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Like Fabergé Eggs

Serafina Cuomo: The Antikythera Mechanism, 26 April 2018

A Portable Cosmos: Revealing the Antikythera Mechanism, Scientific Wonder of the Ancient World 
by Alexander Jones.
Oxford, 288 pp., £22.99, March 2017, 978 0 19 973934 9
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... Greek on the front and back, and a multitude of tiny bronze gears inside. Using archival sources, Alexander Jones describes in detail the retrieval of the mechanism, which was found in 1900 at the site of an ancient shipwreck off the coast of Antikythera, an island between Crete and the Peloponnese. The ship had been carrying some large statues, which ...

What Columbus Didn’t Know

Peter Green: The history of cartography, 21 February 2002

The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, the Man who Discovered Britain 
by Barry Cunliffe.
Allen Lane, 182 pp., £12.99, October 2001, 0 7139 9509 2
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Ptolemy’s Geography: An Annotated Translation of the Theoretical Chapters 
edited by J. Lennart Berggren and Alexander Jones.
Princeton, 232 pp., £17.95, January 2002, 0 691 09259 1
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Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World: Atlas and Map-By-Map Directory 
by Richard J.A. Talbert.
Princeton, three volumes, £300, September 2000, 9780691031699
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... to be discarded so easily. We cherish what we fear most: Ocean was hard to dislodge. What brought Alexander’s eastward career of conquest to a halt was his confident assurance to his men that they were about to reach Ocean’s shores. When faced by the interminable Ganges plain instead, they mutinied, and small wonder. So Pytheas’ venture required both ...

Praise Yah

Eliot Weinberger: The Psalms, 24 January 2008

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 518 pp., £22, October 2007, 978 0 393 06226 7
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... anonymous committee (though the translation of Jonah has been attributed to Tolkien), directed by Alexander Jones, of a decades-long French project by the (Catholic) School of Biblical Studies in Jerusalem. It is without literary pretension and its literal, plain-spoken minimalism takes one far from the courtly elegance of the King James and into the ...

Against Hellenocentrism

Peter Green: Persia v. the West, 8 August 2013

Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire, 525-332 BC 
by Stephen Ruzicka.
Oxford, 311 pp., £45, April 2012, 978 0 19 976662 8
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King and Court in Ancient Persia 559 to 331 BCE 
by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones.
Edinburgh, 258 pp., £24.99, January 2013, 978 0 7486 4125 3
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... of the Persian empire (335-23) by the short-lived and ambiguously Hellenic world conqueror Alexander III of Macedon. These extraordinary events – and the Greek writers who, propagandists all, preserved them for posterity – dictated, in definitive and compelling fashion, the triumph, over two millennia of European history, of the Hellenocentric ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The Spectator, 25 January 2001

... When, in May, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson gives up his role as Tory MP for the Spectator to take over from Michael Heseltine as the editor of Henley-on-Thames, you have to wonder where they’re going to find someone sufficiently blond to be his successor at Doughty Street (from which sturdy address the organ Johnson currently oversees emerges each week ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Mobile phones, 10 July 2003

... breakthrough that makes mobiles possible was the work of D.H. Ring – born, you might think, like Alexander Graham Bell, to make telephonic history – at Bell Laboratories, New Jersey. There are only so many radio frequencies available; Ring’s brilliant notion was to see that the same frequencies could be used over and over again if each covered only a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The life expectancy of a Roman emperor, 3 June 2004

... Maesa, Heliogabalus’ grandmother, giving up on him in favour of a different grandson, Severus Alexander. The attempts of Heliogabalus and his mother to do away with his cousin failed; eventually the imperial guard took a side and put mother and son to the sword. According to one account, their corpses were mutilated and stuffed into the sewer, but the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Nephews and Daughters, 23 January 2003

... not officially (it’s worth remembering that Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia were the children of Pope Alexander VI). By way of an example: Arthur Balfour was made Chief Secretary of Ireland when his mother’s brother, the Marquess of Salisbury, or ‘Robert’ to his friends, was Prime Minister – hence ‘Bob’s your uncle.’ Here’s a curiosity: Allan ...

Bare feet and a root of fennel

John Bayley, 11 June 1992

Strong Representations: Narrative and Circumstantial Evidence in England 
by Alexander Welsh.
Johns Hopkins, 262 pp., £21.50, April 1992, 0 8018 4271 9
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... off his shoes the previous day to paddle and forgotten all about it? It is certainly striking, as Alexander Welsh points out, that even if a jury had never read the novel, they could be expected to know about Crusoe and the footprint. Novels, like life, are full of evidence. It is evidence that suggests the nature of relations, and as Henry James observed ...

Round Things

T.J. Binyon, 24 October 1991

Maurice Baring: A Citizen of Europe 
by Emma Letley.
Constable, 269 pp., £18.95, September 1991, 0 09 469870 8
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... John Vavassour de Quentin Jones, Belloc tells us in his Cautionary Tales, Was very fond of throwing stones At Horses, People, Passing Trains But specially at Window-panes. Like many of the Upper Class, He liked the sound of Broken Glass. To this last line is appended the footnote: A line I stole with subtle daring From Wing-Commander Maurice Baring ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Precious Ramotswe, 9 October 2003

... am, through every fault of my own, as ignorant of Botswana as the average Anglo-American reader of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and its sequels. The novel was first published in 1998 by Polygon. The US edition came out in 2002, and has been very popular. Abacus reissued the novel in Britain this year; it’s been reprinted at ...

Bowie’s Last Tape

Thomas Jones, 4 February 2016

... in the union flag in 1997, it had been slashed and burned and soiled and made into a frock coat by Alexander McQueen, as patriotic as the Sex Pistols’ version of ‘God Save the Queen’. But now he was dead and couldn’t answer back. The cacophony of harmonious praise threatened to drown out the only thing that was halfway trustworthy, Bowie’s ...

No Fear of Fanny

Marilyn Butler, 20 November 1980

Fanny 
by Erica Jong.
Granada, 496 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 246 11427 4
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The Heroine’s Text 
by Nancy Miller.
Columbia, 185 pp., £10, July 1980, 0 231 04910 2
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... assignment. Fanny, being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones, is a quaint and belated substitute for the Columbia doctorate on 18th-century literature which Ms Jong abandoned in the mid-1960s. There is clearly a market for this kind of thing. ‘Another Lady’ and yet another personage have presumably made ...

Should we build a wall around North Wales?

Daniel Trilling: The Refugee Crisis, 13 July 2017

Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move 
by Reece Jones.
Verso, 208 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 1 78478 471 3
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Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System 
by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.
Allen Lane, 288 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 0 241 28923 5
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No Borders: The Politics of Immigration Control and Resistance 
by Natasha King.
Zed, 208 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 1 78360 467 8
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... trying to exploit the chaos, out of power. But rather than protecting people from violence, Reece Jones argues in Violent Borders, such policies are in fact a cause of it. The central problem, as he sees it, is that in an age when barriers – to the movement of goods, capital, communication etc – have been coming down, the physical defences between ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith, 3 October 2002

The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... mere hysterical wisps alongside the sunny central story, masterfully controlled, of the delightful Jones and Iqbal families. The Autograph Man is, as it were, a novel made entirely of those wisps. Its central character, Alex-Li Tandem, is a dreary blank, an empty centre entirely filled by his pop-culture devotions. Around him swirls a text incapable of ...

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