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What Nanny Didn’t Tell Me

Bernard Porter: Simon Mann, 26 January 2012

Cry Havoc 
by Simon Mann.
John Blake, 351 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 84358 403 2
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... goes like clockwork – no problems, no mistakes – though there’s a twist at the end. Simon Mann’s Cry Havoc might seem like a copy of this scenario – same place, roughly the same plot, thirty years later – but it’s much more fun because Mann’s attempted coup turned out to be, in his ...

Her Boy

R.W. Johnson: Mark Thatcher, 16 November 2006

Thatcher’s Fortunes: The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher 
by Mark Hollingsworth and Paul Halloran.
Mainstream, 415 pp., £7.99, July 2006, 1 84596 118 8
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The Wonga Coup: The British Mercenary Plot to Seize Oil Billions in Africa 
by Adam Roberts.
Profile, 304 pp., £9.99, June 2006, 1 86197 934 7
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... up in palatial style here but so did Spencer’s ex-friend the convicted fraudster Darius Guppy; Simon Mann, the leader of the attempted mercenary coup in Equatorial Guinea in 2004; and Teodorin Nguema, the playboy son of the Equatoguinean dictator, Obiang Nguema, whom Mann was trying to overthrow. It was Thatcher’s ...

Enemies of All Mankind

Stephen Sedley: Pirates, 24 June 2010

The Treatment of Prisoners under International Law 
by Nigel Rodley, with Matt Pollard.
Oxford, 697 pp., £85, August 2009, 978 0 19 921507 2
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The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations 
by Daniel Heller-Roazen.
Zone, 295 pp., £21.95, November 2009, 978 1 890951 94 8
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The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates 
by Peter Leeson.
Princeton, 271 pp., £16.95, May 2009, 978 0 691 13747 6
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... version he goes to his death with the words ‘Floreat Etona!’ on his lips (as, one imagines, Simon Mann would have done if things had gone badly for him in Equatorial Guinea). True, Hook could have been an oik trying to make an impression, but at least he had the Latin, and in swordsmanship he fought and died by the rules. Some of Peter Leeson’s ...

Hooyah!!

James Meek: The Rise of the Private Army, 2 August 2007

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army 
by Jeremy Scahill.
Serpent’s Tail, 452 pp., £12.99, August 2007, 978 1 84668 630 6
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... alleged 2004 attempt by a group of South African mercenaries, led by the British ex-SAS officer Simon Mann, to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea. Even within the confines of Scahill’s theme, there are frustrating omissions. He writes about how much higher the daily pay of Blackwater guards in Iraq is than the pay of regular US ...

The Next Fix

Lara Pawson: African Oil, 7 February 2008

Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil 
by Nicholas Shaxson.
Palgrave, 280 pp., £15.99, May 2007, 978 1 4039 7194 4
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Oil Wars 
edited by Mary Kaldor, Terry Lynn Karl and Yahia Said.
Pluto, 294 pp., £17.99, March 2008, 978 0 7453 2478 4
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Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil 
by John Ghazvinian.
Harcourt Brace, 320 pp., $25, April 2007, 978 0 15 101138 4
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... and led to the arrest of Mark Thatcher in South Africa and the jailing of the British mercenary Simon Mann in Zimbabwe. Shaxson toys with the idea that the US (and possibly Spain and Britain) encouraged the attempted coup. The US would have had good reason to welcome a change of regime. Obiang’s son, Teodoro Nguema, owns an airline, a large timber ...

Lost in the rain

Michael Wood, 24 January 1991

The General in his Labyrinth 
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Edith Grossman.
Cape, 285 pp., £13.99, January 1991, 0 224 03083 3
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... the end of the first chapter, when the full roll-call of his name is solemnly performed: General Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar y Palacios. Simon Bolivar for short. Bolivar was born in 1783, in Caracas, to wealthy aristocratic parents. He studied in Spain, fervently read Rousseau, witnessed ...

The Only Way

Sam Kinchin-Smith: Culinary Mansplaining, 4 January 2018

... his excellent television programmes. But thanks to some of the cooks cited in his bibliography – Simon Hopkinson, say, whose Roast Chicken and Other Stories (Ebury, £16.99) is a founding text of contemporary cookbook-writing, or Fergus Henderson, whose St John restaurants trained many of London’s newish wave of serious chefs – and to his and Gill’s ...

The Inequality Engine

Geoff Mann, 4 June 2020

Capital and Ideology 
by Thomas Piketty, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Harvard, 1150 pp., £31.95, March, 978 0 674 98082 2
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... a lot of people into thinking that everything would eventually work out OK. In 1955 the economist Simon Kuznets put forward the hypothesis that became the basis for the enormously influential ‘Kuznets curve’: ‘The long swing in income inequality must be viewed as part of a wider process of economic growth,’ through which ‘the dynamic forces ...

What the Organ-Grinder Said

Christopher Beha: Andrés Neuman, 5 April 2012

Traveller of the Century 
by Andrés Neuman, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia.
Pushkin, 584 pp., £12.99, February 2012, 978 1 906548 66 7
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... the talk, not the other way round. This is the characteristic mode of Proust and Musil and Mann, and of those writers from Bellow and Gaddis to Kundera and Norman Rush whose work is marked more by continuity with modernism than by postmodern rupture. Following Bakhtin, we might call these dialogic novels, not just because there’s so much conversation ...
The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971 
edited by Simon Karlinsky.
Weidenfeld, 346 pp., £12.50, October 1979, 0 297 77580 4
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Vladimir Nabokov: A Tribute 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 139 pp., £6.95
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... is a long list of manifest frauds and charlatans, headed by Dostoevsky and Freud. Eliot is a fake, Mann no better. In one letter, out of compassion for Wilson, he explains in some detail why Malraux is a rotten writer; but Lawrence he simply jeers away, and when Wilson put him on to Faulkner he wrote back incredulously: ‘Are you pulling my ...

Cold-Shouldered

James Wood: John Carey, 8 March 2001

Pure Pleasure: A Guide to the 20th Century’s Most Enjoyable Books 
by John Carey.
Faber, 173 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 571 20448 1
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... to readers of the Sunday Times and the Spectator. Carey’s cousins in populism sometimes include Simon Jenkins, Paul Johnson, A.N. Wilson and the late Auberon Waugh. An easy moralism animates this worldview. Picasso was a pig; Edmund Gosse was ‘a bore’; D.H. Lawrence hit Frieda and wanted to exterm-inate whole races; Virginia Woolf was a pretentious snob ...

Thou shalt wage class war

Gareth Stedman Jones, 1 November 1984

Proletarian Philosophers: Problems in Socialist Culture in Britain 1900-1940 
by Jonathan Rée.
Oxford, 176 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 19 827261 8
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... Social Democratic Federation and was scornful of the religious and political eclecticism of a Tom Mann or a Ben Tillett. Instead, it drew upon the pure and uncontaminated Marxism that it found in the writings of the American socialist, Daniel De Leon. It was from De Leon’s Two Pages of Roman History that the name of the League was coined, and the watchwords ...

‘My dear, dear friend and Führer!’

Jeremy Adler: Winifred Wagner, 6 July 2006

Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler’s Bayreuth 
by Brigitte Hamann, translated by Alan Bance.
Granta, 582 pp., £12.99, June 2006, 1 86207 851 3
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... before and turned down an opportunity to meet General Ludendorff. Others were also worried: Thomas Mann noted that while ‘Wagner will never cease to interest me . . . Bayreuth as it now presents itself interests me not at all.’ Hamann reports every passion, tiff and row, every argument that took place over the hiring and firing of the great artists who ...

Coruscating on Thin Ice

Terry Eagleton: The Divine Spark, 24 January 2008

Creation: Artists, Gods and Origins 
by Peter Conrad.
Thames and Hudson, 529 pp., £24.95, September 2007, 978 0 500 51356 9
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... most thickly populated, scatters references to Conrad (Joseph), Hesiod, Rilke, Shakespeare, Plato, Mann, George Eliot, Gide and St John. Quite how much Conrad may be coruscating on thin ice here and there is a question the book can’t help posing, as do the works of his fellow polymath and mandarin critic of modernity, George Steiner. Yet the intellectual ...

No one hates him more

Joshua Cohen: Franzen on Kraus, 7 November 2013

The Kraus Project 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 318 pp., £18.99, October 2013, 978 0 00 751743 5
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... were as illustrious as its contributors: Peter Altenberg, Kokoschka, Adolf Loos, Heinrich Mann, Schoenberg, Strindberg, Trakl and Wedekind (whose play Spring Awakening Franzen translated in 1986 and published in 2007). Kafka was a loyal reader, as was Benjamin, who regarded Die Fackel as the literary fulfilment of Trotsky’s permanent revolution ...

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