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All in the Family

Sylvia Lawson, 3 December 1992

Letters to Sartre 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Quintin Hoare.
Radius, 531 pp., £20, December 1991, 0 09 174774 0
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Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvior, 1926-1939 
edited by Simone de Beauvior, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee.
Hamish Hamilton, 448 pp., £20, November 1992, 9780241133361
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... Ronald Hayman) over those from the Beauvoir biographies (Deirdre Bair – very much the best; Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier, Margaret Crosland). Check those against the crucial four volumes of Beauvoir’s memoirs, those translated as The Prime of Life, Force of Circumstance, All Said and Done and Adieux: A farewell to Sartre. Crosscheck ...

Fearless Solipsist

Anita Brookner, 31 July 1997

Colette 
by Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier.
Perrin, 439 pp., frs 139, April 1997, 2 262 01224 5
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... The appellation of ‘femme cachée’ could apply as much to Sido as to her celebrated daughter. Francis and Gontier reveal the existence of a mulatto grandfather – Colette’s ‘goutte de sang noir’ – as well as unveiling Sido’s excitable character, her restlessness, her intellectual and social ambitions. Born in Paris, she was in many ways ...

Don’t do it!

Wendy Doniger: Dick Francis, 15 October 1998

Field of 13 
by Dick Francis.
Joseph, 273 pp., £16.99, September 1998, 0 7181 4351 5
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... Any Dick Francis novel about horses and crime satisfies my definition of a myth: like a myth, it is one of a corpus of interrelated stories (most, though not all, about horses, and many about an ex-jockey named Sid Halley) held sacred by a group (Dick Francis fans, or Franciscans of a sort, Francisfans, who recognise one another, like ((Star)) Trekkies, across several continents, without benefit of secret handshake or decoder ring) over a period of time punctuated by ritual events: once a year since 1962, when, after a long career as a champion National Hunt jockey, he published his first novel, Dead Cert, we have celebrated the new Francis novel ...

Silly Buggers

James Fox, 7 March 1991

The Theatre of Embarrassment 
by Francis Wyndham.
Chatto, 205 pp., £15, February 1991, 0 7011 3726 6
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... I first met Francis Wyndham in 1968, when I went to the Sunday Times Magazine looking for a job. A thunderstorm in the Gray’s Inn Road had soaked my cheap lightweight blue suit, bought in Johannesburg, and I was thinking my appearance had cost me my chance. At that time everyone – writers and photographers – seemed to want to write for the Magazine, then under the editorship of Godfrey Smith ...

A Prehistory of Extraordinary Rendition

Patrick Cockburn, 13 September 2012

... of a telegram dated 21 August 1908 and headed ‘Rendition of Corean’. It was addressed to Sir Claude MacDonald, the British ambassador in Tokyo, and warned of the potentially disastrous public reaction in Britain if ‘it became known that we had handed over a prisoner to the Japanese.’ The word ‘rendition’ was meant in exactly the same sense that ...

Liquid Fiction

Thomas Jones: Francis Spufford, 25 April 2002

The Child that Books Built: A Memoir of Childhood and Reading 
by Francis Spufford.
Faber, 214 pp., £12.99, April 2002, 0 571 19132 0
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A Child’s Book of True Crime: A Novel 
by Chloe Hooper.
Cape, 238 pp., £12.99, February 2002, 0 224 06237 9
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... residual still, that there might be a mystical, if misty, relationship between reading and power. Francis Spufford, a third of the way into The Child that Books Built, tells the following story: I learnt to read around my sixth birthday. I was making a dinosaur in school from crepe bandage and toilet rolls when I started to feel as if an invisible ...

Nothing he hasn’t done, nowhere he hasn’t been

Adam Shatz: Claude Lanzmann, 5 April 2012

The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir 
by Claude Lanzmann, translated by Frank Wynne.
Atlantic, 528 pp., £25, March 2012, 978 1 84887 360 5
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... The life of Claude Lanzmann, Claude Lanzmann declares at the beginning of his memoir, has been ‘a rich, multifaceted and unique story’. Self-flattery is characteristically Lanzmannian, but its truth in this case can hardly be denied. He has lived on a grand scale. A teenage fighter in the Resistance, he became Sartre’s protégé in the early 1950s as an editor at Les Temps modernes ...

A Spot of Firm Government

Terry Eagleton: Claude Rawson, 23 August 2001

God, Gulliver and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination 1492-1945 
by Claude Rawson.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, June 2001, 0 19 818425 5
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... only to upbraid such notions as imperialist. ‘We are obsessed with “barbarians”,’ Claude Rawson remarks in this erudite, passionate book; but by ‘we’ he seems to be thinking of literary critics, not grapepickers or hairdressers. The good news is that the Home Counties view of literature has now been decisively despatched. The native of the ...

How did we decide what Christ looked like?

Frank Kermode: How Jesus Got His Face, 27 April 2000

The Image of Christ 
edited by Gabriele Finaldi.
National Gallery, 224 pp., £14.95, February 2000, 1 85709 292 9
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... Oblivion to restore it to our notice. Or we might miss the homiletic point of pictures showing St Francis embracing the Christ child, or the dead Jesus, and have to be told that it ‘calls on each one of us to embrace the incarnate Christ’. It is true that the explanations of the experts often make the pictures more interesting without diverting our ...

At Victoria Miro

Brian Dillon: Francesca Woodman, 20 January 2011

... a table scattered with fruit. She flails before the camera until she’s an inhuman blur, invoking Francis Bacon, aiming, in her words, to make ‘something soft wriggle and snake around a hard architectural outline’. She crawls half-naked into cupboards in homage to the odd dandyish self-portraits of Claude Cahun. When ...

Formication

Daniel Soar: Harry Mathews, 21 July 2005

My Life in CIA: A Chronicle of 1973 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 203 pp., £8.99, July 2005, 1 56478 392 8
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... of his own peregrinations from the ‘pretty, smart, thrillingly cool’ twentysomething Marie-Claude Podopoulos, the daughter of an eminent cardiologist; she is intrigued. ‘So, my darling, what are you up to?’ There is a simple answer, involving an exhibition opening that turned out to have been postponed, a case of wine that needed to be ...

The Untreatable

Gavin Francis: The Spanish Flu, 25 January 2018

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World 
by Laura Spinney.
Jonathan Cape, 352 pp., £20, June 2017, 978 1 910702 37 6
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... of the origins of Spanish flu point to birds as the source of the pandemic: the French virologist Claude Hannoun found a hundred different strains of flu in the birds of the Somme estuary; in China, flocks of ducks are traditionally herded through paddy fields to eat insects, and mingle there with wild birds; the evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story, 8 March 2007

... Majesty, still less tell her to knock it off. Instead, swallowing his pride, he went to see Sir Claude. In the little garden of his delightful 17th-century grace and favour cottage at Hampton Court Sir Claude Pollington was reading. Actually, he was meant to be reading, but he was dozing over a box of confidential ...

No Trousers

Claude Rawson, 20 December 1990

The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Vol. VIII: The French Revolution 1790-1794 
edited by L.G. Mitchell.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, March 1990, 0 19 822422 2
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Reflections on the Revolution in France 
by Edmund Burke, edited by J.G.A. Pocock.
Hackett, 236 pp., $5.95, January 1987, 0 87220 020 5
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APhilosophical Enquiry 
by Edmund Burke, edited by Adam Phillips.
Oxford, 173 pp., £4.95, June 1990, 0 19 281807 4
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... joke) with a medallion of the Queen hanging round his neck and positioned over his heart. Philip Francis told Burke the account was ‘pure foppery’. Jefferson said the real-life queen bore little resemblance to ‘the rhapsodies of Burke’. They might or might not have agreed with recent commentators who see Marie Antoinette’s nakedness, like that of ...

Burying Scott

Marilyn Butler, 7 September 1995

The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Blackwell, 386 pp., £19.99, January 1995, 1 55786 231 1
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... book: his subtitle, which is in fact the series-title of a list of new literary biographies under Claude Rawson’s general editorship. If you want an uncritical biography, Sutherland might say, don’t buy this one but stick to Lockhart, or to some other modern academic biography (such as Edgar Johnson’s two volumes, 1970) which essentially accepts ...

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