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Master of the Revels

Benjamin Markovits: Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy, 14 November 2002

They Were Counted 
by Miklós Bánffy, edited by Patrick Thursfield and Kathy Bánffy-Jelen.
Arcadia, 596 pp., £12.99, March 1999, 9781900850155
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They Were Found Wanting 
by Miklós Bánffy, edited by Patrick Thursfiled and Kathy Bánffy-Jelen.
Arcadia, 470 pp., £12.99, June 2000, 9781900850292
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They Were Divided 
by Miklós Bánffy, edited by Patrick Thursfield and Kathy Bánffy-Jelen.
Arcadia, 326 pp., £11.99, August 2001, 1 900850 51 6
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... wide cheekbones and unexpectedly slanting eyes.’ There are no reddish glints in the blurred black and white author’s photo at the front of the novel, though Bánffy’s high forehead, broad cheeks and slanted eyes suggest his younger protagonist. Both Balint and his author were educated at the Theresianum in Vienna, and both pursued diplomatic careers ...

Say hello to Rodney

Peter Wollen: How art becomes kitsch, 17 February 2000

The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience 
by Celeste Olalquiaga.
Bloomsbury, 321 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7475 4535 9
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... certain aspects of it – against the opprobrium under which it usually falls. Drawing on Walter Benjamin, her mentor in such matters, she sketches out a distinction between two contrasting types of kitsch – the nostalgic, which is bad, and the melancholic, which is good. The nostalgic is characterised by a fantasy of keeping the past alive in our ...

At the Hop

Sukhdev Sandhu, 20 February 1997

Black England: Life before Emancipation 
by Gretchen Gerzina.
Murray, 244 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 7195 5251 6
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Reconstructing the Black Past: Blacks in Britain 1780-1830 
by Norma Myers.
Cass, 162 pp., £27.50, July 1996, 0 7146 4576 1
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... that will move tings with a touch’) and they themselves were advertised: ‘To be SOLD. A Black Girl, the Property of John Bull, Eleven Years of Age, who is extremely handy, works at her Needle tolerably, and speaks English perfectly well. Enquire of Mrs Owen, at the Angel Inn, behind St Clement’s Church, the Strand.’ Huge, ornate images of ...

Men in White

Benjamin Kunkel: Another Ian McEwan!, 17 July 2008

by Joseph O’Neill.
Fourth Estate, 247 pp., £14.99, May 2008, 978 0 00 726906 8
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... sight, glimpsed from his office on the 22nd floor of the glass tower where he works, of ‘roving black blooms of four-dollar umbrellas’. (His metaphors, however, are just as often wilful and imprecise: ‘Clouds like rats ran across the sky.’) And, turning his gaze inwards, Hans regularly becomes expansively sententious on humanity at large: when the ...


Edward Luttwak: In Deep Water in Bolivia, 3 April 1997

... hell that came to mind. There was no burning heat, and with cascades of rain every few hours, and black clouds gathering beforehand that obscured the sun, it was not even warm. Instead it was wet, wet from above and wet below. Here and there the red-earth roadway had withstood the rains, but for the rest it was only a ribbon of watery mud that marked our ...

From the Other Side

David Drew, 1 August 1985

... Air). Bloch’s passion for aerial and low life excursions was one of his many bonds with Walter Benjamin, the outstanding critical mind among his younger German contemporaries and, like Klemperer, an early admirer of Geist der Utopie. It was surely thanks to Bloch and his essay on Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann – written for the 1930 Kroll Opera ...

I wanted to rule the world

David A. Bell: Napoleon’s Global War, 3 December 2020

The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History 
by Alexander Mikaberidze.
Oxford, 936 pp., £25.99, April 2020, 978 0 19 995106 2
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... revolt of 1791. In 1801, they were serving under the charismatic, ambitious and independent-minded black governor Toussaint Louverture when Napoleon dispatched a military expedition to reassert full French control over the colony. The French forces, commanded by Napoleon’s brother-in-law Charles Leclerc, had some initial success. They captured ...


Lorna Tracy, 17 June 1982

... was the only mark of his caste that James could identify. But both the women wore expensive gear. Black Dracula jackets and toreador pants with black puttees or black Benjamin Franklin smalls with sheer black hose and ...

Stamp Scams

Walter Benjamin, translated by Jeffrey Mehlman, 8 September 1994

... that not every so-called ‘reimpression’ is an intentional forgery. The celebrated ‘penny black’ of 1864, for instance, was reprinted by the British Government, in a few specimens only, for the benefit of the collections of British princes. Those of you who remain stamp collectors later on will have many encounters with forgeries and will soon know ...


John Sutherland, 2 October 1980

Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Information Age 
by Edward Ploman and L. Clark Hamilton.
Routledge, 248 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 7100 0539 3
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... In his essay on Nikolai Leskov, Walter Benjamin observes, almost in passing, that the novel inevitably brings about the end or storytelling. Like many of Benjamin’s paradoxes, this insight is very unsettling to the received idea – oh dear no, the novel doesn’t tell a story after all ...


George Steiner, 5 May 1988

Visions and Blueprints: Avant-Garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early 20th-century Europe 
edited by Edward Timms and Peter Collier.
Manchester, 328 pp., £29.50, February 1988, 0 7190 2260 6
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... the abyss. Limitations on length must have inhibited Helga Geyer-Ryan. Her contribution on Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of history is characteristically intelligent and dense (she thinks in German, which, in this context, is altogether an advantage). But her sketch makes use neither of the polemic correspondence between ...

Smash the Screen

Hal Foster: ‘Duty Free Art’, 5 April 2018

Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War 
by Hito Steyerl.
Verso, 256 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 1 78663 243 2
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... as painting and sculpture were pressured by photography and film, and modernists like Walter Benjamin and László Moholy-Nagy redefined literacy as the ability to read both. For Benjamin, the reproducibility of these media not only shattered the auratic power of the unique work (this was mostly wishful ...


Benjamin Markovits: What It Takes to Win at Sport, 7 November 2013

... level of incompetence, or worse, that clubs won’t tolerate off the field of play. There is one black manager in the Premiership and only five in England’s entire professional game. In the National Basketball Association, by contrast, 14 out of 30 head coaches are African-American. I wouldn’t make too much of this: this ratio is still way below the ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: How We Are, 5 July 2007

... limited to pictures from abroad. The four performers of the Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance, taken by Benjamin Stone in 1899, stare at the camera as grimly as Papuan warriors. There was a need to face the facts of war. Percy Hennell made records of reconstructive surgery; in the exhibition you can see a soldier who has had the socket of his lost eye patched over ...

Cad’s Cadenzas

Christopher Driver, 15 September 1988

William Walton: Behind the Façade 
by Susana Walton.
Oxford, 255 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 19 315156 1
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Façade: Edith Sitwell Interpreted 
by Pamela Hunter.
Duckworth, 106 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 9780715621844
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... of Frau Strauss are preserved in the concertante solo violin part of Heldenleben, just as Benjamin Britten’s dependence upon Peter Pears, the sharer of his bed, shines through most of his later music. Susana Gil alighted upon the gossip circuit of musical Europe as a living anachronism. ‘By God, William is going to marry a native,’ said one of ...

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