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Oh, My Aching Back

Roy Porter, 2 November 1995

The History of Pain 
by Roselyne Rey, translated by Elliott Wallace and J.A. Cadden , and S.W. Cadden.
Harvard, 394 pp., £25.50, October 1995, 0 674 39967 6
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... From the Church Fathers, through St Ignatius Loyola and Pascal to the Marquis deSade, the problem of pain was agonisingly debated, not least because mortification was holiness and judicial torture the authorised engine of truth. But nowadays, pain, in either its medical or its metaphysical aspects, is oddly little discussed given the ubiquitous misery it causes ...

In Hackney

Iain Sinclair: Steve Dilworth, 15 November 2001

... others of similar provenance) with a smooth white limestone egg, found near the château of the Marquis deSade. A hidden ox heart completed the work. In terms of literary reference, it was already too much: the metaphor tears itself apart. But the thing itself, the exhibited object, achieves a precarious ...

Offered to the Gods

Frank Kermode: Sacrifice, 5 June 2008

Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual Death in Literature and Opera 
by Derek Hughes.
Cambridge, 313 pp., £45, October 2007, 978 0 521 86733 7
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... of the crowd’, and with the Revolution sparagmos appears on the streets of Paris. Now enters the Marquis deSade, with whom the exercise of ritual male violence ‘approximates to sacrifice’. Kleist and Flaubert, Swinburne and Sacher-Masoch continued the work of separating sacrifice from happy endings and also from ...

I totally do look nice

Luke Brown: Adam Thirlwell, 19 March 2015

Lurid & Cute 
by Adam Thirlwell.
Cape, 358 pp., £16.99, January 2015, 978 0 224 08913 5
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... he, we wonder, when he says, ‘When it comes to kinkiness in prose I am a better writer than the Marquis deSade’? The urge to charm through provocation, the conviction that he’ll be liked, leads him to praise the phone manner of Stalin and ‘to rather warm to Adolf’ Hitler; this over-confidence results ten ...

In an Ocean of Elizabeths

Terry Eagleton: Rochester, 23 October 2014

Blazing Star: The Life and Times of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
by Alexander Larman.
Head of Zeus, 387 pp., £25, July 2014, 978 1 78185 109 8
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... but beyond a certain facile misanthropy his writing is notably bereft of ideas. He is certainly no Marquis deSade, who genuinely was a philosopher. His so-called nihilism is just the flipside of his hedonism, which plunders the world of meaning and value by reducing it to raw material for self-gratification. Larman ...

Time to think again

Michael Neve, 3 March 1988

Benjamin Disraeli: Letters 1838-1841 
edited by M.G Wiebe, J.B. Conacher, John Matthews and M.S. Millar.
Toronto, 458 pp., £40, March 1987, 0 8020 5736 5
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Salisbury: The Man and his Policies 
edited by Lord Blake and Hugh Cecil.
Macmillan, 298 pp., £29.50, May 1987, 0 333 36876 2
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... Disraeli, and time, especially, to discover the deeply intellectualist conservatism of the third Marquis of Salisbury, whose record as the most electorally successful Conservative prime minister seems likely to be snatched by Mrs Thatcher. The invocation, usually at Party Conferences, of something called ‘Disraelian Conservatism’ continues, despite this ...

Nesting Time

P.N. Furbank, 26 January 1995

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa 
by Jan Potocki, translated by Ian MacLean.
Viking, 631 pp., £16, January 1995, 0 670 83428 9
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... a daughter of the Princess Lubomirska, the intimate friend of Marie-Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe, he had a foot in extreme anti-Revolution circles. Lubomirska’s palace at Lancut in Galicia was a famous sanctuary for royalist refugees, among them the future Louis XVIII and Charles X, and in August 1792, the month of the massacre at the ...

On the Sixth Day

Charles Nicholl: Petrarch on the Move, 7 February 2019

Petrarch: Everywhere a Wanderer 
by Christopher Celenza.
Reaktion, 224 pp., £15.95, October 2017, 978 1 78023 838 8
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... only nine when Dante first saw her, whereas Petrarch’s fateful encounter with Laura is a coup de foudre which certainly includes sexual desire, variously expressed as a ‘burning’, a ‘sickness’, a ‘poison’, a ‘wound’ and an ‘arrow’ passing ‘straight into my innards’. These hints of physicality almost feel like something he’s ...

A Cine-Fist to the Solar Plexus

David Trotter: Eisenstein, 2 August 2018

Beyond the Stars, Vol.1: The Boy from Riga 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by William Powell.
Seagull, 558 pp., £16.99, June 2018, 978 0 85742 488 4
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On the Detective Story 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 229 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 490 7
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On Disney 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 208 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 491 4
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The Short-Fiction Scenario 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 115 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 489 1
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Movement, Action, Image, Montage: Sergei Eisenstein and the Cinema in Crisis 
by Luka Arsenjuk.
Minnesota, 249 pp., £19.99, February 2018, 978 1 5179 0320 6
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... pink curtains and the rich variety of outré library books crammed down the backs of sofas: the Marquis deSade, Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, Octave Mirbeau’s Torture Garden. The 1917 revolutions, staged conveniently on his doorstep, caught him unawares. On 25 October, the night the Bolsheviks stormed the ...

Lights On and Away We Go

Keith Thomas: Happy Thoughts, 20 May 2021

The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790 
by Ritchie Robertson.
Allen Lane, 984 pp., £40, November 2020, 978 0 241 00482 1
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... in the next. The belief was made explicit by atheists such as Baron d’Holbach, whose Système de la nature (1770) reproached the clergy for making people’s lives miserable while comforting them with the delusory hope of a happier life in the hereafter. The mainstream Enlightenment, by contrast, was not against religion as such: what its advocates wanted ...


Harry Mathews, 2 November 1995

‘Maldoror’ and the Complete Works of the Comte de Lautréamont 
translated by Alexis Lykiard.
Exact Change, 352 pp., £11.99, January 1995, 9781878972125
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... The literary career of Isidore Ducasse, successor to Sade, Byron and Baudelaire and a model for Rimbaud, Jarry and the Surrealists, has been virtually a posthumous one. It has been chronically complicated furthermore by obsessions with the lacunae of his biography, as well as with the interpretation of the two names, Lautréamont and Maldoror, the first of which is a mystery and the second an enigma ...

The Wrong Head

Mike Jay: Am I Napoleon?, 21 May 2015

The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon: Towards a Political History of Madness 
by Laure Murat, translated by Deke Dusinberre.
Chicago, 288 pp., £31.50, October 2014, 978 0 226 02573 5
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... In 1834 Chateaubriand described the Terror of 1793-94 as ‘quite simply a mental illness’. De Tocqueville’s experience in suppressing the revolution of 1848 persuaded him that ‘in revolutions, especially democratic revolutions, madmen, not those so called by courtesy, but genuine madmen, have played a very considerable political ...

At Tranquilina’s Knee

G. Cabrera Infante, 2 June 1983

The Fragrance of Guava: Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza in conversation with Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
translated by Ann Wright.
Verso, 126 pp., £9.95, May 1983, 0 86091 065 2
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... were verbal supporters of the Argentine side in what’s usually called by Spaniards la guerra de las Malvinas. They, too, refuse to call the islands Falklands. But this is not the first time that the Nobel Prize-winner of 1982 has lied in print, and not only in the banana republic of his fiction. He lies about any subject that takes his fancy. On Sundays ...

More or Less Gay-Specific

David Halperin, 23 May 1996

by Leo Bersani.
Harvard, 208 pp., £15.95, April 1995, 0 674 40619 2
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... new book. Bersani accuses practitioners of lesbian and gay studies (myself not excepted) of ‘de-gaying’ gayness. He seems to intend at least two different, and not entirely consistent, things by the accusation: 1. queer theorists have taken the sex out of (homo)sexuality, by claiming gayness either as a personal identity or as a mode of political ...

Waiting for the next move

John Bayley, 23 July 1987

Dostoevsky. The Stir of Liberation: 1860-1865 
by Joseph Frank.
Robson, 395 pp., £17.95, April 1987, 0 86051 242 8
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Selected Letters of Dostoevsky 
edited by Joseph Frank and David Goldstein.
Rutgers, 543 pp., $29.95, May 1987, 0 8135 1185 2
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... began as a very minor affair. Strakhov assumed that Dostoevsky had become what he himself was, a de Maistre-like reactionary, not indeed such a reactionary as Katkov of the Russian Messenger and the extreme Slavophils, but a believer in the saving virtues of the Russian earth (Pochvennichestvo) and old Russian communal institutions (Obschina) as against ...

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