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Fill it with fish

Helen Cooper: The trail of the Grail

6 June 2002
Parzival and the Stone from Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for Our Time 
by Lindsay Clarke.
HarperCollins, 239 pp., £14.99, September 2001, 0 00 710813 3
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Merlin and the Grail: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Perceval’ The Trilogy of Arthurian Romances Attributed to Robert de Boron 
translated by Nigel Bryant.
Boydell and Brewer, 172 pp., £30, May 2001, 0 85991 616 2
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Le Livre du Graal. Tome I: ‘Joseph D’Arimathie’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Les Premiers Faits du Roi Arthur’ 
edited by Daniel Poirion and Philippe Walter.
Gallimard, 1993 pp., £50.95, April 2001, 2 07 011342 6
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... simply Le Livre du Graal, the Grail having subsumed the entire prehistory and history of Arthur. The early stages in this process are outlined by Bryant, and their development is traced forwards in PhilippeWalter’s more substantial prefatory material to the first of a projected three parallel-text volumes. Joseph of Arimathea remains the hero of the first part of this new Graal, and the romance ...

No Peep of Protest

Barbara Newman: Medieval Marriage

19 July 2018
Conduct Becoming: Good Wives and Husbands in the Later Middle Ages 
by Glenn Burger.
Pennsylvania, 262 pp., £50, September 2017, 978 0 8122 4960 6
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... burgher for his orphaned 15-year-old wife, as he states, to benefit the second husband she would take after his death.* Other specimens include Christine de Pizan’s Treasure of the City of Ladies, Philippe de Mézières’s On the Virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage, a Middle English work called How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter, and many more. The wife with the broken nose is typical of the ...

‘Because I am French!’

Ruth Scurr: Marie Antoinette’s Daughter

3 July 2008
Marie-Thérèse: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter 
by Susan Nagel.
Bloomsbury, 418 pp., £25, July 2008, 978 1 59691 057 7
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... d’Angoulême et les deux restaurations (1887), was published in a series of chronicles called Les Femmes des Tuileries. He was well aware of the affinity between his subjects and ‘the heroines of Walter Scott’. Going a step further than James Fenimore Cooper, who saw the Duchesse d’Angoulême in Paris after the Restoration and remarked ‘I never see this woman without a feeling of commiseration ...

Rites of Passage

Anthony Quinn

27 June 1991
The Elephant 
by Richard Rayner.
Cape, 276 pp., £13.99, May 1991, 0 224 03005 1
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The Misfortunes of Nigel 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Peter Owen, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0830 9
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Famous for the creatures 
by Andrew Motion.
Viking, 248 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 0 670 82286 8
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Double Lives 
by Stephen Wall.
Bloomsbury, 154 pp., £13.99, June 1991, 0 7475 0910 7
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... dropped with a slightly desperate clunk. This book confines most of its drama to the heart rather than the headlines, and shuffles some new characters into the pack. Significant among them is Walter, a faded artist who has leased part of his land for the students’ production. An army companion of his father during the war, Walter has insinuated to Francis that the brigadier might not be quite ...

Nation of Mutes

Tony Wood: Marquis de Custine

24 August 2000
A Taste for Freedom: The Life of Astolphe de Custine 
by Anka Muhlstein, translated by Teresa Waugh.
Helen Marx, 393 pp., $16.95, November 1999, 1 885983 41 7
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... at the age of three and, a year later, his father: both were executed during the Jacobin Terror, although both had been sympathetic to the Revolution. Indeed, his grandfather, General Adam-Philippe de Custine, had been a supporter of the American War of Independence and in 1793, as one of the few French aristocrats in favour of revolution, was appointed commander-in-chief of the Army of the ...

Family Stories

Patrice Higonnet

4 August 1994
The Past in French History 
by Robert Gildea.
Yale, 416 pp., £30, February 1994, 0 300 05799 7
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La Gauche survivra-t-elle aux socialistes? 
by Jean-Marie Colombani.
Flammarion, 213 pp., frs 105, March 1994, 2 08 066953 2
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... needs to justify itself by extending or reversing the paths followed in the past. In 1792, the Place Louis XV becomes the Place de la Révolution only to become the Place de la Concorde under Louis-Philippe; Napoleon III makes up for Waterloo in the Crimea and at Solferino; the Third Republic undoes the shame of the defeat at Sedan; de Gaulle erases the humiliation of 1940; and so on. All of Paris is ...
7 August 1980
The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler 
edited by Michael Unger.
Duckworth, 192 pp., £4.95, March 1979, 0 7156 1356 1
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The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. 
by George Steiner.
Granta, 66 pp., £1.50
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Young Adolf 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £6.95, November 1978, 0 7156 1323 5
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... read for the plane, his eye is assaulted by a thwacking array of swastikas on black, gold and blood-red fields. Approaching them at random but with a certain circumspection, he finds, for example, Philippe van Rindt’s The Trial of Adolf Hitler, in which it is revealed that Hitler survived his attempts at suicide in the bunker; The Murder of Rudolf Hess, by Hess’s Spandau doctor, demonstrating that ...
10 July 2003
Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting 
by Gary Tinterow and Geneviève Lacambre et al.
Yale, 592 pp., £50, March 2003, 0 300 09880 4
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... had over the imagination of art-lovers in Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century is the description of the ancient Scottish seat of the Roman Catholic earls of Glenallan in Walter Scott’s The Antiquary. The late Countess, ‘partly from a haughty contempt of the times in which she lived, partly from her sense of family pride’, had not permitted the interiors to be ...
20 August 1992
A Place of Greater Safety 
by Hilary Mantel.
Viking, 896 pp., £15.99, September 1992, 0 670 84545 0
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... the reader scope to change opinions, change sympathies: a book that one can think and live inside. Now, of course, there is no intrinsic incompatibility between novel-writing and history-writing. Walter Scott was an admirable historian – here indeed lay most of his strength. A case can be made, too, for saying that Flaubert, in L’Education sentimentale, was a better historical thinker – showed ...

When in Bed

David Blackbourn

19 October 1995
Reflections on a Life 
by Norbert Elias.
Polity, 166 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 7456 1383 7
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The Civilising Process 
by Norbert Elias.
Blackwell, 558 pp., £50, March 1994, 0 631 19222 0
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... confident in its German culture: anti-semites, like ‘Polacks’, were looked down on. The affectionate family and reassuring world of cook, nanny and governess that Elias describes remind one of Walter Benjamin’s near-contemporary ‘Berlin Childhood’, except that where Benjamin provides a rich description of bourgeois consumption in the Belle Epoque, Elias offers surprisingly little material ...

Exhibitionists

Hal Foster: Curation

3 June 2015
Ways of Curating 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Penguin, 192 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 241 95096 8
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Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World – And Everything Else 
by David Balzer.
Pluto, 140 pp., £8.99, April 2015, 978 0 7453 3597 1
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... who as curator and director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam between 1945 and 1962, championed experimental artists as they groped for a way forward after the Second World War; and the American Walter Hopps, who, with his staging of a landmark Duchamp retrospective in Pasadena in 1963, sparked a rethinking of Dada for an entire generation of Pop, Minimalist and conceptual artists in the United ...

Faces of the People

Richard Altick

19 August 1982
Physiognomy in the European Novel: Faces and Fortunes 
by Graeme Tytler.
Princeton, 436 pp., £19.10, March 1982, 0 691 06491 1
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A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th-century Paris 
by Judith Wechsler.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £18.50, June 1982, 0 500 01268 7
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... into the 18th century. Diderot often respectfully alluded to physiognomy in his philosophical writings and applied it in his fictional character descriptions. Sterne, on the other hand, arranged that Walter Shandy’s forthright declaration that ‘there are a thousand unnoticed openings ... which let a penetrating eye at once into a man’s soul’ should degenerate into nonsense, and Fielding ...

By the Width of a Street

Christopher Prendergast: Literary geography

29 October 1998
An Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 
by Franco Moretti.
Verso, 206 pp., £16, August 1998, 1 85984 883 4
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... genre as a whole. How space came to challenge the priority of time is itself an interesting historical question, doubtless linked to the emergence of a culture of display and exhibition, or to what Philippe Hamon, in his remarkable study of 19th-century French literature (also absent from Moretti’s bibliography), has called ‘exposition’. ‘Exposition’ here refers to a physical and social world ...
10 January 1983
Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century: Vol. I. The Structures of Everyday Life 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Siân Reynolds.
Collins, 623 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 00 216303 9
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Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century: Vol. II. The Wheels of Commerce 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Siân Reynolds.
Collins, 670 pp., £17.50, November 1982, 9780002161329
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Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle: Vol. III. Le temps du monde 
by Fernand Braudel.
Armand Colin, 607 pp., frs 250, May 1979, 2 253 06457 2
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... society, leaving till last the narrative of the major events of the period, Braudel’s book imitated the organisation of Febvre’s own doctoral thesis, which had also been concerned with Philip II: Philippe II et la Franche-Comté (1912). However, the Mediterranean was a considerably more ambitious work, a case-study designed to make general statements about the nature of space and time. Braudel ...
26 January 1995
Proust and the Sense of Time 
by Julia Kristeva, translated by Stephen Bann.
Faber, 103 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 571 16880 9
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Le Temps sensible: Proust et l’expérience littéraire 
by Julia Kristeva.
Gallimard, 451 pp., January 1995, 2 07 073116 2
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The Old Man and the Wolves 
by Julia Kristeva, translated by Barbara Bray.
Columbia, 183 pp., £15, January 1995, 0 231 08020 4
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... is more contemporary than any of our contemporaries, that he will save us from our splintered time, show us how to put time together again. The aesthete she conjures up is at best the contemporary of Walter Pater. I would have thought that Proust’s claim on us now was something like the opposite: the depth of his sense of historical haunting, his feeling for the saturation of human life in time ...

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