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End of an Elite

R.W. Johnson

21 March 1996
Slovo: The Unfinished Autobiography 
by Joe Slovo.
Hodder, 253 pp., £18.99, February 1996, 0 340 66566 1
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... When Joe Slovo died in 1995 his body was carried on an army gun carriage through Soweto in post-apartheid South Africa’s first state funeral. Forty thousand people sat through the long tributes in Orlando Stadium, the ANC high-ups arriving in Nyala armoured cars. Impala jets – developed by sanctions-struck South Africa to ...
21 February 1991
... further instalment of reform leaves no doubt that South Africa is moving away from the era of apartheid at some speed. His speech follows hard on a truce agreement between the ANC and Inkatha – the first step towards ending a conflict which has cost some five thousand lives in Natal and on the Reef since 1985. Whether the truce will hold and whether it will stem the creeping ethnicisation of black ...

Idaho

Graham Hough

5 March 1981
Housekeeping 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Faber, 218 pp., £5.25, March 1981, 0 571 11713 9
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The Noble Enemy 
by Charles Fox.
Granada, 383 pp., £6.95, February 1981, 0 246 11452 5
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The Roman Persuasion 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 297 77927 3
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... Ruth and Lucille are sisters, living in Fingerbone on Fingerbone Lake. At the bottom of the lake lies their grandfather, who was guard on a train that plunged off the bridge one night, years before they ...

Freedom

Lyndall Gordon

18 September 1980
Olive Schreiner: A Biography 
by Ruth First and Ann Scott.
Deutsch, 383 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 233 97152 1
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... that since Olive Schreiner died in 1920 there have been six biographies. Why should the life of a woman writing from remote farms and railway stoppings in South Africa between the 1870s and the First World War attract this attention? The new Olive Schreiner has been commissioned with the renewed interest in the feminist heroine of The Story of an African Farm (1883), and this approach to Olive ...

Megawoman

Penelope Fitzgerald

13 October 1988
Olive Schreiner: Letters. Vol.1:1871-1899 
edited by Richard Rive.
Oxford, 409 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 812220 9
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... the strict regulations against trading. As a trader he was even less successful, but Olive never ceased to love the ruined father. Left homeless, she was taken in by her eldest brother, Theo, who first ran a school, then went to try his luck in the diamond fields. When Olive was five she sat among the tall weeds behind the house and understood, without having the words for it, that they were alive ...
6 January 1994
Daring to Excel: The Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain 
by Ruth​ Railton.
Secker, 466 pp., £20, August 1992, 0 436 23359 2
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... Ruth gave the Prime Minister as a Christmas card an old map of the Broadstairs area of Kent.’ The Prime Minister thanked her for it, writing from Chequers ‘in his own hand’. In his 1970-74 diaries ...

Seeing things

Rosemary Dinnage

4 December 1980
The Story of Ruth 
by Morton Schatzman.
Duckworth, 306 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 7156 1504 1
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... The jacket of The Story of Ruth is adorned with praise from the famous: Edna O’Brien, among others, found it ‘disturbing and quite fascinating’, and Doris Lessing ‘a valuable book, an original’. It is a pity it comes in ...

Lost Drawing

Ruth​ Fainlight

17 July 1980
... sky just after sunset: during the war, at my aunt’s house in Virginia, I tried to draw them – trees like these in England which she never saw – and now, trees in my garden make me feel the first true pang of grief since her death. Between the wash-tubs and storecupboards filled with pickled peaches and grape-jam, crouched into a broken wicker chair, I peered up through the basement window ...

Revelation

Ruth​ Padel

5 January 2012
... A ladder’, the master whispered, ‘of nucleic acid.’ This was the first we’d heard of it. Rain nosed the glass; wind lashed the trees outside. ‘Four hydrogen-bonded nucleotides locking on like mating damselflies, but each a different size, pulling the ladder’s ...

A Use for the Stones

Jacqueline Rose: On Being Nadine Gordimer

20 April 2006
Get a Life 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 187 pp., £16.99, November 2005, 0 7475 8175 4
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... not know as yet,’ she continues, in words still resonant in today’s burgeoning and stricken South Africa, ‘whether this is a dead-end or can be made a new beginning.’ Get a Life is not the first of Gordimer’s writings in which power plants are the political focus. In her 1984 novella, ‘Something Out There’, four ANC revolutionaries conduct a successful strike against a power station ...

Two Poems

Ruth​ Padel: ‘The Excavation’, ‘The Watchers’

20 February 2003
... eyebrow stud; all nerves. She slinks to the tow path by Camley Street bridge, dips her braids in the jade-green canal, chin upside down under the scum of the sodden log edge, slicks her hair for her first job, her first fashion shoot. She thinks she’s alone. They’re russeting up into amber and rose. Blue eyes have turned citrus. Brown ears (little triangles, no longer round) hear her ring- tune ...
7 March 1985
The Killing Doll 
by Ruth​ Rendell.
Hutchinson/Arrow, 237 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 155480 2
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The Tree of Hands 
by Ruth​ Rendell.
Hutchinson, 269 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 09 158680 1
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... We still have a Queen of Crime. For nearly twenty years Ruth Rendell has been hailed as the successor to Sayers, Christie, Marsh and Allingham, perpetuating the old question of why it is that there should be a particularly feminine talent for detective fiction ...
5 February 1987
The Progress of Love 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 309 pp., £9.95, January 1987, 0 7011 3161 6
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Ruth 
by Jeremy Cooper.
Hutchinson, 187 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 09 167110 8
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... the New Yorker: but to read a collection in a book, one after another, is rather dispiriting. The gentle tolerance is almost nurse-like: some of these characters, one feels, should be denounced. In Ruth Jeremy Cooper displays a feminine consciousness with a peculiarly English style of dead-keen soppiness. Ruth is a lonely young lady in Somerset: she addresses God as ‘Goddi’ and her mother calls ...
7 March 1996
... with you. IV The earth bit was worst and you’d thought of that too when you vetoed Dido’s Lament (‘Too sad’). The thud of lilies that could only be the thud of lilies, nothing else – or the first shot of Dr Zhivago. The mound of pinkish clay against those tungsten hills, and two hefty men walking away from it, back to HQ after a good half-day, swinging from post-sacramental torsos the straps ...

Two Poems

Ruth​ Padel

4 January 2007
... liana-twined batik – the holy mountain, dipterocarp, deciduous, evergreen, where panther pugs are secrets in black earth on ivy-lattice ridge-trails; wolf-shadows where cedars flush in dawn’s first light under first winter snow. You’ve betrayed all this to our enemies, the Greeks. (Euripides, Trojan Women, 1060-70) I was on his boat. As we left we saw a deranged old man, a fire-eater. Our ...

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