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English Brecht

Raymond Williams, 16 July 1981

Collected Plays: Life of Galileo 
by Bertolt Brecht, edited by Ralph Manheim, translated by John Willett.
Methuen, 264 pp., £7.50, October 1980, 0 413 39070 5
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Collected Plays: Mother Courage and her Children 
by Bertolt Brecht, edited by Ralph Manheim and John Willett, translated by John Willett.
Methuen, 154 pp., £7.50, January 1980, 0 413 39780 7
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Collected Plays: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui 
by Bertolt Brecht, edited by John Willett and Ralph Manheim, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Methuen, 144 pp., £7.50, August 1981, 0 413 47270 1
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... Bert Brecht, the Communist poet and playwright, has become a cultural monument. Is it then not time, he might ask, to consider blowing him up? One of the problems is this kind of tough talk. A certain recklessness of language, a down-to-earth bluntness, has been widely received as his most valuable legacy. It is what makes him, some say, an essentially popular writer ...

Winking at myself

Michael Hofmann, 7 March 1985

The Weight of the World 
by Peter Handke, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 243 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 436 19088 5
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... is the fact that the English version is different from the original. Handke and his translator Ralph Manheim say in a note that about ten pages’ worth of entries have been dropped – and some of these (oyez!) because the author ‘didn’t like them any more’. As a procedure for dealing with a journal which has already appeared in full in another ...

Rendings

Edward Timms, 19 April 1990

Thomas Mann and his Family 
by Marcel Reich-Ranicki, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Collins, 230 pp., £20, August 1989, 9780002158374
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... into English. This collection of articles, lectures and reviews, skilfully translated by Ralph Manheim, offers a searching reassessment of Thomas Mann’s career. Reich-Ranicki’s aim is to ‘demonumentalise’ one of Germany’s most celebrated writers by drawing attention to certain characteristic flaws revealed in his posthumously-published ...

To Live like a Bird

Mark Rudman, 1 June 2000

Approximately Nowhere 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 77 pp., £7.99, April 1999, 0 571 19524 5
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... makes the poem better than good. It also implies that the poem, dedicated to the late translator Ralph Manheim, is about taking trouble – that poetry is itself a form of translation, which requires effort. Hofmann’s poetry is blessedly free of notions. The taut, sinewy, almost bone-dry language is anything but symphonic or oceanic. It resists the ...

Doctor No

John Sturrock, 2 February 1989

Journey to the end of the night 
by Louis Ferdinand Céline, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Calder, 448 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7145 3800 0
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La Vie de Céline 
by Frédéric Vitoux.
Grasset, 597 pp., frs 190, May 1988, 2 246 35171 5
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... lived to work, to the extent of dying 24 hours after the final revision of his last manuscript. Ralph Manheim’s new translation of Journey to the end of the night has taken a puzzlingly long time to be published here – it is copyrighted 1983. Why five whole years? Could it be that translator and publisher were not on good terms? It could, if ...

Stones

John Harvey, 6 August 1981

A Confederacy of Dunces 
by John Kennedy Toole.
Allen Lane, 338 pp., £7.95, May 1981, 9780713914221
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The Meeting at Telgte 
by Günter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 147 pp., £5.95, June 1981, 0 436 18778 7
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Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi 
by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-Casares, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Allen Lane, 160 pp., £5.95, May 1981, 0 7139 1421 1
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Penny Links 
by Ursula Holden.
Eyre Methuen, 156 pp., £5.50, May 1981, 0 413 47210 8
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... The freckled drawing on the cover of Günter Grass’s latest novel shows a hand just emerging from a rubble of old stones and holding a quill. The quill is lightly and sensitively poised, the hand could be meaning to draw or to write as Grass himself both writes and draws. It is, that is to say, the hand of a writer who in his writing is an artist, and the drawing asks in effect: in a harsh or devastated world, what should such a hand write, and what chances does it have? It is a drawing which, with different implications, could serve equally for all the books here reviewed ...

The Future of John Barth

Michael Irwin, 5 June 1980

Letters 
by John Barth.
Secker, 772 pp., £7.95, May 1980, 0 436 03674 6
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The Left-Handed Woman 
by Peter Handke, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Eyre Methuen, 94 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 413 45890 3
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Passion Play 
by Jerzy Kosinski.
Joseph, 271 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 7181 1913 4
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... Offering a critical account of John Barth’s new book within the confines of a periodical review is like trying to haul a whale on board a fishing smack. For the sake of brevity, even my formal description of the work must be brutally oversimplified. It is an epistolary novel, divided into seven sections, one for every ‘letter’ of the title. Each section consists of a series of missives from the same seven correspondents: Lady Amherst ...

Serious Dr Sonne

Philip Purser, 6 December 1990

The Play of the Eyes 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Deutsch, 329 pp., £14.95, August 1990, 0 233 98570 0
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Yellow Street 
by Veza Canetti, translated by Ian Mitchell.
Halban, 139 pp., £11.95, November 1990, 1 870015 36 3
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... At the beginning of the third volume of his autobiography, Elias Canetti is still in his twenties. He has been cooped up for a year in a bed-sitter on the outskirts of Vienna with only a print of the Isenheim altar as company, working on the grim novel that was eventually to be called Auto da Fé. Early one morning he catches the first workman’s train into town, dashes through empty streets and lets himself into the apartment of his loved one, later his wife, Veza – she has given him a latchkey against such an eventuality ...

Angry or Evil?

Michael Wood: Brecht’s Poems, 21 March 2019

The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht 
translated by Tom Kuhn and David Constantine.
Norton, 1286 pp., £35, December 2018, 978 0 87140 767 2
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... of the opus sounds dizzying. The 1976 selection of translations edited by John Willett and Ralph Manheim contains ‘roughly five hundred poems’, while a German collected edition of 1967 has ‘approximately one thousand items’. The new book tells us that the latest complete works includes ‘more than two thousand poems’, of which ‘over ...

Nationalities

John Sutherland, 6 May 1982

Headbirths, or The Germans are dying out 
by Günter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 136 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 436 18777 9
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The Skating Party 
by Marina Warner.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £6.95, April 1982, 0 297 78113 8
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Sour Sweet 
by Timothy Mo.
Deutsch, 252 pp., £7.95, April 1982, 0 233 97365 6
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At Freddie’s 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 182 pp., £6.50, March 1982, 0 00 222064 4
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... A new novel by Günter Grass invites comparisons of a national kind. If a British writer of fiction wished to engage with the big stories of the day – the kind of thing Brian Walden does at Sunday noon – how would he go about it? Could Murdoch, Burgess, Spark, Lessing, Drabble take on such issues as the politics of fertility; the rights and wrongs of membership of Nato; the nuclear energy programme; whether in the absence of Brandt, and given the too urgent candidature of Strauss, Schmidt ought to be voted for; the division of Germany? Decorum, or the sense of a diminished literary tradition, would probably inhibit the representative British novelist ...

Baby Power

Marina Warner, 6 July 1989

The Romantic Child: From Runge to Sendak 
by Robert Rosenblum.
Thames and Hudson, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1989, 0 500 55020 4
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Caldecott & Co: Notes on Books and Pictures 
by Maurice Sendak.
Reinhardt, 216 pp., £13.95, March 1989, 1 871061 06 7
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Dear Mili 
by Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Ralph Manheim and Maurice Sendak.
Viking Kestrel, £9.95, November 1988, 0 670 80168 2
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Grimms’ Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the ‘Tales’ 
by Ruth Bottigheimer.
Yale, 211 pp., £8.95, April 1989, 0 300 04389 9
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The one who set out to study fear 
by Peter Redgrove.
Bloomsbury, 183 pp., £13.95, April 1989, 0 7475 0187 4
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... In 1894, the same year that the Children’s Charter extended new legal protection to the young, the English painter Thomas Gotch portrayed his young daughter in majesty like a Madonna by Duccio, with a huge nimbus around her head, and called the image The Child Enthroned. Concurrently, the Swiss Ferdinand Hodler celebrated the birth of his son with an equally awed work, The Chosen One, in which the newborn and naked baby lies on the ground like a Christ Child in a Nativity painting, with a watch of winged spirits hovering a foot off the ground around him ...

Unquiet Deaths

Patrick Parrinder, 3 September 1987

Two Lives and a Dream 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Aidan Ellis, 245 pp., £9.95, July 1987, 0 85628 160 3
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The Wedding at Port-au-Prince 
by Hans Christoph Buch, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Faber, 259 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 571 14928 6
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Saints and Scholars 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 145 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 86091 180 2
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Imperial Patient: The Memoirs of Nero’s Doctor 
by Alex Comfort.
Duckworth, 206 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 7156 2168 8
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... According to John Ruskin, ‘in the work of the great masters death is always either heroic, deserved, or quiet and natural.’ Not so in Marguerite Yourcenar’s world. She is renowned for her timeless narrative gift and lucid style, and she regards her books as defining that unfashionable thing, an ‘ideal of humanity’. Yet death occurs in these fictions with what Ruskin would have seen as a morbid regularity and an unwholesome virulence ...

Bad Faith

J.P. Stern, 21 July 1983

Franz Kafka’s Loneliness 
by Marthe Robert, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Faber, 251 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 9780571119455
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Kafka’s Narrators 
by Roy Pascal.
Cambridge, 251 pp., £22.50, March 1982, 0 521 24365 3
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The Trial 
by Franz Kafka, translated by Willa Muir and Edwin Muir.
Penguin, 255 pp., £1.75, October 1983, 0 14 000907 8
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Letters to Milena 
by Franz Kafka and Willy Haas, translated by Tania Stern and James Stern.
Penguin, 188 pp., £2.50, June 1983, 0 14 006380 3
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The Penguin Complete Novels of Franz Kafka: ‘The Trial’, ‘The Castle’, ‘America’ 
translated by Willa Muir, illustrated by Edwin Muir.
Penguin, 638 pp., £4.95, June 1983, 0 14 009009 6
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The Penguin Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka 
edited by Nahum Glatzer.
Penguin, 486 pp., £3.95, June 1983, 0 14 009008 8
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... Marthe Robert is a well-known freelance among French Germanisten. She has written extensively on Freudian theory, on myth and Romanticism, and she collaborated with André Breton on a splendid volume of Lichtenberg’s aphorisms. She is deeply familiar with Kafka’s writings, having translated most of them into French: her knowledge of books on Kafka and the world he lived in is less impressive ...

Citizen Grass and the World’s End

Neal Ascherson, 17 October 1985

On Writing and Politics: 1967-1983 
by Günter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 157 pp., £12, September 1985, 0 436 18773 6
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Günter Grass 
by Ronald Hayman.
Methuen, 80 pp., £2.75, September 1985, 0 416 35490 4
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... In the early Sixties,’ said Grass – he was talking to an audience of Greek intellectuals in Athens, during the dictatorship of the Colonels – ‘I started doing day-to-day political work. The presumptuous élitist notion that writers are the conscience of the nation and should rise above the practical realities of politics has always gone against my grain ...

Angel Gabriel

Salman Rushdie, 16 September 1982

Chronicle of a Death Foretold 
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Cape, 122 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 224 01990 2
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... images (helped into English, once again, by Gregory Rabassa, who, along with Grass’s translator Ralph Manheim, must be the very best in the business), the dry wit, and the unequalled talent for rooting his fabulous imagination firmly in the real world. Chronicle is speech after long silence. For a time Garcia Marquez abjured fiction: whatever the ...

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