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Us and Them

Robert Taubman, 4 September 1980

The Secret Servant 
by Gavin Lyall.
Hodder, 224 pp., £5.50, June 1980, 0 340 25385 1
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The Flowers of the Forest 
by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 365 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 436 20087 2
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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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Enter the Lion: A Posthumus Memoir of Mycroft Holmes 
by Michael Hodel and Sean Wright.
Dent, 237 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 460 04483 4
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Dorothy I. Sayers: Nine Literary Studies 
by Trevor Hall.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 9780715614556
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Milk Dime 
by Barry Fantoni.
Hodder, 192 pp., £5.50, May 1980, 0 340 25350 9
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... Sometimes this town remembers its past,’ says Agnes in The Secret Servant, pausing in the gun-play to quote Wordsworth’s ‘Westminster Bridge’. This thriller is about contemporary nuclear strategies and the elimination of agents and double agents. Agnes is an agent herself (from ‘Box 500’, which seems to mean MI5), and the hero is no sooner posted to 10 Downing Street than a grenade comes through the front door ...

Advice for the New Nineties

Julian Symons, 12 March 1992

HMS Glasshouse 
by Sean O’Brien.
Oxford, 56 pp., £5.99, November 1991, 0 19 282835 5
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The Hogweed Lass 
by Alan Dixon.
Poet and Printer, 33 pp., £3, September 1991, 0 900597 39 9
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Collected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £18.95, November 1991, 0 85635 923 8
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... some poets today deny them all. Her Serene Highness is distinctively and successfully present in Sean O’Brien’s poems of workaday life. He envisages, for instance, an ‘hour of general safety’ when you can rest peacefully and Leave the socks you forgot on the clothesline. Leave slugs to make free with the pansies in a world where momentarily The ...

Each Scene for Itself

David Edgar: The Brecht Centenary, 4 March 1999

War Primer 
by Bertolt Brecht, edited by John Willett.
Libris, 170 pp., £35, February 1998, 1 870352 21 1
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Brecht in Context: Comparative Approaches 
by John Willett.
Methuen, 320 pp., £12.99, February 1998, 0 413 72310 0
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Brecht and Method 
by Fredric Jameson.
Verso, 184 pp., £19, November 1998, 1 85984 809 5
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... Puntila and His Man Matti, presented by the Right Size, a touring company led by the comic actors Sean Foley and Hamish McColl. Their prologue goes some way to explaining why the Anglophone response to the Brechtfest was so muted. Announcing that ‘Before we start/this evening’s art/we’d like to take you through a bit of theory,’ Foley and McColl went ...


Nick Laird: Ulster Revisited, 28 July 2011

... religious or civic leaders. The rows about the past are replicated at local level: Councillor Sean McGlinchey, who served 18 years for his role in a car bombing in Coleraine in 1973 that killed six people, is now the Sinn Fein mayor of Limavady. In Cookstown, my town, a large wooden sign was nailed to a lamppost in Monrush, a Protestant housing ...


Tom Paulin: Trimble’s virtues, 7 October 2004

... quote this anecdote, but he prints as one of his four epigraphs an exchange between Trimble and Sean Farren, a senior Irish Nationalist, at Duisburg in the late 1980s: ‘What do you want for your people?’ Farren asked. ‘To be left alone,’ Trimble replied. This statement, and the meaning of ‘Sinn Fein’, ‘Ourselves Alone’, reverberate in the ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... its wider social and cultural contexts – education acts, decolonisation, immigration – while Sean O’Brien, author of The Deregulated Muse, a fine critical panorama of contemporary poetry, commends ‘the emergence of new poetries from formerly unsuspected sources’. There is also a step towards devolution, with Armitage and Crawford including a more ...

Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... two antitheses which he does not appear to recognise: the contrast between Belfast and what Frank Wright calls the ‘unreformable’ decaying border areas, and between Ulster as the last representative of a British tradition and the rest of Britain which has, in the eyes of very many Protestants, betrayed it. The Ulster state was never a monolithic ...

Propellers for Noses

Dennis Duncan: The Themerson Archive, 9 June 2022

The Themerson Archive Catalogue 
edited by Jasia Reichardt and Nick Wadley.
MIT, three vols, 1000 pp., £190, November 2020, 978 1 9162474 1 3
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... grifter. Yeats had been present at the play’s notorious premiere in Paris in 1896, but Barbara Wright’s translation for the Themersons was its first appearance in English. From the opening word – Ubu’s exclamation ‘Shittr!’ (‘Merdre!’ in the original) – Wright captures Jarry’s freewheeling slang ...

Marching Orders

Ronan Bennett: The new future of Northern Ireland, 30 July 1998

... 1964) – he was the first Unionist prime minister to do so – and for receiving Sean Lemass, the Irish taoiseach, at Stormont. In reality, O’Neill was never much of a cake-sharer. His attitude to Catholics – and to working-class Protestants, for that matter – was patrician. ‘It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants,’ he ...

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