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Whitehall Farce

Paul Foot, 12 October 1989

The Intelligence Game: Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage 
by James Rusbridger.
Bodley Head, 320 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 370 31242 2
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The Truth about Hollis 
by W.J. West.
Duckworth, 230 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7156 2286 2
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... a Russian spy in MI5. Some say the spy was Sir Roger Hollis, the director. A man called Nigel West wrote a whole book saying the mole wasn’t Hollis: it was his deputy, Graham Mitchell (a former official of the Tory Party). Now we have another equally boring and unimpressive book by W.J. West, who says it was Hollis ...

Going on the air

Philip French, 2 May 1985

Orwell: The War Broadcasts 
edited by W.J. West.
Duckworth/BBC, 304 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 7156 1916 0
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... or teaching at Birkbeck College, which Professor Crick would doubtless think time well spent? W.J. West believes his book gives a clear answer. On its first page he asserts: ‘The accepted verdict that these years were largely wasted is decisively overturned.’ And on the final page of his introductory essay he makes a powerful point about the literary bias ...

Valorising Valentine Brown

Patricia Craig, 5 September 1985

Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939 
by W.J. McCormack.
Oxford, 423 pp., £27.50, June 1985, 0 19 812806 1
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Across a Roaring Hill 
edited by Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley.
Blackstaff, 258 pp., £10.95, July 1985, 0 85640 334 2
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Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980 
by Seamus Deane.
Faber, 199 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 571 13500 5
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Escape from the Anthill 
by Hubert Butler.
Lilliput, 342 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 946640 00 9
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... the adulterated and the ‘real’ Ireland, though not between the real and the chimerical. The West of Ireland was the place in which the country’s strongest substance was thought to reside (as McCormack points out). It was through his contact with the West that Padraig Pearse devised his prescription for a nation (as ...

Vous êtes belle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 8 January 1987

Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life 1886-1914 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 178 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 85635 484 8
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Henri Alain-Fournier: Towards the Lost Domain: Letters from London 1905 
translated by W.J. Strachan.
Carcanet, 222 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 85635 674 3
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The Lost Domain 
by Henri Alain-Fournier, translated by Frank Davison.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 212262 2
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... always wanted something which touches, in the sense of putting a hand on your shoulder,’ and West London did touch him. Oxford University Press, for their part, have reissued The Lost Domain, Frank Davison’s tried and true translation of Le Grand Meaulnes. It is a handsome edition in bold type, rather like a child’s book, although Le Grand ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... categories which too often close enquiry before it has commenced. Some in the West are prisoners of vast undiscriminating categories ... and bring those ready-made slide-rules to measure, and often to obliterate, the complexities of the past.’ That could stand as motto for all three works. Beyond the Frontier is hacked from the same hard ...

Cooking it up

Rupert Christiansen, 19 January 1989

Maria: Callas Remembered 
by Nadia Stancioff.
Sidgwick, 264 pp., £13.95, April 1988, 0 283 99645 5
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Callas at Juilliard: The Master Classes 
by John Ardoin.
Robson, 300 pp., £16.95, April 1988, 0 86051 504 4
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Callas as they saw her 
edited by David Lowe.
Robson, 264 pp., £6.95, April 1988, 9780860514961
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The Great Caruso 
by Michael Scott.
Hamish Hamilton, 322 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 241 11954 5
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Chaliapin 
by Victor Borovsky.
Hamish Hamilton, 630 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 241 12254 6
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... forcefully the importance of the part Chaliapin played in the export of Russian culture to the West, his art combining fruitfully with that of the painter Repin, the Ballets Russes, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko’s theatrical reforms, as well as with the music of Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninov. The book is well documented and ...

Nora Barnacle: Pictor Ignotus

Sean O’Faolain, 2 August 1984

... of Achill. Now! Here is a truly rare piece! An Augustus John sketch I picked up in a pub in the West of Ireland.’ (From Lennox, ‘A truly rare piece by Mossy O’B.’) ‘And right there, in the middul of them awl is little mee – a genuine Prunella.’ ‘The only genuine thing,’ Lennox whispered, ‘in the room. A queen,’ he loudly ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney, 14 October 1999

‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... there. Slept sweeter Than kings the country folk in thatch or slate shade. Peace had the grey West, fierce clouds in its power. Out on much-Severn I thought waves readied for laughter, And the fireswinger promised behind elm-pillars Showed of a day worthy of such dawn to come after. There’s little of autumn and none of summer’s flowering and fruition ...

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