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Swiftly Encircling Gloom

Tim Radford, 8 May 1997

Promising The Earth 
by Robert Lamb.
Routledge, 204 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 415 14443 4
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... Ziggy Stardust himself to dedicate a performance to Save the Whale. FoE also took out quarter-page adverts in the Times, signed by famous people. One veteran recalls: ‘We got a call from Peter Scott to say: “Why haven’t you asked HRH to sign it?” That was a day! We knew we had arrived in that field at least.’ It seems fair to say that someone ...

Behaving like Spiders

Tim Flannery: The Holocene summer of social evolution, 24 June 2004

The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilisation 
by Brian Fagan.
Granta, 284 pp., £20, May 2004, 1 86207 644 8
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... which is developed alongside two innovative hypotheses. ‘Climate,’ he writes on his final page, ‘has helped shape civilisation, but not by being benign.’ In many ways this is a climatic version of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’; but it also represents a novel approach, for until now archaeologists have been more inclined to point ...

Full of Words

Tim Parks: ‘Arturo’s Island’, 15 August 2019

Arturo’s Island 
by Elsa Morante, translated by Ann Goldstein.
Pushkin, 370 pp., £9.99, May 2019, 978 1 78227 495 7
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... of the original, something Quigly frequently alters. This seems crucial on the novel’s first page where Morante sets up three short paragraphs, the first establishing the boast contained in the name, which is then dismissed with ‘unfortunately’, which opens the second paragraph. This second paragraph then speaks of Arturo’s feelings for the person ...

My Hermit’s Life

Tim Parks: Chateaubriand, 27 September 2018

Memoirs from beyond the Grave 1768-1800 
by François-René de Chateaubriand, translated by Alex Andriesse.
NYRB, 512 pp., £12.99, January 2018, 978 1 68137 129 0
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... Chateaubriand calculates, ‘twenty times societies have formed and dissolved around me.’ On page 30 of a work that would run to three volumes, the central theme is emphatically stated: ‘This impossibility of duration and continuity in human relations, the profound forgetfulness that follows us wherever we go, the invincible silence that fills our ...

Unfashionable Victims

Charles Simic, 31 July 1997

The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia 
by Tim Judah.
Yale, 368 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 300 07113 2
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... were using much the same language. With complete assurance, editorials, columns and op-ed page articles purported to locate characteristics that have supposedly been present for centuries in these little-known Balkan peoples. For many Western commentators talking about the Serbs was a way of defining their own cultural superiority. Offering their ...

Laertes has a daughter

Bee Wilson: The Redgraves, 6 June 2013

The Redgraves: A Family Epic 
by Donald Spoto.
Robson, 361 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84954 394 1
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The House of Redgrave: The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty 
by Tim Adler.
Aurum, 336 pp., £20, July 2012, 978 1 84513 623 9
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... collective art of the Redgraves is true.’ There is less reverence and more gossip to be had from Tim Adler’s The House of Redgrave, which describes Vanessa wrapping a napkin around her head and singing ‘Edelweiss’ at Natasha’s wedding, accompanied by Rupert Everett. On the other hand, Adler has a curious obsession with Vanessa’s second-rate film ...

Bats in Smoke

Emily Gould: Tim Parks, 2 August 2012

Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing 
by Tim Parks.
Vintage, 335 pp., £8.99, July 2011, 978 0 09 954888 1
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The Server 
by Tim Parks.
Harvill Secker, 288 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 1 84655 577 0
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... At some point in his mid-forties, the novelist Tim Parks developed a terrible pain, near-constant and located in embarrassing places: his lower abdomen and crotch. ‘I had quite a repertoire of pains at this point: a general smouldering tension throughout the abdomen, a sharp jab in the perineum, an electric shock darting down the inside of the thighs, an ache in the small of the back, a shivery twinge in the penis itself ...

Forms and Inspirations

Vikram Seth, 29 September 1988

... clarity of argument, compression, and honesty of feeling. I couldn’t blather all over the page as I found I could and did when I attempted free verse. Pouring my spirit into a cup into which some poet I admired had poured his, I found I was seized with an energy that came from outside myself. My inspiration was heightened; and because I was ashamed to ...

Doing something

John Dunn, 17 March 1988

Politics: A Work of Constructive Social Theory 
by Roberto Mangabeira Unger.
Cambridge, 256 pp., £25, January 1988, 0 521 32974 4
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The Critical Legal Studies Movement 
by Roberto Mangabeira Unger.
Harvard, 128 pp., £15.25, October 1986, 0 674 17735 5
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W.A. Mozart: ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ 
by Tim Carter.
Cambridge, 180 pp., £27.50, February 1988, 0 521 30267 6
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... liberal, prudente e saggio to those of a giovinastro and a paggio (a callow adolescent and a mere page). The page Cherubino, despite his giddy youth and relatively menial role, is of course a lad of good family. The post in the Count’s regiment to which he is so unavailingly despatched carries the rank of an officer; and ...

Target Practice

Tim Whitmarsh: Lucian, 25 February 2010

Lucian: A Selection 
edited by Neil Hopkinson.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £19.99, October 2008, 978 0 521 84200 6
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... absolute difference (or ‘otherness’). From this vantage point, Greek culture exists not on the page, but in the alien world of rituals, sacrifices, scapegoats and goat-songs that lies behind it. But for how much longer will this compartmentalisation of ‘modernising’ and ‘primitivising’ approaches be sustainable? There are strong indications of an ...

A Pair of Yellow Gloves

Tim Parks: Stendhal’s ‘Italian Chronicles’, 18 October 2017

Italian Chronicles 
by Stendhal, translated by Raymond MacKenzie.
Minnesota, 344 pp., £20.99, May 2017, 978 1 5179 0011 3
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... flies elsewhere, this book is thus interrupted.’ No doubt this is why the marvellous 500-page Charterhouse of Parma (1839) had to be written in just 52 days, during which time the author shut himself up, as if in a prison, accepting no visits, working non-stop. At the centre of that novel is a prison and a hero in love, so in love that he is happy to ...

Very Tight Schedule

Theo Tait, 1 June 2000

Driving the Heart 
by Jason Brown.
Cape, 224 pp., £10, January 2000, 0 224 06053 8
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... and never take out the trash. I look out my window at a funeral home.’ By the end of the second page – as is the case in so many American short stories – the long shadow of Raymond Carver has fallen unmistakably over the narrative. The narrator describes his unusual line of work and various grotesque experiences from his past in an apparently ...

Standing on the Wharf, Weeping

Greg Dening: Australia, 25 September 2003

The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia 
by John Gascoigne.
Cambridge, 233 pp., £45, September 2002, 0 521 80343 8
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Looking for Blackfella’s Point: An Australian History of Place 
by Mark McKenna.
New South Wales, 268 pp., £14.50, August 2002, 0 86840 644 9
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Words for Country: Landscape and Language in Australia 
by Tim Bonyhady and Tom Griffiths.
New South Wales, 253 pp., £15.50, October 2001, 0 86840 628 7
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The Land Is a Map: Placenames of Indigenous Origin in Australia 
edited by Luise Hercus, Flavia Hodges and Jane Simpson.
Pandanus, 304 pp., AUS $39.95, October 2002, 1 74076 020 4
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... treated so gently.’ It would take only two hundred years for this earth to be pounded into dust. Tim Bonyhady and Tom Griffiths are among Australia’s most creative historians. Griffiths’s Hunters and Collectors: The Antiquarian Imagination in Australia (1996) has become the most quoted work of Australian history in new research, and Bonyhady’s The ...

End-Point

Neal Ascherson: Imre Kertész, 3 August 2006

Fateless 
by Imre Kertész, translated by Tim Wilkinson.
Vintage, 262 pp., £6.99, April 2006, 0 09 950252 6
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Liquidation 
by Imre Kertész, translated by Tim Wilkinson.
Harvill Secker, 144 pp., £12.99, September 2006, 1 84343 235 8
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... into any convention there may be for fiction about the Holocaust and the camps. On the very first page we meet in Gyuri an observant, detached, self-obsessed boy who notices all details with crystal precision, and yet has no interest in the motives of other people, or in the background to what is taking place, unless they impact on his own hour-to-hour ...

Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher

John Gray: The Tory Future, 22 April 2010

The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 446 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 7456 4857 6
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Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection 
by Peter Snowdon.
Harper Press, 419 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 00 730725 8
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... of an irreversible transformation in his party that has set it firmly back on the road to power. Tim Bale’s exhaustive and authoritative account is hedged throughout with academic caution, but it concludes in terms that treat the Conservatives’ return to office as a foregone conclusion: ‘just as was the case for Margaret Thatcher, Cameron will ...

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