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Diary

Victor Sage: On Lorna Sage, 7 June 2001

... When I was fifteen and a half I received a letter from my new friend Lorna Stockton which announced that she was reading T.S. Eliot, ‘in a tree’. I stared at these words in alarm: who was this T.S. Eliot? Trees, for me, were climbing frames full of cunningly shaped, preferably fatal, challenges to ascent and had no relation to books. Books were read indoors, stiffly, with both knees drawn together, at a table, the pages turned with quavering, elderly care ...

Signora Zabaggy

Michael Rose, 2 August 1984

All Visitors Ashore 
by C.K. Stead.
Harvill, 150 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 00 271009 9
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A Trick of the Light 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Bodley Head, 204 pp., £7.95, July 1984, 0 370 30589 2
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Dividing Lines 
by Victor Sage.
Chatto, 166 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 7011 2811 9
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... had found the nerve to drop what are surely now the played-out conventions of mainstream realism. Victor Sage has, sometimes. And it is on those occasions that his pieces, never less than dexterous, come alive. The first five stories in Dividing Lines concern reduction, diminution and extinction – of identity, of feeling, of writing itself. His ...

Poor Darling

Jean McNicol, 21 March 1996

Vera Brittain: A Life 
by Paul Berry and Mark Bostridge.
Chatto, 581 pp., £25, October 1995, 0 7011 2679 5
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Vera Brittain: A Feminist Life 
by Deborah Gorham.
Blackwell, 330 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 631 14715 2
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... romantic and morbid inclinations. After Roland’s death she described her brother and his friend Victor Richardson as looking ‘tall and fine and knightly ... like courtiers without a king’. As Gorham points out, during the war Brittain lost much of her earlier spiky assertiveness and was content to play the more traditional self-sacrificing role of the ...

Invented Antiquities

Anthony Grafton, 27 July 2017

Baroque Antiquity: Archaeological Imagination in Early Modern Europe 
by Victor Plahte Tschudi.
Cambridge, 320 pp., £64.99, September 2016, 978 1 107 14986 1
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... he relapse in his last years into the simple piety of his German youth? One of the many virtues of Victor Plahte Tschudi’s book is that it takes Kircher’s efforts in Christian archaeology seriously, and integrates them into a larger story: the story of what the author calls ‘baroque archaeology’, which flourished in Rome from around 1580 to ...

Seeing Things

John Bayley, 18 July 1996

The World, the World 
by Norman Lewis.
Cape, 293 pp., £18.99, April 1996, 0 224 04234 3
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Omnibus: ‘A Dragon Apparent’, ‘Golden Earth’, ‘A Goddess in the Stones’ 
by Norman Lewis.
Picador, 834 pp., £9.99, January 1996, 0 330 33780 7
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... the cuckoo being heard. All was not lost, however. Like Voltaire or an eastern philosopher sage, Lewis set himself to do what could be done. He created a wilderness which gradually repopulated itself. As he did so he mused on the curious habits of the London motorists who came at weekends to sit in their cars and survey the ...

Under the Loincloth

Frank Kermode, 3 April 1997

The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion 
by Leo Steinberg.
Chicago, 417 pp., £23.95, January 1997, 0 226 77187 3
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... what St Anne is really doing in the Hans Baldung Grien woodcut, I think Steinberg is the victor. In a sense this is the argument he needs to win, if his thesis is to survive, so it is well that he wins it. We have the paintings, he says, and if we consent to look at them rather than adopt the unimaginative, unseeing habits of art historians unhappy ...

John Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 21 September 2017

... happier at the LRB – you could see it on his face – but then no one minds being treated like a sage. I haven’t spoken about aspects of John’s professional life that I should have spoken about: his translations – Stendhal, Victor Hugo, Proust, Georges Perec and several others. Or his books: on structuralism, on ...

Aphrodite bends over Stalin

John Lloyd, 4 April 1996

... of classical and modern music, and add to the growing popularity of both. In Omon Ra, a novel by Victor Pelevin published in 1992, the eponymous hero declares: ‘I realised at once and early on that only weightlessness can give man genuine freedom which is why all my life I’ve been bored by all those Western radio voices and those books by various ...

The pleasure of not being there

Peter Brooks, 18 November 1993

Benjamin Constant: A Biography 
by Dennis Wood.
Routledge, 321 pp., £40, June 1993, 0 415 01937 0
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Isabelle de Charrière (Belle de Zuylen): A Biography 
by C.P Courtney.
Voltaire Foundation, 810 pp., £49, August 1993, 0 7294 0439 0
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... Paris salons before publication – as Rousseau had done years before with his Confessions. Victor de Broglie (husband of Albertine de Staël, probably Constant’s daughter) gives an account of one such reading, at Madame Récamier’s, where Constant broke into sobs as he neared the end: everyone present, already very moved, began crying as ...

Quashed Quotatoes

Michael Wood: Finnegans Wake, 16 December 2010

Finnegans Wake 
by James Joyce, edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon.
Houyhnhnm, 493 pp., £250, March 2010, 978 0 9547710 1 0
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Joyce’s Disciples Disciplined 
edited by Tim Conley.
University College Dublin, 185 pp., £42.50, May 2010, 978 1 906359 46 1
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... contribution. The other essays are by Marcel Brion, Frank Budgen, Stuart Gilbert, Eugene Jolas, Victor Llona, Robert McAlmon, Thomas McGreevy, Elliot Paul, John Rodker, Robert Sage and William Carlos Williams, and there are two ‘letters of protest’, the second written in a sort of Finneganese, and long thought to have ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible, 20 February 2014

The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... a triple layer of imaginary fictions: the book concerns an anonymous amateur scholar who reveres a sage called de Selby whose (imaginary) works – including Golden Hours and Country Album – are listed with footnotes and page numbers, alongside (invented) critical works on de Selby (including Conspectus of the de Selby Dialectic), and also a meta-commentary ...

No Bottle

Rose George: Water, 18 December 2014

Drinking Water: A History 
by James Salzman.
Overlook Duckworth, 320 pp., £9.99, October 2013, 978 0 7156 4528 4
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Parched City: A History of London’s Public and Private Drinking Water 
by Emma Jones.
Zero Books, 361 pp., £17.99, June 2013, 978 1 78099 158 0
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Water 4.0: The Past, Present and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource 
by David Sedlak.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, March 2014, 978 0 300 17649 0
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... four and one-half million human beings than to contaminate the Thames with it at heavy expense.’ Victor Hugo was lyrical about the loss: the ‘tumbrils of mud’ that made up nightsoil were ‘the meadow in flower, the green grass, wild thyme, thyme and sage, they are game, they are cattle, they are the satisfied bellows ...

England prepares to leave the world

Neal Ascherson, 17 November 2016

... the 1970s pretence that Britain was still at the top table of the Big Three or Four, a Victor Power of the Second World War which should never be classed with mere nation-states like France or Albania. Back then, the media and politics thrived on the patriot superlative: this or that British bridge or factory chimney or ancient monument regulation ...

Jottings, Scraps and Doodles

Adam Shatz: Lévi-Strauss, 3 November 2011

Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory 
by Patrick Wilcken.
Bloomsbury, 375 pp., £30, November 2011, 978 0 7475 8362 2
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... 1941, he boarded the Capitaine Paul-Lemerle along with 350 other ‘undesirables’, among them Victor Serge, who described the ship as ‘a kind of floating concentration camp’. Lévi-Strauss found the ascetic Serge unapproachable, but while docked in Casablanca he struck up a lasting friendship with André Breton, with whom, Wilcken writes, he shared ...

Dégringolade

Perry Anderson: The Fall of France, 2 September 2004

La France qui tombe 
by Nicolas Baverez.
Perrin, 134 pp., €5.50, January 2004, 2 262 02163 5
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La Face cachée du ‘Monde’: Du contre-pouvoir aux abus de pouvoir 
by Pierre Péan and Philippe Cohen.
Mille et Une Nuits, 631 pp., €24, February 2003, 2 84205 756 2
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... The Resistance had saved its honour, and Potsdam its face, but it was a survivor rather than a victor power. Economically, France was still a predominantly rural society, with a per capita income a little over half of the British standard. Sociologically, the peasantry remained by far its largest class: 45 per cent of the population. Politically, the ...

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