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Neal Ascherson: Imre Kertész, 3 August 2006

by Imre Kertész, translated by Tim Wilkinson.
Vintage, 262 pp., £6.99, April 2006, 0 09 950252 6
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by Imre Kertész, translated by Tim Wilkinson.
Harvill Secker, 144 pp., £12.99, September 2006, 1 84343 235 8
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... into any convention there may be for fiction about the Holocaust and the camps. On the very first page we meet in Gyuri an observant, detached, self-obsessed boy who notices all details with crystal precision, and yet has no interest in the motives of other people, or in the background to what is taking place, unless they impact on his own hour-to-hour ...

Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher

John Gray: The Tory Future, 22 April 2010

The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 446 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 7456 4857 6
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Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection 
by Peter Snowdon.
Harper Press, 419 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 00 730725 8
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... of an irreversible transformation in his party that has set it firmly back on the road to power. Tim Bale’s exhaustive and authoritative account is hedged throughout with academic caution, but it concludes in terms that treat the Conservatives’ return to office as a foregone conclusion: ‘just as was the case for Margaret Thatcher, Cameron will ...

Who ruins Britain?

Peter Clarke, 22 November 1990

Friends in High Places: Who runs Britain? 
by Jeremy Paxman.
Joseph, 370 pp., £16.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3154 1
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The Sunday Times Book of the Rich 
by Philip Beresford.
Weidenfeld, 336 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 297 81115 0
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... As the subtitle indicates, as the author tells us on the first page, and as he reminds us in the last chapter, ‘a simple question’ states the theme and explains the origin of Jeremy Paxman’s book: Who runs Britain? There are fitful efforts to generate a sense of mystery about the answer. Thus at the outset ‘the only serious answer’ is mooted in terms which invite suspicion that we might be in for a counter-intuitive disclosure later: ‘Exaggerated though her influence might be, the hand of Britain’s first female prime minister was seen behind everything from the management of industry to the appointment of professors ...

Corbyn in the Media

Paul Myerscough, 22 October 2015

... Corb snubs​ the queen,’ ran the headline on the front page of the Sun on 16 September, in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s tight-lipped participation in the singing of the national anthem at a commemoration of the Battle of Britain. The Times led with ‘Veterans open fire after Corbyn snubs anthem,’ the Telegraph with ‘Corbyn snubs queen and country ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... you could say so.’He pats my arm consolingly.‘Be happy with that.’24 May. Tim Lott collects me at 6.30 and we drive over to Kensal Rise where I am to do an evening to raise funds to help pay for a legal challenge to Brent Council’s plans to close Kensal Rise Library (and five others). Tim is ...


Seamus Perry: Southey’s Genius for Repression, 26 January 2006

Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793-1810 
edited by Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts.
Pickering & Chatto, 2624 pp., £450, May 2004, 1 85196 731 1
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... the world knows more about Southey than Lynda Pratt, and she and her team of editors, principally Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts, have done an exemplary job recording variants, printing early versions and manuscript fragments, and identifying sources. Southey’s ambitions were vast, and he set about achieving them with precocious efficiency. While ...

The Pills in the Fridge

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Christodora’, 30 March 2017

by Tim Murphy.
Picador, 432 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 1 5098 1857 0
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... The Christodora​ of Tim Murphy’s novel is a New York apartment building, ‘handsomely simple’, built on the corner of Avenue B and 9th Street in the 1920s. By the 1980s the area had become known as the East Village, and the building had come down in the world. After a fire it was refurbished and turned into a condominium, in which Steven Traum, an urban planner, bought an apartment, using it as office space while he continued to live on the Upper East Side ...

How does he come to be mine?

Tim Parks: Dickens’s Children, 8 August 2013

Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 239 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 0 374 29880 7
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... legend: his having been sent out as a child to work in a factory. Gottlieb gives the story on page one: Charles had endured a difficult childhood: when he was 11, his father, a well-meaning but improvident clerk in the navy pay office, was sent to debtors’ prison, with young Charles put to menial work in a blacking factory – a social disgrace that ...

Tell us, Solly

Tim Radford: Solly Zuckerman, 20 September 2001

Solly Zuckerman: A Scientist out of the Ordinary 
by John Peyton.
Murray, 252 pp., £22.50, May 2001, 9780719562839
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... unit began firing standard steel balls into London telephone directories. According to the page at which a ball had stopped they could calculate how much energy it had lost when penetrating the target. They went from telephone books to human flesh, borrowing what Zuckerman called ‘anatomical material taken from, and returned to, a hospital ...

Bitten by an Adder

Tim Parks: ‘The Return of the Native’, 17 July 2014

The Return of the Native 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Simon Avery.
Broadview, 512 pp., £9.50, April 2013, 978 1 55481 070 3
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... pages. Then the torment begins, and we’re not even halfway through. From now on each turn of the page will expose the reader to greater unhappiness. There’s a moment in The Return of the Native where the main character, Clym, already deeply troubled by his mother’s mysterious death, goes out of his way to find a little boy who may be able to tell him ...


Tim Parks: Victor Hugo’s Ego, 4 May 2017

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of ‘Les Misérables’ 
by David Bellos.
Particular, 307 pp., £20, January 2017, 978 1 84614 470 7
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... under the spell. ‘I was entranced,’ he tells us at once of his first reading of the 1500-page novel, and goes on:Nineteenth-century France … was uncommonly generous to the rest of the world … But among all the gifts France has given to Hollywood, Broadway and the common reader wherever she may be, Les Misérables stands out as the greatest by ...

Quite a Show

Tim Parks: Georges Simenon, 9 October 2014

A Man’s Head 
by Georges Simenon, translated by David Coward.
Penguin, 169 pp., £6.99, July 2014, 978 0 14 139351 3
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A Crime in Holland 
by Georges Simenon, translated by Siân Reynolds.
Penguin, 160 pp., £6.99, May 2014, 978 0 14 139349 0
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... so many Maigrets? Why did he go on writing them when he was already fabulously rich? In the final page of Letter to My Mother, he has a revelation: along with her implacable struggle for security his mother had always felt the need to be good, or to believe herself good. There was no point in winning and believing oneself bad. This was why she always had time ...

In Some Sense True

Tim Parks: Coetzee, 21 January 2016

The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy 
by J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz.
Harvill Secker, 198 pp., £16.99, May 2015, 978 1 84655 888 7
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J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing: Face to Face with Time 
by David Attwell.
Oxford, 272 pp., £19.99, September 2015, 978 0 19 874633 1
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... Coetzee’s allegiance is to English as a literary language, something that exists on the page, or to English as an international lingua franca, something that exists everywhere and nowhere. The uneasiness, then, is Coetzee’s, in that ‘a local creolised English has little appeal’ to him. Eventually, the author elects ‘world culture over ...

Between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines

Tim Parks: Guelfs v. Ghibellines, 14 July 2016

Dante: The Story of His Life 
by Marco Santagata, translated by Richard Dixon.
Harvard, 485 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 674 50486 8
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... his name, doesn’t play a significant role,’ Santagata writes. However, the Dante on the page is subtly transformed from the Dante seeking to overcome the limitations of a modest background. There’s no hint of criticism here. Santagata isn’t arguing that Dante is a lesser poet than we thought, or in any way disreputable. But he’s not in the ...

What’s Missing

Katrina Navickas: Tawney, Polanyi, Thompson, 11 October 2018

The Moral Economists: R.H. Tawney, Karl Polanyi, E.P. Thompson and the Critique of Capitalism 
by Tim Rogan.
Princeton, 263 pp., £30, December 2017, 978 0 691 17300 9
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... phenomena unthinkable in more prosperous times: for example, Thomas Piketty’s seven hundred-page volume of economic theory, Capital in the 21st Century, joining the bestseller lists. During crises of capitalism in the 20th century, the equivalent bestsellers were narratives of social history. R.H. Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of ...

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