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Strange Love

William Boyd, 1 December 1983

The Africans 
by David Lamb.
Bodley Head, 363 pp., £12.50, August 1983, 0 370 30968 5
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African Princess 
by Princess Elizabeth of Toro.
Hamish Hamilton, 230 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 241 11002 5
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The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowsa-Brand.
Quartet, 164 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7043 2415 6
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... In an African country, an Englishman – a senior consultant engineer for an oil company – checks into the best hotel in the capital city. The next morning, eating his breakfast by candlelight (the electricity has failed), he is disturbed by a steady drip of water onto the table in front of him. An inquiry soon establishes that this is an overflow from malfunctioning lavatories on the floor above – quite a regular occurrence ...

Survivors

Jonathan Steinberg, 18 December 1986

Strangers in their own Land: Young Jews in Germany and Austria Today 
by Peter Sichrovsky and Thomas Keneally.
Tauris, 177 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 1 85043 033 0
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Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland 
by Malgorzata Niezabitowska and Tomasz Tomaszewski, translated by William Brand and Hanna Dobosiewicz.
Friendly Press, 272 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 914919 05 9
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The Jews in Poland 
edited by Chimen Abramsky, Maciej Jachimczyk and Antony Polonsky.
Blackwell, 264 pp., £29.50, September 1986, 0 631 14857 4
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... On 20 July 1943 the Polish artist Jonasz Stern was executed along with hundreds of other Jews of the Lwow ghetto by SS machine-gun fire. He awoke from a faint to find himself alive, buried under the corpses of the entire neighbourhood, covered in other people’s blood and excrement, the only survivor on Janowski Street. Two of the books reviewed here are about survivors, people who turned right instead of left, ran instead of lingering or lingered instead of running, those who met kindly Polish peasants or had ‘good faces’ – did not look Jewish, that is to say – individuals who survived, crazily, randomly, inexplicably, when everybody else, not just their families but neighbours, associates at work, team-mates, local shopkeepers, their whole world, was murdered ...

Roadblocks

Jeremy Harding, 9 May 1991

Fishing in Africa: A Guide to War and Corruption 
by Andrew Buckoke.
Picador, 227 pp., £17.50, May 1991, 0 330 31895 0
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Africa: Dispatches From a Fragile Continent 
by Blaine Harden.
HarperCollins, 333 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 0 00 215889 2
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The Soccer War 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand.
Granta, 234 pp., £2.99, November 1990, 0 14 014209 6
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... Two of these books are by real journalists – Blaine Harden for the Washington Post, Andrew Buckoke for the Financial Times and others. The third is by a writer, Ryszard Kapuściński, who spent many years masquerading as a correspondent for the Polish news agency, PAP. In covering epic misfortune of the kind one reads about in Africa, all three have learned to talk straight from the shoulder, although Buckoke’s is slightly hunched under the white man’s burden and Kapuściński’s is often set to the wheel of invention, which makes much of his plain speaking deceptive ...

Why did Lady Mary care about William Cragh?

Maurice Keen: A medieval miracle, 5 August 2004

The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory and Colonialism in the Middle Ages 
by Robert Bartlett.
Princeton, 168 pp., £16.95, April 2004, 0 691 11719 5
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... sure he was done for), and restored to life by the intervention of a saint. The Welshman was William Cragh (cragh in Welsh means ‘the scabby’), a follower, it appears, of the Welsh patriot Rhys ap Maredudd. Cragh had been captured by the men of William de Briouze, Lord of Gower, and sentenced by him to hang as a ...

Leave, and Leave Again

William Davies: The Brexit Mentality, 7 February 2019

... the quality of my washing powder, I can simply decline to buy it again, and choose a different brand in future. If enough consumers do the same, the manufacturer will eventually get the message, and either improve its product or get driven out of the market altogether. In a free market, exit is the default way of expressing oneself. Hirschman realised that ...

Welfare in America

William Plowden, 11 July 1991

American Social Welfare Policy: A Structural Approach 
by Howard Karger and David Stoesz.
Longman, 371 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 8013 0193 9
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America’s Misunderstood Welfare State 
by Theodore Marmor, Jerry Mashaw and Philip Harvey.
Basic Books, 268 pp., $22.95, October 1990, 9780465001224
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The American Prospect 
edited by Paul Starr and Robert Kuttner.
New Prospect, 168 pp., $31
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... have decided to abjure a glitzy, splashy high-profile announcement of new programs and a brand-new strategy,’ an official said. ‘We concluded that there were no obvious things we should be doing that we weren’t doing that would work.’ On this a staff member at a right-wing US think tank commented that the War on Poverty was already too glitzy ...

The Fall of the Shah

Malise Ruthven, 4 July 1985

Shah of Shahs 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand.
Quartet, 152 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 7043 2473 3
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The Pride and the Fall: Iran 1974-1979 
by Anthony Parsons.
Cape, 160 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 224 02196 6
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Iran under the Ayatollahs 
by Dilip Hiro.
Routledge, 416 pp., £20, January 1985, 9780710099242
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Obbligato: Notes on a Foreign Service Career 
by William Sullivan.
Norton, 279 pp., £13.95, October 1984, 0 393 01809 1
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Envoy to the Middle World: Adventures in Diplomacy 
by George McGhee.
Harper and Row, 458 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 06 039025 5
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The Persians amongst the English 
by Denis Wright.
Tauris, 273 pp., £17.95, February 1985, 1 85043 002 0
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... expert sufficiently aware of the intellectual currents to provide Parsons with accurate briefings. William Sullivan, US Ambassador to Iran during the crucial two years of the revolution, seems to have been better-informed in this respect, even if his understanding was superficial. ‘Shariati,’ he says, ‘attempted to reconcile socialism with Islam, and ...

Short Cuts

William Davies: Jordan Peterson, 2 August 2018

... alienated from identity politics. If Peterson, Murray and Harris have one thing in common, it is a brand (always carefully tended) of intellectual and political fearlessness. The logo for the O2 event, titled ‘Winning the War of Ideas’, consisted of a grenade made out of a human brain, surrounded by black and yellow hazard stripes suggesting mortal ...

Waldorf’s Birthday Present

Gabriele Annan: The Lovely Langhornes, 7 January 1999

The Langhorne Sisters 
by James Fox.
Granta, 612 pp., £20, November 1998, 1 86207 071 7
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... about Nancy, but leaves out her charm, which was ‘such that we all fell easy victims’, Lord Brand wrote when he first met her. It must have been colossal to make her friends put up with some of the qualities in Fox’s inventory, not to speak of her relentless interference in their affairs. Phyllis gets no ‘character’ subsection in the index, but ...

Genderbait for the Nerds

Christopher Tayler: William Gibson, 22 May 2003

Pattern Recognition 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 356 pp., £16.99, April 2003, 0 670 87559 7
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... that good.’ It’s an effortful business, and, it seems, a full-time job, but hardly unusual in William Gibson’s futuristic fiction, which often features characters whose sensitivity to ambient data borders on the supernaturally acute. His last but one, Idoru (1996), introduced Colin Laney, an ‘intuitive fisher of patterns of information . . . the ...

Termagant

Ian Gilmour: The Cliveden Set, 19 October 2000

The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity 
by Norman Rose.
Cape, 277 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 224 06093 7
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... George in the First World War, and the British Ambassador in Washington in the Second; Robert Brand, thought by Jan Smuts to be ‘the most outstanding member of a very able team’ in South Africa, who became an investment banker and remained easily the best of the set; Geoffrey Dawson, editor of the Times for 26 years, who almost worshipped Neville ...

One Enormous Room

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Council of Trent, 9 May 2013

Trent: What Happened at the Council 
by John O’Malley.
Harvard, 335 pp., £20, January 2013, 978 0 674 06697 7
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... for the pope. Counter-Reformation Rome had plenty of enormous rooms, its skyline punctuated by brand new palaces built by cardinals who sailed through the reforms of the Council of Trent serenely unreformed. ‘As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be’ seemed to be true of them. But one enormous room had made a world of difference to the ...

Vinegar Pie

William Skidelsky: Annie Proulx, 6 March 2003

That Old Ace in the Hole 
by Annie Proulx.
Fourth Estate, 361 pp., £17.99, January 2003, 0 00 715151 9
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... and his business partner, Wayne ‘Bromo’ Redpoll, who specialise in a particularly speculative brand of collectibles known as ‘Art Plastics’, have ‘counted some value’ in Bob. But while Bob has inherited his uncle’s omnivorous interest in other people’s ‘stuff’, he also accepts his parents’ implied belief that he is, as his name ...

Staging Death

Martin Puchner: Ibsen's Modernism, 8 February 2007

Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism: Art, Theatre, Philosophy 
by Toril Moi.
Oxford, 396 pp., £25, August 2006, 0 19 929587 5
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... a desire to distance himself from the theatre. He called the first two texts he wrote in Rome – Brand (1866) and Peer Gynt (1867) – dramatic poems because he wanted to be free of the practical requirements of stage business. Their imaginative power exceeded that of anything he had written before. Brand tackled a serious ...

In the Graveyard of Verse

William Wootten: Vernon Watkins, 9 August 2001

The Collected Poems of Vernon Watkins 
Golgonooza, 495 pp., £16.95, October 2000, 0 903880 73 3Show More
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... a cashier in Cardiff. Failure to adjust to his new life, an obsession with time, and too much William Blake led to fantasies of omnipotence and to a physical assault on his old headmaster. This breakdown – and the vision of redemption that accompanied it – lies behind his later statement that ‘in my 23rd year I suddenly experienced a complete ...

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