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Upstaged in Palestine

Nigel Williams, 18 May 1989

Prisoner of Love 
by Jean Genet, translated by Barbara Bray.
Picador, 375 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 9780330299626
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... Jean Genet’s flirtation with radical politics began with his discovery – or was it entombment? – by Sartre. It is recorded that when Genet first read Saint Genet, he was cast into deep despair, an emotion shared by many others who have tried to read Sartre’s massive study. But being a practical man he was not one to reject attention. What is extraordinary about Genet’s career is not the extent to which the sage of the Deux Magots left his mark on the subsequent work of this most individual of French writers, but the extent to which Genet managed to struggle free of his mentor ...

German Jew

Michael Irwin, 17 April 1980

The Missing Years 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 281 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 297 77707 6
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Jack be nimble 
by Nigel Williams.
Secker, 213 pp., £5.50, March 1980, 0 436 57155 2
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Identity Papers 
by Anthony Cronin.
Co-op Books, 194 pp., £4.50, February 1980, 0 905441 23 0
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Narrow Rooms 
by James Purdy.
Black Sheep Books, 185 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 906538 60 2
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Six Moral Tales 
by Eric Rohmer, translated by Sabine d’Estrée.
Lorrimer, 252 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 85647 075 9
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... descriptive detail agitates the imagination as Dr Lasson’s rather flat story-telling does not. Nigel Williams, who won the Somerset Maugham Award for Fiction in 1978, has produced a second novel, which shows plenty of talent but is rather a mess. Its hero, Jack Warliss, a writer of sorts, invents a series of aliases for himself as he struggles to find ...

Cromwell’s Coven

John Sutherland, 4 June 1987

Witchcraft 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 390 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14823 9
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Without Falling 
by Leslie Dick.
Serpent’s Tail, 153 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 1 85242 005 7
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Outlaws 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 360 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 233 98110 1
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... portrayed in a more seedily charming and futile way than in The British Museum is falling down. Nigel Williams’s Witchcraft opens with a scene in the British Library (as it now is) which neatly defines what the great British institution stands for in the late 1980s: namely, the enemy, a redoubt for Thatcher’s bureaucrat henchmen. Jamie ...

Father, Son and Sewing-Machine

Patrick Parrinder, 21 February 1985

Garden, Ashes 
by Danilo Kis, translated by William Hannaher.
Faber, 170 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 9780571134533
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Star Turn 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 314 pp., £9.95, January 1985, 0 571 13296 0
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On Glory’s Course 
by James Purdy.
Peter Owen, 378 pp., £9.95, January 1985, 0 7206 0633 0
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... you will not need to be reminded of the significance of the date at the head of the narrative in Nigel Williams’s Star Turn: 13 February 1945. The narrator of Williams’s third novel is an ex-journalist, now a Ministry of Information man and amateur cynic (he does not believe the early reports of the ...

Manly Decency

Boris Ford, 23 April 1992

... and intemperate’ attack on the Regius Professor’s Oxford Book of English Verse. In Nigel Williams’s film about Q and the Leavises recently shown by the BBC under the improbable title The Last Romantics, Leavis is seen being greeted with roars of student laughter when saying, during a lecture, that the Oxford Book ‘is a collection of ...

My Wife

Jonathan Coe, 21 December 1989

Soho Square II 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 287 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 7475 0506 3
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... helping, what they need’s a double helping, as at their heels those hounds of time are yelping. Nigel Williams is on even dodgier ground with his ‘Extracts from The Good Doctor – A Comedy’, which is (presumably) motivated by anger about current attitudes towards the NHS. I may be missing a very clever point, but the mixture of glibness and ...

Prolonging her absence

Danny Karlin, 8 March 1990

The Wimbledon Poisoner 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 307 pp., £12.99, March 1990, 0 571 14242 7
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The Other Occupant 
by Peter Benson.
Macmillan, 168 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 0 333 52509 4
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Possession 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 511 pp., £13.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3260 4
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... Henry Farr is – or, as it turns out, is not – the ‘Wimbledon Poisoner’ of Nigel Williams’s title. He is a Pooterish solicitor, middling and muddling his way through life; the plot concerns his repeated farcical failure to murder his awful wife, bumping off (he thinks) other innocent people instead. Then, as the plot unravels and a real poisoner shows his hand, Henry discovers that his wife is not so awful after all ...

Diary

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Tribute to Ayrton Senna , 9 June 1994

... Skill had been killing Formula One. In the early Nineties, Frank Williams and Renault had together been producing cars that were superior to the rest. The superior drivers wanted to be in them. Williams made more money, and their cars got better. The result was increasingly predictable processions round the circuits ...

Rites of Passage

Anthony Quinn, 27 June 1991

The Elephant 
by Richard Rayner.
Cape, 276 pp., £13.99, May 1991, 0 224 03005 1
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The Misfortunes of Nigel 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Peter Owen, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0830 9
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Famous for the creatures 
by Andrew Motion.
Viking, 248 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 0 670 82286 8
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Double Lives 
by Stephen Wall.
Bloomsbury, 154 pp., £13.99, June 1991, 0 7475 0910 7
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... and a penchant for titles like ‘Blow Jobs’ – her legoeuvre, if you will. The Misfortunes of Nigel shares with Richard Rayner’s novel a loose, picaresque structure and a highly resistible main character. Like Rayner’s Headingley, Nigel Hughes is an arrant chauvinist who fancies himself a Lotharian hero, the ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... fight another day. This was a very courageous decision to make, and there are still those – like Nigel Nicolson – who hold that it was too great a risk to take at such a critical moment. One can imagine, therefore, Montgomery’s relief when, four days after giving out his new orders for Alam Halfa, Ultra provided conclusive evidence that Rommel ...

Nuclear Argument

Keith Kyle, 18 April 1985

Objections to Nuclear Defence: Philosophers on Deterrence 
edited by Nigel Blake and Kay Pole.
Routledge, 187 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 7102 0249 0
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Reagan and the World: Imperial Policy in the New Cold War 
by Jeff McMahan.
Pluto, 214 pp., £3.95, August 1984, 0 86104 602 1
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A future that will work 
by David Owen.
Viking, 192 pp., £12.95, August 1984, 0 670 80564 5
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The Most Dangerous Decade: World Militarism and the New Non-Aligned Peace Movement 
by Ken Coates.
Spokesman, 211 pp., £15, July 1984, 9780851244051
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... Dangers of Deterrence, published in 1983 with the same editors. Both were designed, according to Nigel Blake and Kay Pole, to rescue a debate in which issues were being ‘extremely badly handled’ either because, though philosophical in nature, they were not being treated as such, or because, though they were recognised as philosophical, the treatment was ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Senna’, 14 July 2011

Senna 
directed by Asif Kapadia.
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... when his admired opponent in the go-karts was the British driver Terry Fullerton. No mention of Nigel Mansell or Niki Lauda or Michael Schumacher. Still less of Alain Prost. All Senna ever wanted, in this perspective, was to drive cars fast. Politics and fame were for other people; or perhaps just a cross he had to bear. He was fond of calling on God to ...

Green Thoughts

Colin Ward, 19 January 1989

Seasons of the Seal 
by Fred Bruemmer and Brian Davies.
Bloomsbury, 160 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 7475 0214 5
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Whale Nation 
by Heathcote Williams.
Cape, 191 pp., £15, August 1988, 0 224 02555 4
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Falling for a dolphin 
by Heathcote Williams.
Cape, 47 pp., £4.95, November 1988, 0 224 02659 3
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Prisoners of the Seas 
by K.A. Gourlay.
Zed, 256 pp., £25.95, November 1988, 0 86232 686 9
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Progress for a Small Planet 
by Barbara Ward.
Earthscan, 298 pp., £5.95, September 1988, 1 85383 028 3
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Future Earth: Exploring the Frontiers of Space 
edited by Nigel Calder and John Newell.
Christopher Helm, 255 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 9780747004202
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Sizewell B: An Anatomy of the Enquiry 
by Timothy O’Riordan, Ray Kemp and Michael Purdue.
Macmillan, 474 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 333 38944 1
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Early Green Politics 
by Peter Gould.
Harvester, 225 pp., £29.95, June 1988, 0 7108 1192 6
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Dreamers of the Absolute 
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Radius, 312 pp., £7.95, October 1988, 0 09 173240 9
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The Coming of the Greens 
by Jonathon Porritt and David Winner.
Fontana, 287 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 00 637244 9
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Ecology and Socialism 
by Martin Ryle.
Radius, 122 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 09 182247 5
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... The peaceable whale is the least cute and most awesome of our fellow animals, and Heathcote Williams rises to his subject with a volume which is not only a picture-book of the whale, and an anthology of human observations of the creature and its meaning for us, but is held together by his long poem which lists, in a Whitmanesque way, the utterly ...

Tales of Hofmann

Blake Morrison, 20 November 1986

Acrimony 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 79 pp., £8.95, October 1986, 0 571 14527 2
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Idols 
by Stephen Romer.
Oxford, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1986, 0 19 281984 4
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Opia 
by Alan Moore.
Anvil, 83 pp., £4.50, August 1986, 9780856461613
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New Chatto Poets 
edited by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 79 pp., £4.95, September 1986, 0 7011 3080 6
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A.D. Hope: Selected Poems 
edited by Ruth Morse.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 85635 640 9
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The Electrification of the Soviet Union 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 69 pp., £8.95, August 1986, 0 571 14539 6
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... footsteps of Tony Harrison’s Continuous, Craig Raine’s Rich, Paul Muldoon’s Quoof and Hugo Williams’s Letters Home, all of which voyage round the paterfamilias: that tradition is much more pious and affectionate. The Williams offers the closest comparison: it too is about an overbearing writer-father and adopts a ...

Fear and Loathing in Limehouse

Richard Holme, 3 September 1987

Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David Owen: Personally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... betrayals of the SDP: the conversations which David Steel and I had with Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams at the Konigswinter Conference in April 1981 and the Llandudno fringe meeting at which Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams spoke on the same platform as Jo Grimond and David Steel. Both occasions were informed by genuine ...

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