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Milne’s Cropper

Robert Kee

7 July 1988
... Two interesting questions are raised by Alasdair Milne’s book about his time at the BBC.* The first, more important but less interesting, is: what, if anything, is wrong with the BBC? The second is: what, if anything, is wrong with Alasdair Milne? Milne’s answer to the second question seems to be ‘nothing much’ – which at least helps us with our own answer to the question. To the first he ...
5 June 1980
Moscow Diary 
by Veljko Micunovic, translated by David Floyd.
Chatto, 474 pp., £12.95, April 1980, 0 7011 2469 5
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... The story runs that the reason Tito lived so long in his last illness was that no one in the Presidential Council dared be the first to suggest that the various life-supporting machines should be switched off. Maybe in the end someone dared. Or maybe Tito, whose body in life had done so much to reconcile the politically irreconcilable in Yugoslavia, performed its final patriotic service in death. Apocryphal ...
11 October 1990
... The past, we’ve been told, is a different country and they do things differently there, but not for me, not where Alan Taylor is concerned. He had a most wonderfully consistent personality. That look of amused, quizzical discernment which is even in the photographs his third wife Eva took of him in the sunshine on the last day of his life was much the same as that which confronted me when I read ...

Getting back

Adrian Poole

1 July 1982
A crowd is not company 
by Robert Kee.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.50, May 1982, 9780224020039
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Bedbugs 
by Clive Sinclair.
Allison and Busby, 109 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 85031 454 2
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New Writing and Writers 19 
John Calder, 262 pp., £6.95, April 1982, 0 7145 3811 6Show More
Zhenia’s Childhood 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Alec Brown.
Allison and Busby, 115 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 85031 466 6
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... can hardly imagine himself. Nor can he imagine what it can be like to live as he imagines his children have done, a life undivided by such a cataract. In his introduction to A crowd is not company, RobertKee voices some similar thoughts about the experience of war in youth. In fact, the subject of his book is not so much ‘death, fear, hunger’, as the effects of a unique kind of confinement on a ...
7 April 1994
The Laurel and the Ivy: The Story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Nationalism 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 659 pp., £20, November 1993, 0 241 12858 7
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The Parnell Split 1890-91 
by Frank Callanan.
Cork, 327 pp., £35, November 1992, 0 902561 63 4
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... or both, continues to invite to the chase of the real man and of the true path he pointed out for Ireland – if he did point one out. Far from merely straggling in the wake of a very large field, RobertKee and Frank Callanan restore freshness to the scent by showing how much can still be quarried from close attention to Parnell’s career, not least to the press, which not only made and unmade his ...

Diary

Hamish MacGibbon: My Father the Spy

16 June 2011
... way or another present some kind of risk. One of them mentioned that James had asked him for advice about an offer from the Soviet Embassy to invest £2000 in his new publishing venture, MacGibbon & Kee. James had confided his espionage story to him. He mentioned that he had been pestered by a Soviet agent to continue the work but that the agent had been persuaded to desist; James, now a civilian ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s

18 July 2013
Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... Golding to blow up Eton College. Bloomsbury’s Frances Partridge, queen of the diary put-down, seems to have wanted to blow up television, ‘the box in the corner’. In the flat of her friend RobertKee, a great asset to the box in the corner, she glimpsed the Tonight programme, and later recorded: ‘I was bored and rather disgusted, and longed to be able to unhook my gaze from this little ...

Little Dog

Alan Milward

5 January 1989
Munich: The Eleventh Hour 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 242 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 241 12537 5
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Peace for Our Time 
by Robert​ Rothschild.
Brassey, 366 pp., £16.95, September 1988, 0 08 036264 8
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A Class Divided: Appeasement and the Road to Munich 1938 
by Robert​ Shepherd.
Macmillan, 323 pp., £16.95, September 1998, 0 333 46080 4
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... events the one that took up the most time and space was the Munich agreement of 1938, although it was subsequently driven off the centre pages by Kristallnacht and the Jewish pogroms in Germany. RobertKee’s book has its origins in his commemorative TV documentary and the book by Robert Shepherd, producer of Channel 4’s A Week in Politics, reads like the script of another documentary. Robert ...
21 November 1985
Everything to lose: Diaries 1945-1960 
by Frances Partridge.
Gollancz, 383 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 575 03549 8
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... interesting people – writers, painters, philosophers, seen at their best in a domestic setting, and at their worst, as when the chimney catches fire and neither Burgo, the Partridges’ son, nor RobertKee, a much loved friend, stir from their armchairs to help put it out. Her approach to people is rather like her botanist’s approach – that these human creatures had been thrown up willy-nilly ...
22 January 1981
Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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Neighbours 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... adjusting to change. As O’Neill found in 1969, ‘it is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house they will live like Protestants.’ Kee’s short and extremely well illustrated history provides an effective and stimulating counterpart. Taking it apart from the television series means accepting the author’s misgivings about visual ...

Diary

James MacGibbon: Fashionable Radicals

22 January 1987
... and he chuckled as he said so, apparently pleased with the term. He was a generous critic, and he was generous to me when, later on, he proposed his collected writings on Shaw to MacGibbon and Kee. It is probably due to the demise of the big subscription libraries that critics nowadays have less power to make books sell. Enthusiastic reviews used immediately to bring in repeat orders by the ...

Wake up. Foul mood. Detest myself

Ysenda Maxtone Graham: ‘Lost Girls’

9 December 2019
Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature, 1939-51 
by D.J. Taylor.
Constable, 388 pp., £25, September, 978 1 4721 2686 3
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... than the tenancies.) I had to take reams of notes to keep tabs on everyone’s current status. ‘J not actually married to K, has baby Nicolette, K going off to Balkans, now J falling in love with RobertKee, who spends weekend at Ham Spray, F. Partridge approves,’ and so on. Sometimes it all seemed very distant and unimportant. And as for Frances Partridge’s approval, I think I would have gone a ...

‘Derek, please, not so fast’

Ferdinand Mount: Derek Jackson

7 February 2008
As I Was Going to St Ives: A Life of Derek Jackson 
by Simon Courtauld.
Michael Russell, 192 pp., £17.50, October 2007, 978 0 85955 311 7
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... in warfare, the Window affair is one of the most extraordinary. As early as 1934, Post Office engineers reported that passing aircraft could interfere with radio reception. Less than a year later, Robert Watson-Watt demonstrated by a simple experiment in a field outside Daventry that aircraft could be detected by radio. Radar was born. Remarkably, it was only two years after this that Lindemann ...

Fog has no memory

Jonathan Meades: Postwar Colour(lessness)

19 July 2018
The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Postwar Britain 
by Lynda Nead.
Yale, 416 pp., £35, October 2017, 978 0 300 21460 4
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... little in the film to suggest any link to Victorian England. But then the ‘structure of feeling’ is a woolly conceit, almost a faith. Proof isn’t required. A Brighton film of two years earlier, Robert Hamer’s delightfully sinister Pink String and Sealing Wax, set, to judge by the costumes, in the 1880s, does indeed have ‘Victorianism’ written all over it, as does Hamer’s subsequent Kind ...
19 July 1984
Faces of Philip: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee 
by Jessica Mitford.
Heinemann, 175 pp., £9.95, July 1984, 0 434 46802 9
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... loathing. Perhaps he always wanted to fail. In his youth he made passes at girls more to score up a pass than to bring them to bed. He may have yearned to face danger during the war as his friends RobertKee and Paddy Leigh-Fermor did, but he made it impossible to do so. Having somehow survived basic training in the Guards depot at Caterham, he was sent to Sandhurst as an officer cadet. He lay in the ...

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