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Genette

Stephen Bann, 2 October 1980

Narrative Discourse 
by Gérard Genette, translated by Jane Lewin.
Blackwell, 285 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 631 10981 1
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... To judge by our literary periodicals, something is in the air this summer. The forbidding term ‘Deconstruction’, formerly whispered behind closed doors, has been flung to and fro in the public arena. British readers who had mildly hoped that the ‘challenge of Structuralism’ would simply vanish of its own accord have awoken to find a more formidably astringent dogma hotly disputed in Paris and in Yale ...

Hayden White and History

Stephen Bann, 17 September 1987

The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation 
by Hayden White.
Johns Hopkins, 248 pp., £20.80, May 1987, 0 8018 2937 2
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Post-Structuralism and the Question of History 
edited by Derek Attridge, Geoff Bennington and Robert Young.
Cambridge, 292 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 32759 8
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... In publishing his compendious work Metahistory in 1973, Hayden White gave currency both to a term and to a programme. His subtitle, ‘The Historical Imagination in 19th-Century Europe’, indicated the broad area of his investigations, but gave little sense of the radical originality of this programme, which was quite simply the re-examination of historiography in its written form ...

Carry on writing

Stephen Bann, 15 March 1984

The Two of Us 
by John Braine.
Methuen, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 413 51280 0
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An Open Prison 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 575 03380 0
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Havannah 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 241 11175 7
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Sunrising 
by David Cook.
Secker, 248 pp., £8.50, February 1984, 0 436 10674 4
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Memoirs of an Anti-Semite 
by Gregor von Rezzori, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Picador, 282 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 330 28325 1
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It’s me, Eddie 
by Edward Limonov, translated by S.L. Campbell.
Picador, 264 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 330 28329 4
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The Anatomy Lesson 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 291 pp., £8.95, February 1984, 0 224 02960 6
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... just joined them.’ ‘Robin, at that moment in the cottage near Skipton, was eating dinner with Stephen.’ Surely the art of narration ought to be a little less blatant than this? Since the novelist can hardly simulate the essentially voyeuristic pleasure of the Dallas cut – when we observe with our own eyes the switch from the legitimate domicile to the ...

Female Relationships

Stephen Bann, 1 July 1982

When things of the spirit come first 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Patrick O’Brian.
Deutsch, 212 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 0 233 97462 8
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Union Street 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 266 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 9780860682820
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Lady Oracle 
by Margaret Atwood.
Virago, 346 pp., £3.50, June 1982, 0 86068 303 6
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Bodily Harm 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 302 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02016 1
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Hearts: A Novel 
by Hilma Wolitzer.
Harvester, 324 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 9780710804754
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Pzyche 
by Amanda Hemingway.
Faber, 236 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 571 11875 5
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December Flower 
by Judy Allen.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 7156 1644 7
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... Simone de Beauvoir had to change her original title for When things of the spirit come first, because it had been unexpectedly pre-empted by the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. The new title which she picked (Quand prime le spirituel) was a simple variant of the other (Primauté du Spirituel), and the difference has in any case become insignificant in the English translation ...

Return of Oedipus

Stephen Bann, 4 March 1982

Dissemination 
by Jacques Derrida.
Athlone, 366 pp., £25, December 1981, 0 485 30005 2
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... Jacques Derrida once defined his intellectual project with the aid of an image from the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale. It was a question, he suggested, of ‘vomiting up’ philosophy and restoring her to the ‘sea of texts’ from which she had proudly withdrawn. Those who would like to take the allegory further might reflect that Jonah was not in fact precipitated into the sea but onto dry land, and lost no time in prophesying doom to the great city of Nineveh ...

Red

Stephen Bann, 5 July 1984

Time in a Red Coat 
by George Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 249 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 2804 6
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Harland’s Half-Acre 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 230 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 2737 6
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The Border 
by Elaine Feinstein.
Hutchinson, 113 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 09 156320 8
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... When poets decide to write in prose, and a fortiori to undertake so substantial a piece of prose writing as a novel, they are apt to leave unmistakable traces of their poetic craft. Indeed a certain class of novelists, not far below the very best, makes it an axiom to inform us from time to time, in case it has slipped our mind, that they rest their case in the end on a much more precise theory and practice of language than the on-going bustle of narrative will allow for ...

Mythic Elements

Stephen Bann, 30 December 1982

Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 160 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 224 02601 1
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 
by William Kotzwinkle, based on a screenplay by Melissa Mathison.
Arthur Barker, 246 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 213 16848 0
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Tales of Afghanistan 
by Amina Shah.
Octagon Press, 128 pp., £6.50, November 1982, 0 900860 94 4
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The Masque of St Eadmundsburg 
by Humphrey Morrison.
Blond and Briggs, 228 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 85634 127 4
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A Villa in France 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 575 03103 4
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Collected Stories: Vol. III 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 422 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 09 463920 5
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Work Suspended and Other Stories 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 318 pp., £2.75, November 1982, 0 14 006518 0
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... In order to envisage the curious achievement of Emma Tennant’s Queen of Stones, you must first imagine that Virginia Woolf has rewritten Lord of the Flies. Interior monologues and painfully acute perceptions of a seaside landscape combine to colour in what is essentially a tale of a group of girls wrecked on a desert island. The fact that the desert island is just off the coast of Dorset, and has been isolated by an exceptionally heavy fog, is quite immaterial ...

Paradise Lost

Stephen Bann, 17 March 1983

Deadeye Dick 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 224 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 224 02945 2
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Bluebeard 
by Max Frisch, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Methuen, 142 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 413 51750 0
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The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction 
by Colin Greenland.
Routledge, 244 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 7100 9310 1
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More Tales of Pirx the Pilot 
by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Louis Iribarne, Magdalena Majcherczyk and Michael Kandel.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 9780436244117
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Yesterday’s Men 
by George Turner.
Faber, 234 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 571 11857 7
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Rebel in Time 
by Harry Harrison.
Granada, 272 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 246 11766 4
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Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important Man 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 236 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 7206 0602 0
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... In a recent interview, Kurt Vonnegut rated his latest novel, Deadeye Dick, at B-. The gesture is disarming, and no doubt his critics will conclude that he has got it just about right. But if we start from the tacit assumption that Deadeye Dick is not a masterpiece, whether or not it becomes a best-seller, we can concentrate our minds on what it is that makes Vonnegut’s style of storytelling so distinctively beguiling ...

Boy/Girl

Stephen Bann, 4 August 1983

George beneath a Paper Moon 
by Nina Bawden.
Macmillan, 192 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 333 35380 3
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The Ice-House 
by Nina Bawden.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 333 35244 0
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A Dance to the Glory of God 
by Hugh Fleetwood.
Hamish Hamilton, 183 pp., £8.95, July 1983, 0 241 11088 2
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The Ice Monkey, and Other Stories 
by John Harrison.
Gollancz, 144 pp., £8.95, June 1983, 0 575 03259 6
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Arabic Short Stories 
translated by Denys Johnson-Davies.
Quartet, 173 pp., £6.95, July 1983, 0 7043 2367 2
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The Changelings: A Classical Japanese Court Tale 
translated by Rosette Willig.
Stanford, 248 pp., $19.50, May 1983, 0 8047 1124 0
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... It is an entertaining and rewarding experience to look at the reissue of Nina Bawden’s George beneath a Paper Moon immediately before her most recent novel, The Ice-House. A decade separates the two books. The text of The Ice-House bristles with those tiny signs of contemporaneity that remind us, all the time, that this is a chronicle of the Eighties, while its predecessor has begun to acquire the period patina of the early Seventies ...

Incompetents

Stephen Bann, 16 June 1983

Worstward Ho 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 48 pp., £5.50, April 1983, 0 7145 3979 1
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That Voice 
by Robert Pinget, translated by Barbara Wright.
Red Dust (New York), 114 pp., $10.95, May 1983, 0 87376 041 7
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King Solomon 
by Romain Gary, translated by Barbara Wright.
Harvill, 256 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 00 261416 2
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A Year in Hartlebury, or The Election 
by Benjamin Disraeli and Sarah Disraeli.
Murray, 222 pp., £8.50, May 1983, 0 7195 4020 8
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The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02130 3
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... The less there is to see, the more there is to say. Such might be the motto of the Beckett enthusiast. An ingenious recent article by James Hansford devotes almost twenty pages to a story whose original manuscript consists of a bare page of typescript,1 But the apparent-neglect of due critical economy is easily explained by the character of Beckett’s corpus of writings ...

Mystery and Imagination

Stephen Bann, 17 November 1983

The Woman in Black 
by Susan Hill and John Lawrence.
Hamish Hamilton, 160 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 241 10987 6
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Legion 
by William Peter Blatty.
Collins, 252 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 00 222735 5
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The Lost Flying Boat 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 288 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 246 12236 6
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Snow, and Other Stories 
by Antony Lambton.
Quartet, 134 pp., £6.95, September 1983, 0 7043 2407 5
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New Islands, and Other Stories 
by Maria Luisa Bombal, translated by Richard Cunningham, Lucia Cunningham and Jorge Luis Borges.
Faber, 112 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 571 12052 0
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The Antarctica Cookbook 
by Crispin Kitto.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7156 1762 1
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Sole Survivor 
by Maurice Gee.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13017 8
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... Tales of the supernatural have come a long way over the past two decades. When Fontana published their collections of ‘Great Ghost Stories’ in the early 1960s, it might have seemed as if the genre had become canonical and almost complete. A long and distinguished line led back, through such expert modern practitioners as L.P. Hartley and Walter de la Mare, to the definitive achievements of M ...

Plots

Stephen Bann, 4 November 1982

The Prince buys the Manor 
by Elspeth Huxley.
Chatto, 216 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 7011 2651 5
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Faultline 
by Sheila Ortiz Taylor.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 0 7043 3900 5
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Scenes from Metropolitan Life 
by William Cooper.
Macmillan, 214 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 333 34203 8
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Constance, or Solitary Practices 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 394 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 571 11757 0
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Mickelsson’s Ghosts 
by John Gardner.
Secker, 566 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 17251 8
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Beware of pity 
by Stefan Zweig, translated by Phyllis Blewitt and Trevor Blewitt.
Cape, 354 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 224 02057 9
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... You have only to glance at the icing-sugar pink dust-jacket of The Prince buys the Manor to realise that there is a factual basis for Elspeth Huxley’s ‘extravaganza’. There, nestling in the wooded Cotswolds, is the familiar facade of the rather ordinary country house which has recently been dignified by the arrival of A Royal Personage. The gossip columns of the evening papers have confirmed, as the reader suspects, that the aliases scattered throughout the novel are transparent to someone with no more than a modest knowledge of the society and geography of Tetbury ...

Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo

David Wheatley: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 4 December 2014

Midway: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Stephen Bann, 1964-69 
edited by Stephen Bann.
Wilmington Square, 426 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 905524 34 1
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... Writing​ to his friend Stephen Bann, then a graduate student, in 1964, Ian Hamilton Finlay outlined his plans to treat readers of his brash new journal, Poor. Old. Tired. Horse, to a free lollipop, sellotaped to the magazine’s cover. Like many of his plans from this period it came to nothing. In any case, sugar and spice weren’t really Finlay’s thing ...

Time of the Assassin

Michael Wood, 26 January 1995

Proust and the Sense of Time 
by Julia Kristeva, translated by Stephen Bann.
Faber, 103 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 571 16880 9
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Le Temps sensible: Proust et l’expérience littéraire 
by Julia Kristeva.
Gallimard, 451 pp., January 1995, 2 07 073116 2
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The Old Man and the Wolves 
by Julia Kristeva, translated by Barbara Bray.
Columbia, 183 pp., £15, January 1995, 0 231 08020 4
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... they were essentially the same thing (‘Does this mean the return of the biographical subject?’ Stephen Bann disingenuously asks in his Introduction), as if writing were just a feeble disguise for lived experience. Proust evokes the death of a grandmother, but we all know he means his mother. The objection to this kind of stuff is not that we want to ...

Anger and Dismay

Denis Donoghue, 19 July 1984

Literary Education: A Revaluation 
by James Gribble.
Cambridge, 182 pp., £16.50, November 1983, 0 521 25315 2
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Reconstructing Literature 
edited by Laurence Lerner.
Blackwell, 218 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 631 13323 2
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Counter-Modernism in Current Critical Theory 
by Geoffrey Thurley.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 33436 1
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... theory are tourists: mid-Atlantic figures like Frank Kermode and Tony Tanner, or Francophiles like Stephen Heath and Stephen Bann. Samuel Johnson had moral principles, but nothing like a theory of literature: he didn’t need one. The force of English common sense is that it leaves you free to deal with the things that ...

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