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Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... and behind it lay the struggle of a very rich man to do good. In his role as owner-editor, David Astor had more freedom than any other journalist in London, but power made him bashful and uneasy. When, towards the end of Astor’s editing career, the South African journalist Donald Woods proposed a series of interviews with him, Astor suggested that ...

Where are we now?

LRB Contributors: Responses to the Referendum, 14 July 2016

... David Runciman, Neal Ascherson, James Butler, T.J. Clark, Jonathan Coe, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Daniel Finn, Dawn Foster, Jeremy Harding, Colin Kidd, Ross McKibbin, Philippe Marlière, James Meek, Pankaj Mishra, Jan-Werner Müller, Susan Pedersen, J.G.A. Pocock, Nick Richardson, Nicholas Spice, Wolfgang Streeck, Daniel TrillingDavid RuncimanSo who​ is to blame? Please don’t say the voters: 17,410,742 is an awful lot of people to be wrong on a question of this magnitude ...

Poland’s Special Way

Keith Middlemas, 4 February 1982

The Polish August: What Happened in Poland 
by Neal Ascherson.
Allen Lane, 316 pp., £12.50, December 1981, 0 7139 1469 6
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... In the six months since Neal Ascherson’s intricate but lucid account of the rise of Solidarity was finished, Poland’s affairs have become the latest world-heroic saga. While the climax, Soviet invasion, seems to have been replaced by General Jaruzelski’s quite unforeseen takeover, myth has already taken on the force of history, and two themes are now becoming established: that the ‘extremists’ in Solidarity overplayed their hands, thereby challenging the Soviet Union’s interest in a friendly Poland; and that by inducing Jaruzelski to move, Moscow invaded by proxy ...

Cushy Numbers

Neal Ascherson, 3 November 1983

French and Germans, Germans and French: A Personal Interpretation of France under Two Occupations, 1914-1918/1940-1944 
by Richard Cobb.
University Press of New England, 188 pp., £10.95, July 1983, 0 87451 225 5
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Still Life: Scenes from a Tunbridge Wells Childhood 
by Richard Cobb.
Chatto, 161 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2695 7
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... get carried away beyond the merits of an originally sound case. Why, he goes on, do writers like David Pryce-Jones want the Parisians to have behaved like the people of Warsaw? It is certainly true that, as a result of their rising, the inhabitants of Warsaw managed to get their city largely razed to the ground. If Hitler had had his way, Paris would have ...

They’re just not ready

Neal Ascherson: Gorbachev Betrayed, 7 January 2010

Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment 
by Stephen Kotkin, with Jan Gross.
Modern Library, 240 pp., $24, October 2009, 978 0 679 64276 3
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Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire 
by Victor Sebestyen.
Weidenfeld, 451 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 0 297 85223 0
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There Is No Freedom without Bread: 1989 and the Civil War that Brought Down Communism 
by Constantine Pleshakov.
Farrar, Straus, 289 pp., $26, November 2009, 978 0 374 28902 7
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1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe 
by Mary Elise Sarotte.
Princeton, 321 pp., £20.95, November 2009, 978 0 691 14306 4
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... to touch the ground, as one meeting followed another in Berlin, Paris, Moscow, Washington, Camp David and Ottawa. As Sarotte says, the tempo was at times ‘unimaginable’. At the Ottawa conference in February 1990, which was supposed to be about aviation, Baker ‘managed in just one day … to speak at least five times each to both Genscher and ...

Where mine is at

Gordon Burn, 28 May 1992

Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... of Dieter in Dog Soldiers is in part based on the Kesey of Acid Test, and Hicks is modelled on Neal Cassady, the link between the old-style Beat life and the new hippy movement. These kinds of dislocation, transposition and cannibalisation of personal experience are, of course, not only permissible in a novel: they are the reasons for the novel’s ...

It’s a Knock-Out

Tom Nairn, 27 May 1993

The Spirit of the Age: An Account of Our Times 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 388 pp., £20, February 1993, 1 85619 204 0
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... horse. Take England itself, uner attack from false prophets like Hobsbawm – or ‘the journalist Neal Ascherson’, known to be forever sneering about the ‘Druids’ of the Ancien Régime and its élite values. Dancing on the grave of Old England, retorts Selbourne, ‘is a serious matter’. It might summon up plebeian demons, and Jews as well as crusty ...

He K-norcked Her One

August Kleinzahler: Burroughs and Kerouac’s Novel, 28 May 2009

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks 
by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.
Penguin, 214 pp., £20, November 2008, 978 1 84614 164 5
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... and shits in America’. The group included Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lucien Carr and David Kammerer. In August 1944, Carr stabbed and killed Kammerer. Near the end of And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a lightly fictionalised and surprisingly engaging account of the murder and of the months leading up to it, written in 1945 by Kerouac and ...

After the Revolution

Neal Ascherson: In Georgia, 4 March 2004

... secession war in 1993 (another $600,000 was intercepted before he could pay it into his account). David Mirtskhulava, the former minister of energy, had a mild heart attack when he was charged with pocketing $6 million on its way to pay Georgia’s bill for electricity imports. Georgia is not a sprawling continent, but a poor, steep country about the same ...

New Unions for Old

Colin Kidd, 4 March 2021

The Case for Scottish Independence: A History of Nationalist Thought in Modern Scotland 
by Ben Jackson.
Cambridge, 210 pp., £18.99, September 2020, 978 1 108 79318 6
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Standing up for Scotland: Nationalist Unionism and Scottish Party Politics, 1884-2014 
by David Torrance.
Edinburgh, 258 pp., £80, May 2020, 978 1 4744 4781 2
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... of the people who figure in Jackson’s book were buzzing about the Sillars camp. Two of them – Neal Ascherson and Tom Nairn – are very familiar to readers of this paper. Another, the economist George Kerevan, a former member of the International Marxist Group and then a Labour councillor, went on to become an influential nationalist commentator with ...


Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine, 30 July 1998

... farmers who sold up and took what capital they could with them. ‘From the famine onwards,’ David Fitzpatrick writes, ‘male and female emigrants were quite evenly balanced. Boys and girls alike swarmed out of every parish, every social stratum, and almost every household, systematically thinning out the fabric of Irish society.’About a million ...

Radical Democrats

Ross McKibbin, 7 March 1991

Conflicts of Interest: Diaries 1977-80 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 675 pp., £20, September 1990, 0 09 174321 4
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Words as Weapons: Selected Writings 1980-1990 
by Paul Foot.
Verso, 281 pp., £29.95, November 1990, 0 86091 310 4
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... re-election of his government, and that is certainly unacceptable to journalists of the centre. Neal Ascherson, happy to describe himself as a middle-of-the-road warmonger of the sort attacked by Foot, gracefully admitted that Foot has often been right in the past – which is something that should be said at the outset. He has had a very good eye for ...

Tall, Slender, Straight and Intelligent

Philip Kitcher: Cloning and reprogenetics, 5 March 1998

Clone: The Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead 
by Gina Kolata.
Allen Lane, 218 pp., £15.99, November 1997, 0 7139 9221 2
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Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World 
by Lee Silver.
Weidenfeld, 315 pp., £20, January 1998, 0 297 84135 1
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... from adult cells, the conclusion that adult mammals could not be cloned, a journalistic hoax (David Rorvik’s announcement that he had helped a wealthy eccentric clone himself), a brilliant experimentalist (Karl Illmensee) accused of faking results, and, finally, a small band of mavericks working outside the prestigious centres of biotechnology in the ...

In America’s Blood

Deborah Friedell, 24 September 2020

The NRA: The Unauthorised History 
by Frank Smyth.
Flatiron, 295 pp., $28.99, March, 978 1 250 21028 9
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... who would succeed in overturning the law prohibiting interstate sales. One board member, Neal Knox, argued that Kennedy’s assassination might have been the work of gun control activists trying to bring about disarmament – a commie plot to make Americans easier to subdue. The NRA split between members who bought their guns for hunting and target ...

Narco Polo

Iain Sinclair, 23 January 1997

Mr Nice: An Autobiography 
by Howard Marks.
Secker, 466 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 436 20305 7
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Pulp Election: The Booker Prize Fix 
by Carmen St Keeldare.
Bluedove, 225 pp., £12.99, September 1996, 0 9528298 0 0
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... other trappings of an upwardly-mobile prick.’ Marks was into St Katherine’s Dock years before David Mellor. Into the revamped wetlands before The Long Good Friday. But it was the same old cocktail: drugs, guns, Arabs, falcons. Flemingesque vulgarity: ‘Crême brûlée with Château d’Yquem made for a good dessert.’ The karma of cash. ‘It’s always ...

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