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At the Hayward

Peter Campbell: Alexander Rodchenko, 24 April 2008

... When Alexander Rodchenko began taking photographs in 1924 he was in his early thirties and already known as a painter of severe abstracts and maker of constructions and photomontages. He produced many of his most memorable photographs during his first few years with a camera: his wife, Varvara Stepanova, smiling with a cigarette gripped between her teeth; his mother, holding folded spectacles up to one eye; and several portraits of Mayakovsky ...

Ecclefechan and the Stars

Robert Crawford, 21 January 1988

The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect 
by George Davie.
Polygon, 283 pp., £17.95, September 1986, 0 948275 18 9
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... detailed and sometimes not-so-detailed arguments have been sharply questioned by the historian Robert Anderson. Davie’s emphasis on the importance of Scottish philosophical writings (among which he includes MacDiarmid’s verse) is designed to be controversial. It should be set beside the recent work of ...

Plain English

Denis Donoghue, 20 December 1984

Nineteen Eighty-Four: Facsimile Edition 
by George Orwell, edited by Peter Davison.
Secker, 291 pp., £25, July 1984, 9780436350221
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Nineteen Eighty-Four 
by George Orwell, edited by Bernard Crick.
Oxford, 460 pp., £17.50, March 1984, 0 19 818521 9
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Inside the Myth. Orwell: Views from the Left 
edited by Christopher Norris.
Lawrence and Wishart, 287 pp., £12.50, November 1984, 0 85315 599 2
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The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell 
by George Woodcock.
Fourth Estate, 287 pp., £5.95, November 1984, 0 947795 05 7
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Orwell’s London 
by John Thompson.
Fourth Estate, 119 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 947795 00 6
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... style means that you have something to hide. This implication is clear in such writings as Robert Graves and Alan Hodge’s The Reader over Your Shoulder, Herbert Read’s English Prose Style, and Orwell’s several essays on language and its consequences. Crick names four of these essays: ‘The Prevention of Literature’, ‘Writers and ...

Bloody Horse

Samuel Hynes, 1 December 1983

Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 277 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 19 211750 5
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The Selected Poems of Roy Campbell 
edited by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 131 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 9780192119469
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... of Bloomsbury, and of Vita in particular, but his shotgun method reached many others, including Robert Graves and Laura Riding, J.C. Squire, and London literary politics in general. Some of the lines are funny, even witty, but more often the abuse is heavy, repetitious and sprawling: when Campbell was hating, he didn’t know when to stop. Still, the poem ...


Alexander Cockburn: ‘West of America’, 11 July 1991

... having one-fourth or more Indian blood’.) In his Destruction of the Californian Indians Robert Heizer reckons that between 1850 and 1863 some ten thousand Indians were indentured (made slaves, that is) or sold. In 1971 Heizer and Alan Almquist published three pages of Slave records from the Eureka courthouse in Humboldt county, Northern ...

Still Defending the Scots

Katie Stevenson: Robert the Bruce, 11 September 2014

Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots 
by Michael Penman.
Yale, 443 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 300 14872 5
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... wants to be William Wallace.’ ‘No,’ Martin corrected him. ‘Alex Salmond wants to be Robert the Bruce.’ Wallace has been cast as ‘the people’s champion’, a role he played in the 1975 novel The Wallace by the prolific Nigel Tranter and, twenty years later, in Braveheart. But Martin was right that the appeal of Bruce would be ...


Robert Crawford, 18 September 1997

... hover, agog, Though bored by its contents: same old same old Verisimilitudinous whine When Alexander Diving Bell invented the xenophone I heard his voice calling, ‘The sea! The sea!’ Hollowly into a shell As if he could contact Robert Louis Verne Or all the impossible, massed, forlorn spirits Edinburgh ...

Seven Miles per Hour

Robert Macfarlane: The men who invented flight, 5 February 2004

First to Fly: The Unlikely Triumph of Wilbur and Orville Wright 
by James Tobin.
Murray, 431 pp., £9.99, November 2003, 0 7195 5738 0
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The Wright Brothers: The Aviation Pioneers who Changed the World 
by Ian Mackersey.
Little, Brown, 554 pp., £20, October 2003, 0 316 86144 8
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Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight 
by Paul Hoffman.
Fourth Estate, 369 pp., £18.99, June 2003, 1 84115 368 0
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Taking Flight: Inventing the Aerial Age from Antiquity to the First World War 
by Richard Hallion.
Oxford, 531 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 19 516035 5
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... announcing that it would ‘change the whole conditions of warfare’. Langley’s close friend Alexander Bell agreed, remarking in 1896 that ‘the flying ship will make armies a jest, and our four-million-dollar prize battleship so much worthless junk.’ The militarisation of flight occurred with remarkable speed. In October 1911, an Italian pilot flew ...

Zeus Bits

Anne Carson, 17 November 2005

... AN ENVELOPE (WHITE) CONTAINING ANOTHER ENVELOPE (RED) CONTAINING A LIST OF 9 PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (UNNAMED) WITH INSTRUCTIONS (ENGLISH)] Funded by your tax dollars vile fire pushes by day and night to break out! I’d never send you vile fire itself I want you to know! Homosexuals always mumble but their saddles are silver! Don’t open ...

Not Mackintosh

Chris Miele, 6 April 1995

‘Greek’ Thomson 
edited by Gavin Stamp and Sam McKinstry.
Edinburgh, 249 pp., £35, September 1994, 0 7486 0480 4
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... 1890s like an evening glove. So, too, did mid-Victorian Glasgow define the professional life of Alexander Thomson. Thomson (1817-75) grew up near to what was fast becoming Britain’s ‘Second City’. After 1800, Glasgow grew fat on the West Indian textile trade, diversifying during the 1830s into heavy industry. The disruptions that followed the start of ...

Bad Medicine

Frank McLynn, 23 July 1992

The Malaria Capers 
by Robert Desowitz.
Norton, 288 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 9780393030136
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... slog through six millennia of ‘civilisation’. Hippocrates wrote about it in Ancient Greece; Alexander the Great is usually thought to have died from it (though some opt for assassination by poison) as are the Roman emperors Vespasian, Titus and Hadrian; Dea Febris, the goddess of fever, was worshipped in Rome: indeed, some historians have identified ...


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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... neighbours. Nevertheless East Europeans are apt to marvel, Miranda-like, at their brave new world. Robert Darnton interviewed, among others, Reinhard Becker, the local councillor responsible for the environment in Bitterfeld, East Germany – surely the most thankless municipal job in Europe. When Becker visited his West German twin town he was ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... Andrew Millar, William Strahan, Thomas Cadell (father and son) and George Robinson in London, and Alexander Kincaid, John Balfour, John Bell and William Creech in Edinburgh, were not ‘mechanicks’ as Strahan once complained, but collaborators in a London-Edinburgh publishing enterprise that put Scotland on the literary map. For John Pinkerton, an Edinburgh ...


Alan Brien: Finding Lenin, 7 August 1986

... alive and around at the time. I discovered that even this could be fudged in some standard works. Robert Payne is an acknowledged expert on Russian affairs, author of Dostoyevsky: A Human Portrait, The Image of Chekhov, The Three Worlds of Boris Pasternak. The Life and Death of Lenin (1964) runs to 672 pages. I returned to it to check the death toll in the ...

Leo’s Silences

Robert Irwin: The travels of Leo Africanus, 8 February 2007

Trickster Travels: A 16th-Century Muslim between Worlds 
by Natalie Zemon Davis.
Faber, 448 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 571 20256 0
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... a better faith. Only at one point does he disparage Islam. This is when he attacks the claim that Alexander the Great was a prophet of God and claims that this is ‘a folly of Mucametto in the Koran’. Even this is not without ambiguity, since Leo has avoided giving the Prophet his proper name and may have deliberately chosen to denounce a garbled ...

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