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Can you give my son a job?

Slavoj Žižek: China’s Open Secret

21 October 2010
The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers 
by Richard McGregor.
Allen Lane, 302 pp., £25, June 2010, 978 1 84614 173 7
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... Khrushchev’s speech in 1956 denouncing Stalin’s crimes was a political act from which, as his biographer WilliamTaubman put it, ‘the Soviet regime never fully recovered, and neither did he.’ Although it was plainly opportunistic, there was just as plainly more to it than that, a kind of reckless excess that cannot ...

Oo, Oo!

Neal Ascherson: Khrushchev the Stalinist

21 August 2003
Khrushchev: The Man and His Era 
by William Taubman.
Free Press, 876 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 7432 3165 1
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... the fat little fists still punching the air. He might be only a peasant boy who had gone barefoot and wiped his nose on his sleeve, but he was not going to be treated like this by God or man. Reading WilliamTaubman’s tremendous biography, I see that this sort of thing kept happening to Khrushchev. Take the grand picnic for the Writers’ Union in May 1957, one of his many catastrophic meetings with ...

Big Man Walking

Neal Ascherson: Gorbachev’s Dispensation

14 December 2017
Gorbachev: His Life and Times 
by William Taubman.
Simon and Schuster, 880 pp., £25, September 2017, 978 1 4711 4796 8
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... himself, leaving enemies injured but not terminated. Those enemies, when they got over their astonishment, never forgave him for showing such ‘weakness’. Neither did his friends. It took WilliamTaubman almost twenty years to complete his wonderful Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. This Gorbachev biography took a mere 11. And yet it is in some ways an even more heavyweight product. The research is ...

Anti-Liberalism

Alan Brinkley

7 January 1988
Armed Truce 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 667 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 241 11843 3
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The Wise Men 
by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas.
Faber, 853 pp., £15.95, January 1987, 0 571 14606 6
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Ike 
by Piers Brendon.
Secker, 478 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 436 06813 3
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May-Day 
by Michael Beschloss.
Faber, 494 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 571 14593 0
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... to recognise that the West was not simply reacting to a force it could not in any way change or control, that its own actions and misperceptions played a vital role in shaping Soviet behaviour. WilliamTaubman, one of the most astute recent students of Soviet foreign policy (and himself a critic of many revisionist assumptions), has presented a far more persuasive picture in his excellent book ...

Idiot Mambo

Robert Taubman

16 April 1981
Cities of the Red Night 
by William​ Burroughs.
Calder, 332 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 0 7145 3784 5
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The Tokyo-Montana Express 
by Richard Brautigan.
Cape, 258 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 224 01907 4
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... to the episodes of a boys’ adventure story in the style of J.M. Barrie, which has such evocative lines as ‘Feb. 28, 1702: Today we were captured by pirates.’ Some absurdities are probably from William Beckford rather than Barrie: ‘The two youths then stepped on board, the one with his gold-braided coat open at the waist to show his slender brown chest and stomach, a brace of pistols inlaid with ...

Men at Sea

Robert Taubman

6 November 1980
Rites of Passage 
by William​ Golding.
Faber, 278 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 571 11639 6
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... William Golding’s working material, the stuff he lights upon and makes his novels out of – and which he regularly proceeds to subvert or transform to his purpose, introducing levels of meaning ...
20 December 1979
Shikasta 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 365 pp., £5.95
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Fergus Lamont 
by Robin Jenkins.
Canongate, 293 pp., £7.95
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A Married Man 
by Piers Paul Read.
Alison Press/Secker, 264 pp., £5.25
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And Again? 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 267 pp., £5.95
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... Doris Lessing calls it, thus has much in common with popular non-fiction offering similar interpretations of the planet’s history. And something in common, too, with the myth-making in Rousseau or William Morris that offers visions of hope or disaster for mankind. The myth-making here seems, by comparison, unpersuasive – being vague on the lost values of the past (‘voluntary submission to the ...

Cervantics

Robert Taubman

7 October 1982
Monsignor Quixote 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 221 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 370 30923 5
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... There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’ Perhaps rather carefully, the words at the head of Graham Greene’s new novel are ascribed to William Shakespeare rather than to Hamlet, but inevitably it’s Hamlet they bring to mind. Very Hamlet, this complete scepticism – but not, surely, very Graham Greene; and what has it to do with a novel ...

Holocaust Art

Robert Taubman

10 January 1983
Schindler’s Ark 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 432 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 340 27838 2
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... metaphor, but in any case have been found contrived and trivialising. There may be more to say for the appropriation of Auschwitz (including Höss himself) by a thick, mainstream American novel, William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice: this actually has some reality about it, because it’s pretty sure in its own conventions, corny as these are. Sophie is a dazzlingly beautiful survivor of Auschwitz ...

Sino-Americana

Perry Anderson

9 February 2012
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China 
by Ezra Vogel.
Harvard, 876 pp., £29.95, September 2011, 978 0 674 05544 5
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On China 
by Henry Kissinger.
Allen Lane, 586 pp., £30, May 2011, 978 1 84614 346 5
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The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China 
by Jay Taylor.
Harvard, 736 pp., £14.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 06049 4
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... from the late 1970s onwards, Vogel proceeds exactly in such filing clerk fashion, tacking bureaucratic CVs (typically quite selective) onto the narrative in a clumsy appendix. The contrast with WilliamTaubman’s biography of Khrushchev – to take an obvious parallel – is painful.1 Taubman started out much more explicitly than Vogel with the intention of studying his subject from the angle of ...

Top Brands Today

Nicholas Penny: The Art World

14 December 2017
The Auctioneer: A Memoir of Great Art, Legendary Collectors and Record-Breaking Auctions 
by Simon de Pury and William​ Stadiem.
Allen and Unwin, 312 pp., £9.99, April 2017, 978 1 76011 350 6
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Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and Its Dealers 
by Philip Hook.
Profile, 282 pp., £20, January 2017, 978 1 78125 570 4
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Donald Judd: Writings 
edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray.
David Zwirner, 1054 pp., £28, November 2016, 978 1 941701 35 5
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... dater of supermodels’, and the ‘leveraged-buyout king’. The book is illustrated with photographs of de Pury’s friends, such as Tita Thyssen-Bornemisza (wearing a ‘100+ carat diamond’), Al Taubman and Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. De Pury was private curator to Baron ‘Heini’ – Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza – then chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, then established Phillips de ...

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