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Calvino

Salman Rushdie, 17 September 1981

If on a winter’s night a traveller 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 260 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 436 08271 3
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The Path to the Nest of Spiders 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Archibald Colquhoun.
Ecco, 145 pp., $4.95, May 1976, 0 912946 31 8
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Our Ancestors 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Archibald Colquhoun.
Picador, 382 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 330 26156 8
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Cosmicomics 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 153 pp., $2.95, April 1976, 0 15 622600 6
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Invisible Cities The Castle of Crossed Destinies 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Picador, 126 pp., £1.25, May 1979, 0 330 25731 5
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... in an attic.’ Shazam! Instant metamorphosis, caterpillar into butterfly, Samsa into giant bug, Clark Kent into Superman, politically-committed Calvino into Captain Italo Marvel. In 1952, he published The Cloven Viscount, which, along with its successors The Baron in the Trees and The Non-Existent Knight, he has now collected in the volume entitled Our ...

MacDiarmid and his Maker

Robert Crawford, 10 November 1988

MacDiarmid 
by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... without unnecessary gloating. Still, one can’t help feeling at times that, understandably, the Clark Kent figure of Grieve is lost among the chorus of Stalinist MacDiarmidian Supermen. At those moments one is grateful for quotations from Valda Grieve, the poet’s widow. Her remarks can sketch a ‘Christopher’ whose human scale counterpoints the ...

Superman Falls to Earth

Ferdinand Mount: Boris Johnson’s First Year, 2 July 2020

... at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange, some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other.‘Coronavirus … panic’? What is this ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen, 6 April 1995

Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... In 1978, at a seminar on John Maynard Keynes held by the University of Kent, Raymond Williams talked about ‘The Significance of Bloomsbury as a Social and Cultural Group’. He accepted Leonard Woolf’s characterisation of Bloomsbury as consisting ‘of the upper levels of the professional middle class and county families, interpenetrated to a certain extent by the aristocracy’ with ‘an intricate tangle of ancient roots and tendrils stretching far and wide’ through those classes ...

On Thatcher

Karl Miller, 25 April 2013

... the Whips – and destroy him in an instant.Linda Colley, 7 September 2000 Westminster, in Alan Clark’s diary portrayal, was peopled almost wholly by buffoons and crooks. The Laird of Saltwood, it was evident, had no need to spend his days doing what they did: sucking up to Thatcher, plotting the downfall of mediocre rivals, pretending to take an interest ...

Dearest Papa

Richard Altick, 1 September 1983

The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin 
edited by George Allan Cate.
Stanford, 251 pp., $28.50, August 1982, 0 8047 1114 3
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Ruskin Today 
by Kenneth Clark.
Penguin, 363 pp., £2.95, October 1982, 0 14 006326 9
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John Ruskin: Letters from the Continent 1858 
edited by John Hayman.
Toronto, 207 pp., £19.50, December 1982, 0 8020 5583 4
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... some glimmers of his old genius for descriptive prose, a genius liberally represented in Lord Clark’s Ruskin Today, first published in 1964, which Penguin has restored to print. Generally, however, the famous lapidary style of Modern Painters and The Stones of Venice doesn’t often appear in Ruskin’s side of the correspondence. The Carlyle of the ...

Ducking and Dodging

R.W. Johnson: Agent Zigzag, 19 July 2007

Agent Zigzag 
by Ben Macintyre.
Bloomsbury, 372 pp., £14.99, January 2007, 978 0 7475 8794 1
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... he became a film extra, playing a starved-looking prisoner in The Colditz Story, and ended up as Clark Gable’s butler in Hollywood. Macintyre says he got the idea for his book from reading Chapman’s obituary (he died, aged 83, in 1997), but he might just as easily have made Faramus the central character. Chapman was patriotic in an Arthur Daley sort of ...

Picasso and Tragedy

T.J. Clark, 17 August 2017

... lives.’ Two of his subjects respond, with questions that go on resonating down the centuries: Kent: Is this the promised end? Edgar: Or image of that horror? Silent protestors in Calcutta in 2007. Shakespeare’s first audience would have understood ‘the promised end’ to mean Doomsday – the end of the world – and ‘image’ to mean exact ...

The Person in the Phone Booth

David Trotter: Phone Booths, 28 January 2010

... is being recognised? Of course, better things do happen in phone booths, at least in fiction. Clark Kent and Dr Who regularly disappear into booths maintained to high standards of hygiene in order to pick up where they left off as extra-terrestrials. The time-travelling booth that launched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) had a curious ...

Constable’s Weather

David Sylvester, 29 August 1991

... a ruin of a castle which from its situation is really a fine place – it commands a view of the Kent hills, the Nore and North Foreland and looking many miles to sea.’ There is no reason to believe that he ever saw the place again, and for nearly fifteen years there was no further sign in his work of his ever having seen it. When he came back to the ...

Taking Sides

John Mullan: On the high road with Bonnie Prince Charlie, 22 January 2004

The ’45: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising 
by Christopher Duffy.
Cassell, 639 pp., £20, March 2003, 0 304 35525 9
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Samuel Johnson in Historical Context 
edited by J.C.D. Clark and Howard Erskine-Hill.
Palgrave, 336 pp., £55, December 2001, 0 333 80447 3
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... Richelieu were, meanwhile, being prepared to set out, mostly from Boulogne, for an invasion of the Kent coast. In London there had been an invasion scare, and there were widespread rumours that a French landing had actually taken place. Local militia were in a state of panic. London seemed at the mercy of the rebels and Londoners hearing the news appear to ...

I, Lowborn Cur

Colin Burrow: Literary Names, 22 November 2012

Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 283 pp., £19.99, September 2012, 978 0 19 959222 7
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... of a fictional spy? Why couldn’t Fleming have used another pair of common monosyllables – John Clark, say? Bond is a solid, blue-chip, faith-giving kind of a name. Who wouldn’t prefer a government Bond under their mattress (we’re talking AAA British) to a petty clerk? Is your word your clerk? I don’t think so. Bond. It’s in the name. More than most ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... a Highland estate on the island of Jura, and a 16-bedroom seaside ‘cottage’ at Sandwich in Kent. Waldorf and Nancy Astor and their five children somehow found the time to live in all four; worried about the safety of Jura milk, Nancy had her own cow dispatched to the island every season by train and steamer. But it was Cliveden, perched above a bend of ...

The Party in Government

Conor Gearty, 9 March 1995

... when Trade and Industry Secretary; a director of Sears, the owners of Selfridges; a director of J.C. Bamford, the excavator manufacturers; and a programme presenter on Mr Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News channel. He was also elevated to the peerage. Sir Norman Fowler, the former Secretary of State for Employment, became a nonexecutive director of Evered, the ...

The Doctrine of Unripe Time

Ferdinand Mount: The Fifties, 16 November 2006

Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 740 pp., £30, October 2006, 0 7139 9571 8
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... Haley, the mission ‘to seek to use broadcasting to raise taste and not to lower it’. Lord Clark of Civilisation, as the first chairman of the Independent Television Authority, unashamedly set it as his mission to make ITV more like the Daily Mirror than the Times. In this Top of the Pops, Bill Haley was always going to come out ahead of Sir ...

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