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How to vanish

Michael Dibdin, 23 April 1987

The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis 
by Humberto Costantini, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Fontana, 193 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 00 654180 1
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Requiem for a Woman’s Soul 
by Omar Rivabella, translated by Paul Riviera.
Penguin, 116 pp., £2.95, February 1987, 0 14 009773 2
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Words in Commotion, and Other Stories 
by Tommaso Landolfi, translated by Ring Jordan and Lydia Jordan.
Viking, 273 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 80518 1
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The Literature Machine 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Secker, 341 pp., £16, April 1987, 0 436 08276 4
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The St Veronica Gig Stories 
by Jack Pulaski.
Zephyr, 170 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 939010 09 7
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Kate Vaiden 
by Reynolds Price.
Chatto, 306 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7011 3203 5
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... To vanish from sight; be traceable no farther; cease to be present; be lost, especially without explanation.’ The verb in question normally behaves intransitively, but in Argentina after 1976 it learned to take a direct object as the military regime disappeared between nine and twenty thousand people. Humberto Costantini and Omar Rivabella both write about this, but their approach is so different that their books in fact complement each other ...

Vaguely on the Run

Sam Gilpin: J.G. Ballard, 16 November 2000

by J.G. Ballard.
Flamingo, 392 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 00 225847 1
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... Here, at the newly named Antibes-les-Pins, will arise the first “intelligent city” of the Riviera,’ J.G. Ballard wrote in ‘Under the Voyeur’s Gaze’, an essay that appears in A User’s Guide to the Millennium, a collection of his journalism. He went on: The ten thousand inhabitants in their high-tech apartments and offices will serve as an ‘ideas laboratory’ for the cities of the future, where ‘technology will be placed at the service of conviviality ...

Why are you so fat?

Bee Wilson: Coco Chanel, 7 January 2010

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide 
by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.
Profile, 620 pp., £12.99, October 2009, 978 1 84668 127 1
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Chanel: Her Life, Her World, The Woman behind the Legend 
by Edmonde Charles-Roux, translated by Nancy Amphoux.
MacLehose, 428 pp., £14.99, June 2009, 978 1 906694 24 1
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The Allure of Chanel 
by Paul Morand, translated by Euan Cameron.
Pushkin, 181 pp., £12, September 2009, 978 1 901285 98 7
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Coco before Chanel 
directed by Anne Fontaine.
July 2009
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... everyone else to smell like her and look like her. ‘I imposed black,’ she told her friend Paul Morand in the collection of reminiscences he published after her death as The Allure of Chanel, ‘it’s still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around.’ Chanel No. 5 – still the bestselling perfume in the world– also wipes out ...


Bruce Bawer, 2 May 1985

Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald 
by James Mellow.
Souvenir, 569 pp., £15.95, February 1985, 0 285 65001 7
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Home before Dark: A Personal Memoir of John Cheever 
by Susan Cheever.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 297 78376 9
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... be many who are unfamiliar with the outlines of the Scott Fitzgerald story: the early years in St Paul as the humiliated son of a failed businessman (and as the inordinately proud descendant of Francis Scott Key, author of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’); the glorious salad days at Princeton University, which he left without a degree; the wartime courtship of ...

Dancing in Her Doc Martens

Lorna Scott Fox, 18 September 1997

Monsieur Shoushana’s Lemon Trees 
by Patricia Duncker.
Serpent’s Tail, 197 pp., £9.99, August 1997, 1 85242 572 5
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... of the timid Cambridge student who falls in love with the subject of his thesis – French writer Paul Michel, a malign blend of Dany Cohn-Bendit and Guy Hocquenghem – and carries him off from an asylum, struck me above all as daring to be improbable. Not because this couldn’t happen, nor because of any objection to the post-psychological and ...

The Charm before the Storm

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 9 July 1987

Speak, Memory 
by Vladimir Nabokov.
Penguin, 242 pp., £3.95, May 1987, 0 14 008623 4
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The Russian Album 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 191 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3109 8
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The Making of a Peacemonger: The Memoirs of George Ignatieff 
prepared in association with by Sonja Sinclair.
Toronto, 265 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 8020 2556 0
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A Little of All These: An Estonian Childhood 
by Tania Alexander.
Cape, 165 pp., £12.50, March 1987, 0 224 02400 0
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... to test the chairs he was to sit on’; they prescribed (those were the days) a trip to the Riviera, where she was made to eat poudre de viande sandwiches and told she was spoilt. When her father died she became her mother’s companion, in winter pushing her Bath chair along the Promenade des Anglais; in summer reading her Carlyle’s History of ...

Asking too much

Stephen Wall, 22 February 1990

Lust, and Other Stories 
by Susan Minot.
Heinemann, 147 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 9780434467570
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In Transit 
by Mavis Gallant.
Faber, 229 pp., £12.99, February 1990, 0 571 14212 5
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The Perfect Place 
by Sheila Kohler.
Cape, 148 pp., £11.95, February 1990, 0 224 02748 4
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Howling at the moon 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 174 pp., £10.95, February 1990, 0 09 469590 3
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by William Bedford.
Heinemann, 186 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 9780434055593
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... as they used to be at home. Characters go hunting in the Sologne, look after houses on the Riviera during the winter, visit the opera in Moscow. They aren’t always as happy abroad as they expect to be, and the weather can be disappointing. Mavis Gallant, an expatriate herself, has an unobtrusive command of locale, part of a general air of authority ...


Ian Hamilton: The World Cup, 30 July 1998

... Cup, questions of personal rig-out seemed to be of central consequence. David Beckham’s Jean Paul Gaultier sarong, plus his newly blonde-streaked looks, may well have had something to do with Glenn Hoddle’s less than friendly treatment of him in England’s opening games. And this treatment may in turn have led to Beckham’s game-turning folly against ...

Muted Ragu Tones

Michael Hofmann: David Szalay, 21 April 2016

All That Man Is 
by David Szalay.
Cape, 437 pp., £14.99, April 2016, 978 0 224 09976 9
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... did not mind the noise. I remember Chekhov’s exclamation: ‘My friends, you live so badly!’ Paul Rainey, the antihero-cum-hero of London and the South-East (‘his flabby ashen face, his round white shoulders, his downy tits’), sells space in magazines that don’t exist to guileless foreign firms (his work has an almost patriotic dimension); gets ...

Happy in Heaven

Patrick O’Brian, 10 February 1994

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Life and Death of the Little Prince 
by Paul Webster.
Macmillan, 276 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 0 333 54872 8
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... at Nangis he hurried over to Consuelo’s house and gave her enough petrol to drive down to the Riviera; his group then moved south by stages, reaching Tunis in August. By this time Pétain Main had asked for an armistice; de Gaulle had made his appeal from London; and the Royal Navy had destroyed the French fleet at Mers el-Kebir to prevent it falling into ...

White Man’s Heaven

Michael Wood, 7 February 1991

Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin 
by James Campbell.
Faber, 306 pp., £14.99, January 1991, 0 571 15391 7
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James Baldwin: Artist on Fire 
by W.J. Weatherby.
Joseph, 412 pp., £17.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3403 6
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... the Black Panthers and lost a lot of friends; spent much time in Istanbul; and finally moved to St-Paul de Vence on the French Riviera, making only occasional trips to America. He kept writing, but received less and less critical attention: from the cover of Time (in 1963) he slipped (by 1985) to what Weatherby calls ...


V.G. Kiernan, 4 August 1983

The Working Class in Modern British History: Essays in Honour of Henry Pelling 
edited by Jay Winter.
Cambridge, 315 pp., £25, February 1983, 0 521 23444 1
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The Chartist Experience: Studies in Working-Class Radicalism and Culture, 1830-60 
edited by James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson.
Macmillan, 392 pp., £16, November 1982, 0 333 32971 6
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Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: A Study of 19th-Century Working Class Autobiography 
by David Vincent.
Methuen, 221 pp., £4.95, December 1982, 0 416 34670 7
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... with the paper’s backers, and recent research seems to show him in no very creditable light. Paul Addison begins a commentary on Churchill’s career before 1914 by noting that it ‘depended in many respects on his relations with the urban working class’. His first constituency was Oldham. He was capable in those days, as Clarke reminds us, of ...

To the End of the Line

Ferdinand Mount: The Red Dean, 26 April 2012

The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson 
by John Butler.
Scala, 292 pp., £16.95, September 2011, 978 1 85759 736 3
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... salute to a crowd of thirty thousand inside and outside Madison Square Garden, eclipsing Paul Robeson and Dean Acheson. An awestruck young Alistair Cooke reported in the Guardian that ‘he looks like a divinity and he looks like the portrait on every dollar bill.’ The resemblance to George Washington is undeniable, although there is a creepy hint ...


John Sutherland, 21 April 1988

by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... Whatever happened to Baby Jane? and John Fowles’s The Collector. A best-selling author, Paul Sheldon, crashes in a desolate area of the Rockies. It is winter, his car is buried in the snow, and his broken body is rescued by an eccentric recluse. She turns out to be a homicidal and crazy nurse, Annie Wilkes, who before retiring under something of a ...

Twenty Kicks in the Backside

Tom Stammers: Rosa Bonheur’s Flock, 5 November 2020

Art Is a Tyrant: The Unconventional Life of Rosa Bonheur 
by Catherine Hewitt.
Icon, 483 pp., £20, February, 978 1 78578 621 1
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... as the Bonheur studio evolved into a family enterprise with a clear chain of command. One visitor, Paul Delaroche, recalled: ‘There was nothing simpler and more touching than this household with its patriarchal ways.’ And yet, when her father urged her to sign her first works as Raimond, Bonheur refused: the name Rosa, she insisted, was more befitting of ...

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