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Here was a plague

Tom Crewe, 27 September 2018

How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed Aids 
by David France.
Picador, 624 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 5098 3940 7
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Patient Zero and the Making of the Aids Epidemic 
by Richard A. McKay.
Chicago, 432 pp., £26.50, November 2017, 978 0 226 06395 9
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Modern Nature: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1989-90 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 314 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78487 387 5
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Smiling in Slow Motion: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1991-94 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 388 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78487 516 9
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The Ward 
by Gideon Mendel.
Trolley, 88 pp., £25, December 2017, 978 1 907112 56 0
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... died of before. Men dying in the time it takes to catch and throw off a cold: ‘One Thursday,’ David France writes in How to Survive a Plague, ‘sexy Tommy McCarthy from the classifieds department stayed out late at an Yma Sumac concert. Friday he had a fever. Sunday he was hospitalised. Wednesday he was dead.’ Later, there were tests. A ...

David Nokes on the duality of Defoe

David Nokes, 19 April 1990

Daniel Defoe: His Life 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 671 pp., £20.50, November 1989, 0 8018 3785 5
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... Union, London wine-merchants were stocking up their Edinburgh warehouses with duty-free wines from France, intending to sell them on the English market once the customs barriers came down. Defoe, himself a former wine-importer, deploring this attempt to defraud the public exchequer, sent a letter full of righteous indignation to Harley detailing ‘how easily ...

Six Wolfs, Three Weills

David Simpson: Emigration from Nazi Germany, 5 October 2006

Weimar in Exile: The Anti-Fascist Emigration in Europe and America 
by Jean-Michel Palmier, translated by David Fernbach.
Verso, 852 pp., £29.99, July 2006, 1 84467 068 6
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... Palmier’s sombre encyclopedia of exile, published in French in 1987 and now translated by David Fernbach, offers seemingly endless evidence of the ways in which exile often punished over and over again those who fled Germany after 1933. One story is symptomatic. Hans Bendgens-Henner, a pacifist refugee who had first settled in Holland, was expelled ...

One Does It Like This

David A. Bell: Talleyrand, 16 November 2006

Napoleon’s Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand 
by David Lawday.
Cape, 386 pp., £20, September 2006, 0 224 07366 4
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... pallid and had a club foot. Politically, one wanted to conquer the world, while the other thought France would do very well within its ‘natural boundaries’, and even conspired with the country’s enemies to put it back there. The two most familiar images of the men express the contrast eloquently. First, there is ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... David Peterley’s Peterley Harvest was first published on 24 October 1960. The book had a curious history and, shortly before publication, stories began to appear in the press declaring it to be an elaborate hoax. The jacket of the book contained the information that David Peterley was the only son of an old Quaker family that had ‘lived in the Chilterns and been neighbours of Milton and the Penns ...

A Few Pitiful Traitors

David Drake: The French Resistance, 5 May 2016

Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance 
by Robert Gildea.
Faber, 593 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 571 28034 6
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Occupation Trilogy: ‘La Place de l’etoile’, ‘The Night Watch’, ‘Ring Roads’ 
by Patrick Modiano, translated by Caroline Hillier, Patricia Wolf and Frank Wynne.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 1 4088 6790 7
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... Two political forces​ dominated post-Liberation France: Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French and head of the provisional French government until January 1946; and the French Communist Party (PCF), at that point the biggest and most popular party in the country. As Robert Gildea explains in his perceptive new book, each constructed a myth about France’s behaviour during the war that served its own political interests; each claimed it had led the Resistance ...

Oppositional

P.N. Furbank, 3 August 1995

Emulation: Making Artists for Revolutionary France 
by Thomas Crow.
Yale, 288 pp., £29.95, January 1995, 0 300 06093 9
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... Public Life in 18th-Century Paris (1985) and Emulation: Making Artists for Revolutionary France (1995), can be described as a history of the decline and fall, and amazing final reprieve, of history-painting in France. Long cherished by the Academy of Painting and Sculpture as the highest and ‘noblest’ genre and ...

Out of this World

David Armitage, 16 November 1995

Utopia 
by Thomas More, edited by George Logan, Robert M. Adams and Clarence Miller.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £55, February 1995, 0 521 40318 9
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Utopias of the British Enlightenment 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Cambridge, 305 pp., £35, July 1994, 0 521 43084 4
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... is, in every sense, unapproachable and, for the present, inimitable. More might have approved David Hume’s epitaph on utopianism: ‘All plans of government, which suppose great reformation in the manners of mankind, are plainly imaginary. Of this nature, are the Republic of Plato and the Utopia of Sir Thomas More.’ However, for More this would ...

A State Jew

David A. Bell: Léon Blum, 5 November 2015

Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist 
by Pierre Birnbaum, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Yale, 218 pp., £14.99, July 2015, 978 0 300 18980 3
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... The​ newspaper Action française habitually referred to Léon Blum, France’s Socialist leader, as the ‘warlike Hebrew’ and the ‘circumcised Narbonnais’ (he represented a constituency in Narbonne). On 13 February 1936, Blum was being driven away from the National Assembly when he encountered a group of ultra-right-wing militants who had gathered at the intersection of the rue de l’Université and the boulevard Saint-Germain for the funeral procession of Jacques Bainville, one of the founders of Action française, a reactionary political movement as well as a newspaper ...

He wouldn’t dare

David A. Bell: Bloodletting in Paris, 9 May 2002

Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris 1789-1945 
by Richard D.E. Burton.
Cornell, 395 pp., £24.50, September 2001, 0 8014 3868 3
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... and many other horrific episodes. Burton also traces the way these effusions of blood seeped into France’s literary imagination, quoting liberally from the goriest passages of de Maistre, Bataille and Maurras. All these pages of blood, fire, dismemberment, gibbets, firing squads and the guillotine leave the reader with the impression of a culture devoted to ...

‘Monocled Baron Charged’

David Coward: Vichy’s commissioner for Jewish affairs, 8 June 2006

Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland 
by Carmen Callil.
Cape, 614 pp., £20, April 2006, 0 224 07810 0
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... Darquier de Pellepoix, charged by the German occupiers and the Vichy government with delivering France’s quota of Jews for deportation. The name was familiar. Between 1963 and 1970, she had been treated three times a week by a psychoanalyst named Anne Darquier, to whom she had become very close, and who had probably committed suicide. Were they ...

Under the Soles of His Feet

Stephen Alford: Henry’s Wars, 4 April 2019

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 297 pp., £35, January 2018, 978 0 19 880286 0
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... to Solomon, ‘for he had heard, that they had anointed him king in the room of his father,’ David: For Hiram was ever a lover of David. And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying: thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the Lord his God, for the wars ...

Simple Facts and Plain Truths

David A. Bell: Common Sense, 20 October 2011

Common Sense: A Political History 
by Sophia Rosenfeld.
Harvard, 337 pp., £22.95, 0 674 05781 3
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... arguments. She shows how the concept actually worked in revolutionary politics in America and France, and briefly discusses its subsequent history, including its co-option by right-wing populists. Rosenfeld argues, quite explicitly, that the Age of Reason was just as much the ‘age of common sense’, especially when it came to democratic politics. At ...

Ten Billion Letters

David Coward: Artilleur Pireaud writes home, 21 June 2007

Your Death Would Be Mine: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War 
by Martha Hanna.
Harvard, 341 pp., £17.95, November 2006, 0 674 02318 8
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... In August 1914, France mobilised jubilantly. ‘La Patrie’ was in danger and men and women of all classes and stations rallied to its defence. Florid voices on the clerical, aristocratic, conservative right defined patriotism grandly, as a mystical religion rooted in the land. Others, more worldly but no less exalted, were clear that patriotism was a hard-won secular tradition under constant threat from socialism, collectivism, anarchism, internationalism, individualism and now, most urgently, from the latest migration of Teutonic barbarism ...

Diary

David Gascoyne: Notebook, New Year 1991, 25 January 1996

... 29 December 1990: Caught Red Funnel Ferryboat 10 a.m. Taxi Southampton Dock to Eastleigh – Air France plane departed 12.45. Met at Roissy (3 p.m. approx. Continental time) by Jean-Claude Masson and Annick, who drove us in their car to the Grand Hotel Français, boulevard Voltaire, XIIème – a quarter little known to me. Windy, showery, as at ...

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