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Anna Xiao Dong Sun: Is there more to Ma Jian than politics?, 8 July 2004

The Noodle Maker 
by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew.
Chatto, 179 pp., £10.99, May 2004, 0 7011 7605 9
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... to replace the old Communist one, but it invariably leads only to an obsession with the repulsive. Flora Drew’s translation of The Noodle Maker is more graceful than the original, lacking the self-conscious rudeness of the Chinese and the uneasy kinship with Maoist style. The Nobel citation in 2000 described Gao Xingjian’s novel One Man’s Bible as a ...

Keep squeezing

Sam Sacks: Ma Jian, 26 September 2013

The Dark Road 
by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew.
Chatto, 360 pp., £16.99, April 2013, 978 0 7011 8753 8
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... Ma Jian’s new novel, The Dark Road, also serves as an indictment of the Chinese government and the crimes it has committed in the name of modernisation. Its principal target is the one-child policy, imposed in 1978 and still officially in effect, which has led to mass campaigns of forced sterilisation and abortion, as well as infanticide and child trafficking ...


James Paradis, 18 June 1981

Sir Joseph Banks 
by Charles Lyte.
David and Charles, 248 pp., £10.50, October 1980, 0 7153 7884 8
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The Heyday of Natural History: 1820-1870 
by Lynn Barber.
Cape, 320 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 9780224014489
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A Vision of Eden 
by Marianne North.
Webb and Bower, 240 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 906671 18 3
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... disciplined professional lives to the extension of detailed systems of knowledge. Even Darwin, who drew from the traditions of both the amateur and the specialist, wrote for circles of experts. The decline in reputation of amateurs such as Sir Joseph Banks and James Audubon, both of whom had counted themselves as naturalists, was largely the result of their ...

Signs of spring

Anthony Grafton, 10 June 1993

The Portrayal of Love: Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ and Humanist Culture at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent 
by Charles Dempsey.
Princeton, 173 pp., £35, December 1992, 0 691 03207 6
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... brother, Giuliano, in 1475. An elegantly eclectic poet in both Latin and Italian, Poliziano drew his images of goddesses and nymphs from the Greek and Latin poetic texts he later taught in the Florentine Studio or university. Like Botticelli, he combined his borrowings in new ways. And he described figures in motion – and the fluttering clothing and ...

At Burlington House

Ben Walker: William Smith’s Geological Maps, 7 January 2021

... be observed, Smith thought, they could also be mapped. William Smith’s survey, 1815. Smith drew his coloured strata directly onto a base map, made in 1794 by his publisher, the cartographer John Cary, before the fifteen sheets were engraved by assist­ants onto copper plates ready for reprinting – a process that took two years. He made several ...

Progressive Agenda

John Brewer, 18 March 1982

The Watercolours and Drawings of Thomas Bewick and his Workshop Apprentices 
by Iain Bain.
Gordon Fraser, 233 pp., £125, July 1981, 0 86092 057 7
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... Birds (1797), Bewick had acquired national renown as the artist who most truthfully depicted the flora and fauna of the British countryside. Bewick’s achievement was both technical and aesthetic. Unlike most earlier book illustrators, he worked in wood, not copper. He took a vernacular skill and made it into an art, transforming the rude woodcut which had ...


E.S. Turner, 15 September 1988

Memories of Times Past 
by Louis Heren.
Hamish Hamilton, 313 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 241 12427 1
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Chances: An Autobiography 
by Mervyn Jones.
Verso, 311 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 86091 167 5
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... island ... I must call on you to make your election between the Times and your other masters.’ Flora Shaw, the paper’s first woman correspondent, egged on the conspirators in the Jameson Raid. ‘It was hardly in the best traditions of the paper,’ writes Heren, ‘but being a good journalist she insisted that the raid must not take place on a ...

Great Man

David Blackbourn: Humboldt, 16 June 2011

Nature’s Interpreter: The Life and Times of Alexander von Humboldt 
by Donald McCrory.
Lutterworth, 242 pp., £23, November 2010, 978 0 7188 9231 9
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... witnessed a meteor shower, collected rocks and handled electric eels; he made close studies of the flora and fauna (including the human fauna); he examined everything from the properties of guano to the prospects for sugar plantations. And wherever he went he measured – heights, angles, distances, temperatures. Humboldt wrote to fellow scientists throughout ...


Christopher Tayler: Multofiction, 8 January 2004

Set This House in Order 
by Matt Ruff.
Flamingo, 496 pp., £12, October 2003, 0 00 716423 8
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... With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson, 19 February 2015

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... An outsider​ by birth as well as by disposition, Flora Thompson took solitary pleasure in observing her fellow villagers. She stored away characters and scenes from an early age – the naughty children who pulled her hair, Queenie who spoke to bees, the annual pig killing, May Day, the harvest – but published nothing until she was in her thirties, and nothing on her childhood until her early sixties ...


Eric Korn: The Eye of the Traveller, 19 February 1987

... the horizon, with the tallest temples, and the most unassimilated Indians and jungliest fauna and flora – the place where Mayan was not a tourist attraction but a curse. Somehow I managed never to get there, scared of getting eaten, raped, lost, mugged, imprisoned as a British or Gringo or Soviet agent; or, much more probably, falling down the steep temple ...

No High Heels in Paradise

Keith Thomas: John Evelyn’s Elysium Britannicum, 19 July 2001

Elysium Britannicum, or the Royal Gardens 
by John Evelyn, edited by John Ingram.
Pennsylvania, 492 pp., £49, December 2000, 0 8122 3536 3
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... is frequently misleading. Palladius, the fifth-century Roman writer on agriculture, on whom Evelyn drew extensively, is identified throughout as Andrea Palladio, the 16th-century architect. John Rea, whose Flora (1665) Evelyn also pillaged, is not distinguished from John Ray, the great botanist. Robert Boyle appears as ‘Mr ...

70 Centimetres and Rising

John Whitfield: Plate tectonics, 3 February 2005

The Earth: An Intimate History 
by Richard Fortey.
Harper Perennial, 501 pp., £9.99, March 2005, 0 00 655137 8
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... published by two Cambridge geologists in the following year. Two years later again, Tuzo Wilson drew on his studies of earthquake faults to suggest that the crust was divided into plates, which could slide over and alongside one another, as well as diverging. In 1967, Jason Morgan and Dan McKenzie independently worked out how these plates could move about ...

Fear the fairies

John Gallagher: Early Modern Sleepe, 18 May 2017

Sleep in Early Modern England 
by Sasha Handley.
Yale, 280 pp., £25, August 2016, 978 0 300 22039 1
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... confessional allegiance: Thomas Ken’s ‘White Paternoster’, a prayer to be said before bed, drew on a Catholic model but pruned it of saints, even though the bedchamber remained a place where Catholics and dissenters could follow their own practices in seclusion. Bedtime prayer was a necessary precaution in case of sudden death during the night, and ...

I ain’t afeared

Marina Warner: In Her Classroom, 9 September 2021

Black Teacher 
by Beryl Gilroy.
Faber, 268 pp., £12.99, July, 978 0 571 36773 3
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... home, but in later books like Sunlight on Sweet Water (1994) and Leaves in the Wind (1998) Gilroy drew on her knowledge of local flora and fauna, as well as the proverbs, rainforest ghosts and wisewoman lore of her family.In London, after endless humiliating days waiting in labour exchanges, Gilroy took temporary jobs, as a ...

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