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Cervantics

Robin Chapman, 18 September 1986

Don Quixote 
by E.C. Riley.
Allen and Unwin, 224 pp., £18, February 1986, 0 04 800009 4
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Don Quixote – which was a dream 
by Kathy Acker.
Paladin, 207 pp., £2.95, April 1986, 0 586 08554 8
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... felt like twenty years. The reconstruction of reality in short-lived dramatic encounters, or as cross-pollinating conversations through which the protagonists literally talk themselves alive, seems always to have released Cervantes’s best inventions. Much of Don Quixote’s primary quality lies in doubly-generated immortal drivel interrupted by sudden ...

Being Greek

Henry Day: Up Country with Xenophon, 2 November 2006

The Long March: Xenophon and the Ten Thousand 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Yale, 351 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 300 10403 0
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The Expedition of Cyrus 
by Xenophon, translated by Robin Waterfield.
Oxford, 231 pp., £8.99, September 2005, 0 19 282430 9
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Xenophon’s Retreat: Greece, Persia and the End of the Golden Age 
by Robin Waterfield.
Faber, 248 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 571 22383 4
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The Sea! The Sea! The Shout of the Ten Thousand in the Modern Imagination 
by Tim Rood.
Duckworth, 272 pp., £12.99, August 2006, 0 7156 3571 9
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... the ‘clearness of style and modesty of temper’ he found in the Anabasis, a judgment that Robin Waterfield’s new translation doesn’t traduce. Xenophon’s relatively simple sentences, preference for the vivid present tense, and use of third-person narration inevitably invite comparison with that other great classical war reporter, Julius ...

Brexit and Myths of Englishness

James Meek: For England and St George, 11 October 2018

... Of the two​ folk-myths bound up with Englishness, the myth of St George and the myth of Robin Hood, the myth of St George is simpler. Robin Hood is a process; St George is an event. Robin Hood steals from the rich, which is difficult, to give to the poor, which is trickier still, and has to keep on doing it over and over; but St George kills the dragon, and that’s it ...

Send no postcards, take no pictures

John Redmond, 21 May 1998

One Train 
by Kenneth Koch.
Carcanet, 74 pp., £7.95, March 1997, 9781857542691
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A World where News Travelled slowly 
by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Faber, 53 pp., £6.99, January 1997, 0 571 19160 6
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A Painted Field 
by Robin Robertson.
Picador, 98 pp., £6.99, February 1997, 0 330 35059 5
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... moss, of air and of being the youngest of four sisters. In tone, the sequence is something like a cross between Auden’s ‘Academic Graffiti’ and the Private Eye scribbling of E.J. Thribb. Often, the line-breaks are deliberately clunking, as in ‘Aesthetics of the Outdoor Opera’: Sing as loud As you can At the outdoor opera – It will never Be loud ...

Crusoe was a gentleman

John Sutherland, 1 July 1982

The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct 
by Shirley Letwin.
Macmillan, 303 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 333 31209 0
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The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel 
by Robin Gilmour.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £10, October 1981, 0 04 800005 1
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... more devout than the other novelist); no portrait stamp, no commemorative pillar-box at Waltham Cross. Perhaps the Surtees Society will do something for ‘the novelist who hunted the fox’. It would be a mistake to surmise from this that Trollope’s actual fiction has gone the oblivious way of Surtees’s, or Mrs Oliphant’s or Charles Lever’s. The ...

Female Relationships

Stephen Bann, 1 July 1982

When things of the spirit come first 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Patrick O’Brian.
Deutsch, 212 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 0 233 97462 8
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Union Street 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 266 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 9780860682820
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Lady Oracle 
by Margaret Atwood.
Virago, 346 pp., £3.50, June 1982, 0 86068 303 6
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Bodily Harm 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 302 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02016 1
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Hearts: A Novel 
by Hilma Wolitzer.
Harvester, 324 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 9780710804754
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Pzyche 
by Amanda Hemingway.
Faber, 236 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 571 11875 5
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December Flower 
by Judy Allen.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 7156 1644 7
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... Joan’s own literary work, both as a Gothic novelist and as a poet, memorably epitomised as ‘a cross between Kahlil Gibran and Rod McKuen’. Extracts from Gothic novels in course of composition pepper the narrative, parodying the genre delightfully but also tracing the author’s growing inability to sublimate her sexual role through fantasies such as ...

Diary

Mary Beard: Set in Tunisia, 14 December 2006

... thousand men along three hundred and fifty miles of road’. My own first encounter with a working cross – an obviously well-used and discarded specimen – nonetheless came as a shock. One nail remained in the cross-bar and there were still traces of the meagre footrest on which the unfortunate victim would have perched ...

Two Hares and a Priest

Patricia Beer: Pushkin, 13 May 1999

Pushkin 
by Elizabeth Feinstein.
Weidenfeld, 309 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 297 81826 0
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... she recommends has important implications: in his biography, Pushkin: The Man and His Age (1994), Robin Edmonds strong-mindedly refrains from even attempting to introduce Pushkin’s poetry to readers who have no Russian, and helpfully fobs us off with the diplomatic and historical background of Pushkin’s life. Feinstein also mentions David Magarshack’s ...

Serried Yuppiedromes

Owen Hatherley: What happened to London?, 21 August 2014

Guide to the Architecture of London 
by Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward.
Phoenix, 511 pp., £16.99, July 2013, 978 1 78022 493 0
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... up the now familiar and haunting spectre of urban alienation’. Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar is a ‘particularly depressing place to live in’, with an ‘almost manic system of walls and moats’, mainly an ‘example of the late modernist avant-garde determination to realise a theoretical position at all costs’. Even ...

At the Party

Christopher Hitchens, 17 April 1986

Hollywood Babylon II 
by Kenneth Anger.
Arrow, 323 pp., £5.95, January 1986, 0 09 945110 7
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Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan 
by Robin Wood.
Columbia, 336 pp., $25, October 1985, 0 231 05776 8
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... that ‘he’s destroying everything now I’ve lived my life for.’ And what was that, exactly? Robin Wood’s book doesn’t live up to the very limited terms of its title, which must have been imposed upon it (since neither Reagan nor Vietnam appear even in the index) by a publisher worried about lack of market appeal. There could be no bolder contrast ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Les WikiLeaks, 16 December 2010

... secrets’ and to ‘hold discussions behind closed doors with its allies or enemies’. Many cross-channel differences that remain the stuff of platitudes are disappearing, but there’s a clue here to one that hasn’t gone away. French opinion is uncertain about white knights like Julian Assange, and still slow to pick up the language of rights, as ...

Saints on Sundays, Devils All the Week After

Patrick Collinson: London Burnings, 19 September 2002

The Antichrist’s Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papists and Players in Post-Reformation England 
by Peter Lake and Michael Questier.
Yale, 731 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 300 08884 1
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... collaborator Michael Questier (a team recently described by a witty Jesuit as ‘the Batman and Robin of Elizabethan and Jacobean religious studies’) extended their reading to the contemporary accounts of Catholic traitors/martyrs, in prison and on the scaffold (and it is here that ‘Robin’, an authority on ...

Get over it!

Corey Robin: Antonin Scalia, 10 June 2010

American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 
by Joan Biskupic.
Farrar, Straus, 434 pp., $28, November 2009, 978 0 374 20289 7
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... and laws make life harder, and harder is everything. ‘Being tough and traditional is a heavy cross to bear,’ he once told a reporter. ‘Duresse oblige.’ That, and not fidelity to the text or conservatism as it is usually understood, is the idée fixe of Scalia’s jurisprudence. In an age when the left lacks certainty and will, it can be a potent ...

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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... Roman worker, heaven mainly means not having to graft, and there’s the bonus of free food – a cross between communion wafers and panettone, his ‘ppandescèlo’ probably a nod to the ‘pan de li angeli’ in Dante’s Paradiso. With Dante, though, it’s a different story. In the first canto of this third part of his Commedia, he links the words valor ...

Ruthless Young Man

Michael Brock, 14 September 1989

Churchill: 1874-1922 
by Frederick Earl of Birkenhead, edited by Sir John Colville.
Harrap, 552 pp., £19.95, August 1989, 0 245 54779 7
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... and Thirties. His son, the third Earl, who took over the work, died tragically young in 1985. Robin Birkenhead’s draft extended to the end of 1940. It had been shown to Sir John Colville, who was asked to finish the story. He declined, but wrote an epilogue giving his own view of the Churchill he had known. He died suddenly in October 1987, having just ...

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