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How to vanish

Michael Dibdin, 23 April 1987

The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis 
by Humberto Costantini, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Fontana, 193 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 00 654180 1
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Requiem for a Woman’s Soul 
by Omar Rivabella, translated by Paul Riviera.
Penguin, 116 pp., £2.95, February 1987, 0 14 009773 2
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Words in Commotion, and Other Stories 
by Tommaso Landolfi, translated by Ring Jordan and Lydia Jordan.
Viking, 273 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 80518 1
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The Literature Machine 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Secker, 341 pp., £16, April 1987, 0 436 08276 4
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The St Veronica Gig Stories 
by Jack Pulaski.
Zephyr, 170 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 939010 09 7
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Kate Vaiden 
by Reynolds Price.
Chatto, 306 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7011 3203 5
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... To vanish from sight; be traceable no farther; cease to be present; be lost, especially without explanation.’ The verb in question normally behaves intransitively, but in Argentina after 1976 it learned to take a direct object as the military regime disappeared between nine and twenty thousand people. Humberto Costantini and Omar Rivabella both write about this, but their approach is so different that their books in fact complement each other ...

Israel’s Dirty War

Avi Shlaim, 18 August 1994

Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-56: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War 
by Benny Morris.
Oxford, 451 pp., £40, September 1993, 0 19 827850 0
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... demilitarised zones along the border and this provoked recurrent clashes with the Israeli Army. Jordan had the longest and most complicated border with Israel, with the largest number of civilians on both sides. The upshot was massive infiltration, Israeli reprisals, countless Jordanian proposals to improve the situation in the border areas, and a singular ...

Capital Folly

Avi Shlaim: The Jerusalem Syndrome, 21 March 2002

Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City 
by Bernard Wasserstein.
Profile, 420 pp., £9.99, March 2002, 1 86197 333 0
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... Second World War: their secret objective was partition between the Zionists and King Abdullah of Jordan, their loyal ally – which was the precise outcome of the 1948 war. Towards the end of that war, Jerusalem once again became an issue. Most members of the UN still supported an international regime for the city but the powers on the ground, ...


Patrick Parrinder, 7 July 1988

Forty Stories 
by Donald Barthelme.
Secker, 256 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 436 03424 7
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Tiny Lies 
by Kate Pullinger.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 224 02560 0
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Ellen Foster 
by Kaye Gibbons.
Cape, 146 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 0 224 02529 5
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After the War 
by Frederick Raphael.
Collins, 528 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 00 223352 5
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... upon a series of mysterious messages, at least one of which has a programmatic Post-Modernist ring: ‘THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FACT; ALL THAT EXISTS IS ABSOLUTE FICTION.’ Very sensibly, Dora chooses to disregard this; it is self-contradictory in the Cretan Liar tradition, and in any case it would rob her of any sense of purpose in life. Dora, like ...

Israel’s Caesar

Naomi Shepherd, 26 November 1987

Sharon: An Israeli Caesar 
by Uzi Benziman.
Robson, 276 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 9780860514343
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Sands of Sorrow: Israel’s Journey from Independence 
by Milton Viorst.
Tauris, 328 pp., £16.50, September 1987, 1 85043 064 0
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... warned, only half-jokingly, that were Sharon awarded the other position his first move would be to ring the government buildings with tanks. Control of the Army was withheld from Sharon the professional soldier, while his political ambitions were rewarded. Despite the inevitable pre-eminence of the Army in Israeli life, it has no militarist tradition and no ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, 6 March 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street 
directed by Martin Scorsese.
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... raw and too close to the action for that. And too recent. Only this week one of the partners of Jordan Belfort, whose memoir forms the basis for the film, announced that he was suing Paramount for $25 million because of his portrayal in the film. He hadn’t liked the way he looked in the book but the film depicts him as … er … a criminal. In many ways ...

The Road to West Egg

Thomas Powers, 4 July 2013

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by Sarah Churchwell.
Virago, 306 pp., £16.99, June 2013, 978 1 84408 766 2
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The Great Gatsby 
directed by Baz Luhrmann.
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... above the garage. Scholars have long known that the leading women in Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker, were based on Fitzgerald’s early girlfriend, Ginevra King, and her classmate at the Westover School in Connecticut, Edith Cummings, a noted golfer. The men in the story are not so easy to pin down, beginning with Nick Carraway, the ...


Ronan Bennett, 11 February 1993

by Oriana Fallaci, translated by James Marcus.
Chatto, 599 pp., £15.99, November 1992, 0 7011 3835 1
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... is referring to, but one assumes she is thinking of September 1970, when the PLO was driven out of Jordan. However, there had been Palestinians in the Lebanon for almost a quarter of a century before the PLO set up its new headquarters in Beirut, and their lives had been anything but pleasant. It is hard to recognise the ‘Switzerland of the Middle East’ in ...

The Fighting Family

Avi Shlaim, 9 May 1996

Israel, Likud and the Zionist Dream: Power, Politics and Ideology from Begin to Netanyahu 
by Colin Shindler.
Tauris, 324 pp., £25, August 1995, 1 85043 969 9
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Summing Up: An Autobiography 
by Yitzhak Shamir.
Weidenfeld, 276 pp., £19.99, April 1994, 0 297 81337 4
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Broken Covenant: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis between the US and Israel 
by Moshe Arens.
Simon and Schuster, 320 pp., $25, February 1995, 0 671 86964 7
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A Zionist Stand 
by Ze’ev Begin.
Cass, 173 pp., £15, January 1993, 0 7146 4089 1
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Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorism 
by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Farrar, Straus, 152 pp., $17, October 1995, 0 374 15492 9
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... forthright declaration that the aim of the movement was a Jewish state on both sides of the River Jordan. Weizmann, in turn, was appalled by Jabotinsky and his followers’ lack of realism, their melodramatic way of looking at things, and the myopic militancy of their policies. The battle lines were thus firmly drawn between territorial minimalism and ...

Class Traitor

Edward Pearce, 11 June 1992

Maverick: The Life of a Union Rebel 
by Eric Hammond.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 297 81200 9
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... his old boss Frank Chapple are underlined as relevant. The actual moderation of the Edmonds/Laird/Jordan/Tuffin/Jinkinson TUC is more real than perceived. Yet Hammond is to be found quarrelling even with fellow moderates. John Edmonds in particular is an object of running scorn and antipathy. If, as he claims persuasively, the final expulsion of the union was ...


Ian Gilmour: Our Ignominious Government, 23 May 1996

... what they liked in Lebanon. I ask with a touch of acrimony why we ever left ‘the middle’ and ring off. On the plane, I read Auden and MacNeice’s Letters from Iceland, which first appeared in 1937. Very funny in places, and Auden’s verse ‘Letter to Lord Byron’ is a triumph, though not in the same league as the great man ...

The Sultan and I

Anthony Howard, 1 June 1989

By God’s Will: A Portrait of the Sultan of Brunei 
by Lord Chalfont.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79628 3
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The Richest Man in the World: The Sultan of Brunei 
by James Bartholomew.
Viking, 199 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 670 82152 7
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... white, claims to advise a number of political figures around the world, including King Hussein of Jordan, President Mobutu, Rajiv Gandhi and Richard Nixon. He is currently on his way to visit ex-President Marcos in Honolulu. He has met Mrs Thatcher several times. Plainly a figure of some significance – and, no doubt, the Observer’s two million readers ...

The Ballad of Andy and Rebekah

Martin Hickman: The Phone Hackers, 17 July 2014

... Brooks had replied. Edis told the jury that the person who collected the cash was Bettina Jordan-Barber, a Ministry of Defence official. No witness was produced to demonstrate that Brooks knew this. The emails were the only evidence, aside, perhaps, from her willingness to sign off £38,000 so blithely. As for the conspiracies to pervert the course of ...

Is Palestine Next?

Adam Shatz: The No-State Solution, 14 July 2011

... be converted into a strength. ‘If you want to beat Mike Tyson, you don’t invite him into the ring, you invite him to the chessboard,’ Husam Zomlot, the brash young deputy of Fatah’s Department of Foreign Relations, explained to me. ‘On Nakba Day a thousand people marched to Qalandia. Once we manage to get 100,000 people marching there, let’s see ...


Karma Nabulsi: Lament for the Revolution, 21 October 2010

... of its strengths and weaknesses would be more useful.) Some say it ended after Black September in Jordan in 1970; others that it ended in 1975 at the start of the Lebanese civil war. The majority see Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which brought about the comprehensive destruction of the PLO’s infrastructure, as having killed it off. The ...

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