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Britain’s Thermonuclear Bluff

Norman Dombey and Eric Grove, 22 October 1992

... secret nuclear-weapons laboratory. Some extremely bright British theoretical physicists (e.g. Bell, Flowers, Skyrme, Marshall) were employed by the Atomic Energy Authority in the mid-Fifties but they were down the road at Harwell and could not be consulted. Penney was none too happy to have this high-flier imposed on him by Lord Cherwell and never got on ...

Unwritten Masterpiece

Barbara Everett: Dryden’s ‘Hamlet’, 4 January 2001

... that left to himself he would have filled his whole book with Prologues and Epilogues. Or again, Keith Walker, in his Oxford Poetry Library selection, confines himself almost entirely (after Mac Flecknoe, parts of Absalom and Achitophel, ‘To the Memory of Mr Oldham’, ‘St Cecilia’s Day’, and the ‘Lady’s Song’) to translations and Fables. All ...

Writer’s Writer and Writer’s Writer’s Writer

Julian Barnes: ‘Madame Bovary’, 18 November 2010

Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways 
by Gustave Flaubert and Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 342 pp., £20, November 2010, 978 1 84614 104 1
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... and though Steegmuller did write some fiction – including mysteries under the name of David Keith – it’s a fair bet that Davis is the best fiction writer ever to translate the novel. Which suggests a further question to the opening list: would you rather have your great novel translated by a good writer or a less good one? This is not as idle a ...

A Kind of Greek

Jeremy Harding: Frank Thompson, 7 March 2013

A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson 
by Peter Conradi.
Bloomsbury, 419 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 1 4088 0243 4
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... of the older Carritt boys went to Spain, one of them wounded and the other killed, like Julian Bell, at Brunete.†) At Winchester Frank was already interested in Marxism. He wasn’t alone. First there was his friend John Hasted, whom he seems to have inducted into ‘libertarian Bolshevism’ and who, like him, went on to New College. (Hasted remained in ...

Cute, My Arse

Seamus Perry: Geoffrey Hill, 12 September 2019

The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 148 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 19 882952 2
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... may emerge from disaster. ‘My brain,’ Hill says later in the poem, ‘is St Bride’s tower, bell-confused while the bells take plunging fatal rides inside an hour.’ While the churches burned, Whitbread Brewery withstood the flames (‘Whitbread, house of Whitbread, standing in for the City’, as Hill ingenuously explains his allegorising), a symbolic ...

Alas! Deceived

Alan Bennett: Philip Larkin, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 570 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 571 15174 4
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... like a Fifties novel of provincial life, though not one written by him so much as by John Wain or Keith Waterhouse. Indeed Ruth sounds (or Larkin makes her sound) like Billy Liar’s unsatisfactory girlfriend, whose snog-inhibiting Jaffa Billy hurls to the other end of the cemetery. Having laid out a grand total of 15s. 7d. on an evening with Ruth, Larkin ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... to support the organisation,’ Mrs Rawlings said. Another TMO member from that time, Reg Kerr-Bell, agrees.Kerr-Bell became chair of the TMO in February 2010. He feels, as does Rawlings, that the TMO’s strength was such that all matters relating to Grenfell’s refurbishment were its remit. In the press, very little ...

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