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Ozymandias Syndrome

Robert Irwin, 24 August 1995

Islamic Architecture 
by Robert Hillenbrand.
Edinburgh, 645 pp., £49.50, November 1994, 0 7486 0479 0
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The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800 
by Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom.
Yale, 348 pp., £45, August 1994, 0 300 05888 8
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The Mosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity 
edited by Martin Frishman and Hassan-Uddin Khan.
Thames and Hudson, 288 pp., £36, November 1994, 0 500 34133 8
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Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey 
by Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby.
Alexandria Press/Laurence King, 384 pp., £60, July 1994, 1 85669 054 7
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... ruins became teaching aids in a series of lectures on the sinfulness and transience of tyranny. Robert Hillenbrand’s meditations on Eastern ruins may similarly lead his readers to thoughts of mortality and transience. Many of the buildings he studies in Islamic Architecture have an overt function – whether prayer, teaching, interment or pleasure – yet ...

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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... At a seance in Hampstead in June 1914, W.B. Yeats was contacted by a spirit guide, who announced that he was Leo Africanus and professed to be affronted that the poet hadn’t heard of him. Over the next seven years, a curious relationship developed between Yeats and the daimon, who presented himself as Yeats’s opposite. Yeats, who saw himself as cautious and sedentary, discovered that Leo was bold and adventurous ...

Performances for Sleepless Tyrants

Marina Warner: ‘Tales of the Marvellous’, 8 January 2015

Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange 
translated by Malcolm Lyons, introduced by Robert Irwin.
Penguin, 600 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 14 139503 6
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... troubled mind. Or so it is said in this compendium of stories, freshly unearthed by the Arabists Robert Irwin and Malcolm Lyons, who also worked on the recent Penguin three-volume Arabian Nights.* In Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange, the storytellers are mostly described as learned sheikhs with vast libraries and, in contrast to the ...

End of the Road

Peter Campbell, 17 March 1983

Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin 
by Lawrence Weschler.
California, 212 pp., £11.25, June 1982, 0 520 04595 5
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Scenes in America Deserta 
by Reyner Banham.
Thames and Hudson, 228 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 9780500012925
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by Reyner Banham.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £5.95, February 1981, 0 500 27205 0
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... and those unwilling to look fools, widens. Lawrence Weschler’s life of the Californian artist Robert Irwin is the best description I know of why spending months deciding how to put two orange lines on an orange square, or why offering a strip of black tape round the skirting of a gallery as your contribution to an exhibition, could be ...

At the Gagosian

Peter Campbell: James Turrell, 16 December 2010

... next year; photographs suggest that, like Walter De Maria’s lightning field in New Mexico and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, it will become one of those places of pilgrimage, which for one practical reason or another are very difficult to visit except in the imagination. They stand, those iconic works, as examples of art that cannot in the ordinary run ...

Before and After Said

Maya Jasanoff: A Reappraisal of Orientalism, 8 June 2006

For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies 
by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 416 pp., £25, January 2006, 0 7139 9415 0
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... fields. Most of these responses have developed or refined Said’s framework in some way. Not so Robert Irwin’s For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies. Irwin’s central point is that before there was Orientalism, there was Orientalism: the scholarly study of languages and texts pertaining to the ...

At Dia:Beacon

Hal Foster: Fetishistic Minimalist, 5 June 2003

... Dia now also oversees the mother of all earthworks, Spiral Jetty, a great coil of rocks built by Robert Smithson into the Great Salt Lake in Utah in 1970. Initially directed by Heiner Friedrich, a German dealer who had exhibited such artists in Cologne and in New York, Dia was funded by his wife, Philippa de Menil, daughter of Dominique de Menil, a major ...

A Book at Bedtime

William Gass, 10 November 1994

The Arabian Nights: A Companion 
by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 344 pp., £20, January 1994, 0 7139 9105 4
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... as the decline of its importance into what, so ironic for the Nights, we call bedtime stories. Robert Irwin’s Companion will describe how these humble and mainly entertaining street stories grew into an enormously influential masterpiece. He will talk about the way the themes in these stories manifest themselves; he will point out their motifs and ...

Travelling Text

Marina Warner: ‘The Arabian Nights’, 18 December 2008

The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights 
translated by Malcolm Lyons, with Ursula Lyons.
Penguin, 2715 pp., £125, November 2008, 978 0 14 091166 4
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‘The Arabian Nights’ in Historical Context: Between East and West 
edited by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum.
Oxford, 337 pp., £55, November 2008, 978 0 19 955415 7
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... edition of this book. Nor, in some sense, can it even be attempted. The Lyons translation, as Robert Irwin explains in his introduction, returns to the Arabic version that Burton used, restores the interjected outbursts of song and bawdy that Galland skipped, and sternly avoids the free and easy habits of some of his successors. It clearly aims to ...

11 September

LRB Contributors, 4 October 2001

... aid and comfort to the Islamists’ struggle against the global hegemony of the United States. Robert Irwin London I have been reluctant to comment on the recent ‘events’ because the event in question, as history, is incomplete and one can even say that it has not yet fully happened. Obviously there are immediate comments one can make, in ...

Elegant Extracts

Leah Price: Anthologies, 3 February 2000

The Oxford Book of English Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 690 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 214182 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume One 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2974 pp., £22.50, December 1999, 0 393 97487 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume Two 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2963 pp., £22.50, February 2000, 9780393974911
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume One 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2963 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01173 2
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume Two 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2982 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01174 0
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Night & Horses & The Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature 
edited by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7139 9153 4
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News that Stays News: The 20th Century in Poems 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 189 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 571 20060 5
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Time’s Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Anvil, 157 pp., £7.95, November 1999, 0 85646 313 2
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Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Penguin, 640 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780140588996
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... for ‘nine-tenths of the reading of the reading public’. When, in 1928, Laura Riding and Robert Graves’s Pamphlet against Anthologies charged the genre with reducing poetry to a ‘packet-commodity’, the only alternative that they proposed revealed just how inescapable the anthology had become. The ‘full Corpus’ that could drive anthologies ...

A Turk, a Turk, a Turk

Christopher Tayler: Orhan Pamuk, 5 August 2004

by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely.
Faber, 436 pp., £12.99, May 2004, 0 571 22065 7
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... Galip, are esoteric commentaries on Jalal al-Din Rumi’s Mathnawi – a 13th-century work which Robert Irwin has described as ‘a great sprawling series of stories within stories’ in which ‘the inner stories . . . indicate the mystical meanings of the outer stories’ – the reader’s head starts to throb. It’s also true that Borges-style ...

Herberts & Herbertinas

Rosemary Hill: Steven Runciman, 20 October 2016

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman 
by Minoo Dinshaw.
Penguin, 767 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 241 00493 7
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... both to Runciman’s romantic extrapolations and to a prose style which at times seems dated, what Robert Irwin has characterised as his ‘Beau Geste idiom’. Abulafia declined when his own publisher asked him to write a history of the Sicilian Vespers on the grounds that ‘one does not impudently replace a classic’, but ‘classic’ does not mean ...

What’s not to like?

Stefan Collini: Ernest Gellner, 2 June 2011

Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography 
by John Hall.
Verso, 400 pp., £29.99, July 2010, 978 1 84467 602 6
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... couple of rounds, marked by the usual increase in animosity and decline in relevant argument. Robert Irwin, in For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies (2006), concludes that it was ‘one of the finest intellectual dogfights of recent decades’. I’m not so sure. Neither comes out of it all that well, with Gellner becoming ...

Scenes from British Life

Hugh Barnes, 6 February 1986

Stroke Counterstroke 
by William Camp.
Joseph, 190 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 7181 2669 6
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Redhill Rococo 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 171 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 434 44046 9
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by Michael Irwin.
Deutsch, 231 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 233 97792 9
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... seems particularly unfortunate. The sporting life has its own seediness, according to Michael Irwin whose footballer Vince Gilpin is another representative hero. Vince displays a wild temperament at times, and an ambitious nature that can leap over itself, as it does finally in his fall from grace. But his hooliganism, unlike that of William Camp’s ...

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