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Tall Storeys

Patrick Parrinder, 10 December 1987

Life: A User’s Manual 
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos.
Collins Harvill, 581 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 00 271463 9
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The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 314 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14925 1
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... three hundred-page novel written without the e which is by far the most frequently used letter in French. The counterpart to La Disparition was Les Revenentes (1972), a lipogrammatic novel in a, i, o and u – e being the only permitted vowel. No single word in La Disparition can reappear in Les Revenentes, while many of the most familiar words in the ...

A Few Pitiful Traitors

David Drake: The French Resistance, 5 May 2016

Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance 
by Robert Gildea.
Faber, 593 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 571 28034 6
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Occupation Trilogy: ‘La Place de l’etoile’, ‘The Night Watch’, ‘Ring Roads’ 
by Patrick Modiano, translated by Caroline Hillier, Patricia Wolf and Frank Wynne.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 1 4088 6790 7
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... Two political forces​ dominated post-Liberation France: Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French and head of the provisional French government until January 1946; and the French Communist Party (PCF), at that point the biggest and most popular party in the country ...

Mrs Berlioz

Patrick Carnegy, 30 December 1982

Fair Ophelia: A Life of Harriet Smithson Berlioz 
by Peter Raby.
Cambridge, 216 pp., £12.95, September 1982, 0 521 24421 8
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Mazeppa: The Lives, Loves and Legends of Adah Isaacs Menken 
by Wolf Mankowitz.
Blond and Briggs, 270 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 85634 119 3
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... conjunction of beauty, forlorn love, madness and premature death’ was irresistible to the French. Through her, Shakespeare suddenly became a central part of French consciousness and the preoccupation of writers such as Hugo and Dumas. The young Berlioz worshipped her from afar, but so intensely that he nearly had a ...

Unusual Endowments

Patrick Collinson, 30 March 2000

Philip Sidney: A Double Life 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, February 2000, 0 7011 6859 5
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... a participant in the often menacing jollifications which accompanied the finalisation of an Anglo-French treaty and a marriage alliance with the house of Navarre. In early August the French King made him a gentleman of his bedchamber, which carried the title of baron. But by the end of the month he was caught up in the ...

Walsingham’s Plumber

Patrick Collinson: John Bossy, 5 July 2001

Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 189 pp., £18.95, May 2001, 0 300 08400 5
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... and Juliet (1956) could have been about Salisbury Court, the London home in the early 1580s of the French Ambassador to the Court of Elizabeth I, Michel de Castelnau, seigneur de Mauvissière, an establishment described by John Bossy as ‘zany, convivial and leak-ridden’. Bossy asks us to take our places at the dinner table at Salisbury Court in November ...

World’s End

John Sutherland, 1 October 1987

The Day of Creation 
by J.G. Ballard.
Gollancz, 254 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 575 04152 8
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The Playmaker 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 310 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 340 34154 8
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In the Skin of a Lion 
by Michael Ondaatje.
Secker, 244 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 436 34009 7
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The House of Hospitalities 
by Emma Tennant.
Viking, 184 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 670 81501 2
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... they promptly moved a little way along the coast to Sydney Cove, site of the later city. The French had also landed, and to establish a national presence the little British community indulged in what displays of ‘pomp’ they could manage, including, it would appear, this play production. Meanwhile they almost starved, bickered, and spread deadly ...

Dreams of Avarice

Patrick Parrinder, 29 August 1991

A Closed Eye 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 255 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 224 03090 6
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Underwood and After 
by Ronald Frame.
Hodder, 246 pp., £14.99, August 1991, 0 340 55359 6
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Lemprière’s Dictionary 
by Lawrence Norfolk.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 530 pp., £14.95, August 1991, 1 85619 053 6
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... homely, beautifully unassertive’. She pictures herself in one of the houses, sitting by the French windows with a cup of tea and ‘listening to a serial on the radio’ – though why not ‘reading a novel by Anita Brookner’? But, alas, Harriet is marked now, both by affluence and by dissatisfaction’. When, after painful experiences, she is ...

Half a pirate

Patrick O’Brian, 22 January 1987

Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates 
by Robert Ritchie.
Harvard, 306 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 674 09501 4
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Richard Knight’s Treasure! The True Story of his Extraordinary Quest for Captain Kidd’s Cache 
by Glenys Roberts.
Viking, 198 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 670 80761 3
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... and conceivably out of patriotism the British members of a privateer took the ship away from the French members, sailed her to Nevis and renamed her the Blessed William. Whether the crew elected Kidd captain in the usual democratic buccaneering way or whether he was appointed by the governor of Nevis makes little odds, for the men would never have sailed ...

At Tate Britain

Brian Dillon: Patrick Keiller, 7 June 2012

... down another field, diagonally, this time accompanied by a blue tractor. This pairing of views in Patrick Keiller’s 2010 film Robinson in Ruins – glimpsed again as part of his current installation at Tate Britain (on display until 14 October) – is almost too typical to be true and must, among other things, be a joke at his own expense. Since the early ...

Anglo-Saxon Aptitudes

John Gillingham, 17 November 1983

The Anglo-Saxons 
edited by James Campbell.
Phaidon, 272 pp., £16.50, July 1982, 0 7148 2149 7
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Anglo-Saxon Art: A New Perspective 
by C.R. Dodwell.
Manchester, 353 pp., £35, October 1982, 0 7190 0861 1
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Anglo-Saxon Poetry 
edited by S.A.J. Bradley.
Dent, 559 pp., £10.95, August 1982, 0 460 10794 1
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The Anglo-Saxon World 
edited by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Boydell and Brewer, 275 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85115 169 8
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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles: The Authentic Voices of England, from the Times of Julius Caesar to the Coronation of Henry II 
by Anne Savage.
Heinemann, 288 pp., £14.95, March 1983, 0 434 98210 5
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... saw the English language firmly established, so firmly indeed that the centuries of dominance by a French-speaking élite after 1066 proved, in the end, to be insufficient to root it out. It also saw the establishment of Christianity in England. This made little difference to men’s moral values: but in other ways it involved a radical cultural ...

Dirty Linen

Patrick O’Brian, 4 August 1994

Mr Bligh’s Bad Language: Passion, Power and Theatre on the ‘Bounty’ 
by Greg Dening.
Canto, 445 pp., £7.95, April 1994, 0 521 46718 7
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Admiral Satan: The Life and Campaigns of Suffren 
by Roderick Cavaliero.
Tauris, 312 pp., £29.95, May 1994, 9781850436867
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... It is true that he moved on to the Crescent, which though called a frigate was in fact a captured French privateer; and from this very modest height he sank to the Ranger, a snow that carried only eight little three-pounders and that harried smugglers off the Isle of Man. In 1776, having served his time as a midshipman, he passed his examination for ...

Living and Dying in Ireland

Sean O’Faolain, 6 August 1981

... suggests in his The Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe, quoting the learned 19th-century French scholar Alfred Maury, author of such abstruse books as Fées dans le Moyen Age and Histoire de la Magie. There is, however, one serious caveat attaching to every archaism. However slight such perdurables may be, however sweetened by the passage of time, it ...

La Bolaing

Patrick Collinson: Anne Boleyn, 18 November 2004

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn 
by Eric Ives.
Blackwell, 458 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 631 23479 9
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... dynasty. And it was part of that sexual magnetism that Anne, having spent most of her life in French-speaking courts, in Brussels and Paris, was to all intents and purposes French. Lancelot de Carles wrote that ‘no one would ever have taken her to be English by her manners, but a native-born Frenchwoman.’ She was ...

I am a Cretan

Patrick Parrinder, 21 April 1988

On Modern Authority: The Theory and Condition of Writing, 1500 to the Present Day 
by Thomas Docherty.
Harvester, 310 pp., £25, May 1987, 0 7108 1017 2
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The Order of Mimesis: Balzac, Stendhal, Nerval, Flaubert 
by Christopher Prendergast.
Cambridge, 288 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 521 23789 0
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... he considered that their mimetic activities would tend to undermine the social order. Modern French critical thought, however, has insisted that ‘realist’ writing is no longer subversive. The ‘scandalous’ texts with their sexual machinery which excited so much censorious attention in the 19th century (and in England much more recently) now stand ...

Over-Indulging

Patrick Parrinder, 9 February 1995

The Sin of Father Amaro 
by Eça de Queirós, translated by Nan Flanagan.
Carcanet, 352 pp., £14.95, August 1994, 1 85754 101 4
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The City and the Mountains 
by Eça de Queirós, translated by Roy Campbell.
Carcanet, 217 pp., £14.95, August 1994, 1 85754 102 2
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... of his working life in England and France. He liked to maintain that his novels were fundamentally French, and that he himself was French in everything but his fondness for ballad-singers and cod with onions. Certainly he was no Englishman, nor likely to become one, despite 14 years spent in the consular service in Bristol ...

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