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At Auckland Castle

Nicola Jennings: Francisco de Zurbarán, 4 June 2020

... related in Genesis 49, of Jacob’s prophecies for Benjamin and his brothers, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali and Joseph. Zurbarán portrayed them in an array of fantastical costumes including animal skins, striped dungarees, turbans and brocades. Each son is identified at the bottom corner of a painting by a ...

In search of the Reformation

M.A. Screech, 9 November 1989

The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation 
by Alistair McGrath.
Blackwell, 223 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 631 15144 3
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Pastor and Laity in the Theology of Jean Gerson 
by Catherine Brown.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 521 33029 7
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Collected Works of Erasmus: Vols XXVII and XXVIII 
edited by A.H.T. Levi.
Toronto, 322 pp., £65, February 1987, 0 8020 5602 4
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... Julius II from Heaven in the Julius Exclusus, which shows us Julius locked out of Heaven by St Peter in person, who refuses to acknowledge such a coarse bully as his successor. The books are worth buying for Dr Michael Heath’s edited translation of this work alone. I suppose Erasmus did write it, though he never acknowledged its paternity. The hardest ...

Diary

Karl Miller: Ten Years of the LRB, 26 October 1989

... also the case, I think, that such authors may experience each other as rivals, as threats. Primo Levi points this out in a further posthumous selection of his journalistic writings,* in which his two callings of artist and scientist are once more on display, and which serves as a reminder that journalism does have the power to lift the spirit by telling the ...

How Jeans Got Their Fade

Peter Campbell: Mauve and indigo, 14 December 2000

Indigo 
by Jenny Balfour-Paul.
British Museum, 264 pp., £19.99, October 2000, 0 7141 2550 4
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Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour that Changed the World 
by Simon Garfield.
Faber, 222 pp., £9.99, September 2000, 0 571 20197 0
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... The only writer I know who makes chemistry intellectually exciting for the lay reader is Primo Levi, but, although he writes wonderfully about learning chemistry and the routine work of industrial analysis, he has no reason to describe the history of chemical innovation. Garfield tries analogies – he drops in a recipe for Nesselrode pudding, for ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, 21 January 1999

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... Giroux that the feelings in the poems ‘do not represent the feelings of an active homosexual’; Peter Levi that ‘homosexual love was to Elizabethans inevitably chaste.’ Pull the other one, Peter. No one watching Marlowe’s Edward II could have felt for one moment that the relationship between Edward and Gaveston ...

Enfield was nothing

P.N. Furbank: Norman Lewis, 18 December 2003

The Tomb in Seville 
by Norman Lewis.
Cape, 150 pp., £14.99, November 2003, 0 224 07120 3
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... personal adventures and escapes’ – the very things which, for good or evil, Evelyn Waugh and Peter Fleming and Robert Byron, not to mention Redmond O’Hanlon, assume to be the heart of travel writing. This leads us to the reflection that travel writing, or anyway the best sort, only pretends to be informative. The author, out of self-respect, and by ...

Making saints

Peter Burke, 18 October 1984

Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christendom 1000-1700 
by Donald Weinstein and Rudolph Bell.
Chicago, 314 pp., £21.25, February 1983, 0 226 89055 4
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The Norman Conquest and Beyond 
by Frank Barlow.
Hambledon, 318 pp., £22, June 1983, 0 907628 19 2
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Miracles and the Medieval Mind 
by Benedicta Ward.
Scolar, 321 pp., £17.50, November 1983, 0 85967 609 9
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The Great Debate on Miracles: From Joseph Glanvill to David Hume 
by R.M. Burns.
Associated University Presses, 305 pp., £17.50, July 1983, 0 8387 2378 0
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Saints and their Cults: Studies in Religious Sociology, Folklore and History 
edited by Stephen Wilson.
Cambridge, 435 pp., £35, December 1983, 0 521 24978 3
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... gradually became more formal and more centralised. First the bishops became involved, acting, as Peter Brown puts it in his brilliant study The Cult of the Saints, as ‘spiritual impresarios’. Then it was the turn of the Popes, such as Urban II in the 11th century, Calixtus II in the 12th and Gregory IX in the 13th. As Professor Barlow reminds us in an ...

Jours de Fête

Mark Thornton Burnett, 9 January 1992

Shakespeare’s Festive World: Elizabethan Seasonal Entertainment and the Professional Stage 
by François Laroque, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Cambridge, 423 pp., £45, September 1991, 0 521 37549 5
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... interpretations of the period by Stephen Greenblatt, Louis Montrose, Steven Mullancy and Peter Stallybrass (among others) and a chapter on Othello. This is less a translation than a new study in its own right. One of the great virtues of Shakespeare’s Festive World is the scrupulous care with which its investigations are conducted. Arming himself ...

Don’t do it!

Wendy Doniger: Dick Francis, 15 October 1998

Field of 13 
by Dick Francis.
Joseph, 273 pp., £16.99, September 1998, 0 7181 4351 5
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... personality of the hero in the manner of other series of mystery novels – Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Miss Marple, Travis McGee et al. The Francis pattern is more like an obsession: the hero suffers great physical pain and humiliation at the hands of a villain who is often so well liked, powerful and respected that no one but the hero can believe in ...

Me First

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 March 1996

Peter York’s Eighties 
by Peter York and Charles Jennings.
BBC, 192 pp., £12.99, January 1996, 0 563 37191 9
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... away towards the Firth of Clyde. And I took the tie off and stuffed it into my back pocket. Peter York’s Eighties happened elsewhere. Little bits of it were no doubt happening in the shopping mall over my head that morning, but most of it was well out of reach, and nothing to do with our world at all. He had a lovely time, he tells us. The Eighties ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... of Kipling). Indeed, the last essay in Bartleby in Manhattan is an attack on an English critic, Peter Conrad, for trying his hand at just this sort of thing. In these American observers and explainers two characteristics recur. The first is a close attention to the significance of detail (‘no ideas but in things’) which is often left to speak for ...

Images of Displeasure

Nicholas Spice, 22 May 1986

If not now, when? 
by Primo Levi, translated by William Weaver.
Joseph, 331 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2668 8
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The Afternoon Sun 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £8.95, March 1986, 0 297 78822 1
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August in July 
by Carlo Gebler.
Hamish Hamilton, 188 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 241 11787 9
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... Nazism by reference to the categories of British war mythology. Equally, no one could read Primo Levi’s If not now, when? and be in any doubt as to the extent or actuality of the suffering and barbarism for which Germany in those years was primarily, if not solely, responsible. ‘Try to understand, tell, and try and make others understand.’ Edek’s ...

Love in the Ruins

Nicolas Tredell, 8 October 1992

Out of the Rain 
by Glyn Maxwell.
Bloodaxe, 112 pp., £6.95, June 1992, 1 85224 193 4
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Body Politic 
by Tony Flynn.
Bloodaxe, 60 pp., £5.95, June 1992, 1 85224 129 2
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Red 
by Linda France.
Bloodaxe, 80 pp., £5.95, June 1992, 1 85224 178 0
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Red-Haired Android 
by Jeremy Reed.
Grafton, 280 pp., £7.99, July 1992, 9780586091845
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Leaf-Viewing 
by Peter Robinson, with an essay by Peter Swaab.
Robert Jones, 36 pp., £9.95, July 1992, 0 9514240 2 5
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... addresses, with tact and restraint, the sufferings of those in Nazi concentration camps – Primo Levi is crucial here for Flynn. ‘The Butcher’ is a graphic tale of a mother who stabs her baby daughter in obedience, as she believes, to God’s command, His bloody instructions not rescinded at the last moment for her as they were for the patriarch ...

Shockers

Jeremy Treglown, 6 August 1992

Writers on World War Two: An Anthology 
edited by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 752 pp., £18.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3912 9
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Legacies and Ambiguities: Post-war Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan 
edited by Ernestine Schlant and Thomas Rimer.
Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins, 323 pp., $35, February 1992, 0 943875 30 7
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... possible to write poems.’ Richler includes some grimly beautiful counter-examples, among them Peter Porter’s ‘Annotations of Auschwitz’, a poem which incorporates Adorno’s point:                     Such death, says the painter, is worthwhile – it makes a colour never known. It makes a sight that’s unimagined, says the ...

Ghosting

Hal Foster: Dead to the World, 29 July 2021

Absentees: On Variously Missing Persons 
by Daniel Heller-Roazen.
Zone, 320 pp., £28, April, 978 1 942130 47 5
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... as alien. The literary case Heller-Roazen privileges above all others is Adelbert von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihl, the plebeian Faust who sold his shadow to the devil for magical gifts quickly squandered and so lost his ‘human belonging’, as Thomas Mann put it. Here the Latin adage nomen omen has an ironic twist, for Chamisso thought Schlemihl meant ...

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