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... Two of the finest works of post-war Sicilian fiction were published in Italy in 1958: Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard and Leonardo Sciascia’s Sicilian Uncles, a collection of three (in subsequent editions four) stories dealing with themes from Sicily’s history and experience of foreign intervention which had also interested Lampedusa ...

Sicilian Vespers

David Gilmour, 19 September 1985

... In the courtyard of the Villa Lampedusa, a few miles from Palermo, Frisian cows pick their way carefully through the rubble. Their home is a wasteland of defunct objects: broken boxes, squashed petrol cans, a clutter of old bath tubs. The villa itself is deserted, its broken shutters creaking with languor in the hot afternoon breeze. The façade is cracked and pockmarked, the stucco has faded to a mild ochre, but the Rococo ceilings are still intact – delicate, highly-wrought arrangements of fruit and flowers ...

Opportunities

David Gilmour, 1 June 1989

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 357 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 7011 3459 3
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... Hitchens was right to go West. He needed lusher plains of political corruption across which to spread himself. He needed a country of wide horizons and myopic international vision. And he needed an administration of almost limitless power and quite exceptional stupidity. Then he could be happy, indulging in the lethal, jugulating kind of journalism at which he excels ...

Gentlemen’s Gentlemen

David Gilmour, 8 February 1990

... Novels dealing with childhood memory are frequently said to be ‘Proustian’. Those describing the decline of an aristocracy are likely to be labelled ‘Lampedusian’. The people responsible for these ugly, usually unsuitable adjectives are sometimes reviewers but more often the culprits are publishers. A successful novel from last year was described on the cover as reminiscent of Lampedusa, chiefly because it took place in a part of Southern Italy (as it happens, the wrong part ...

Blood Ba’th

David Gilmour, 2 February 1989

Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East 
by Patrick Seale.
Tauris, 552 pp., £19.95, October 1988, 1 85043 061 6
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... as he had once been duped by Kissinger, he was now comprehensively duped by the Israelis. At Camp David Sadat and Carter even thought they could handle Begin and Dayan, a pitiful notion when one compares those two naive and fundamentally decent men with the Israeli duo, two of the toughest and most obstinate characters in 20th-century ...

Diary

David Gilmour: In Spain, 5 January 1989

... not built until 1929, but neither its architectural style nor its date of construction dissuaded David Lean from using it in Lawrence of Arabia: little more than Jack Hawkins and a few khaki figures was needed to transform it into Britain’s Cairo ...

Diary

David Gilmour: On Richard Cobb, 21 May 1987

... I first met Richard Cobb at my Balliol interview one late evening in December 1970. The encounter was, by any measurement, a failure. In the ‘interests’ section of my entrance form, I had made the mistake of declaring membership of the Committee for Freedom in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea. Cobb, who was plainly bored at having to conduct interviews after dinner, asked me brusquely which liberation group in Angola I supported and why ...

Fusi’s Franco

David Gilmour, 4 February 1988

Franco 
by Juan Pablo Fusi, translated by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.
Unwin Hyman, 202 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 04 923083 2
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... Francisco Franco’s uprising in 1936 provoked powerful emotional reactions in Europe and aggravated the continent’s political divisions. Nearly three years later he completed his conquest of Spain on the eve of a war which engulfed the whole of Europe and led to the destruction of his principal international allies. The circumstances of his rebellion, coupled with European events over the following decade, have since made it difficult for writers to look objectively at Franco’s rule ...

Felipismo

David Gilmour, 23 November 1989

The Spanish Socialist Party: A History of Factionalism 
by Richard Gillespie.
Oxford, 520 pp., £40, January 1989, 0 19 822798 1
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... Camilo Jose Cela, the recent Nobel Prizewinner, remarked a few years ago that Spain remained ‘excessive’ in all things. ‘This country either destroys you or it puts you on its altars.’ Spanish excesses, the contrasts of landscape and architecture, the sensuality and austerity that exist side by side, often in the same person, have long appealed to outsiders ...

Calcutta in the Cotswolds

David Gilmour: What did the British do for India?, 3 March 2005

Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India 
by Elizabeth Buettner.
Oxford, 324 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 19 924907 5
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... Certain families,’ Kipling wrote in his story ‘The Tomb of His Ancestors’, ‘serve India generation after generation as dolphins follow in line across the open sea.’ It was common indeed for three generations of the same family to spend their careers in India; often it was four, sometimes five, occasionally six. A number of Britons (or Anglo-Indians as they were called) could boast that both sides of their family had been in India for more than a hundred years ...

Ariel the Unlucky

David Gilmour, 5 April 1990

Warrior: The Autobiography of Ariel Sharon 
by Ariel Sharon and David Chanoff.
Macdonald, 571 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 356 17960 5
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The Slopes of Lebanon 
by Amos Oz, translated by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura.
Chatto, 246 pp., £13.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3444 5
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From Beirut to Jerusalem 
by Thomas Friedman.
Collins, 541 pp., £15, March 1990, 0 00 215096 4
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Pity the nation: Lebanon at War 
by Robert Fisk.
Deutsch, 622 pp., £17.95, February 1990, 0 233 98516 6
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... Palestine has less connection with the modern world than with the picturesque towns engraved by David Roberts in the 19th century. Old men still talk about their orange groves and their old stone houses in Jaffa, remembering every tree and every stone, and one doesn’t have the heart to tell them that the houses have been bulldozed and the orchards have ...

Cleansing the Galilee

David Gilmour, 23 June 1988

The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities 
by Simha Flapan.
Croom Helm, 277 pp., £25, October 1987, 0 7099 4911 1
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Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine 
by Avi Shlaim.
Oxford, 676 pp., £35, May 1988, 0 19 827831 4
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The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 
by Benny Morris.
Cambridge, 380 pp., £30, March 1988, 0 521 33028 9
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... The idea of a co-ordinated attack by five Arab armies – Goliath and his hordes against little David – is fatuous. When Israel attacked Egyptian forces in September 1948, Abdullah hoped the Egyptians would lose: he believed that an Israeli victory would prevent the Arabs from challenging his right to the West Bank. In the weeks preceding the ...

Conor Cruise O’Zion

David Gilmour, 19 June 1986

The Siege: The Saga of Zionism and Israel 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 798 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 297 78393 9
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... Conor Cruise O’Brien has enjoyed a career of variety and distinction: diplomat, politician, man of letters, an expert on Africa, Irish history and French literature. International affairs have interested him since his UN days in the late Fifties, when his ideas were close to Sartre’s. In a book on Camus published in 1970, O’Brien berated Camus for not supporting Sartre: had he done so, together they ‘would have rallied opinion more decisively and earlier against imperialist wars, not only in Algeria, but also in Indo-China-Vietnam and elsewhere ...

Eden and Suez

David Gilmour, 18 December 1986

Anthony Eden 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Weidenfeld, 665 pp., £16.95, October 1986, 0 297 78989 9
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Descent to Suez: Diaries 1951-56 
by Evelyn Shuckburgh, edited by John Charmley.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 297 78993 7
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Cutting the Lion’s Tail: Suez through Egyptian Eyes 
by Mohamed Heikal.
Deutsch, 242 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 233 97967 0
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The Suez Affair 
by Hugh Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 255 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 297 78953 8
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... moustache’. This view has been assailed, from opposite angles, by both of Eden’s biographers. David Carlton* is critical of many aspects of Eden’s career, and argues that his views on foreign policy in the Thirties were less wise and consistent than is usually believed. Robert Rhodes James, however, not only endorses the traditional appreciation of ...

Pseudo-Travellers

Ian Gilmour and David Gilmour, 7 February 1985

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict 
by Joan Peters.
Joseph, 601 pp., £15, February 1985, 0 7181 2528 2
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... thousands of Arabs to flee by the only escape route – the sea.’ Two Zionist writers, Jon and David Kimche, described what happened to the local Palestinians when Dayan and his troops ‘drove at full speed into Lydda, shooting up the town and creating confusion and a degree of terror among the population ... Its Arab population of 30,000 either fled or ...

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