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A Matter of War and Peace

James Buchan, 31 July 1997

... If, as a consequence, the objects of desire, for which all sense has been extinguished, are displaced by the abstract representative of all such objects, Money, ... then the Will ... has barricaded itself into its last bastion where only Death can besiege it. Schopenhauer To say that the European continent has gone mad over money would be quite correct and yet miss the special character of its mental state ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... Between​ the wars, the journalist Richard Usborne recalled in 1953, there was a feeling that John Buchan was good for you. ‘If not exactly the author set for homework, Buchan was certainly strongly recommended to the schoolboy by parent, uncle, guardian, pastor and master,’ he wrote in Clubland Heroes, a study of the thrillers he had enjoyed as a child ...

The Earnestness of Being Important

P.N. Furbank, 19 August 1982

John BuchanA Memoir 
by William Buchan.
Buchan and Enright, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 907675 03 4
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The Best Short Stories of John Buchan. Vol. II 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 9780718121211
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... The nice thing about John Buchan is that he was on the side of books. He thought, it is true, that he ought to have been a Guardian, shaping the Empire, or dominating Cabinets, or, at worst, ‘a power behind the throne’. However, after his spell in Milner’s ‘Kindergarten’, the nation didn’t seem to want him in the Guardian line, so he did the next best thing and became an entertainer ...

Buchan’s Pathological Vitality

T.J. Binyon, 18 December 1980

The Best Short Stories of John Buchan 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 224 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7181 1906 1
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... David Daniell is also the author of the only full-length critical study of Buchan’s work – The Interpreter’s House (1975). Both there and here, in the introduction to this collection of 12 of Buchan’s stories, he is concerned to defend the writer against the usual accusations of anti-semitism, racism and blatant imperialism; to protest against the way he is automatically ranked with Sapper, Dornford Yates and similar figures; and to assert that he is not only worth reading (which the general public has never forgotten), but also worth reading seriously ...

For a Few Dollars More

Frank Kermode, 18 September 1997

Frozen Desire: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Money 
by James Buchan.
Picador, 320 pp., £17.99, September 1997, 0 330 35527 9
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... be Frozen Desire, but when it thaws out Desire may emerge less lively than one had hoped. James Buchan would agree that it isn’t much use talking to economists about these money mysteries, for they will all tell you different things, with little in common except their unintelligibility. He himself clearly does know a lot about all these matters and is ...

Good Things

Michael Hofmann, 20 April 1995

Heart’s Journey in Winter 
by James Buchan.
Harvill, 201 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 9780002730099
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... I don’t believe this country has a better writer to offer than James Buchan. I can’t think of anyone who concedes so much of his own intelligence to his protagonists – doesn’t mock or belittle them – and gives them so much world to do battle with. I see no particular limitation to his scope or style: his stunningly curt dialogues and ravishing recitatives are equally persuasive ...

Back to Isfahan

Richard Lloyd Parry, 27 April 2000

A Good Place to Die 
by James Buchan.
Harvill, 343 pp., £10.99, September 1999, 1 86046 648 6
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... Early on in his new novel, James Buchan employs an image of which he is evidently fond: that of two mirrors placed face to face, and the unique and disconcerting effect which they produce, of reflections endlessly reflected in reflections. The same mirrors turned up in Frozen Desire, Buchan’s autobiographical meditation on the meaning of money, where they served as a symbol of financial investment and the silent accumulation of compound interest ...

Us and Them

Robert Taubman, 4 September 1980

The Secret Servant 
by Gavin Lyall.
Hodder, 224 pp., £5.50, June 1980, 0 340 25385 1
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The Flowers of the Forest 
by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 365 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 436 20087 2
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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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Enter the Lion: A Posthumus Memoir of Mycroft Holmes 
by Michael Hodel and Sean Wright.
Dent, 237 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 460 04483 4
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Dorothy I. Sayers: Nine Literary Studies 
by Trevor Hall.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 9780715614556
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Milk Dime 
by Barry Fantoni.
Hodder, 192 pp., £5.50, May 1980, 0 340 25350 9
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... he brings these two things together. It’s not only that a packet of biscuits suggests John Buchan’s Hannay. The older tradition is acknowledged to the point of parody when the Prime Minister’s private secretary is given a family set of rooms in Albany where, ‘coming in off the chilly stone staircase, Maxim and Agnes had walked through a time ...

A Betting Man

Colin Kidd: John Law, 12 September 2019

John Law: A Scottish Adventurer of the 18th Century 
by James Buchan.
MacLehose, 513 pp., £14.99, August 2019, 978 1 84866 608 5
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... and at some point in 1705 or early 1706, he left Scotland. ‘There is no evidence,’ James Buchan writes, ‘he ever returned.’ Law was born in 1671, the son of William Law, a master goldsmith who, like other goldsmiths of his time, drifted from metallurgy into finance, becoming a lender to clients. Success in this sphere enabled the purchase of an ...

‘A Little Feu de Joie’

Adam Shatz: Khomeini rises, 25 April 2013

Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and Its Consequences 
by James Buchan.
John Murray, 482 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84854 066 8
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... a minority in the house of Islam, had rewritten the script of revolution in the Middle East. James Buchan’s Days of God shows how a radicalised clergy took control of a popular uprising against a Western-backed dictator and set up the world’s first and only Islamic republic. Buchan tells that story as well as anyone has ...

Undertellers

Walter Nash, 18 February 1988

The Panda Hunt 
by Richard Burns.
Cape, 189 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02445 0
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Davy Chadwick 
by James Buchan.
Hamish Hamilton, 145 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 241 12115 9
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Overhead in a Balloon: Stories of Paris 
by Mavis Gallant.
Cape, 196 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02426 4
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Black Idol 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 157 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 9780224024372
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... but felt, after all, that his inventive capacity had only served to botch his argument. Mr Buchan is also highly inventive, but he, in Davy Chadwick, is a rigorous underteller, a demonstrator who compels his readers to scrutinise every event, watch every sentence, not allowing them to enjoy for a moment the relaxing, gossipy irrelevance of mere ...

Rachel and Her Race

Patrick Parrinder, 18 August 1994

Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875-1945 
by Bryan Cheyette.
Cambridge, 301 pp., £35, November 1993, 0 521 44355 5
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The Jewish Heritage in British History: Englishness and Jewishness 
edited by Tony Kushner.
Cass, 234 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7146 3464 6
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... movement. Cheyette traces the Disraelian influence on the ‘imperial Gothic’ fiction of John Buchan and, more controversially, borrows August Bebel’s phrase ‘the socialism of fools’ as a blanket term for the ideas of Shaw and Wells. Bebel’s concern was to attack the kind of socialism, typified in a British context by H.M. Hyndman, which involved ...

Iraq Must Go!

Charles Glass: The Making and Unmaking of Iraq, 3 October 2002

... There is a dry wind blowing through the East, and the parched grasses wait the spark. John Buchan, Greenmantle (1916) As Lloyd George’s wartime Director of Information, John Buchan urged Britain to support an incomprehensible Eastern war with the cry: ‘The Turk must go!’ At the beginning of 1916, the Turk was not going anywhere: he held fast at Gallipoli, driving off the Allied landings in January, and accepted the surrender of a British Mesopotamian invasion force at Kut, south of Baghdad, in April ...

Blacks and Blues

E.S. Turner, 4 June 1987

The Life of My Choice 
by Wilfred Thesiger.
Collins, 459 pp., £15, May 1987, 9780002161947
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Worlds Apart: Travels in War and Peace 
by Gavin Young.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 09 168220 7
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... most of the pleasures of civilisation except for Earl Grey tea. Thesiger’s life has been in the Buchan mould. It is true that, unlike Auberon Herbert (‘the man who was Greenmantle’), he was never pressed to accept a throne – he would certainly have declined even that of Albania – but he played a bold part in restoring his own favourite emperor to ...

Make mine a Worcester Sauce

John Bayley, 23 June 1994

Richard Hughes 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Deutsch, 491 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 233 98843 2
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... Scottish, and Hughes partly Welsh. The presidential or father figure of the group would be John Buchan, another Scot, whose innings was over before the younger ones started to play, although he was still around as they became famous. This English angle was partly suggested to me at the time when Hughes’s penultimate novel, intended as the first of a ...

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