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At the Movies

Michael Wood: From ‘Alien’ to ‘Covenant’, 14 June 2017

Alien: Covenant 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... by Michael Fassbender, one as a stiff, friendly American guy and the other as the imitation of Peter O’Toole he had already perfected in Prometheus, adds to the riddle. And here, as in so many science-fiction movies, the decision to have the character of a robot acted rather than animated complicates the issue of what it means to be human to an extent ...

When you’d started a world war

Blake Morrison: Walter Kempowski, 20 June 2019

Homeland 
by Walter Kempowski, translated by Charlotte Collins.
Granta, 240 pp., £14.99, November 2018, 978 1 78378 352 6
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... of characters but the central figure, and one of the few still alive at the end, is 12-year-old Peter, who the author readily admitted was a self-portrait, not least in his reluctance to be a Hitler Youth. The family home is a large estate, the Georgenhof, once affluent, less so since the war began, its vistas somewhat spoiled by the housing development ...

Hangover

Peter Pulzer, 9 January 1992

The Singing Revolution: A Political Journey through the Baltic States 
by Clare Thomson.
Joseph, 273 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7181 3459 1
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Berlin Journal 1989-90 
by Robert Darnton.
Norton, 352 pp., £15.95, October 1991, 0 393 02970 0
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AnEstonian Childhood: A Memoir 
by Tania Alexander.
Heinemann, 168 pp., £6.95, October 1991, 0 434 01824 4
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... region, in the architecture of Tallinn and Riga, the schools, universities, music and religion. Wagner composed most of Rienzi while director of the Riga opera. But this was a culture that excluded the Estonian and Latvian peasant population. The churches contain scarcely a single memorial in the language of the native population. But by 1940 such memories ...

A, E♭, C, B

Paul Driver: Robert Schumann, 21 February 2008

Robert Schumann: Life and Death of a Musician 
by John Worthen.
Yale, 496 pp., £25, July 2007, 978 0 300 11160 6
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The Cambridge Companion to Schumann 
edited by Beate Perrey.
Cambridge, 302 pp., £19.99, June 2007, 978 0 521 78950 9
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Schumann’s Late Style 
by Laura Tunbridge.
Cambridge, 246 pp., £50, October 2007, 978 0 521 87168 6
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... length before responding with a blunt or irrelevant few words. With the garrulous, self-absorbed Wagner, he ‘stayed as good as dumb for almost an hour’, so Wagner complained, deciding that Schumann was ‘a highly gifted musician, but an impossible person’. This reticence made teaching difficult. A student at the ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando, 25 November 2019

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... a dozen biographies of Brando, or memoirs that depend on his presence. The weightiest of these is Peter Manso’s, published in 1994, when Brando still had ten years to live. (Mann hurries through those last years out of kindness as much as weariness. The killing of Drollet, the imprisonment of Christian and Cheyenne’s subsequent suicide left Brando a ...

Music and Beyond

Hans Keller, 21 October 1982

Hanns Eisler: Political Musician 
by Albrecht Betz, translated by Bill Hopkins.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £25, June 1982, 0 521 24022 0
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Music and Political: Collected Writings 1953-81 
by Hans Werner Henze, translated by Peter Labanyi.
Faber, 286 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 571 11719 8
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Vindications: Essays on Romantic Music 
by Deryck Cooke and Bryan Magee.
Faber, 226 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 0 571 11795 3
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... wordless work like the String Trio define with quasi-mathematical precision. It is, incidentally, Peter Labanyi, not Bill Hopkins, who rightly translates ‘committed’; Bill Hopkins turns it into the foreign-sounding ‘engaged’. And while both translations seem competent, Labanyi’s is the more natural. But then he could no doubt avail himself of the ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader, 16 February 1989

Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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Forty-Seventeen 
by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... Council. Behind established international figures such as Patrick White, Thomas Keneally and now Peter Carey crowds a small army – a second wave, as it were – of grant-garlanded and prize-bedecked novelists and storytellers, many of whom, especially those whose reputations derive initially from short fiction, have benefited from the Board’s ...

Mouse Thoughts

Jerry Fodor, 7 March 2002

Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective 
by Donald Davidson.
Oxford, 237 pp., £30, September 2002, 0 19 823753 7
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... of us have by now become more modest in our ambitions. Davidson, however, writes philosophy like Wagner wrote operas: nothing less than everything is ever at stake. There has to be a place in philosophers’ heaven for people who have ideas for really stunning arguments which, in the event, don’t quite work. I don’t think that languages have to be ...

Hyacinth Boy

Mark Ford: T.S. Eliot, 21 September 2006

T.S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet 
by James E. Miller.
Pennsylvania State, 468 pp., £29.95, August 2005, 0 271 02681 2
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The Annotated ‘Waste Land’ with Eliot’s Contemporary Prose 
by T.S. Eliot, edited by Lawrence Rainey.
Yale, 270 pp., $35, April 2005, 0 300 09743 3
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Revisiting ‘The Waste Land’ 
by Lawrence Rainey.
Yale, 203 pp., £22.50, May 2005, 0 300 10707 2
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... Thirty years later, when Eliot’s prestige and influence were at their zenith, John Peter, a Canadian academic, published an article in Essays in Criticism called ‘A New Interpretation of The Waste Land’. Peter argued that the poem was at heart an elegy that might be compared to Tennyson’s In ...

Coruscating on Thin Ice

Terry Eagleton: The Divine Spark, 24 January 2008

Creation: Artists, Gods and Origins 
by Peter Conrad.
Thames and Hudson, 529 pp., £24.95, September 2007, 978 0 500 51356 9
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... however, could never withstand much critical scrutiny. It certainly doesn’t receive much in Peter Conrad’s encyclopedic new study of artistic creation. For one thing, God’s act of creation is from nothing, which can scarcely be said of Mansfield Park or Dead Babies. Like cooking or carpentry, art requires raw materials. Conrad misses the point that ...

In the Hothouse

Peter Howarth: Swinburne, 8 November 2018

21st-Century Oxford Authors: Algernon Charles Swinburne 
edited by Francis O’Gorman.
Oxford, 722 pp., £95, December 2016, 978 0 19 967224 0
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... are poems that combine curses, doomed love, the sea and the elegy, such as ‘The Death of Richard Wagner’, whose penultimate stanza describes the effect of hearing his music: As a vision of heaven from the hollows of         ocean, that none but a god might see, Rose out of the silence of things unknown of                 a ...

Absolute Modernity

Paul Driver, 26 September 1991

Gabriel Fauré: A Musical Life 
by Jean-Michel Nectoux, translated by Roger Nichols.
Cambridge, 646 pp., £45, April 1991, 0 521 23524 3
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Pierre Boulez 
by Dominique Jameux, translated by Susan Bradshaw.
Faber, 422 pp., £25, March 1991, 9780571137442
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Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship 
by Pierre Boulez, translated by Stephen Walsh.
Oxford, 316 pp., £40, August 1991, 0 19 311210 8
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... to see those of his companions whom he had left on the more familiar road.’ Modernists such as Wagner, Liszt, Schoenberg and indeed Boulez all took or would take this more familiar road. The harmonic daring is what gives Fauré’s music its particular frisson, the frisson of the suddenly new that Walter Pater’s Gaston de Latour finds in the poetry of ...

Vous êtes belle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 8 January 1987

Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life 1886-1914 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 178 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 85635 484 8
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Henri Alain-Fournier: Towards the Lost Domain: Letters from London 1905 
translated by W.J. Strachan.
Carcanet, 222 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 85635 674 3
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The Lost Domain 
by Henri Alain-Fournier, translated by Frank Davison.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 212262 2
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... every string, in vain, to get him the Prix Goncourt. He took to racing cars and flying – ‘like Peter Pan’, he told Francis Jammes. Le Grand Meaulnes was written, for the most part, in Rue Cassini. If he had survived the war, what would he have written? Not, probably, Colombe Blanchet, which he had begun, but, as he put it himself, about ‘the countries ...

Can there be such a thing as music criticism?

John Deathridge, 20 February 1986

Music and Civilisation: Essays in Honour of Paul Henry Lang 
edited by Edmond Strainchamps, Maria Rika Maniates and Christopher Hatch.
Norton, 499 pp., £35, March 1985, 0 393 01677 3
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The Farthest North of Humanness: Letters of Percy Grainger 1901-1914 
edited by Kay Dreyfus.
Macmillan, 542 pp., £25, December 1985, 0 333 38085 1
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Musicology 
by Joseph Kerman.
Collins/Fontana, 255 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 0 00 197170 0
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... it is good and sharp’. Yet despite the grand presentation of excess (Grainger’s letters, like Wagner’s, sometimes read as if they were instruction booklets on how to satisfy ultimate needs), the man behind it only rarely transcends the feelings of an overgrown brat. This is the famous Grainger in extremis – a self-styled ‘lightning conductor’ of ...

The Biggest Rockets

Alex Ross: Gustav Mahler, 24 August 2000

Gustav Mahler. Vol. III. Vienna: Triumph and Disillusion (1904 to 1907) 
by Henry-Louis de La Grange.
Oxford, 1024 pp., £35, February 1999, 9780193151604
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The Mahler Companion 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Andrew Nicholson.
Oxford, 652 pp., £50, May 1999, 0 19 816376 2
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... of three books about Mahler, has edited a new one, The Mahler Companion. Two other biographies, by Peter Franklin and Jonathan Carr, have recently appeared. And, of course, there are recordings – well over a thousand versions of twenty works. A Mahler Discography, published in 1995, is already thoroughly out of date. One starts to wonder: is there such a ...

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