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The Biographer’s Story

Jonathan Coe, 8 September 1994

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers 
by Roger Lewis.
Century, 817 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7126 3801 6
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... indecent haste and recently died in California of a drug overdose. So much for the facts. One of Roger Lewis’s main achievements in his new and frankly enormous biography – at least four times longer than any of the others – is to have fleshed this skeleton out to the point of corpulence with a great deal of arcane and exhaustively researched ...

Not Quite Nasty

Colin Burrow: Anthony Burgess, 9 February 2006

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess 
by Andrew Biswell.
Picador, 434 pp., £20, November 2005, 0 330 48170 3
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... Four years ago he was the victim of what was generally regarded as a loathsome biography by Roger Lewis, who presented him as a pompous, psychologically damaged second-rater. Lewis’s biography was no fun to read, but it was interesting for what it revealed about responses to the unfashionable. It was written by ...

Death to America Day

Roger Hardy, 15 September 1988

Europe and the Mystique of Islam 
by Maxime Rodinson, translated by Roger Veinus.
Tauris, 163 pp., £19.50, April 1988, 1 85043 104 3
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The Political Language of Islam 
by Bernard Lewis.
Chicago, 168 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 226 47692 8
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Islam and Revolution in the Middle East 
by Henry Munson.
Yale, 180 pp., £15.95, June 1988, 0 300 04127 6
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... is a simplistic formula. One of Said’s principal targets in Orientalism was Bernard Lewis, a British scholar now at Princeton University. Said and Lewis have become well-known sparring partners in the Orientalism debate – although their clashes have sometimes generated more heat than light. ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Wyndham Lewis, 11 September 2008

... Wyndham Lewis’s Modernism refuses a provincial label. His intellectual toughness and taste for self-promotion and polemic were foreign to the amateurishness that, he believed, vitiated Bloomsbury’s insular Post-Impressionism. Vorticism, the movement he set up with Pound and others around 1913 after a break with Roger Fry, would probably have had a short life even if the war had not intervened ...

The Call of Wittenham Clumps

Samuel Hynes, 2 April 1981

Paul Nash 
by Andrew Causey.
Oxford, 511 pp., £35, June 1980, 0 19 817348 2
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The Enemy 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Routledge, 391 pp., £15, July 1980, 0 7100 0514 8
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Wyndham LewisA Revaluation 
edited by Jeffrey Meyers.
Athlone, 276 pp., £13.50, May 1980, 0 485 11193 4
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Wyndham lewis 
by Jane Farrington.
Lund Humphries, 128 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85331 434 9
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... Wyndham Lewis had a phrase for himself and those of his contemporaries whom he considered worthy of his company: he called them ‘The Men of 1914’. The phrase has a nice martial ring, and it is not surprising that critics have taken it up: but it implies a historical point that one simply can’t make. 1914 was the year the war started: but it didn’t start then for any of Lewis’s ‘Men ...

At the IWM North

Jon Day: Wyndham Lewis, 5 October 2017

... In​ a 1932 article for the Daily Herald entitled ‘What It Feels Like to Be an Enemy’, Wyndham Lewis described his morning routine. After a breakfast of ‘a little raw meat, a couple of blood oranges, a stick of ginger, and a shot of vodka – to make one see Red’, he wrote: I make a habit of springing up from the breakfast table and going over in a rush to the telephone book ...

Could it have been different?

Roger Southall: R.W. Johnson’s South Africa, 8 October 2009

South Africa’s Brave New World: The Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid 
by R.W. Johnson.
Allen Lane, 701 pp., £25, April 2009, 978 0 7139 9538 1
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... of the ANC. The assassination was carried out by a Polish émigré, Janus Walus, and Clive Derby-Lewis, an extremely unpleasant white extremist MP, but Johnson believes they were set up by elements within the ANC while the apartheid security apparatus looked quietly on; it suited both interested parties to allow the murder to pass as a right-wing ...

Candle Moments

Andrew O’Hagan: Norman Lewis’s Inventions, 25 September 2008

Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis 
by Julian Evans.
Cape, 792 pp., £25, June 2008, 978 0 224 07275 5
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... the movement of his subject’s character, his strategies of revelation and concealment. Norman Lewis met Hemingway in December 1957 outside Havana. The visit proved a shocking disappointment; it was also a warning. Hemingway sloped around his bedroom in pyjamas, gulping huge glasses of Dubonnet, saying nothing and dismissing everything, while ...

Apoplectic Gristle

David Trotter: Wyndham Lewis, 25 January 2001

Some Sort of Genius: A Life of Wyndham Lewis 
by Paul O'Keeffe.
Cape, 697 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 224 03102 3
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Wyndham LewisPainter and Writer 
by Paul Edwards.
Yale, 583 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 300 08209 6
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... The day he first met Wyndham Lewis, shortly after the end of the First World War, Ernest Hemingway was teaching Ezra Pound how to box. The encounter took place in Paris, where Pound had a studio, and Lewis, impassive beneath his trademark wide black hat, seemed content to watch in silence ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: Costume Drama, 11 October 2012

... audiences are widely reckoned to respond to obliquity of the kind Ford specialised in as Wyndham Lewis did in 1914: ‘What balls!’ So even given the participation of Tom Stoppard, Rebecca Hall and Benedict Cumberbatch, it was surprising to see a Ford adaptation given five hours on BBC2. Ford was last unloosed in this way in 1981, when Julian Mitchell ...

Unreal Food Uneaten

Julian Bell: Sitting for Vanessa, 13 April 2000

The Art of Bloomsbury 
edited by Richard Shone.
Tate Gallery, 388 pp., £35, November 1999, 1 85437 296 3
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First Friends 
by Ronald Blythe.
Viking, 157 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 670 88613 0
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Bloomsbury in France 
by Mary Ann Caws and Sarah Bird Wright.
Oxford, 430 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 19 511752 2
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... of Vanessa’s paintings at the Tate last winter, presented along with those of Duncan Grant and Roger Fry as The Art of Bloomsbury. On another level, I approached a show of that name as one does a walk down a rainswept trunk road: however close you pull your coat, you know you’re going to get soaked. In England, ever since Wyndham ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Eleanor Birne: ‘A Crisis of Brilliance’, 12 September 2013

... brilliance’ (following the one a decade earlier brought about by Augustus and Gwen John, Wyndham Lewis, Spencer Gore etc). Her fellow students included C.R.W. Nevinson, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer. Together they are the subject of David Boyd Haycock’s compelling group biography, A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the ...

Hitting the buffers

Peter Wollen, 8 September 1994

Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe 1900-1916 
by Christopher Butler.
Oxford, 318 pp., £27.50, April 1994, 0 19 811746 9
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... Omega Workshop, which revelled in bright colour and abstract design. Curiously, the collage which Roger Fry, the founder and organiser of Omega, made at the same time, incorporating l/2d. and 5d. No 88 bus tickets, has much duller colours, rather closer to a Cubist palette. Of course, the Omega Workshop style itself derived from Parisian influences – from ...

Diary

Paul Laity: Henry Woodd Nevinson, 3 February 2000

... and William Roberts – and a revolutionary moment in British art. Even to express support for Roger Fry’s Post-Impressionist exhibitions was daring and radical. Nevinson, having seen a contemporary art show in Venice, knew he was ‘bored with the old Masters’. He was ambitious and keen to be liked, but socially difficult. A photo survives of a Slade ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies, 10 September 2009

The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... of Bloomsbury’s engagement with cinema, despite the biographical evidence to the contrary. Roger Fry and Maynard Keynes were founding members of the Film Society, and it’s likely that Leonard and Virginia Woolf attended some of the screenings. Woolf refers to trips to the ‘Picture Palace’ in her diaries and wrote an essay on ‘The Cinema’ in ...

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