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What happened at Ayacucho

Ronan Bennett, 10 September 1992

Shining Path: The World’s Deadliest Revolutionary Force 
by Simon Strong.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £16.99, June 1992, 0 00 215930 9
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Shining Path of Peru 
edited by David Scott Palmer.
Hurst, 271 pp., £12.95, June 1992, 1 85065 152 3
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Peru under Fire: Human Rights since the Return of Democracy 
compiled by Americas Watch.
Yale, 169 pp., £12.95, June 1992, 0 300 05237 5
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... and trajectory of Sendero’s revolution. It is the achievement of these books, particularly Simon Strong’s, to rip off the tags and subject the contents of the box to rational argument and analysis. The roots of the revolution stretch back to the legendary barbarity of Pizarro’s conquest, beginning with the murder of the Inca Atahualpa and the ...

Deor

Simon Armitage, 21 February 2013

... Weland the goldsmith      knew grief’s weight. That strong-minded man      was no stranger to misery, his loyal soul-mates      were sorrow and longing, a hurt like winter      weathered his heart once Niðhad had hamstrung      and hobbled his hopes, fettering the feet      of the worthier fellow ...

Unfair to gays

Simon Raven, 19 June 1980

The Homosexual as Hero in Contemporary Fiction 
by Stephen Adams.
Vision, 208 pp., £10.95, March 1980, 0 85478 204 4
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... values and customs. In novels by most heterosexuals, and by many homosexuals as well, there is a strong tendency to portray ‘queer’ men as evil seducers or else as capering clowns. ‘The homosexual hero’, on the other hand, since he is presented by authors sympathetic to homosexuality, makes serious proclamation (and boy, oh boy, does he proclaim) of ...

Flowery Regions of Algebra

Simon Schaffer: Pierre Simon Laplace, 14 December 2006

Pierre Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Determined Scientist 
by Roger Hahn.
Harvard, 310 pp., £21.95, November 2005, 0 674 01892 3
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... French, they use the word ‘Cartesian’. But they ought rather to say ‘Laplacian’. Pierre Simon Laplace was born into a prosperous rural family in 1749; he trained for the priesthood; and in 1773 was elected to the Académie. He had recently composed a series of astonishingly assured calculations about the application of probability calculus to the ...

Old Iron-Arse

Simon Collier: Latin America’s independence, 9 August 2001

Liberators: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence, 1810-30 
by Robert Harvey.
Murray, 561 pp., £25, May 2000, 0 7195 5566 3
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... a pleasure to read. An admirer of ancient Rome and of Britain, he was insistent on the need for a strong (but strictly constitutional) executive authority to steer Spanish America (with its caste-conscious, multi-ethnic societies, omnipresent poverty and illiteracy, and immersion in the authoritarian traditions of the Spanish Empire) towards a more liberal ...

Swedish Practices

Gunnar Pettersson, 26 October 1989

Under Fire: My Own Story 
by Simon Hayward.
W.H. Allen, 473 pp., £6.99, September 1989, 0 352 32588 7
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... On the day Simon Hayward was released from a Swedish prison and returned to England, the Independent reported that a senior official in the Swedish Justice Department had declared himself against punishing convicts who attempt to escape from prison, because it is ‘a natural reaction’: ‘If you were in a prison,’ he asked a seminar, ‘wouldn’t you start thinking of how to get out?’ The absurd reasonableness of this approach to prisoner care is in a way typical of what the world has come to expect from Sweden’s judicial system, and until quite recently it would have been met, at least among the liberal-minded, with a kind of sniggering admiration for a society which dared radically to question the orthodoxies of crime and punishment ...

Wasps and all

Philip Horne, 8 December 1988

A Chinese Summer 
by Mark Illis.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 0 7475 0257 9
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Three Uneasy Pieces 
by Patrick White.
Cape, 59 pp., £7.95, October 1988, 0 224 02594 5
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The Captain and the Enemy 
by Graham Greene.
Reinhardt, 189 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 1 871061 05 9
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View of Dawn in the Tropics 
by G. Cabrera Infante, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine.
Faber, 163 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 571 15186 8
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The House of Stairs 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 282 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 670 82414 3
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... rather than to far-flung travel, that ‘Chinese’ in the title refers. The haunted narrator, Simon, tells us a story which is exotic or romantic only in his head, but is intriguingly so there. Daydreams and hallucinations unsettlingly alternate with sharp noticings. In a seeming paradox he ‘reads the thoughts’ of a fellow passenger on the Tube as ...

Tables and Chairs

Christopher Tayler: J.M. Coetzee, 21 March 2013

J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing 
by J.C. Kannemeyer, translated by Michiel Heyns.
Jonathan Ball, 710 pp., R 325, October 2012, 978 1 86842 495 5
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Here and Now: Letters 2008-11 
by Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee.
Viking, 256 pp., $27.95, March 2013, 978 0 670 02666 1
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The Childhood of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 210 pp., £16.99, March 2013, 978 1 84655 769 9
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... public events where others might be either awestruck or importuning. From time to time you get a strong impression that both men are having a laugh, though I don’t think Coetzee is joking when he spends a page demonstrating that ‘the equation “I = JMC” is false,’ or when he writes: One can think of a life in art, schematically, in two or perhaps ...

Venom

Robin Briggs: Saint-Simon and Louis XIV, 26 November 1998

Saint-Simon, ou le système de la cour 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Jean-François Fitou.
Fayard, 636 pp., frs 160, November 1997, 2 213 59994 7
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... At the end of a work comparing the first three Bourbon kings, the duc de Saint-Simon invites us to make a final judgment between them, and to be persuaded that the precise truth has guided every stroke of his pen. With characteristic dexterity, he couples this nuanced claim to objectivity with the suggestion that it has only been achieved by subordinating his feelings of ‘just gratitude’ towards Louis XIII ...

Take old urine and slag iron

Simon Goldhill: Magic in the ancient world, 3 September 1998

Magic in the Ancient World 
by Fritz Graf.
Harvard, 318 pp., £23.50, February 1998, 0 674 54151 0
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... cross-culturally, and the debate has become increasingly passionate and confused. There is a strong set of vested interests involved in any modern definition. This is most clearly seen when magic is opposed to religion. When Moses appears before Pharaoh in Exodus and has Aaron instigate the plague of frogs, the Egyptian court magicians promptly do the ...

Before I Began

Christopher Tayler: Coetzee Makes a Leap, 4 June 2020

The Death of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 208 pp., £18.99, January, 978 1 78730 211 2
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... and writing and figuring before being trained as carpenters or plumbers or pastry-chefs … He is strong on discipline, character-building, team sports.’ Fabricante appears one afternoon when David is playing football and invites him and his friends to play a match at the orphanage. The burly orphans walk all over them – Simón calls the match ‘a ...

Short Cuts

Simon Wren-Lewis: Magic Money Trees, 13 July 2017

... government debt to GDP ratio as soon as possible. For the moment he appears secure in his job (the strong rumour before the election was that May would sack him once she had won a clear victory), so ending austerity would require him to eat his words. The more serious political issue, however, is the Tories’ reputation for economic credibility. Cameron and ...

Dome Laureate

Dennis O’Driscoll: Simon Armitage, 27 April 2000

Killing Time 
by Simon Armitage.
Faber, 52 pp., £6.99, December 1999, 0 571 20360 4
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Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems 
edited by Simon Armitage.
Faber, 112 pp., £4.99, October 1999, 9780571200016
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... Simon Armitage likes to have it both ways. He is the streetwise poet who is at home in a Radio 1 studio; but he is also the ambitious literary figure who aspires to ‘nothing less’ than a Nobel Prize. He is at ease with youth culture (‘I didn’t have a classical education of any type, so I tend to use characters from popular culture’), yet, far from stoking rebellion, he writes tenderly of his parents and looks up to Ted Hughes and W ...

A Peece of Christ

Charles Hope: Did Leonardo paint it?, 2 January 2020

Leonardo da Vinci 
at the Louvre, until 24 February 2020Show More
Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered 
by Carmen Bambach.
Yale, 2350 pp., £400, July 2019, 978 0 300 19195 0
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The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting 
by Ben Lewis.
William Collins, 396 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 00 831341 8
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Leonardo’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ and the Collecting of Leonardo in the Stuart Courts 
by Margaret Dalivalle, Martin Kemp and Robert Simon.
Oxford, 383 pp., £35, November 2019, 978 0 19 881383 5
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... about the attribution.One of the two owners identified at the time, an art dealer named Robert Simon, did produce a press release before the exhibition opened, ‘summarising the ownership, critical and conservation history of the painting’, as he now puts it. In this he rather coyly stated that the picture was ‘privately owned and not for sale’ and ...

No Talk in Bed

Owen Flanagan: Confucius, 2 April 1998

The Analects of Confucius 
translated by Simon Leys.
Norton, 224 pp., £9.95, February 1998, 0 393 31699 8
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The Analects of Confucius 
translated by Chichung Huang.
Oxford, 224 pp., £35, October 1997, 0 19 506157 8
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... Legge. The title is obscure, but it has stuck. Chichung Huang, in his literal translation, makes a strong case that the original title, Lun Yu, is best translated as Ethical Dialogues. Thinking of it in this way, as a book of ethics, presented mostly in the form of sayings that begin ‘The Master says’ or with questions followed by answers from the Master ...

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