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Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum

25 October 2018
Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... scientists, including the psephologist David Butler and his collaborator the German émigré Europhile Uwe Kitzinger, who published a fascinating ‘instant’ study of the campaign in 1976, but RobertSaunders offers something different: a comprehensive historical account, which relates debates about Europe to the wider social and cultural contexts of Britain in the 1970s. The Sex Discrimination ...

Showers of Hats

Robert​ Baird: ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’

29 March 2017
Lincoln in the Bardo 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, March 2017, 978 1 4088 7174 4
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... George Saunders​ has long had a thing for ghosts, especially ghosts who haven’t figured out that they’re dead. The title story of his first collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996), concerned a down-on ...
30 September 1999
Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... agency called the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) and his kind of common-sense voice, commenting on the enterprise from within, isn’t ever heard from again. On the other hand, Frances Stonor Saunders’s gripping book is stuffed with names of individuals, organisations and publications, whose sleazy history she gives in painstaking detail. Unfortunately, not all of her information is fully ...

Grandiose Moments

Frank Kermode

6 February 1997
Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, Vol. II 
by Max Saunders.
Oxford, 696 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 19 212608 3
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... Ford Madox Ford, an appealingly talented and gossipy subject, has naturally attracted biographers. In 1971 Arthur Mizener’s The Saddest Story seemed adequately exhaustive, but now Max Saunders comes along with two vast volumes, even more thorough and more than doubling the page count. Alan Judd, faithful to Ford’s own lack of respect for academic pieties, brought out his footnoteless but ...

Freebooter

Maurice Keen: The diabolical Sir John Hawkwood

5 May 2005
Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Faber, 366 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 9780571219087
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... The greatest mercenary of an age when soldiers of fortune flourished,’ says the cover flap of Frances Stonor Saunders’s biography of Sir John Hawkwood (c.1320-94), one-time leader of the White Company made famous by Conan Doyle’s historical novels. The 14th century was indeed an age of opportunity for military ...

Stainless Splendour

Stefan Collini: How innocent was Stephen Spender?

22 July 2004
Stephen Spender: The Authorised Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Viking, 627 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 670 88303 4
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... years (during which Spender was mostly away in the United States), gave a characteristically rueful account of their shared deception in his memoir, Not Entitled, in 1996. Since then, Frances Stonor Saunders has published her controversial study, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (1999), based on extensive research in official and unofficial archives on both sides of the Atlantic ...

At the Hayward

Marina Warner: Tracey Emin

25 August 2011
... in another way, placed in a literary lineage running back to Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf and Anaïs Nin. In Self-Impression, his remarkable study of Victorian and Edwardian autobiography, Max Saunders discusses the vogue for fake memoirs, a genre he calls ‘autobiografiction’, that is books in which the ‘I’ is an adopted alter ego, performed with complete convincingness.* Saunders is ...

Unfair to Stalin

Robert​ Service

17 March 1988
Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Collins, 254 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 00 215660 1
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The Birth of Stalinism: The USSR on the Eve of the ‘Second Revolution’ 
by Michal Reiman, translated by George Saunders.
Tauris, 188 pp., £24.50, November 1987, 1 85043 066 7
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Stalin in October: The Man who Missed the Revolution 
by Robert​ Slusser.
Johns Hopkins, 281 pp., £20.25, December 1987, 0 8018 3457 0
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... War, for example, were much more influential than Trotsky’s record allows; and the unlikely assortment of conservative, liberal and Trotskyite historians who followed Trotsky made the same mistake. Robert Slusser’s book supplies chapter and verse on the way Trotsky misconstrued Stalin’s role in the months before October 1917. Stalin was one of a handful of members of the Bolshevik Central ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert​ Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... has no such self-effacing qualms. Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion knew this, as did the predecessor they were tussling with, A. Alvarez’s The New Poetry (which was tussling with its predecessor, Robert Conquest’s New Lines). ‘This anthology,’ they wrote in their preface to the Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry, ‘is intended to be didactic as well as representative.’ Though the ...

Lemon and Pink

David Trotter: The Sorrows of Young Ford

1 June 2000
Return to Yesterday 
by Ford Madox Ford, edited by Bill Hutchings.
Carcanet, 330 pp., £14.95, August 1999, 1 85754 397 1
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War Prose 
by Ford Madox Ford, edited by Max Saunders.
Carcanet, 276 pp., £14.95, August 1999, 1 85754 396 3
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... be spoken about in the same terms. Carcanet’s volume of ‘war prose’ demonstrates to vivid effect that the gulf separating one world from the other was not as wide as he sometimes made out. Max Saunders, the author of an indispensable two-volume biography of Ford which treats the war as the natural division in his career, has pulled together a rich variety of reflections on conflict and its ...

Knucklehead Truman

Douglas Johnson

2 June 1983
The Eisenhower Diaries 
edited by Robert​ Ferrell.
Norton, 445 pp., £15.25, April 1983, 0 393 01432 0
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The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography 
by Thomas Reeves.
Blond and Briggs, 819 pp., £11.95, June 1983, 0 85634 131 2
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The past has another pattern 
by George Ball.
Norton, 544 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 393 01481 9
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Torn Lace Curtain 
by Frank Saunders and James Southwood.
Sidgwick, 361 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 283 98946 7
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The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power 
by Robert​ Caro.
Collins, 882 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 00 217062 0
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The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson 
by Ronnie Dugger.
Norton, 514 pp., £13.25, September 1982, 9780393015980
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Years of Upheaval 
by Henry Kissinger.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 1312 pp., £15.95, March 1982, 0 7181 2115 5
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Richard Nixon: The Shaping of his Character 
by Fawn Brodie.
Norton, 574 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 393 01467 3
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Haig: The General’s Progress 
by Roger Morris.
Robson, 458 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780860511885
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Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President 
by Jimmy Carter.
Collins, 622 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 00 216648 8
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Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency 
by Hamilton Jordan.
Joseph, 431 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 7181 2248 8
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Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-81 
by Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Weidenfeld, 587 pp., £15, April 1983, 0 297 78220 7
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... China’ when he means Indonesia, ‘Bolivia’ for Brazil. The instant responses of television and newspaper pundits have created persistent legends; and it is to combat one of these legends that Robert Ferrell has edited Eisenhower’s diaries. Professor Ferrell is not the first historian who has sought to show that the General-President, far from being a confused nonentity, was, on the contrary, a ...

Deny and Imply

J. Robert​ Lennon: Gary Shteyngart

16 December 2010
Super Sad True Love Story 
by Gary Shteyngart.
Granta, 331 pp., £12.99, September 2010, 978 1 84708 103 2
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... with their mad ideas that turn out to be right. David Foster Wallace gave us protagonists who shunned the physical world in favour of the knottier, more intractable challenges of the mind; George Saunders offers comic heroes who fail excellently. Turn the book over, lift up the flap. We don’t look too bad in black and white, do we, our hair artfully mussed, our beards half-grown, our eyeglasses ...

Miracle on Fleet Street

Martin Hickman: Operation Elveden

7 January 2016
... On​ 11 December, the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, announced that all outstanding cases against Mirror Group journalists for phone hacking would be dropped, and that no corporate case would be brought against Rupert Murdoch’s News UK for hacking ...

The Writer and the Valet

Frances Stonor Saunders: Pasternak and the Valet

24 September 2014
... Zhivago’, between the KGB and the CIA. Tolstoy’s monograph, untranslated and lacking the prima facie evidence procured by Finn and Couvée, went largely unreported in the West. Long forgotten is Robert Conquest’s The Courage of Genius: The Pasternak Affair, published in 1961, as impartial an account as you could expect from someone who had been employed in the Foreign Office’s propaganda shop ...

The Old, Bad Civilisation

Arnold Rattenbury: Second World War poetry

4 October 2001
Selected Poems 
by Randall Swingler, edited by Andy Croft.
Trent, 113 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 1 84233 014 4
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British Writing of the Second World War 
by Mark Rawlinson.
Oxford, 256 pp., £35, June 2000, 0 19 818456 5
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... because he lacks any quirk or personal oddity of style. Croft sees his earlier, rather rhapsodic verse – Poems (1932), Reconstruction (1933) – as Georgian, countryside-centred and influenced by Robert Bridges, changing swiftly to Auden’s ‘manifesto manner’ for Difficult Morning (also 1933). I am not sure about this, especially the implicit conflict between country and town: Swingler always ...

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