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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 ...
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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... what Poe called Her Serene Highness the Archduchess Ana-Pest. It is a mistaken puritanism that makes 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 ...

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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... of the English theatre to last year’s Brecht centenary was Lee Hall’s dazzling version of Mr 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 ...

Diary

Nick Laird: Ulster Revisited

28 July 2011
... have meant that politics are run along the lines of power blocs and fiefdoms, politicians often being 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 ...

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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... entitle their introduction ‘The Democratic Voice’, binding the last fifty years of poetry into 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 ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: Trimble’s virtues

7 October 2004
... see him on his own. He told me this was his divorce day and yet he was there alone.’ Godson doesn’t 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 ...
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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Neighbours 
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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... figure’, and ‘the destruction of the representative nature of Ulster polities’, rests on 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 ...

Marching Orders

Ronan Bennett: The new future of Northern Ireland

30 July 1998
... Captain Terence O’Neill, prime minister from 1963 to 69, was reproved for visiting a Catholic school (Ballymoney, 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 ...

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