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patty Crane.
Sarabande, 207 pp., £13, November 2015, 978 1 941411 21 6
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... Norway, though 48 years ago for small reward he was teaching me geography in Edinburgh) and Robin Robertson, or the Irishman John F. Deane, or now the American Patty Crane. They were drawn by the small vocabulary, the short sentences, the largely transferable word-order, the language that seems to pay twenty shillings to the pound ...

Hink Tank

Nicholas Penny, 19 July 1984

The Gymnasium of the Mind: The Journals of Roger Hinks 1933-1963 
edited by John Goldsmith.
Michael Russell, 287 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 85955 096 6
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... totally non-conducting tortoise-shell glasses’ and accompanied by ‘a friend, inevitably called Michael, who said not a single word and contented himself with selections from his repertoire of ravishing smiles, which ranged from a slow, dreamy unfolding of the subconscious to brilliant flashes of amused recognition when one of the two American dowagers ...

Dear Mohamed

Paul Foot, 20 February 1997

Sleaze: The Corruption of Parliament 
by David Leigh and Ed Vulliamy.
Fourth Estate, 263 pp., £9.99, January 1997, 1 85702 694 2
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... an elaborate trap. Using actors pretending to be businessmen, the programme-makers approached Sir Michael Grylls, long-standing Tory MP for North-West Surrey, and introduced themselves as agents for a firm which wanted to smuggle art treasures out of Russia. As a cover for their enterprise, they explained, they wanted to buy a government agency, preferably ...

Alleged War Criminals

Michael Byers: Saddam, Milosevic and Sharon, 22 July 2004

... and international judges. Earlier this year, the tribunal ruled that its president, Geoffrey Robertson QC, could not participate in cases concerning the rebels because of condemnations he had published prior to becoming a judge. It is difficult to imagine the Iraqi special tribunal taking similar steps to ensure the reality and appearance of ...

Making sentences

Philip Horne, 21 November 1991

The Jameses: A Family Narrative 
by R.W.B. Lewis.
Deutsch, 696 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 233 98748 7
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Meaning in Henry James 
by Millicent Bell.
Harvard, 384 pp., £35.95, October 1991, 9780674557628
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... in Biography of Broken Fortunes: Wilky and Bob, Brothers of William, Henry and Alice James (1986); Michael Anesko in ‘Friction with the Market’: Henry James and the Profession of Authorship (1986); Rayburn Moore in Selected Letters of Henry James to Edmund Gosse (1988); and Lyall Powers in Henry James and Edith Wharton: Letters 1900-1915 (1990). There’s ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: FUKd, 22 May 2014

... new, since the genius behind the Tories in 2015 is Lynton Crosby, who was also the genius behind Michael Howard’s campaign in 2005 (that was the ‘dog-whistle’ campaign, with carefully provocative posters attached to the slogan, ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?’). Crosby’s return reminded me of the Private Eye joke about Peter ...

California Noir

Michael Rogin: Destroying Los Angeles, 19 August 1999

Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster 
by Mike Davis.
Picador, 484 pp., £18.99, June 1999, 9780330372190
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... Coalition founder (and one-time candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination) Pat Robertson. A giant meteor and a mile-high tsunami destroy Los Angeles in his 1995 The End of the Age, leaving survivalists to battle Satan (now President of the United States) and his billion Third World minions. Consider as a magical dystopian example Davis’s ...

Impossible Wishes

Michael Wood: Thomas Mann, 6 February 2003

The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Mann 
edited by Ritchie Robertson.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £45.50, November 2001, 9780521653107
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Thomas Mann: A Biography 
by Hermann Kurzke, translated by Leslie Willson.
Allen Lane, 582 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 7139 9500 9
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... too rollicking either. In his preface to the new Cambridge Companion to Thomas Mann, Ritchie Robertson says the novels ‘were often understood with dutiful awe as intellectual fiction of a high order, top-heavy with German philosophy and history’, and continues: ‘Over-attention to this aspect of Mann’s fiction often distracted readers, especially ...


George Steiner, 5 May 1988

Visions and Blueprints: Avant-Garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early 20th-century Europe 
edited by Edward Timms and Peter Collier.
Manchester, 328 pp., £29.50, February 1988, 0 7190 2260 6
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... with almost breathless admiration, Auden’s commendation of ‘the necessary murder’. Ritchie Robertson is concise and authoritative on the Zionist impulse in Herzl and Roth. The difficulty, however, is this: in its Bismarckian model, in its espousal of 19th-century nationalism, the Zionist blueprint was almost antithetical to modernity, to the ...

Upper and Lower Cases

Tom Nairn, 24 August 1995

A Union for Empire: Political Thought and the Union of 1707 
edited by John Robertson.
Cambridge, 368 pp., £40, April 1995, 0 521 43113 1
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The Autonomy of Modern Scotland 
by Lindsay Paterson.
Edinburgh, 218 pp., £30, September 1994, 0 7486 0525 8
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... based on England, from Early Modern times until practically the end of the second millennium. John Robertson’s collection of academic studies examines the origins of the Union’s most important axis, the Parliamentary unification of Scotland and England in 1707. Lindsay Paterson’s long polemical essay looks at the consequences of that for the Scots: a ...

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