In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Fortunes of WarGraham Hough

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
The Sum of Things 
by Olivia Manning.
Weidenfeld, 203 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 297 77816 1
Show More
The Viceroy of Ouidah 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 155 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 224 01820 5
Show More
The Sooting Party 
by Isabel Colegate.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 241 10473 4
Show More
An Ancient Castle 
by Robert Graves.
Owen, 69 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 7206 0567 9
Show More
Show More

The title of Olivia Manning’s last book, from Housman’s heroic-ironic epitaph on an earlier war, announces a summing-up: the last volume of a trilogy, the trilogy itself the continuation of a previous one; the final flowing out to sea of a roman-fleuve of six volumes, completed just before the author’s death. Yet it is a conclusion in which nothing is concluded, not even the war – only a few accidental lives. The Sum of Things is as weirdly absorbing as its predecessors, and it is as hard as ever to say why. As before, the characters are utterly distinct, yet without any emphatic lines or strong colours. They have forgotten what it is like to be even partly in control of their own lives, for the huge network of wartime circumstance has taken charge of them. The scene is still the Near East, the world still that of British Council lecturers, minor embassy officials and lefty journalists, with the fighting, now farther away, still rumbling in the background. The key characters Guy and Harriet Pringle found their marriage pretty well on the rocks at the end of the last volume, and for most of this one they are separated. It is supposed that Harriet has been drowned at sea, torpedoed on her way back to England. In fact, she missed the ship and is swanning around in Syria and Lebanon, unaware that Guy in Cairo believes her to be dead. We follow separately his fortunes and hers, with their casual, eccentric contacts, until near the end they are reunited – as uncertainly as ever. Nothing has changed. On the very night Harriet comes back from the dead Guy goes off to give his Egyptian students a lecture on self-determination.

Why do we remain interested in this well-meaning insufferable prig and the girl who is soft enough to put up with him? Why do we remain fascinated by their ambience – the inessential auxiliaries of a semi-colonial regime? At the beginning of the Balkan series it seemed that Olivia Manning was one of those writers blessed with total recall, drawing quite simply on barely transmuted recollections, interesting because the circumstances themselves were fantastic, and presented with all the unsymmetrical oddity of actual life. This was not a very probable explanation – indeed it never is; and it was decisively exploded in The Battle Lost and Won, where the focus shifts to the young soldier Simon Boulderstone and the superb evocation of his experience of the Alamein offensive – a rare achievement of informed imagination.

It is then we realise that the real subject is the war. Not its causes, or its purpose, not primarily its horrors and cruelties, but its all embracing scope, the way it has swallowed up like a flood innumerable lives. When someone prophesies an imminent German collapse Guy does not believe it or even want to believe it. ‘He was in no state to face peace at that time.’ And the young soldier Simon, gravely wounded by now, refuses to consider Guy’s well-meant efforts to make him think of a post-war career. He can see nothing beyond the Army and wants nothing but to get back to active service. The chance collection of individuals whose fortunes the novels trace are neither better nor worse than most. They are not important hardly even important to themselves; they belong to no society, for all have been uprooted from wherever it was they were once at home. Yet each of these fallen leaves swept along on the stream has its individual contour, even the illusion of an individual purpose, so that although the treatment is taut and remarkably sparing of sentiment, a vast pathos envelops the whole panorama, and gives it a rhyme and reason that is easier to feel than to describe. For anyone of the right age with an appropriate set of memories, much of this feeling is provided ready-made by the collision of public and private history, but I don’t think that is the whole story. When this novel-series is read, as it soon will be, only by those who have no direct acquaintance with its raw material, I think it will retain its interest and its strength. There is a good deal missing; there are no families, no sense of an organic life; it is not War and Peace; but it has crystallised a segment of our recent past as nothing else has done.

Bruce Chatwin is the author of a travel book In Patagonia which has been compared to a Conrad novel. The Viceroy of Ouidah was intended as historical biography, but, that plan being frustrated, it has turned into a novel, and the Conrad comparison is inescapable, for what we are led into is the heart of darkness. Conrad’s African fable is heavy with moral-metaphysical overtones and the narrator Marlowe is there to transmit them. Chatwin is more chary of these implications, and the grotesque and hideous chronicle is left to make its own point without the intervention of a commentator. In 1971, Bruce Chatwin went to Dahomey to collect material for the life of a white Brazilian slave-trader who came to the Coast in the early 1800s. Le barbare royaume du Dahomey, famed for its cruelties and the madness of its rulers throughout the 19th century, had become a French colony in 1892. Six years after Chatwin’s first visit it became the people’s republic of Benin, and when he returned a second time to further his researches he ran into trouble. He was mistaken for a mercenary, captured and briefly imprisoned – an episode over which he prefers to draw a veil. The advent of Marxism-Leninism had not effected a total transformation of Dahomeyan customs. However, he got away to Rio de Janeiro, to pursue the Brazilian end of his inquiry. He had the bones of a story, an array of scattered images, and much information from the works of Victorian travellers. But the investigation was incomplete, and return to Dahomey was out of the question, so he decided to abandon strict history, alter the names of the characters and write a work of imagination. We need not regret the change.

The Viceroy of Ouidah is a brilliant reconstruction of the career of a poor Brazilian, Francisco Manoel da Silva, determined to climb into the ranks of the rich merchants of Bahia, who comes to the Slave Coasl to make his fortune. Arriving with nothing but empty hands and an iron will, he soon becomes a man of substance in the trading port of Ouidah. He becomes a friend of the mad king, and sells him luxuries from the outer world in return for slaves. This monarch is a worthy progenitor of the Amin-Bokassa tradition, and his favours do not last. He turns against Da Silva, throws him into a hideous jail, dips him in a vat of indigo to turn him black, and leaves him for dead. From this state he is rescued by the King’s half-brother and successor, returns to his trading post, is given the monopoly of the sale of slaves, and ultimately the title of Viceroy. He never loses the hope of returning in triumph to Brazil. The hope is never fulfilled, and with disappointment and the passage of the years he sinks deeper into the squalid savagery that surrounds him. He takes an African wife and as many other women as he fancies and produces an enormous brood of mulatto children. All bear the Da Silva name, and as long as Dom Francisco retains his strength they honour him as the head of the house. But his powers decline, his friends in Brazil rob him; he is pushed aside and his sons begin to speak of him in the past tense. He is still blood-brother to the king, so no one can touch him: but he is abandoned, a withered speechless old man, scribbling incoherent prophecies on scraps of paper. His late-born daughter is still alive, a bundle of skin and bones, 117 years later, and at this date the assembled and by now very miscellaneous Da Silva clan, still deeply aware of their origins in the golden age of the slave trade, foregather to celebrate a requiem mass for the soul of their great progenitor. With grotesque comic irony, this is the point at which the book begins.

Rich in detail and sparing of comment, it tells the story of a pertinaciously horrible way of life, yet in the end contrives to give it an almost tragic dimension. It is a grimly remarkable piece of writing.

The Shooting Party is not the nostalgic Edwardian aquarelle that it appears. There are two current stereotypes for pre-1914 England – the long summer afternoon drowned out by a thunderstorm, an age of harsh social unrest saved from revolulion only by war; and Isabel Colegate chooses neither. She gives us the material out of which both are constructed and shows us something more complex and believable. The shooting-parly at Nettleby is in the grand manner of the belle époque; Sir Randolph is an old-fashioned country gentleman with strict ideas on the ritual and etiquette of destroying driven pheasants; his wife Minnie was a friend (how good a friend?) of the late King Edward. Some of the best shots in England have been invited, and the bedrooms have been arranged, as we learn from the novels of this period that they always were, to suit the discreet pleasures of not too rigorous spouses. However, it is not that sort of book, you will be glad to hear. Glass the gamekeeper is as prominent a character as any of the guests; so is his son Dan, who shows promise as a naturalist and is probably going away to college. Tom Harker the radical poacher is as vividly drawn as Lord Hartlip the arrogant and fiercely competitive shooting man. An incongruous figure stalks through the woods – Cornelius Cardew, friend of Bernard Shaw, his pockets full of pamphlets against blood sports. So we have a more comprehensive view of this social organism than at first seemed likely.

Sir Randolph, cocooned in his rites and habits, is perfectly aware of the wretched rural poverty around him, and doesn’t expect things to last much longer. And the heavy air of 1913 seems to make itself felt in the household itself. A delicate love-affair begins – not the usual house-party escapade – but it seems doomed from the start. And Lord Hartlip works himself up into a state of bitter rivalry with Lionel Stevenson, who has had the temerity to turn out quite effortlessly to be the better shot. In obsessive anxiety to excel he begins to shoot dangerously. The result is a calamity: Tom Harker is killed and the party ends in dismay. The actors in the drama are too shocked for any adequate comment, so the author makes it for them: ‘By the time the next season came round a bigger shooting-party had begun in Flanders.’ Several other threads are woven into this design, and we have the sense of lives continuing beyond the borders of the tale. This is not a long novel but it is a very dense one, and told with a natural ease that tends to disguise the amount of thought and art that has gone into it.

An Ancient Castle is a children’s story written by Robert Graves in the early Thirties and only recently discovered among a collection of his manuscripts. It, too, brings an air from earlier days, those that followed the First War, with their memories of old-fashioned virtues, now threatened by chicanery and greed. But it is still confident enough to believe that right will triumph. Sergeant Harington is keeper of an old castle on the Welsh border, and his son Giles delights in exploring its half-ruined recesses. An interloping war-profiteer tries to have the sergeant dismissed from his post, but after a due series of adventures the conspiracy is thwarted and Giles and his friend Bronwen find a hoard of magnificent treasure in a secret room. A nice straightforward child’s book, without the ghastly knowingness that afflicts the genre today, and told in a crisp plain style that is a pleasure to read. Agreeable illustrations by the author’s niece.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.