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Which is the hero?

David Edgar, 20 March 1997

Henrik Ibsen 
by Robert Ferguson.
Cohen, 466 pp., £25, November 1996, 1 86066 078 9
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... Ibsen wrote them is a warning against reading the art too readily from the life, and one that Robert Ferguson has not heeded. For him, the life is the only way to support his thesis, which is that the great plays aren’t great at all, and that after Ibsen’s first success, Peer Gynt (written at Casamicciola, Ischia, in 1867), it all went horribly ...

Better and Worse Worsts

Sadakat Kadri: American Trials, 24 May 2007

The Trial in American Life 
by Robert Ferguson.
Chicago, 400 pp., £18.50, March 2007, 978 0 226 24325 2
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... done.’ Brown’s prosecution, ‘the first modern courtroom event’, is one of five cases that Robert Ferguson examines in The Trial in American Life. As Ferguson points out, America’s courtroom dramas have always done more than transform the reputation of the person at their centre: They also satisfy ...

Hauteur

Adam Phillips: ‘Paranoid Modernism’, 22 May 2003

The Short Sharp Life of T.E. Hulme 
by Robert Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 314 pp., £20, November 2002, 0 7139 9490 8
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Paranoid Modernism: Literary Experiment, Psychosis and the Professionalisation of English Society 
by David Trotter.
Oxford, 358 pp., £35, September 2001, 0 19 818755 6
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... in these abstract Modernists. One of the many things that is so interesting about him, and that Robert Ferguson illuminates in this first thorough biography, is his redescription of original sin as the best way of talking about ineluctable human limitations. In his own combative, unacademic way he was trying to work out why original sin, even in its ...

No Surrender

Tom Shippey: Vikings, 22 July 2010

The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings 
by Robert Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 450 pp., £30, November 2009, 978 0 7139 9788 0
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... Robert Ferguson’s title has already been used at least twice for Viking-related works, which makes one wonder about his subtitle: what’s ‘new’ in Viking studies? The history of the Vikings has been well known, in outline, for a long time. By early medieval standards, we have very good documentation for it, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in Frankish and Irish annals, with further contributions from Arab and Byzantine sources, while the Icelanders’ passion for sagas and poems means that we also have versions of the Vikings’ side of the story ...

Addicted to Unpredictability

James Wood: Knut Hamsun, 26 November 1998

Knut Hamsun. Selected Letters. Vol. II: 1898-1952 
edited by Harald Næss and James McFarlane.
Norvik, 351 pp., £14.95, April 1998, 1 870041 13 5
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Hunger 
by Knut Hamsun, translated by Sverre Lyngstad.
Rebel Inc, 193 pp., £6.99, October 1996, 0 86241 625 6
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... or less unique.’ Hamsun could be as bewilderingly stochastic in person as his characters were. Robert Ferguson, his intelligent biographer, tells a story of Hamsun visiting a hotel in Nice. Barking at staff in Norwegian and refusing to tip, he was quickly the most unpopular guest in the hotel. Then at the end of his stay, he delighted everyone by ...

Gloriously Fucked

J. Robert Lennon: Paul Auster’s ‘4321’, 2 February 2017

4321 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 866 pp., £20, January 2017, 978 0 571 32462 0
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... and bear a child, Stanley; Stanley marries comely Rose, and they beget our protagonist, Archie Ferguson. From there on, the book is divided into eight long chapters, and each chapter into four interleaved subchapters. Each subchapter develops one possible future life for Ferguson: chapter 1.1 is on the same track as 2.1 ...

Absent Framers

Andreas Teuber, 31 March 1988

... hearings and the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on President Reagan’s nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. In both cases national telecasts offered Americans a civic education. They now have a far greater understanding of the Constitution than they could possibly have gained from a dozen or more Bicentennial celebrations. Judge Bork ...

Watch this man

Pankaj Mishra: Niall Ferguson’s Burden, 3 November 2011

Civilisation: The West and the Rest 
by Niall Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 402 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 84614 273 4
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... the ‘trans-Atlantic alliance’, as in Philip Bobbitt’s Terror and Consent (2008), which Niall Ferguson in an enthusiastic review claimed will ‘be read with pleasure by men of a certain age, class and education from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to London’s West End’. Ferguson himself is homo atlanticus redux. In a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Crap Towns, 23 October 2003

... When Robert Graves left Charterhouse School in 1914, the headmaster wrote in his report: ‘Well, goodbye, Graves and remember that your best friend is the wastepaper basket.’ (Charterhouse is the public school that was recently reported to be replacing its tuckshop with a branch of Starbucks, but in fact isn’t ...

‘Hell, yes’

J. Robert Lennon: The Osage Murders, 4 October 2017

Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI 
by David Grann.
Simon & Schuster, 338 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 0 85720 902 3
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... conclusion beyond the Osage Nation, beyond Oklahoma, beyond the 1920s, and apply it not only to Ferguson but to the uptick in recent decades in violence against American Muslims; to the brutal treatment of Native protesters at Standing Rock; to the deaths of migrants along the border between the US and Mexico. Government and corporate corruption in the ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... still rich in hints of the life savoured by its great authors, from Dunbar to Norman MacCaig and Robert Garioch. The heyday of its literary, cultural and philosophic life lasted for a hundred years to the death of Scott and left its mark on Europe and America. An ancient city, a capital, with authors of all kinds, from Gavin Douglas to James Boswell to Annie ...

Performing Art

Rosalind Krauss: The Sanctification of Rebecca Horn, 12 November 1998

Rebecca Horn: The Glance of Infinity 
edited by Carl Haenlein.
Scalo, 400 pp., £47.50, January 1997, 3 931141 66 7
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... cinema (Buñuel, Buster Keaton). There is much talk of this sort in The Glance of Infinity. Bruce Ferguson, one of its contributors, writes: ‘Dependable explanations are circumvented by her work’s material and conceptual complexities which resist the very foundations of any disciplinary knowledge. No art-historical parameters, no sculptural stylistics, no ...

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 Alexander Broadie, to whose explorations of The ...

The Demented Dalek

Richard J. Evans: Michael Gove, 12 September 2019

Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry 
by Owen Bennett.
Biteback, 422 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 1 78590 440 0
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... a series of what he thought were like-minded professional historians to advise him. Niall Ferguson was one; Simon Schama was hired to convene a committee to produce a draft. But Gove wasn’t satisfied. Ferguson wanted the curriculum to have a global dimension, which wasn’t what Gove wanted at all; the proposals ...

Cityscrape

Kathleen Burk, 9 July 1992

The Barlow Clowes Affair 
by Lawrence Lever.
Macmillan, 278 pp., £17.50, February 1992, 0 333 51377 0
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For whom the bell tolls: The Lesson of Lloyd’s of London 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 358 pp., £18, June 1992, 1 85619 152 4
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The City of London: Continuity and Change, 1850-1990 
by Ranald Michie.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £30, January 1992, 0 333 55025 0
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... Guinness, Barlow Clowes, BCCI and now Maxwell. Indeed, Maxwell bids fair to be one of the best. Robert Maxwell was a rogue of the first order, but no one can say that we were not warned: in 1971 the Department of Trade and Industry warned that he was ‘not a fit and proper person to have charge of a public company’. Not the least interesting question is ...

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