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Aaron, Gabriel and Bonaparte

Amanda Prantera, 19 December 1985

The Periodic Table 
by Primo Levi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Joseph, 233 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 9780718126360
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... Once in an unguarded moment when I was trying to illustrate the unbounded nature of human vanity, I shamefacedly admitted to my daughter that I, too, outwardly so cool-headed and realistic about my slender talents, cherished in the back of my mind a dream of being awarded the Nobel Prize. I could see myself, I confessed, walking up an aisle of red plush carpet, flanked by applauding onlookers and heralded by fanfares, dressed in my best, blushing becomingly as I prepared to receive this the highest accolade currently available in the profession ...

Grassi gets a fright

Peter Burke, 7 July 1988

Galileo: Heretic 
by Pietro Redondi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Allen Lane, 356 pp., £17.95, April 1988, 0 7139 9007 4
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... and the opponents of what Redondi calls una linea di apertura culturale e politica, translated by Rosenthal as ‘liberalisation’. This interpretation of the Galileo affair, like the ‘dark lights’ described in Chapter Four, at once obscures and illuminates. It illuminates by making the reader aware of the fact that 17th-century Rome was an arena ...

What time is it?

Michael Wood, 16 February 1989

Dreams of Roses and Fire 
by Eyvind Johnson, translated by Erik Friis.
Dedalus, 384 pp., £11.95, December 1988, 0 946626 40 5
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Women in a River Landscape 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by David McLintock.
Secker, 208 pp., £10.95, February 1989, 0 436 05460 4
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The Standard Life of a Temporary Pantyhose Salesman 
by Aldo Busi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Faber, 430 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 14657 0
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... If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca,’ Humphrey Bogart moodily asks in a famous movie, ‘what time is it in New York?’ The answer is not as obvious as it looks. Time, especially political time, has snags, hitches, runs; lags behind in some places, suddenly catches up. Reading translations, which have often travelled to us across all kinds of odd delays, we could do worse than adapt Bogart’s question to our texts ...

Households of Patience

John Foot, 9 June 1994

Antonio Gramsci: Letters from Prison 
edited by Frank Rosengarten, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Columbia, 374 pp., £27.50, March 1994, 0 231 07558 8
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Antonio Gramsci: Pre-Prison Writings 
edited by Richard Bellamy, translated by Virginia Cox.
Cambridge, 350 pp., £40, January 1994, 0 521 41143 2
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... In 1927, Antonio Gramsci was in chains, about to begin a nightmarish 19-day journey from Sicily to Milan’s San Vittore prison, when he met two ‘common criminals’ in a Palermo waiting-room. One of them refused to accept that he was indeed Gramsci ‘because Antonio Gramsci must be a giant and not such a tiny man.’ Disappointed, the man, Gramsci reported, ‘said nothing more, withdrew to a corner, sat down on an unmentionable contraption and stayed there, like Marius on the ruins of Carthage, meditating on his lost illusions ...

Levi’s Oyster

Karl Miller, 4 August 1988

The Drowned and the Saved 
by Prime Levi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Joseph, 170 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 7181 3063 4
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... The Italian writer Primo Levi died a year ago, on 11 April 1987, to the dismay of his readers, and The Drowned and the Saved may well be the last of his writings to be translated and reviewed in this country. There was a time when it must have seemed to many that he would never receive a bad review, or even a cross word. His first book, If This Is a Man, about his months in Auschwitz, and its sequel, The Truce, were hard to fault, and the successive publications of his middle age have been greeted by an admiration responsive both to his skills as a writer and to his character as a man ...

Orwellspeak

Julian Symons, 9 November 1989

The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of ‘St George’ Orwell 
by John Rodden.
Oxford, 478 pp., £22.50, October 1989, 0 19 503954 8
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... US, with the essays, novels and Homage to Catalonia carried along in their wake. The publisher Tom Rosenthal, totting up the royalties earned during six months by a backlist of Seeker foreign authors including Mishima, Moravia, Svevo, Gide, Colette, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Grass, Böll and half a dozen others, found that the whole lot added up to half Orwell’s ...

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