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Coups

Ronald Fraser

16 July 1981
Modern Spain 1875-1980 
by Raymond Carr.
Oxford, 201 pp., £7.50, March 1981, 0 19 215828 7
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... From a distance, the image of a pistol-toting Civil Guard colonel holding prisoner Spain’s cabinet and members of parliament recalled Marx’s phrase that history, tragic in its first occurrence, repeats itself as farce. From a lesser distance, the long night of 23-24 February, with tanks in the streets of Valencia, national television taken over, ministers and deputies incarcerated under armed guard ...

Poor Boys

Karl Miller

18 September 1986
In Search of a Past: The Manor House, Amnersfield 1933-1945 
by Ronald Fraser.
Verso, 187 pp., £15, September 1984, 9780860910923
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Growing up in the Gorbals 
by Ralph Glasser.
Chatto, 207 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 0 7011 3148 9
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... that is well-spoken. They are both interesting books because they tell interesting stories, and are arranged to dramatic effect in interesting ways. Ralph Glasser’s is fresh from the oven, while RonaldFraser’s appeared in 1984, gained a second impression last year, and is still being discussed. Juliet Mitchell has called it ‘a miniature masterpiece’, and it is a work which should have been ...

Looking back

Hugh Thomas

7 July 1983
The Spanish Civil War 
by David Mitchell.
Granada, 208 pp., £9.95, December 1982, 0 246 11916 0
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... establish his responsibility, or freedom from blame, for the murder of two thousand Republican prisoners at Paracuellos – probably the biggest single atrocity of the Spanish war. In Blood of Spain RonaldFraser made a splendid case for oral history by recording the views and recollections of a great many witnesses – modest, and no doubt the more trustworthy for that – to all these events. The ...
17 March 1988
1968: A Student Generation in Revolt 
by Ronald Fraser.
Chatto, 370 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 7011 2913 1
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Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties 
by Tariq Ali.
Collins, 280 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 9780002177795
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Sixty-Eight: The Year of the Barricades 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 241 12174 4
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Nineteen Sixty-Eight: A Personal Report 
by Hans Koning.
Unwin Hyman, 196 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 9780044401858
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... the Black Dwarf, a magazine I intended to promote socialist ideas for working-class readers. It was welcomed, however, by a quite different readership – the ‘student generation in revolt’ of RonaldFraser’s title – and I was made to surrender my editorship to Tariq Ali. Before my dismissal, I appeared on television to defend the paper against A.J. Ayer, John Gross and Colin Welch – with a ...

Staying at home

Ronald Fraser

27 July 1989
Federico Garcia Lorca 
by Ian Gibson.
Faber, 542 pp., £17.50, July 1989, 0 571 14815 8
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... In 1973 Ian Gibson published The Death of Lorca, his outstanding investigation into the circumstances, silenced for forty years by the Franco regime, of the poet’s assassination at the insurgent military’s hands in the first month of the Civil War. It is highly fitting, therefore, that Gibson should have now written the life of Lorca, as close to a definitive biography as we are likely to get ...

Did he or didn’t he?

Ronald Fraser

20 August 1992
The Interior Castle: A Life of Gerald Brenan 
by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 660 pp., £25, July 1992, 1 85619 137 0
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... Having described a significant segment of his past in South from Granada, published in 1957, Gerald Brenan went on to write two volumes of autobiography, A Life of One’s Own (1902) and Personal Record (1974). These covered his life from early childhood to his return to southern Spain in 1953 when he was nearly sixty, with a few final pages devoted to the following twenty years. Shortly before his ...

Revenges

Ronald Fraser

7 February 1991
Gorbals Voices, Siren Songs 
by Ralph Glasser.
Chatto, 209 pp., £13.95, April 1990, 0 7011 3445 3
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A Place for Us 
by Nicholas Gage.
Bantam, 419 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 593 01515 0
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The Hidden Damage 
by James Stern.
Chelsea, 372 pp., £17.95, February 1990, 1 871484 01 4
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... Ralph Glasser’s and Nicholas Gage’s latest autobiographical instalments find their authors making good in their countries of adoption, England and the US respectively. The cost to each of their ascent from exceedingly harsh social beginnings has been different, but in ways that are not surprising: in England the struggle centred on class, in the US on money. Not that class and money are separable ...
6 November 2008
Napoleon’s Cursed War: Popular Resistance in the Spanish Peninsular War 
by Ronald Fraser.
Verso, 587 pp., £29.99, April 2008, 978 1 84467 082 6
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... they had rather to be forced to take up arms.’ The shift in the discipline away from military history means that some historians of the period now ignore the Spanish War of Independence altogether. RonaldFraser’s Napoleon’s Cursed War will not do much to help resolve the debate over the conflict’s significance. The author, best known for an acclaimed oral history of the Spanish Civil War, has ...

Homage to Spain

Douglas Johnson

22 May 1986
Homage to Catalonia 
by George Orwell.
Secker, 260 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 436 35028 9
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The Spanish Civil War 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 1115 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 241 89450 6
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The Triumph of Democracy in Spain 
by Paul Preston.
Methuen, 274 pp., £14.95, April 1986, 0 416 36350 4
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... I can appreciate his attitude better today than I did at the time. Individual experiences never, of course, add up to the total collective experience: this is the conclusion which, in 1979, RonaldFraser drew in his remarkable oral history of the Spanish Civil War, Blood of Spain. If there was enthusiasm, there was enthusiasm on both sides. Incompetence, treachery, disagreement, heroism, cowardice ...

El Casino Macabre

James Morone: Rebellion of the Rich

21 June 2007
Wall Street: A Cultural History 
by Steve Fraser.
Faber, 656 pp., £12.99, April 2006, 0 571 21829 6
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Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors 
by Charles S. Maier.
Harvard, 373 pp., £18.95, May 2006, 0 674 02189 4
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... And if so, should we cheer, lament or simply get on with imperial business? Both describe an empire of material desire, of consumption, of get rich now. You might call it an empire of greed. Steve Fraser is a fine New Deal historian whose biography of the union leader Sidney Hillman, wistfully entitled Labour Will Rule, chronicled labour’s ascent into the top ranks of the Democratic Party in the ...
24 January 1980
... and a prize named after him for bright young English and American editors. He also had, and still has, the gratitude and affection of a host of authors as different as Edna O’Brien and Eric Ambler, Ronald Blythe and Antonia Fraser. That, perhaps, is the crucial difference between the two men. Lane was a publisher’s publisher, a man with immense commercial flair who opened up markets no one had ever ...

Paralysed by the Absence of Danger

Jeremy Harding: Spain, 1937

24 September 2009
Letters from Barcelona: An American Woman in Revolution and Civil War 
edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn.
Palgrave, 209 pp., £50, February 2009, 978 0 230 52739 3
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War Is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War 
by James Neugass.
New Press, 314 pp., £16.99, November 2008, 978 1 59558 427 4
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We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War 
by Paul Preston.
Constable, 525 pp., £9.99, June 2009, 978 1 84529 946 0
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... between commissars and anarchists had already taken place in the village before Neugass laid up there and the commissars had prevailed. It was nonetheless a compromise – the story is recorded by RonaldFraser in Blood of Spain (1979) – and both sides had kept their heads during a series of knife-edge confrontations. Had it turned out differently, Neugass might not have got pork for supper ...

Oh for the oo tray

William Feaver: Edward Burra

13 December 2007
Edward Burra: Twentieth-Century Eye 
by Jane Stevenson.
Cape, 496 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 224 07875 7
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... Century Eye could be published unillustrated. That is, without reproductions of any of the paintings. (Part of The Tea-Shop, 1929, one of Burra’s Naughtee Paree numbers, perfect for a Folio Society Ronald Firbank reprint, makes it to the dust jacket.) Pictures, it’s true, might distract from the commissioned narrative and, anyway, biographers of painters should avoid frisking pictures for personal ...

Who needs a welfare state?

Deborah Friedell: The Little House Books

22 November 2012
The Little House Books 
by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Library of America, 1490 pp., £56.50, August 2012, 978 1 59853 162 6
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The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ 
by Wendy McClure.
Riverhead, 336 pp., £10, April 2012, 978 1 59448 568 8
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... The actual Walnut Grove had been dying, without even enough people to support a small grocery store. Now more than 250 Hmong live there, and run two grocery stores. Little House on the Prairie was Ronald Reagan’s favourite television programme and also, by some accounts, Saddam Hussein’s. It was based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s eight novels, which have now entered the Library of America as The ...

Rising Moon

R.W. Johnson

18 December 1986
L’Empire Moon 
by Jean-Francois Boyer.
La Découverte, 419 pp., August 1986, 2 7071 1604 1
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The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection 
by Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead.
Sheridan Square, 255 pp., $19.95, May 1986, 0 940380 07 2
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... of a large chunk of Moonie funds. At this point disaster struck, in the shape of the Congressional Sub-Committee on Korean-American Relations, chaired by the liberal Minnesota Congressman, Donald Fraser. The Moonies have never fully recovered from the ‘Koreagate’ revelations that followed. Day after day the media regaled the public with the details of KCIA attempts to bribe Congressmen ...

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