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What exactly did he discover?

John Ziman, 3 May 1984

‘Subtle is the Lord’: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein 
by Abraham Pais.
Oxford, 552 pp., £15, October 1982, 9780198539070
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The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature 
by Heinz Pagels.
Joseph, 370 pp., £10.95, March 1983, 0 7181 2217 8
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Philosophy and the New Physics 
by Jonathan Powers.
Methuen, 203 pp., £3.95, December 1982, 0 416 73480 4
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Albert Einstein: The Centennial Symposium in Jerusalem 
edited by Gerald Holton and Yehuda Elkana.
Princeton, 439 pp., £24.70, August 1982, 0 06 908299 5
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... pacifist is cast incongruously in the role of the magician whose incantations unleash demonic powers. This formula does, in fact, come out of relativity theory – but it is only one example of the immense technological consequences of Einstein’s theoretical research. The hypothesis that light itself is quantised, which he put forward in that same ...

Between Jesus and Napoleon

Jonathan Haslam: The Paris Conference of 1919, 15 November 2001

Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War 
by Margaret MacMillan.
Murray, 574 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 5939 1
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... order that underpinned the entire international system. Taking the hostility of these two weighty powers into account, the Italian Prime Minister rightly worried that ‘the settlement to be arrived at’ would ‘lack the assent of more than half of the population of the European continent’. Two key points emerge: first, the Allies as well as the Central ...

Outremer

Jonathan Sumption, 16 July 1981

Crusader Institutions 
by Joshua Prawer.
Oxford, 519 pp., £30, September 1980, 0 19 822536 9
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... history of the past two centuries. But they have been, by and large, the achievement of colonial powers, and their political development remained in the retentive hands of European functionaries. Israel is different, and so were the Crusading kingdoms of the Levant which preceded it. Here, moreover, Europeans were not colonials but migrants, creating their ...

Journeys across Blankness

Jonathan Parry: Mapping the Middle East, 19 October 2017

Dislocating the Orient: British Maps and the Making of the Middle East, 1854-1921 
by Daniel Foliard.
Chicago, 336 pp., £45, April 2017, 978 0 226 45133 6
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... was the longest-running and most intractable diplomatic problem in the world. All the European powers had good reasons to keep the Ottoman regime intact across most of its sprawling, often only half-governed territories, even though some of them also had particular reasons for wanting to take over specific bits of that territory, mainly in the Balkans or ...

Wear flames in your hair

William Skidelsky: Jonathan Lethem and back-street superheroes, 24 June 2004

The Fortress of Solitude 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Faber, 511 pp., £12.99, January 2004, 0 571 21933 0
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... Jonathan Lethem’s novels tend to be fusions of genres. As She Climbed across the Table (1997) is a science-fiction campus novel; Girl in Landscape (1998) an SF western. Gun, with Occasional Music (1994), his first novel, is a detective story set in a dystopian future. Narcotics are doled out by the state, and knowledge of the past has been eradicated ...

Her eyes were wild

John Bayley, 2 May 1985

Letters of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Selection 
edited by Alan Hill.
Oxford, 200 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 19 818539 1
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Dorothy Wordsworth 
by Robert Gittings and Jo Manton.
Oxford, 318 pp., £12.50, March 1985, 0 19 818519 7
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The Pedlar, Tintern Abbey, The Two-Part Prelude 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £7.95, January 1985, 0 521 26526 6
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The Ruined Cottage, The Brothers, Michael 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Cambridge, 82 pp., £7.95, January 1985, 0 521 26525 8
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... things that I have seen I now can see no more’) confirmed and supported Wordsworth’s powers. The Immortality Ode has all the gusto of a celebration of his uniquely creative form of solipsism, whose powers of sympathy are as great as its powers of attracting love, or of ...

An American Romance

Edward Mendelson, 18 February 1982

Old Glory: An American Voyage 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 527 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 9780002165211
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No particular place to go 
by Hugo Williams.
Cape, 200 pp., £6.50, October 1981, 0 224 01810 8
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... Old Glory – the book written by Jonathan Raban – is an altogether different book from the Old Glory that was praised in the reviews, but it is no less wonderful for that. The book the reviewers wrote about does not exist at all, except as the ghost of an intention. This phantasmal Old Glory is the book which Raban originally planned to write, and which he expected would be little more than an elegant travel diary: the record of a passive drifting journey down the Mississippi in the track of Huckleberry Finn ...

The Manchu Conquest

Jonathan Spence, 7 August 1986

The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in 17th-Century China 
by Frederic Wakeman.
California, 736 pp., £63.75, January 1986, 0 520 04804 0
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... the Manchu Qing regime recovered faster from the effects of this crisis than any of the European powers is a provocative one, that will only be definitively assessed when the true impact of the erratic shifts in bullion flow on China has received further attention. But it is a worthy attempt to draw China into world history, and it is supplemented by ...

Short Cuts

Jonathan Parry: Harry Goes Rogue, 6 February 2020

... It now occupies an almost entirely neutral constitutional space, which has helped to limit the powers and pretensions of politicians. It is a more effective symbol of national unity at times of crisis for being both apolitical and personal. By drawing to his or her fallible self a lot of the popular enthusiasm that might otherwise be bestowed on ...

Horrible Heresies

Jonathan Rée: Spinoza’s Big Idea, 16 March 2017

The Collected Works of Spinoza Vol. II 
edited and translated by Edwin Curley.
Princeton, 769 pp., £40.95, June 2016, 978 0 691 16763 3
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... and he was soon launched on a posthumous career as the figurehead of the atheistic movements that Jonathan Israel likes to call the ‘radical enlightenment’. Subversive Spinozism was still being championed in plebeian London as late as the 1830s, when – as G.H. Lewes would recall – a poverty-stricken German Jewish watchmaker called Cohn (‘a man of ...

Why the hawks started worrying and learned to hate the Bomb

John Lewis Gaddis: Nuclear weapons, 1 April 1999

The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons 
by Jonathan Schell.
Granta, 240 pp., £9.99, November 1998, 1 86207 230 2
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... abolition to their own and allied governments – Mrs Thatcher was particularly scathing. But as Jonathan Schell points out in The Gift of Time, ‘history often creates a problem whose only real solution lies beyond the pale of current political acceptability.’ Reykjavik expanded the pale: it brought the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons into the ...

But this is fateful!

Theo Tait: Jonathan Lethem, 16 March 2017

The Blot: A Novel 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 289 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 10148 6
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The Blot 
by Jonathan Lethem and Laurence Rickels.
Anti-Oedipus, 88 pp., £6.99, September 2016, 978 0 9905733 7 1
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... Trying to make sense​ of Jonathan Lethem’s fiction as a whole is something of a fool’s errand: there is no easily discernible line from the early hipster science fiction to his big-selling detective story Motherless Brooklyn (1999), to his Cobble Hill coming-of-age novel The Fortress of Solitude (2003) to his intricate, ironic New York Buddenbrooks, Dissident Gardens (2013 ...

A Boundary Where There Is None

Stephen Sedley: In Time of Meltdown, 12 September 2019

Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics 
by Jonathan Sumption.
Profile, 128 pp., £9.99, August 2019, 978 1 78816 372 9
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... has for a long time been the view of a neoliberal school of legal thought; but the argument of Jonathan Sumption’s 2019 Reith Lectures, delivered in May and June and now issued in book form, is more accommodating. It is that while law and due process have their place, they owe considerably more respect to the political process than the UK’s courts have ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Spider-Man 3’, 24 May 2007

Spider-Man 3 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2007
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... quite believe. Pieces of plot float in from nowhere, supernatural characters develop new sets of powers in mid-scene, all the most soppy and obvious scenes are played as if they were Ibsen and all the jokes have been replaced by weary memories of what the movies used to be like – what the two previous Spider-Man movies were like, I mean. American critics ...

Capos and Cardinals

Jonathan Steinberg, 17 August 1989

Fascism and the Mafia 
by Christopher Duggan.
Yale, 322 pp., £19.95, January 1989, 0 300 04372 4
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A Thief in the Night: The Death of Pope John Paul I 
by John Cornwell.
Viking, 301 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 670 82387 2
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... the ‘Iron Prefect’, a man of undoubted rigour and fortitude, to Palermo, armed with all the powers that a dictatorial regime could provide, and let him loose on thousands of rural cattle rustlers, peasant troublemakers and others, innocent and guilty alike. Hundreds were arrested and held without trial. Others went before courts in mass trials ...

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