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Steamy, Seamy

David Margolick: The Mob’s Cuban Kleptocracy, 20 March 2008

The Havana Mob: Gangsters, Gamblers, Showgirls and Revolutionaries in 1950s Cuba 
by T.J. English.
Mainstream, 400 pp., £17.99, September 2007, 978 1 84596 192 3
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... are the hotels the Mob built, monuments of the decadent, lavish mid-century Cuba depicted in T.J. English’s The Havana Mob. As their uniform architecture suggests, they were all built during the period bookended by the reigns of Fulgencio Batista, who seized power in 1952, and Fidel Castro, who sent him packing on New Year’s Eve less than seven years ...

Buildings of England

T.J. Clark, 19 March 2015

... maybe the west tower Of Weasenham St Peter’s, ‘unbuttressed’, says Pevsner, ‘Early English … Note the remarkably ornate north side (Perp), with flushwork decoration.’ It was just over the hill, goddamn it!                                     Major prize for the first … Ruby stood in the road, hands on ...

At the Courtauld

T.J. Clark: Symptoms of Cézannoia, 2 December 2010

... the contemporary shrug. I almost prefer it to the residual symptoms of Cézannoia, especially the English variant of the condition. There’s a bit of all this about in the room at the Courtauld. Well-bred pagans hanging on to the old gods in face of Christianity (or postmodernism), exchanging glances in the deserted temple. My grey beard had company. Oh, but ...

At Tate Britain

T.J. Clark: Paul Nash , 2 February 2017

... Paul Nash​ is as close as we come, many think, to having a strong painter of the English landscape in the 20th century. The uncertainties built into the wording here are part of the point: Nash spent his working life trying to decide if ‘the English landscape’ was something that had an existence, as a value for art, beyond, say, 1918; and what the difference was, in landscape painting, between strength and histrionics; and whether remaining ‘a painter of the English landscape’, with all that followed in terms of a settling of accounts with Constable and Turner, and Blake and Palmer, and Crome and the watercolourists and Ford Madox Brown, was at all compatible with being a painter ‘in the 20th century ...

At the V&A

T.J. Clark: ‘The Cult of Beauty’, 19 May 2011

... indeed, the very voice of modernism – about Albert Moore and Flaming June. There is, however, an English counter-proposal on this very question of nature and beauty, and Arscott’s book has opened our eyes to it. If for some reason the eternal untouchable middle distance of landscape-in-the-eye is foreign to us on our island, or unattainable, then let there ...
Ngaio Marsh: A Life 
by Margaret Lewis.
Chatto, 276 pp., £18, April 1991, 0 7011 3389 9
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... are depicted as the aristocratic Lampreys in the detective story Surfeit of Lampreys. Her view of English society is formed by this first encounter, and persists throughout her novels – to their detriment, it might be considered. In 1955 a BBC memorandum, considering the adaptation of Scales of Justice, remarks: ‘We would have to eliminate the appalling ...

Goethe In Britain

Rosemary Ashton, 19 March 1981

Goethe’s Plays 
translated by Charles Passage.
Benn, 626 pp., £12.95, July 1980, 0 510 00087 8
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The Classical Centre: Goethe and Weimar 1775-1832 
by T.J. Reed.
Croom Helm, 271 pp., £14.95, November 1979, 0 85664 356 4
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Goethe on Art 
translated by John Gage.
Scolar, 251 pp., £10, March 1980, 0 85967 494 0
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The Younger Goethe and the Visual Arts 
by W.D. Robson-Scott.
Cambridge, 175 pp., £19.50, February 1981, 0 521 23321 6
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... Goethe?’ The rest of his essay title supplied the answer: ‘An Enquiry into English Attitudes of Non-Liking towards German Literature’. In the introduction to their translation of the Italian Journey (1962), W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer sought to explain and excuse British ignorance of, and indifference to, Goethe by drawing ...

At the Royal Academy

T.J. Clark: James Ensor, 1 December 2016

... industry – it was Bognor with a large dash of Grimsby. In August 1887 fish packers set on three English boats trying to undersell the locals, and gendarmes shot dead six or more of the rioters, wounding scores of others (the numbers are disputed) before order returned. There is a drawing at the Academy called The Strike, but its first title seems to have ...

Sasha, Stalin and the Gorbachovshchina

T.J. Binyon, 15 September 1988

Children of the Arbat 
by Anatoli Rybakov, translated by Harold Shukman.
Hutchinson, 688 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 09 173742 7
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Pushkin House 
by Andrei Bitov, translated by Susan Brownsberger.
Weidenfeld, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 297 79316 0
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The Queue 
by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Sally Laird.
Readers International, 198 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 9780930523442
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Moscow 2042 
by Vladimir Voinovich, translated by Richard Lourie.
Cape, 424 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 224 02532 5
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The Mushroom-Picker 
by Zinovy Zinik, translated by Michael Glenny.
Heinemann, 282 pp., £11.95, January 1988, 0 434 89735 3
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by Natalya Lowndes.
Hodder, 384 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 340 41060 4
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... out of Soviet literature since the Twenties. It is pleasingly coincidental that its appearance in English should coincide with the first appearance in the Soviet Union of Nabokov’s works, for it is, both in tone and manner, undeniably Nabokovian. Where Rybakov deals with a group, Bitov probes an individual; where Rybakov employs a wide, panoramic sweep and ...

False Moderacy

T.J. Clark: Picasso and Modern British Art, 22 March 2012

Picasso and Modern British Art 
Tate Britain, 15 February 2012 to 15 July 2012Show More
Mondrian Nicholson: In Parallel 
Courtauld Gallery, 16 February 2012 to 20 May 2012Show More
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... and where he ended up is another matter.) The question remains why. What stood in the way of the English doing as well as the Czechs or the Dutch? My answer begins from the special hold here of class on culture. The culture of art in England is genteel. It is tied to Home Counties, late-imperial class values and attitudes in ways – with a depth and ...

Frank Auerbach’s London

T.J. Clark: Frank Auerbach, 10 September 2015

... times I sat staring at the Van Gogh zigzag crows over a cornfield – I had no idea that they were English sunbeams over NW1 – but slowly, and not as a result of an act of judgment (or not one I was aware of), the painting took hold of me. I still didn’t dare, or didn’t bother, to ask who had done it. It took hold of me, and I began to see not just that ...

A Snake, a Flame

T.J. Clark: Blake at the Ashmolean, 5 February 2015

William Blake: Apprentice and Master 
Ashmolean Museum, until 1 March 2015Show More
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... Blake’s intentions … Blake’s poems, especially his epics, seem to me the best poetry in English since Milton, but about Blake’s illustrations my judgment is uncertain. Some of them seem to me very powerful, some do not; but I am in any case not qualified to criticise them. As a critic I have tried to be true to my own experience in reading and ...

In a Pomegranate Chandelier

T.J. Clark: Benedict Anderson, 21 September 2006

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 240 pp., £12.99, September 2006, 1 84467 086 4
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Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 224 pp., £14.99, January 2006, 1 84467 037 6
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... published in the grimness of Ghent. (‘Revolutionary buccaneering’ is about as close as English can get, and nothing will quite dispel the image of bores in the Senate.) The book is a sequel to the earlier story, but a bizarre and catastrophic one. The dead hero of Noli me tangere reappears, resurrected, hiding behind a pair of dark blue ...

Impossible Conception

T.J. Reed: ‘Death in Venice’, 25 September 2014

Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach 
by Philip Kitcher.
Columbia, 254 pp., £20.50, November 2013, 978 0 02 311626 1
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... into more thoroughly. From Romanticism onwards (German Romanticism is quite unlike the French or English versions), a powerful anti-intellectual strand dismissed any display of critical intelligence in favour of a half-mystical, naive spontaneity. What marked the writer out as a Dichter, in verse or in prose, was an immediate response to beauty, a refusal of ...

The Redeemed Vicarage

John Lennard, 12 May 1994

Pictures of Perfection 
by Reginald Hill.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 232392 3
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... been eager to declare obsolete beyond redemption. But other schemata are possible, such as the ‘English’ and ‘American’ varieties (though both sorts are written in both places). The English model, as famously discussed by Auden in his essay ‘The Guilty Vicarage’, is essentially hermetic (the country weekend, the ...

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