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War on God! That is Progress!

Susan Watkins: Paul Lafargue and French socialism, 13 May 1999

Paul Lafargue and the Flowering of French Socialism, 1882-1911 
by Leslie Derfler.
Harvard, 382 pp., £27.95, July 1998, 0 674 65912 0
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... family had by this time exchanged the squalor of Dean Street for the foggy splendour of Haverstock Hill. It was a hospitable, disputatious and largely female household. Lafargue was soon going there twice a day for his meals. Marx himself was taken up with the infant International Working Men’s Association (a fragile coalition of English trade ...

Do put down that revolver

Rosemary Hill, 14 July 2016

The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 406 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 0 224 09945 5
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... by Charlie Chaplin, who seems to have been on everyone’s guest list. Lawrence knew John and Susan Buchan, country-house owners of the new weekending sort, and spent his time with them talking about ‘the Arabs … his muddled masochism and his … disillusion’; Baldwin appears at Warwick Castle and at Madresfield, which was in part the model for ...

From Lying to Leering

Rebecca Solnit: Penis Power, 19 January 2017

... bitched that she was ‘screaming’ and Bob Cusack, the editor of the political newspaper the Hill, said: ‘When Hillary Clinton raises her voice, she loses.’ One could get the impression that a woman should campaign in a sultry whisper, but of course if she did that she would not project power. But if she did project power she would fail as a ...

Fear the fairies

John Gallagher: Early Modern Sleepe, 18 May 2017

Sleep in Early Modern England 
by Sasha Handley.
Yale, 280 pp., £25, August 2016, 978 0 300 22039 1
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... beginning of the 17th century, many were troubled by questions of sleep. The mother of 11-year-old Susan Blundell told Napier that her daughter was ‘now given mutch to sleeping’, and that two days before, she had slept ‘the space of 24 houres but that her sleepe was interrupted with her usuall fites & that very often.’ Margery Dayrell worried that her ...

Jigsaw Mummies

Tom Shippey: Pagan Britain, 6 November 2014

Pagan Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 480 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 19771 6
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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 450 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 1 78185 418 1
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... with Herne the Hunter, who is mentioned in The Merry Wives of Windsor and reimagined in Susan Cooper’s children’s fiction), and even Epona the horse goddess, often thought to lie behind the horse-dominated stories of Rhiannon in the Welsh Mabinogion. Britain is notably lacking in evidence for the cult of Epona that was widespread ...

This happens every day

Michael Wood: On Paul Celan, 29 July 2021

Under the Dome: Walks with Paul Celan 
by Jean Daive, translated by Rosmarie Waldrop.
City Lights, 186 pp., £11.99, November 2020, 978 0 87286 808 3
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Microliths They Are, Little Stones: Posthumous Prose 
by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris.
Contra Mundum, 293 pp., £20, October 2020, 978 1 940625 36 2
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Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry 
by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris.
Farrar, Straus, 549 pp., £32, November 2020, 978 0 374 29837 1
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... heartnear’. Geoffrey Hill had a good time with the title of Celan’s collection Atemwende, or Breathturn (1967). In The Orchards of Syon (2002) he anglicises ‘breathturn’ into ‘turn of breath’. But he also has ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... became a lifelong devotee of ‘its plain narrative, its picture of life as a pilgrimage over hill and dale, where surprising adventures lurked by the wayside, a hard road with now and then long views to cheer the traveller’. There were happy, outdoorsy times in upper Tweeddale, the birthplace of his mother, Helen. A cultured uncle introduced him to ...

Determined to Spin

Susan Watkins, 22 June 2000

The Clear Stream: A Life of Winifred Holtby 
by Marion Shaw.
Virago, 335 pp., £18.99, August 1999, 1 86049 537 0
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... voice’ say in her head: ‘Having nothing, yet possessing all things’. She strode on over the hill, all hobbledehoy and bundled up against the cold, and suddenly filled with that extraordinary elation which springs, Storm Jameson said, ‘from the sense of having lost everything. It is a feeling like no ...


Susan McKay: Jean McConville, 19 December 2013

... informed that skeletal remains had been found by a man out walking with his children on Shelling Hill beach, which is essentially a continuation of Templetown beach. Some members of the family say their mother was identified by a blue nappy pin attached to her cardigan. Helen says this is nonsense. Jean McConville had been shot once in the back of the ...

I want to love it

Susan Pedersen: What on earth was he doing?, 18 April 2019

Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Little, Brown, 800 pp., £35, February 2019, 978 1 4087 0741 8
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... that group into crisis and most of Hobsbawm’s fellow-travellers (E.P. Thompson, Christopher Hill) left the party then or soon afterwards. Hobsbawm did not, concluding that the Soviet invasion, however agonising, was a necessary step in light of the danger of counter-revolution: ‘If we had been in the position of the Soviet government, we should have ...


Bruce Bawer, 2 May 1985

Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald 
by James Mellow.
Souvenir, 569 pp., £15.95, February 1985, 0 285 65001 7
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Home before Dark: A Personal Memoir of John Cheever 
by Susan Cheever.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 297 78376 9
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... the settings changed accordingly, to the fictitious commuter burgs of Bullet Park and Shady Hill.) Like Fitzgerald, Cheever was, in his early novels (The Wapshot Chronicle, The Wapshot Scandal) and in stories like ‘The Enormous Radio’ and ‘The Pot of Gold’, concerned with the fragility of material success and of social status – which is to ...

Mongkut and I

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 30 January 1992

The Romance of the Harem 
by Anna Leonowens, edited by Susan Morgan.
Virginia, 285 pp., £10.50, August 1991, 0 8139 1328 4
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... the truthfulness of her tales should not necessarily cost her her novelist’s licence, since as Susan Morgan observes, ‘there is a long and honourable tradition in English fiction of insisting that a particular book is actually true.’ On the other hand, as Morgan also acknowledges, this particular romance happened to accuse a prominent figure, recently ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... a stir: Donna Tartt, David Leavitt, Mary Gaitskill, Lorrie Moore, Amy Hempel, Nancy Lemann, Susan Minot, Mary Robison, Anderson Ferrell – a cast of dozens. Many of those rookies trained at the literary dojo of the author, editor, creative writing teacher and guru-mentor-mindgamer Gordon Lish, who bore the dashing nickname ‘Captain Fiction’. The ...

English Changing

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1980

The State of the Language 
edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks.
California, 609 pp., £14.95, January 1980, 0 520 03763 4
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... ought to join them, or rather change them and use them in surprising ways, like the poets Geoffrey Hill and Bob Dylan, who is admired for altering ‘Take it to heart’ to ‘Take it to your heart.’ No cliché is irredeemable; we should seize on them, give them, so to speak, a new loss of life, and so contribute to the renovation of the language. Another ...

Warthog Dynamism

David Bromwich, 19 November 2020

... campaign posted a fifty-second ad in which, helped by a cartoon of two boys climbing a hill, she explains the difference between equality (‘equal opportunity’ backed by non-discrimination laws) and ‘equity’ (the equal finish that is assured by a truly equal start). The Biden-Harris combination must have been meant to assure voters of ...

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