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You gu gu and I gu gu

Andrew O’Hagan: Vaslav Nijinsky, 20 July 2000

The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky 
edited by Joan Acocella and Kyril Fitzylon.
Allen Lane, 312 pp., £20, August 1999, 0 7139 9354 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Macmillan, 396 pp., £12, May 2000, 0 333 76622 9
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... veritable exhortation to the revolutionary renewal for which the prewar avant-garde had striven. Robert Graves would later write of the ‘duty to run mad’ unleashed by the experience of the trenches. Nijinsky wasn’t in the trenches, but millions of his broken bodies were, and when he stepped before his final audience at the hotel in Switzerland, he was ...

The cow, the shoe, then you

Philip Oltermann: Hans Fallada, 8 March 2012

More Lives than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada 
by Jenny Williams.
Penguin, 320 pp., £12.99, February 2012, 978 0 241 95267 2
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A Small Circus 
by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Penguin, 577 pp., £20, February 2012, 978 0 14 119655 8
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... linguistic innovation, what Kurt Tucholsky called its ‘atmosphere of unwashed feet’ and Robert Musil praised as its ‘human smell’. Fallada revels in the use of such practically untranslatable North German idioms as sich einen hinter die Binde giessen (‘to pour yourself one behind the bandages’, meaning ‘to get drunk’), Leute in den ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... room. ‘How,’ he wrote on 29 March, to make a large novel centripetal instead of centrifugal? Musil does it with the character of Ulrich who, by being uncommitted to anything, acts as the touchstone to all the committed characters around him – yet Ulrich isn’t a cipher as Hans Castorp tends to be. This is a very subtle piece of organisation. Another ...

Loose Canons

Edward Mendelson, 23 June 1988

History and Value: The Clarendon Lectures and the Northcliffe Lectures 1987 
by Frank Kermode.
Oxford, 160 pp., £15, June 1988, 0 19 812381 7
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by Stephen Haggard and Frank Kermode.
Oxford, 475 pp., £5.95, June 1988, 0 19 282135 0
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British Writers of the Thirties 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 530 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 212267 3
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... is a forbidden transgression that is also a universal fact. He draws a transgressive moral from Robert Musil: ‘The many sexual combinations exhibited in The Man without Qualities testify to the great truth that all knowledge of the other, all intercourse between opposites, is analogous to carnal knowledge. It is an idea ready for political ...

Character References

Robert Taubman, 15 May 1980

The Echo Chamber 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Harvester, 154 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 85527 807 2
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by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 160 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 575 02762 2
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Kingdom Come 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Secker, 352 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 436 06714 5
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A Gentle Occupation 
by Dirk Bogarde.
Chatto, 360 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 7011 2505 5
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Innocent Blood 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 276 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 571 11566 7
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... or about memory or time. But obviously he doesn’t mean just to disappoint, any more than Musil did when he said of his own much more laborious novel: ‘the story of this novel amounts to the fact that the story which should be narrated in it is not narrated.’ Many other writers – Eliot and Pasternak, for instance – who clearly are concerned ...

Vermicular Dither

Michael Hofmann, 28 January 2010

The World of Yesterday 
by Stefan Zweig, translated by Anthea Bell.
Pushkin Press, 474 pp., £20, 1 906548 12 9
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... so ‘hysterically discreet’ that he got married by proxy; who, in the words of the writer Robert Neumann, ‘spent his life on the run. From the Great War to Switzerland. From the symbolic firing-squad across the Channel. From Blitzed London to the safety of provincial Bath. From Hitler’s threatened invasion of England to the USA. From Roosevelt’s ...

They can’t do anything to me

Jeremy Adler: Peter Singer, 20 January 2005

Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna 
by Peter Singer.
Granta, 254 pp., £15.99, July 2004, 1 86207 696 0
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... been murdered in the camps found it hard to speak about their loss. In Germany, the 1964 trial of Robert Mulka – former adjutant to Commandant Rudolf Höss – and 21 others for crimes committed at Auschwitz enabled a new generation to confront the past, but in Britain and the United States it was only some years later that it became possible to broach the ...

Little Green Crabs

John Bayley, 12 October 1989

Albertine gone 
by Marcel Proust, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
Chatto, 99 pp., £11.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3359 7
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Marcel Proust: A Biography 
by George Painter.
Chatto, 446 pp., £20, August 1989, 0 7011 3421 6
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The Book of Proust 
by Philippe Michel-Thiriet, translated by Jan Dalley.
Chatto, 406 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 7011 3360 0
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Marcel Proust. Selected Letters: Vol II, 1904-1909 
essays by Philip Kolb, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
Collins, 482 pp., £25, September 1989, 0 00 217078 7
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... his friend observed, desire to beauty and that his real obsession, like that of his contemporary Musil, was uniting the two by the same aesthetic. How he must have responded to Ruskin’s comment, in The Stones of Venice, that it was just as exciting to study the little green crabs in the weed on the mooring stage as it was to disembark and enjoy the Titians ...

Theory with a Wife

Michael Wood, 3 October 1985

Mr Palomar 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 118 pp., £8.50, September 1985, 0 436 08275 6
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Parrot’s Perch 
by Michel Rio, translated by Leigh Hafrey.
Dent, 88 pp., £7.95, September 1985, 0 460 04669 1
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Light Years 
by Maggie Gee.
Faber, 350 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 571 13604 4
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... At the beginning of Robert Musil’s Man without Qualities a well-dressed couple arrives at the scene of an accident on a busy street in Vienna. The lady is uncomfortable, ‘had a disagreeable sensation in the pit of her stomach, which she felt entitled to take for compassion’. The man, after a pause, says: ‘These heavy lorries they use here have too long a braking-distance ...

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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by Knut Hamsun, translated by Sverre Lyngstad.
Rebel Inc, 193 pp., £6.99, October 1996, 0 86241 625 6
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... finding good translations, and perhaps also because the generation he influenced – Gide, Kafka, Musil, Lawrence, Bely – superseded him by smoothly manufacturing his inventions as if they were not inventions. Yet his Fascism must partly explain his contemporary eclipse. It drained, and almost abolished, his name while he was still alive. One can trace the ...

Between centuries

Frank Kermode, 11 January 1990

In the Nineties 
by John Stokes.
Harvester, 199 pp., £17.50, September 1989, 0 7450 0604 3
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Olivia Shakespear and W.B. Yeats 
by John Harwood.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £35, January 1990, 0 333 42518 9
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Letters to the New Island 
by W.B. Yeats, edited by George Bornstein and Hugh Witemeyer.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £45, November 1989, 0 333 43878 7
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The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The ‘Little Review’ Correspondence 
edited by Thomas Scott, Melvin Friedman and Jackson Bryer.
Faber, 368 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 571 14099 8
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Ezra Pound and Margaret Cravens: A Tragic Friendship, 1910-1912 
edited by Omar Pound and Robert Spoo.
Duke, 181 pp., £20.75, January 1989, 0 8223 0862 2
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Postcards from the End of the World: An Investigation into the Mind of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna 
by Larry Wolff.
Collins, 275 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 215171 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Bantam, 396 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 593 01862 1
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Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1916-1925 
by Kenneth Silver.
Thames and Hudson, 506 pp., £32, October 1989, 0 500 23567 8
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... Schorske’s authoritative Fin-de-Siècle Vienna (1980), the book which, along with memories of Musil and Kraus, Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal, Klimt and above all Freud, has formed whatever imprecise notions we may have of that time and place. Wolff is mainly interested in two cases involving children abused till they died. These were reported in the ...

Pork Chops and Pineapples

Terry Eagleton: The Realism of Erich Auerbach, 23 October 2003

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature 
by Erich Auerbach.
Princeton, 579 pp., £13.95, May 2003, 9780691113364
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... sort of affair, quite often fails to live up to our expectations of it, as when it allowed Robert Maxwell to slip quietly into the ocean rather than ending up in the dock. Austen or Dickens would never have tolerated such a botched finale. For the Lukácsian case about realism, technique is an optional extra, like having a stereo or a sunroof in your ...

In Hyperspace

Fredric Jameson, 10 September 2015

Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative 
by David Wittenberg.
Fordham, 288 pp., £18.99, March 2013, 978 0 8232 4997 8
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... it was nonetheless their duty and vocation to represent. The great moderns – Mallarmé, Joyce, Musil et al – achieved this impossible and double-binding imperative by representing their inability to represent. They earned their right to sublimity by using ‘picture-thinking’ against itself, and for them failure was success. The postmoderns seem to ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... Yet even among modern masters there is little consistency. James died in his early seventies, Musil in his early sixties: Leon Edel and Karl Corino awarded them each two thousand pages. Kafka, who barely reached the age of forty, yielded only five hundred fewer from Reiner Stach. Proust, expiring at 51, got just under a thousand apiece from Jean-Yves ...

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