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The Power of Sunshine

Alexander Cockburn, 10 January 1991

City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 462 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 86091 303 1
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... form of Mike Davis. In his epigraph Davis situates himself and his ambitions with a quotation from Walter Benjamin: ‘The superficial inducement, the exotic, the picturesque has an effect only on the foreigner. To portray a city, a native must have other, deeper motives – motives of one who travels into the past instead of into the distance. A native’s ...

Against the Pussyfoots

Steven Shapin: George Saintsbury, 10 September 2009

Notes on a Cellar-Book 
by George Saintsbury, edited by Thomas Pinney.
California, 348 pp., £20.95, October 2008, 978 0 520 25352 0
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... that ‘the interesting tenant of Amerongen’ who liked German sparkling wine was the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm. To get maximum value out of these few pages, you should also be capable of recognising allusions to Walter Scott’s Kenilworth and to the ‘War Song of Dinas Vawr’, a poem from Thomas Love Peacock’s The ...

Weasel, Magpie, Crow

Mark Ford: Edward Thomas, 1 January 2009

Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems 
edited by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 335 pp., £12, June 2008, 978 1 85224 746 1
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... life of the last three years’, but also elicited the first of several fine appreciations from Walter de la Mare, who was not only aware of Eastaway’s real identity, but knew of his death just three weeks earlier. De la Mare described the poems as ‘final and isolated’, while also pinpointing ‘a kind of endlessness in the experience they tell ...

Diary

Thomas Laqueur: My Dead Fathers, 7 September 2006

... black granite tombstone in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery in Hamburg, an Elysium of the burgher dead: ‘Walter Laqueur MD’ is inscribed in Jugendstil characters, the same lettering in which ‘Dr Laqueur’ appears on the plaque that was once outside his radiology office and is now on my gate in Berkeley. There were also two pictures of him on my grandmother’s ...

After Seven Hundred Years

Neal Ascherson: Ghosts of East Prussia, 24 May 2012

Forgotten Land: Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia 
by Max Egremont.
Picador, 356 pp., £9.99, April 2012, 978 0 330 45660 9
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... who ‘loathed democracy’. It was Januschau, himself a Reichstag deputy, who said that the kaiser should be able to disband the Reichstag with a lieutenant and ten soldiers, and who called for preventive war against France. He thought that the British were far too soft with the Irish, whose impertinent claims should be smashed with the ruthlessness ...

Impervious to Draughts

Rosemary Hill: Das englische Haus, 22 May 2008

The English House 
by Hermann Muthesius, edited by Dennis Sharp, translated by Janet Seligman and Stewart Spencer.
Frances Lincoln, 699 pp., £125, June 2007, 978 0 7112 2688 3
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... was given a post as technical attaché to the German Embassy with a brief to report back to the Kaiser on art, architecture, technology and railways. He was not, despite what was later said, a spy, merely an unusually observant visitor who already knew what to look out for. He and Anna took a house, The Priory, well away from the diplomatic quarter in Arts ...

Nora Barnacle: Pictor Ignotus

Sean O’Faolain, 2 August 1984

... chief justices, lords lieutenant, lords mayor, George Moore, Sir William Orpen, Sir John Lavery, Walter Osborne, Jack Yeats, my famous namesake his brother Bill, Padraic Colum, John Millington Synge, young painters like Paddy Tuohy who really did paint old J.S. Joyce and died of his own hand, poor Sean O’Sullivan who died of liquor and love and ...
Stalin’s Spy: Richard Sorge and the Tokyo Espionage Ring 
by Robert Whymant.
Tauris, 368 pp., £25, October 1996, 1 86064 044 3
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... lineage was even more exotic than Philby’s: while his father was a staunch subject of the Kaiser, his paternal great-uncle, Friedrich Adolf Sorge, knew Marx and Engels, and had served as Secretary-General of the First International when it moved to New York in the 1870s. Both Sorge and Philby enjoyed privileged educations which turned them, at least ...

Even If You Have to Starve

Ian Penman: Mod v. Trad, 29 August 2013

Mod: A Very British Style 
by Richard Weight.
Bodley Head, 478 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 224 07391 2
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... its most vivid street-level expression in avid consumerism. As Peter Gay put it, paraphrasing Walter Gropius: ‘The cure for the ills of modernity is more, and the right kind, of modernity.’ This could be Mod speaking. Gay’s reflection is from his 1968 book Weimar Culture, and its subtitle is also applicable here: The Outsider as Insider. The tension ...

On the library coffee-table

Clive James, 17 March 1983

An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration 
by Mario Praz, translated by William Weaver.
Thames and Hudson, 396 pp., £35, March 1982, 0 500 23358 6
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Degas 
by Keith Roberts.
Phaidon, 48 pp., £10.50, March 1982, 0 7148 2226 4
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Monet at Argenteuil 
by Paul Tucker.
Yale, 211 pp., £15, April 1982, 0 300 02577 7
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... of rooms, some preserved but so many lost, the book is an imaginative reconstruction, like Walter Mehring’s Die Verlorene Bibliothek, in which Mehring, who had to leave his library behind for the Nazi firebrands when he fled, reaches back, after the war, to fondle his books through memory. So really dilettantism, if it is an accusation, is just about ...

Lectures about Heaven

Thomas Laqueur: Forgiving Germany, 7 June 2007

Five Germanys I Have Known 
by Fritz Stern.
Farrar, Straus, 560 pp., £11.25, July 2007, 978 0 374 53086 0
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... the great intellectual presence in the extended Stern family, was forced out as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at Berlin-Dahlem. (He resigned before he was fired.) ‘In my whole life,’ he confided to Einstein, ‘I have never felt so Jewish as now.’ Young Fritz, too, came to feel for the first time ...

While Statues Sleep

Thomas Laqueur, 18 June 2020

Learning from the Germans: Confronting Race and the Memory of Evil 
by Susan Neiman.
Allen Lane, 415 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 0 241 26286 3
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... does not have to rename every Bismarck Allee or tear down the statues of the Iron Chancellor or Kaiser Wilhelm in order to discredit militant nationalism or Prussian militarism. Utter defeat in 1945 and the geopolitical consequences of the war rendered the Second Reich history and transformed its memorials into heritage. (It’s true that Germany has ...

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