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Pound and the Perfect Lady

Donald Davie, 19 September 1985

Pound’s Artists: Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts in London, Paris and Italy 
by Richard Humphreys.
Tate Gallery, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 946590 28 1
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Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-1914 
edited by Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz.
Faber, 399 pp., £25, January 1985, 0 571 13480 7
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... that we can’t always keep our bearings. One is astonished, for instance, at how the daughter of Olivia Shakespear, no ordinary mother, was restricted, even in the arty society that she and Olivia frequented, by the still rigid conventions that wheeled her, uncomplaining but always chaperoned and often bored to ...


Yun Sheng: Mai Jia, 11 September 2014

Decoded: A Novel 
by Mai Jia, translated by Olivia Milburn and Christopher Payne.
Allen Lane, 315 pp., £18.99, March 2014, 978 0 14 139147 2
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... shouldn’t do this! Oh vicious God, I will fight you to the bitter end – !’ The translator, Olivia Milburn, has done her best, but there isn’t a lot to work with. Eventually the narrator finds Rong’s notebook and returns it to his wife, then asks her if she ever really loved the geeky saviour of the nation. ‘I love him as I love my country,’ she ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Ghost Writer’, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, 22 April 2010

The Ghost Writer 
directed by Roman Polanski.
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
directed by Niels Arden Oplev.
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... is another remarkable figure in the movie: Lang’s wife, Ruth, played with edgy, snarky flair by Olivia Williams. We know she’s the force behind his career, we know she’s jealous now of the bossy personal assistant played by Kim Cattrall. But Williams is so angry and funny and unpredictable that the life of her character seems to escape the plot and the ...

Outside the text

Marilyn Butler, 19 December 1985

The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 352 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 811730 2
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The Politics of Language: 1791-1819 
by Olivia Smith.
Oxford, 269 pp., £19.50, December 1984, 0 19 812817 7
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... interests and powers served by the proliferation of hermeneutic techniques’. Jerome McGann and Olivia Smith are two good critics, both Americans publishing in England, who fall in with Mitchell’s injunction to ‘historicise’. Each regards a work of the past as both an individual literary performance and an event occurring in space and time. They think ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... because they reminded them of someone they liked, in life, in fiction or in a Shakespeare comedy: Olivia, for example. Parents insisted on children being christened with a particular form of name, not Ellen but Nellie, a name-form that peaked in the 1880s and 1890s. Orthography became important: Geoffrey or Jeffrey, Ann or Anne, Stephen or ...

Incandescent Memory

Thomas Powers: Mark Twain, 28 April 2011

Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. I 
edited by Harriet Elinor Smith et al.
California, 736 pp., £24.95, November 2010, 978 0 520 26719 0
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... at a local printing office. The Florentine dictations stopped with the death of Twain’s wife, Olivia, in June 1904, the second of two powerful blows struck Twain by death. The first had been the sudden and unexpected death of his daughter Susy at 24 in 1896. Twain was in London when the news arrived, ‘standing in our dining room thinking of nothing in ...


Rosemary Hill: Rosamund Lehmann’s Disappointments, 8 August 2002

Rosamond Lehmann 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 476 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 6542 1
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... own unhappiness and the grittier mood of the years just before the war. It continues the story of Olivia, now living and working alone in London. Rollo, her unattainable man, now married, becomes her lover, his appeal sexual but also social. He comes from that secure world of the upper classes, of expensive restaurants, large cars, ‘good soap and clean ...

Waving the Past Goodbye

Lorna Sage, 3 April 1997

A Regular Guy 
by Mona Simpson.
Faber, 372 pp., £15.99, February 1997, 0 571 19079 0
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The Keepsake 
by Kirsty Gunn.
Granta, 224 pp., £14.99, March 1997, 9781862070134
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... though this hero, whose life is ‘easy and cluttered with luck’, and his beautiful girlfriend Olivia – who was the child star of a famously successful commercial, and supported her whole family when she was four – are the dream-offspring of those earlier Simpson characters. Ann in The Lost Father says: ‘My mother and I ... both believed that the ...

Had I been born a hero

Helen Deutsch: Female poets of the eighteenth century, 21 September 2006

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 514 pp., £43.50, January 2006, 0 8018 8169 2
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... fictional young novelist, Mary Carmichael, and which gave her hope for the future: ‘Chloe liked Olivia.’ This sentence fills Woolf with wonder: ‘For if Chloe likes Olivia and Mary Carmichael knows how to express it she will light a torch in that vast chamber where nobody has yet been. It is all half lights and ...

Utterly in Awe

Jenny Turner: Lynn Barber, 5 June 2014

A Curious Career 
by Lynn Barber.
Bloomsbury, 224 pp., £16.99, May 2014, 978 1 4088 3719 1
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... her along to see the film being made; they were shooting a classroom scene between Mulligan and Olivia Williams, who was playing her English teacher. ‘Do you think he was a paedophile?’ Williams asked. And without a second’s thought I answered yes. Amanda Posey, the co-producer of the film, almost fainted. Apparently this had been a huge problem all ...

Little Philadelphias

Ange Mlinko: Imagism, 25 March 2010

The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and the Imagists 
by Helen Carr.
Cape, 982 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 224 04030 3
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... friendship with Yeats is covered in detail – as are his associations with everyone from Olivia Shakespear to Rabindranath Tagore to Harriet Monroe. Capsule biographies of everyone and their lover (and their literary rag) are provided at each turn. It seems that in Carr, modernism has found its recording angel. By leaving nothing out, Carr ensures ...

A Djinn speaks

Colm Tóibín: What about George Yeats?, 20 February 2003

Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats 
by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 808 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 19 811232 7
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... it new, Yeats had iconic status. George’s mother knew him: her second husband’s sister was Olivia Shakespear, Dorothy’s mother, with whom Yeats had had an affair and remained on good terms. George met Yeats in 1911. She remembered vividly that she saw him and recognised him one morning in the British Museum, and later that same day while he was ...

Public Life

Pat Rogers, 1 April 1982

A Model Childhood 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Ursule Molinaro and Hedwig Rappolt.
Virago, 407 pp., £8.95, April 1982, 0 86068 253 6
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The Safety Net 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Secker, 314 pp., £7.50, March 1982, 9780436054549
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The Country of her Dreams 
by Janice Elliott.
Hodder, 186 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 340 27830 7
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The Soul’s Gymansium and Other Stories 
by Harold Acton.
Hamish Hamilton, 165 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 241 10740 7
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... Byzantine churches, the stuffy but intriguing British Council types – all irresistibly recall Olivia Manning. A coup and a kidnapping put some strain on Janice Elliott’s talents, which lie more obviously in the social comedy of international bureaucrats and culture vultures, or in the private intensities of unplanned, even undesired adultery. Still, the ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1985

The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... found in the body of the book. Why Ian Fleming and not, say, Gavin Ewart? Why Alfred Noyes and not Olivia Manning? Why not both A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble? Doubtless for all sorts of reasons. Why Tannhäuser and not Parsifal? Why summarise The Shaving of Shagpat and not Living or Loving? However, a measure of arbitrariness is welcome: it mimes the ...

Zero Hour

E.S. Turner, 29 September 1988

The Berlin Blockade 
by Ann Tusa and John Tusa.
Hodder, 445 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 340 41607 6
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... literature and poetry readings. Those who saw the television series Fortunes of War, based on Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy, with its caricatures of British Council activities in wartime Cairo, will get the idea. The Berliners made suitably sardonic jokes, on the lines of ‘Don’t get the jitters, allies, we are in front of you.’ Much dried food ...

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