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Guide

Robert​ Crawford

11 March 2010
... Year in, year out The guide still follows A well-paced route Through those small rooms Until the tour group Have all been told And told again About the diarist, About the poet, Brother and sister, Husband and wife; So their plain life Stays still Green in the rain, The stress Less on fame Than on wee mundane Details: How He once failed To neatly ink His name Inside the lid Of His sole suitcase, Though ...

Rongorongo

John Sturrock: The Rosetta Stone

19 September 2002
Keys of Egypt 
by Lesley Atkins and Roy Atkins.
HarperCollins, 335 pp., £7.99, September 2001, 0 00 653145 8
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The Rosetta Stone: The Story of the Decoding of Hieroglyphics 
by Robert Solé and Dominique Valbelle, translated by Steven Rendall.
Profile, 184 pp., £7.99, August 2002, 1 86197 344 6
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Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts 
by Andrew Robinson.
McGraw Hill, 352 pp., £25.99, June 2002, 0 07 135743 2
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The Man who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris 
by Andrew Robinson.
Thames and Hudson, 168 pp., £12.95, April 2002, 0 500 51077 6
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... In the shopping precinct that now clings to the skirts of the old Reading Room, a table is laid with portable derivatives of the Rosetta Stone. The number of them hints at a BM merchandising frenzy: for sale, and I may have miscounted, are a mug, a mouse-mat, a ceramic tile, a tie, a teacloth, a scarf, a T-shirt and two sizes of replica, all of them stamped with a presumably random excerpt from the ...

At the Connaught

Robert​ Morley

5 May 1983
An Orderly Man 
by Dirk Bogarde.
Chatto, 291 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 7011 2659 0
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... thick and thin is essential, exhausting and sometimes so hard that one is brought to the edge of madness. It is a lesson many actors never learn. Of whom was he thinking do you suppose? Possibly Robert Mitchum. Certainly his own concentration is remarkable. In An Orderly Man there are no less than five colour photographs of his home in Provence. Once a shepherd’s cottage and now the sort of ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Alternative Weeping

7 September 2000
... 1858 as ‘polishing into correctness and smoothness’ (after the philosopher Hugh Blair, 1718-1800), which seems closer to the mark. Perhaps the Penguin compilers should also have reached for their Robert and looked up the French verb blairer, as in je ne peux pas le blairer (‘he gives me the creeps’). Those easily offended should on no account read the following quote: This was not a young man ...
30 December 1982
Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence, Vol. I 
edited by Robert​ Craft.
Faber, 471 pp., £25, September 1982, 0 571 11724 4
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Igor Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress 
by Paul Griffiths, Igor Stravinsky, Robert​ Craft and Gabriel Josipovici.
Cambridge, 109 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 521 23746 7
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... to a sales talk without an ounce of substance, a string of compliments that immediately reminded me of something I’d never heard – a commercial traveller’s overtures. There is nothing in Robert Craft’s skilful, conscientious, copiously annotated selection to get me over the shock I then received: on the contrary, there’s plenty to revive it. Boring as many of the composer’s letters ...

Intimate Strangers

Thomas Jones: A.L. Kennedy’s new novel

7 October 2004
Paradise 
by A.L. Kennedy.
Cape, 344 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 0 224 06258 1
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... Anderson’s business. The relationship at the heart of Paradise, the love story that gives the novel what shape it has (drink has a tendency to make things lose their shape), is between Hannah and Robert, an alcoholic dentist. Alcoholism and dentistry have coincided, more grotesquely, in Kennedy’s fiction before: a desperate character in Everything You Need (1999), a publisher called Jack Grace ...

Mighty Merry

E.S. Turner

25 May 1995
The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Eleven Volumes, including Companion and Index 
edited by R.C. Latham and W. Matthews.
HarperCollins, 267 pp., £8.99, February 1995, 0 00 499021 8
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... which he did the initial drudgery. This entire version, infinitely corrected, is the transcription first published in 1971 by R.C. Latham and W. Matthews (designated thus on the cover, but becoming Robert Latham and William Matthews on the title-page). If some books are classifiable as blockbusters, these 11 stout volumes are more of a Thames barrage. The last two of them, the Companion and Index ...

Paying for the paper

Robert​ Alter

6 August 1992
Life with a Star 
by Jiri Weil, translated by Rita Klimova and Roslyn Schloss.
Flamingo, 247 pp., £4.99, February 1991, 0 00 654329 4
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Mendelssohn is on the Roof 
by Jiri Weil, translated by Marie Winn.
HarperCollins, 228 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 00 223863 2
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... exchange, between Josef Roubicek, the narrator-protagonist of Life with a Star, and a fellow worker at the Prague Jewish cemetery: “ ‘What’s left for us?” I asked. “Only time,” said Robert. “But there’s not much of it.” ’ Indiscriminate murder of civilian populations is, alas, at least as old as recorded history. What differentiates the modern German version, as has often been ...
19 July 1984
Secrets of a Woman’s Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920-1969 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hodder, 336 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 340 26241 9
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... who knew her well that her roots lay among a landed gentry such as she wrote of in her novels, and this persuasion she did nothing to controvert – so that when her ardent admirer and close friend Robert Liddell engaged in a somewhat demeaning rummage in Burke and Crockford in search of distinguished Compton-Burnetts whether living or dead and gone, he was astonished to discover none at all. Both ...

Plato Made It Up

James Davidson: Atlantis at Last!

19 June 2008
The Atlantis Story: A Short History of Plato’s Myth 
by Pierre Vidal-Naquet, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Exeter, 192 pp., £35, November 2007, 978 0 85989 805 8
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...  would-be scholars … mythomaniacs and charlatans’ Pierre Vidal-Naquet had one answer, the same answer for half a century: Plato made Atlantis up. That was his response to a lecture by Fernand Robert in 1956, when the speaker tentatively referred to the theory that Atlantis was inspired by the lost Minoan civilisation, and he had not changed his mind by the time of his death in 2006, shortly ...
7 March 1985
Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... The soul of white Tom   Shall float to Heaven – to Hardy’s ‘rather monotonously small follower Philip Larkin’, etc? If he despises William Carlos Williams, Dylan Thomas, Gertrude Stein, Robert Lowell, Charles Olson, Edith Sitwell, Augustus John and Ted Hughes, what’s the merit of vulgarity and spleen? Many trees have been cut down to make the paper on which Grigson has spewed his ...

Great Palladium

James Epstein: Treason

7 September 2000
Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-96 
by John Barrell.
Oxford, 7377 pp., £70, March 2000, 0 19 811292 0
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... Government had chosen to try these leaders for the Scottish crime of sedition, not for high treason – the law officers perhaps doubted whether the more serious charge would hold up. The trials of Robert Watt and David Downie, which revealed parallel plots for insurrection in London, Edinburgh and Dublin, set a more direct precedent. They were the first trials for high treason to take place in ...
8 June 1995
Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine 
by Lester Grinspoon, edited by James Bakalar.
Yale, 184 pp., £7.95, April 1995, 0 300 05994 9
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... In 1989 he and his family were arrested at gunpoint in a police raid; he wrote his account while serving a six-month prison sentence, and virtually without medical support. Again, a Florida man, Robert Randall, who had contracted Aids following a blood transfusion, had, with great difficulty, obtained legal authorisation to use cannabis to reduce the nausea he suffered. He, too, was arrested at ...

Beyond the Human

Jamie McKendrick: Dante’s Paradiso

26 March 2009
Paradiso 
by Dante, translated by Robin Kirkpatrick.
Penguin, 480 pp., £12.99, October 2007, 978 0 14 044897 9
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Paradiso 
by Dante, translated by Robert​ Hollander and Jean Hollander.
Anchor, 915 pp., $19.95, September 2008, 978 1 4000 3115 3
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... least read of the Commedia’s three cantiche, and the hardest work. If for no other reason, these two new English translations, one by Robin Kirkpatrick, the other by the husband and wife team of Robert and Jean Hollander, should be welcomed. Each edition is the final volume of a long labour, and each helps the reader see this last cantica in the context of the previous two. With Virgil as his guide ...

To Kill All Day

Frank Kermode: Amis’s Terrible News

17 October 2002
Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 306 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 224 06303 0
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... they end, and grammarians, from Ben Jonson to Martin Amis, normally disapprove of such sentences; but aposiopesis may be allowed as a structural feature, as when Yeats ends his ‘In Memory of Major Robert Gregory’ by claiming that he cannot continue his roll call of Gregory’s friends because ‘a thought/Of that late death took all my heart for speech.’ We may grant Yeats command of that trick ...

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