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Philip Roth in Israel

Julian Barnes, 5 March 1987

The Counterlife 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 336 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 224 02871 5
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... Philip Roth’s new novel is marvellously rich, boisterously serious, dense, fizzing and formally audacious. More than with most novels, to review it is to betray it. This isn’t inappropriate, since one of Roth’s abiding themes is fiction’s betrayal of life and the novelist’s treachery to those who surround him ...


M.F. Perutz: Memories of J.D.Bernal, 6 July 2000

... When one of them left his notebook behind, we found it empty, with the single heading: ‘Bernal’s Bloody Business’. Now, 28 years after his death, a book about him has appeared.* It is made up of 12 essays by different authors plus his D-Day diaries. Bernal never talked about himself, only about the world around him. Much of what I have now read about the ...

Animal Experiences

Colin Tudge: At the zoo, 21 June 2001

A Different Nature: The Paradoxical World of Zoos and Their Uncertain Future 
by David Hancocks.
California, 280 pp., £19.95, May 2001, 0 520 21879 5
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... the circuses of Rome to the travelling menageries of the 18th and 19th centuries, shuttered in so that passers-by got no free view; and as he says (and I saw for myself last year in Yunnan), in China and many emerging economies such horrors are still standard. The history of zoos encapsulates all human attitudes to our fellow ...

Philip Roth’s House of Fiction

Michael Mason, 6 December 1979

The Ghost Writer 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 180 pp., £4.95
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... The Ghost Writer is Philip Roth’s best novel yet. Certainly it is his most ingenious. But this familiar way of putting things may contain a mistake, a mistake which is part of the subject-matter of Roth’s book. ‘Best novel yet’ implies a future of prosperous activity which may be barmecidal ...

My People

Isaac Babel, 5 April 1990

... the Poles looted us, then these came with their whoops and noise, took away all my wife’s belongings.’ A girl: ‘You’re a Jew, aren’t you? We’re in trouble, we’re going to be looted, don’t go to bed.’ Night. The lantern by the window. A Hebrew grammar-book. My soul aches. Zuckerman the assistant ...

Cruelty to Animals

Brigid Brophy, 21 May 1981

Reckoning with the Beast 
by James Turner.
Johns Hopkins, 190 pp., £7.50, February 1981, 0 8018 2399 4
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The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes 
by S. Zuckerman.
Routledge, 511 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 7100 0691 8
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... of a novel of my own, it reproduces the Liverpool Stubbs, ‘The Green Monkey’. But Mr Turner’s subtitle is ‘Animals, Pain, and Humanity in the Victorian Mind’ (in which the superfluous comma after ‘pain’ might pass, if one is being polite, for pastiche of Victorian punctuation). It sits ill on a picture not merely pre-Victorian in fact (painted ...

Stop screaming, Mrs Steiner

Wendy Steiner, 17 December 1992

The American way of Birth 
by Jessica Mitford.
Gollancz, 237 pp., £16.99, October 1992, 0 575 05430 1
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... Suffering pain, writer’s block, and the rage of critics, Philip Roth’s hero Zuckerman resolves to quit writing fiction and go to medical school. ‘Who quarrels with an obstetrician?’ he reasons: He catches what comes out and everybody loves him ...

What the hell happened?

Alexander Star: Philip Roth, 4 February 1999

I Married a Communist 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 323 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 224 05258 6
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... wildly out of control. Disorder is the norm; and self-understanding a bitter joke. If Roth’s characters discover that ‘the direction of life is toward incoherence,’ their creator appears to believe that the direction of writing is towards coherence. The slovenliness of living is matched by the severity of thinking. Few writers have striven ...

Desk Job

Deborah Friedell: Bernard Malamud, 15 November 2007

Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life 
by Philip Davis.
Oxford, 377 pp., £18.99, September 2007, 978 0 19 927009 5
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... In Philip Roth’s novel The Ghost Writer, 23-year-old Nathan Zuckerman, ‘already contemplating my own massive Bildungsroman’, makes a jaunty pilgrimage to the clapboard farmhouse of Emanuel Lonoff, the great Jewish-American writer whose work Zuckerman admires but aims to surpass ...

I don’t want your revolution

Marco Roth: Jonathan Lethem, 20 February 2014

Dissident Gardens 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 366 pp., £18.99, January 2014, 978 0 224 09395 8
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... popular culture or counterculture as much as in the thoughts and passions of characters. Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) chronicled the rise of superhero comics in postwar America. Díaz’s The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) described its hero’...

Saving the World

Barbara Wootton, 19 June 1980

Sage: A Life of J.D. Bernal 
by Maurice Goldsmith.
Hutchinson, 255 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 9780091395506
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... was 21 and Eileen 23. I seldom saw either of them from then until after the outbreak of Hitler’s war, when my husband and I used to take weekend refuge from London bombing raids at a pub in the Chiltern village of Fingest. Opposite this was a house where Bernal had for some years been living with Margaret Gardiner and their son Martin – then a most ...

Every club in the bag

Michael Howard, 10 September 1992

The Chiefs: The Story of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff 
by Bill Jackson and Dwin Bramall.
Brassey, 508 pp., £29.95, April 1992, 0 08 040370 0
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... Until the beginning of this century, few Englishmen thought it necessary at all. The Navy, so it was hoped, would defend our shores (probably against the French) and the Army would police, and where necessary extend, the Empire. Both Services went their own ways to general public approval, so long as they made ...


Benedict Anderson, 21 January 1988

Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800 
edited by Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden.
Princeton, 290 pp., £22, September 1987, 0 691 05372 3
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... origin. Moreover, they retained the habit even when these places passed under different masters, so that Nouvelle Orléans calmly became New Orleans, and Nieuw Zeeland New Zealand. Just how odd this practice was can be seen from the fact that although Arabs settled, and sometimes set up statelets, all round the perimeter of the Indian Ocean, and speakers of ...

Counting weapons

Rudolf Peierls, 5 March 1981

Britain and Nuclear Weapons 
by Lawrence Freedman.
Papermac, 160 pp., £3.25, September 1980, 0 333 30511 6
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Countdown: Britain’s Strategic Forces 
by Stewart Menual.
Hale, 188 pp., £8.25, October 1980, 0 7091 8592 8
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The War Machine 
by James Avery Joyce.
Quartet, 210 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 7043 2254 4
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Protest and Survive 
edited by E.P. Thompson and Dan Smith.
Penguin, 262 pp., £1.50, October 1980, 0 14 052341 3
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... We might be tempted to let familiarity blunt the impact of these facts on our mind, were it not so frequently refreshed by news of ever more powerful weapons, ever-increasing numbers in the stockpiles, and ever more efficient means of delivering them to their targets. Any future nuclear attack could be, and probably will be, enormously more devastating than ...

The Benefactor

Nicholas Wade, 19 April 1984

Alexander Fleming: The Man and the Myth 
by Gwyn Macfarlane.
Chatto, 304 pp., £12.50, February 1984, 0 7011 2683 3
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... probably within a few years. Granted a certain stage of development in knowledge of the body’s physiology and biochemistry, the discovery of insulin was inevitable. What Bliss has done for insulin, Gwyn Macfarlane does for penicillin in this excellent new biography of Alexander Fleming. Macfarlane, an emeritus professor of clinical pathology at ...

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