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Diary

Julian Evans: What might Larbaud have thought?, 31 July 1997

... single reference to Larbaud I was able to find in any text on Nabokov was a letter to a Professor John Kenneth Simon at the University of Illinois, sent from Montreux in February 1971, in which Nabokov says he does not remember ‘having ever read anything by Valery Larbaud – even in my youth when I absorbed a lot of ...

Bad Timing

R.W. Johnson: All about Eden, 22 May 2003

Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden, First Earl of Avon 1897-1977 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Chatto, 758 pp., £25, March 2003, 0 7011 6744 0
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The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-57 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 676 pp., £25, April 2003, 9780333711675
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... where he could hardly bear to hear Italian spoken. Similarly, an already dicey relationship with John Foster Dulles seems to have been ruined beyond repair by Dulles’s hand-on-arm habits and his halitosis. There were otherwise unexplained enmities towards Eden throughout his career which were surely based on the belief that he was gay, but since ...

Coalition Monsters

Colin Kidd, 6 March 2014

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government 
by Matthew D’Ancona.
Penguin, 414 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 670 91993 2
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... the Liberal Party of Herbert Asquith. Further schisms followed. The Liberal Nationals, under Sir John Simon, joined the National Government of 1931 and continued for the next thirty years co-operating closely with the Conservatives. Under the Woolton-Teviot Agreement of 1947 the Liberal Nationals changed their name, confusingly, to the National ...

Tables and Chairs

Christopher Tayler: J.M. Coetzee, 21 March 2013

J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing 
by J.C. Kannemeyer, translated by Michiel Heyns.
Jonathan Ball, 710 pp., R 325, October 2012, 978 1 86842 495 5
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Here and Now: Letters 2008-11 
by Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee.
Viking, 256 pp., $27.95, March 2013, 978 0 670 02666 1
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The Childhood of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 210 pp., £16.99, March 2013, 978 1 84655 769 9
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... in character. ‘After retiring from UCT and settling in Adelaide,’ Kannemeyer writes, ‘John Coetzee became a far more relaxed person.’ One symptom of this relative relaxation is the emergence, or re-emergence, since 2002, of a playful, inscrutably teasing side to his writing. In the essays collected in Inner Workings (2007) a dry sense of humour ...

The Bart

Gabriele Annan, 10 December 1987

Broken Blood: The Rise and Fall of the Tennant Family 
by Simon Blow.
Faber, 224 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 13374 6
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... historian E.J. Hobsbawm’s The Age of Empire, 1875-1914, would make the perfect epitaph for Simon Blow’s history of his maternal grandmother’s family, the Tennants. Or for a Thatcherite tract on Britain’s decline from Victorian values. Or for a great novel like Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks. The rise and fall of a mercantile dynasty is a rich old ...

Venom

Robin Briggs: Saint-Simon and Louis XIV, 26 November 1998

Saint-Simon, ou le système de la cour 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Jean-François Fitou.
Fayard, 636 pp., frs 160, November 1997, 2 213 59994 7
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... At the end of a work comparing the first three Bourbon kings, the duc de Saint-Simon invites us to make a final judgment between them, and to be persuaded that the precise truth has guided every stroke of his pen. With characteristic dexterity, he couples this nuanced claim to objectivity with the suggestion that it has only been achieved by subordinating his feelings of ‘just gratitude’ towards Louis XIII ...

The Atom School

Theo Tait: J.M. Coetzee, 3 November 2016

The Schooldays of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 260 pp., £17.99, August 2016, 978 1 911215 35 6
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... the second part of a quasi-autobiographical trilogy, we are told that the book’s protagonist, John, ‘can see no reason why people need to dance’: Dancing makes sense only when it is interpreted as something else, something that people prefer not to admit. That something else is the real thing: the dance is merely a cover. Inviting a girl to dance ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bo yakasha., 4 January 2001

... enjoy?) the condition are known – include Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Kandinsky, Nabokov and Hockney. John Harrison’s Synaesthesia: The Strangest Thing, a scientific and historical study, is due from Oxford in March. The condition has been dismissed by at least one anonymous ‘notable scientist’ as ‘romantic neurology’, but in the foreword to ...

‘My dear, dear friend and Führer!’

Jeremy Adler: Winifred Wagner, 6 July 2006

Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler’s Bayreuth 
by Brigitte Hamann, translated by Alan Bance.
Granta, 582 pp., £12.99, June 2006, 1 86207 851 3
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... your Winnie. Winifred also graced state functions – among them, a dinner for Anthony Eden and John Simon in 1935. Hitler noticed that she had eaten nothing and ordered a carafe of wine and a tray of delicacies for her when the guests had gone. She treasured this as a token of his ‘sensitivity’. Hamann attributes the subsequent cooling in their ...

Dishevelled

Wayne Koestenbaum: Tennessee Williams, 4 October 2007

Tennessee Williams: Notebooks 
edited by Margaret Bradham Thornton.
Yale, 828 pp., £27.50, February 2007, 978 0 300 11682 3
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... after his early winning streak, as each new play bombed, he underwent public whippings. John Simon called Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and Sweet Bird of Youth ‘cowardly’, and, in 1978, wrote: ‘The kindest thing to assume is that Williams died shortly after completing Sweet Bird of Youth, and that his subsequent, ever more ...

Haleking

John Bossy: Simon Forman, 22 February 2001

The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman 
by Barbara Howard Traister.
Chicago, 260 pp., £19, February 2001, 0 226 81140 9
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Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician 
by Judith Cook.
Chatto, 228 pp., £18.99, January 2001, 0 7011 6899 4
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... private-enterprise medical practitioner, counsellor, sexual athlete and compulsive writer Simon Forman. Forman’s voluminous papers, case-notes, diaries and all sorts of other writings had been in the Bodleian Library since Elias Ashmole presented them in the late 17th century. They contained a vast amount of anecdote about all sorts of ...

Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

Swallow 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... three got the idea from the newspapers. In Morning Star (named after Lucifer, not the newspaper), Simon Raven tells of a Conservative MP whose ‘swallow’ is described as ‘a half-caste tart in India’. In First Among Equals, Jeffrey Archer introduces a Labour MP who is likewise endangered by a young black girl ‘in a white leather mini skirt so short it ...

In place of fairies

Simon Schaffer, 2 December 1982

Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic 
by Daniel O’Keefe.
Martin Robertson, 581 pp., £17.50, September 1982, 0 85520 486 9
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Scienze, Credenze Occulti, Livelli di Cultura 
edited by Paola Zambelli.
Leo Olschki, 562 pp., April 1982, 88 222 3069 8
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... In works with titles such as The Occult Philosophy, wise men and magi like Cornelius Agrippa and John Dee outlined in general and axiomatic form the elements of a high and secret knowledge which they claimed to have inherited from the past. This is exactly what O’Keefe has accomplished for his own misty past, instead of Orpheus, Hermes and ...

Grotty Cecil

Simon Raven, 1 July 1982

Dornford Yates: A Tragedy 
by A.J. Smithers.
Hodder, 240 pp., £8.95, March 1982, 0 340 27547 2
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... natives and said vile things about the sainted Aneurin Bevan. Dornford Yates, in short, was John Buchan with big brass knobs on – an ultra-Imperialist and a granite diehard, who seduced the public with his flashy and worthless stories in much the same way as child-molesters tempt eight-year-olds with gaily-coloured sweets. But now comes A.J. Smithers ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones, 8 January 1987

The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... by the public school system, expressed in schoolmasters’ aspirations and schoolboys’ comics. Simon Raven’s notorious devotion to that system began when he was only a seven-year-old comic reader, as he admits in The Old School, a loving but mordant survey of the dormitory schools: he went on avidly to Charterhouse and he fancies other men will envy or ...

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