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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Alice in Wonderland’, 25 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland 
directed by Tim Burton.
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... The title of Tim Burton’s new film plays an elegant and dizzying little game, entirely in keeping with its tone and theme. This movie shows us Alice in Wonderland but it is not a film of Alice in Wonderland, or indeed of Through the Looking-Glass, although most of its characters are drawn from these two books ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Dark Knight’ , 14 August 2008

The Dark Knight 
directed by Christopher Nolan.
July 2008
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... the last two of those films, directed by Joel Schumacher, but the first two, both directed by Tim Burton, have much to recommend them – not least the presence of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, whose cheerful idea of havoc, very fine in its way, if essentially identical to what Nicholson is up to in most of his other movies, offers a very good point ...

Red silk is the best blood

David Thomson: Sondheim, 16 December 2010

Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-81), with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes 
by Stephen Sondheim.
Virgin, 445 pp., £30, October 2010, 978 0 7535 2258 5
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... he is more than a song-writer. He is a dramatist. Thus, the recent film of Sweeney Todd (by Tim Burton, and generally approved by Sondheim) is horribly bloody and foolishly sexy, while Sweeney Todd on stage (in its several forms) is a tragic ritual of unmatched intensity where red silk is the best blood. Occasionally, Sondheim does reveal his real ...

It’s alive!

Christopher Tayler: The cult of Godzilla, 3 February 2005

Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters 
by William Tsutsui.
Palgrave, 240 pp., £8.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6474 2
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... the human cost of kaiju eiga before ending on a paradoxical note of triumphant affirmation: Tim Burton once said that he wanted to grow up to be the actor inside the Godzilla suit. It is not a glamorous job, though. Kenpachiro Satsuma has suffered oxygen deprivation, nearly drowned, concussed his head during one stunt fall, almost burned his ...

Death in Florence

Charles Nicholl, 23 February 2012

... and below this a crudely incised figure of a skeleton with a walking stick, like something from a Tim Burton movie. On the recto of folio 105, under the date 3 November 1448, is the entry found by Milanesi. It is the first of nine burials listed for that day. A cursory examination reveals two things: first, that the name of the dead painter is not ...


Megan Vaughan: Explorers of the Nile, 8 March 2012

Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure 
by Tim Jeal.
Faber, 510 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 571 24975 6
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... In the course of twenty years in the mid-19th century a group of British explorers – Richard Burton, John Hanning Speke, David Livingstone, Samuel Baker (with his wife, Florence), Henry Morton Stanley and James Grant – slogged out on their respective expeditions through East and Central Africa, and engaged in an intense and bitter battle over who ...

I thought you were incredible

Bee Wilson: Elizabeth Taylor’s Magic, 16 November 2023

Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit and Glamour of an Icon 
by Kate Andersen Brower.
HarperCollins, 495 pp., £25, December 2022, 978 0 00 843582 0
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... for two things: her intense screen beauty and her many marriages (eight of them, two to Richard Burton). But at least as central to her life were her close and enduring friendships with men, some gay (like Rock Hudson), others heterosexual (like Farrell). Sometimes, Farrell took her to the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she had been going ...


Malise Ruthven, 2 June 1983

The Helen Smith Story 
by Paul Foot and Ron Smith.
Fontana, 418 pp., £1.95, February 1983, 0 00 636536 1
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... privacy of their own apartments. There were no Saudis at the farewell party the Arnots held for Tim Hayter, a New Zealand diver and Penny Arnot’s lover, at their flat on the sixth floor of a Jeddah apartment block in May 1979. There were no other women, except for Helen Smith, a 23-year-old nurse from Yorkshire who worked in the same private hospital as ...

Travelling Text

Marina Warner: ‘The Arabian Nights’, 18 December 2008

The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights 
translated by Malcolm Lyons, with Ursula Lyons.
Penguin, 2715 pp., £125, November 2008, 978 0 14 091166 4
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‘The Arabian Nights’ in Historical Context: Between East and West 
edited by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum.
Oxford, 337 pp., £55, November 2008, 978 0 19 955415 7
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... emotion and toning down many of its adventures, his translation is readable in a way that Richard Burton’s lurid and archaisising version, made fifty years later, is not. Lane expurgated, Burton fantasticated. There have been many wilful translations in the book’s history, a history that in its geographical, linguistic ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford, 12 May 1994

The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... the story itself becomes part of the process of surviving. One of the purest examples of this is Tim O’Brien’s ‘The Man I Killed’, a preternaturally lucid description of a young Vietnamese soldier blown up by the narrator’s grenade. O’Brien’s precise, almost entranced detailing of the star-shaped hole where one of the man’s eyes used to ...

Six Scotches More

Michael Wood: Anthony Powell, 8 February 2001

A Writer's Notebook 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 169 pp., £14.99, February 2001, 0 434 00915 6
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... saw them coming up the street together looking like Culture and Anarchy’; ‘did Tiny Tim not die at all, but grew up to join the firm of Scrooge and Marley and become like Tiny Rowland?’). A ‘Jubilee Ode’ for the Queen runs:Though she may not ponder BorgesWhen she’s cutting meat for corgisAt least a dozen answer to her helmAnd in visiting ...

An Infinity of Novels

Philip Horne, 14 September 1989

A Short Guide to the World Novel: From Myth to Modernism 
by Gilbert Phelps.
Routledge, 397 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 415 00765 8
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The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction 
by John Sutherland.
Longman, 696 pp., £35, March 1989, 0 582 49040 5
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The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel 1875-1914 
by Peter Keating.
Secker, 533 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 436 23248 0
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... to be acknowledged as backward-looking also, not only in its allusions but also in its forms, to Burton, Cervantes, Rabelais and so on. This is taken by Phelps as pulling against his initial statement that, in the colonising metaphor, Sterne ‘mapped out important new territory for the future’. Perhaps it is an impossible task that Phelps has bravely ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... and surveys a number of translators who were information-gatherers for their paymasters (Richard Burton, for example, the maker of a steamy Arabian Nights). Briggs lobbied hard for the job of translating Roland Barthes’s famous lecture series at the Collège de France, and, in spite of being a newcomer to ‘this little art’, was commissioned. Her ...
... and North Wales Electricity Board, renamed Manweb. Littlechild said he had tried to persuade Tim Eggar, energy minister at the time, to intervene. Instead of worrying about the power over customers the takeover would give the Scottish firm, Eggar said he wanted to give Manweb ‘a kick in the pants’. Both companies now belong to Iberdrola of Spain. It ...

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