Tessa Hadley

  • All for Love by Dan Jacobson
    Hamish Hamilton, 262 pp, £16.99, February 2005, ISBN 0 241 14273 3

‘If anthropology is obsessed with anything,’ Clifford Geertz says, ‘it is with how much difference difference makes.’ The same could be said of the novel. And novelists’ curiosity, like anthropologists’, aims not to solve or explain the puzzle of lives lived, but to seize and transcribe it. In his new book, All for Love, Dan Jacobson captures a story from late 19th-century European history with an anthropologist’s eye for detail. Through his foolish, unself-knowing lovers and the extraordinary, half-absurd drama of their affair, we seem to see the shapes and forms of living and imagining in prewar Europe: caste-ridden, smothered in protocol, carelessly rapacious, in thrall to high-flown romanticism.

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