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Ruthless Young Man

Michael Brock, 14 September 1989

Churchill: 1874-1922 
by Frederick Earl of Birkenhead, edited by Sir John Colville.
Harrap, 552 pp., £19.95, August 1989, 0 245 54779 7
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... during the Twenties and Thirties. His son, the third Earl, who took over the work, died tragically young in 1985. Robin Birkenhead’s draft extended to the end of 1940. It had been shown to Sir John Colville, who was asked to finish the story. He declined, but wrote an epilogue giving his own view of the Churchill he had known. He died suddenly in October ...
... It was a conflict involving the whole nation. The army opened its ranks to all fit to serve, and young men streamed in to ‘do their bit’, from the city, from the plough. They came with an enthusiasm which survived the discomfort and ineffiency of the camps where they had to sleep in non-existent tents and train with non-existent weapons. They were ...

Wharton the Wise

D.A.N. Jones, 4 April 1985

The Missing Will 
by Michael Wharton.
Hogarth, 216 pp., £10.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2666 3
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... For 27 years Michael Wharton has written the ‘Peter Simple’ column in the Daily Telegraph. He was only 43 when he secured this good, steady job and now he has published an autobiographical account of his 43 apprentice years – dissident, drifting, bohemian years, marked by a lack of will-power, what the Greeks called aboulia ...
... than it used to be. Too few London publishers are willing or able to invest in creating jobs for young editors, training them properly, and giving them the authority and budget to take their own risks. These days, there are very few editors under thirty who have that authority. More and more British authors expect to find their books edited in New York ...

Michael Hofmann reads his father’s book

Michael Hofmann, 25 June 1987

Our Conquest 
by Gert Hofmann, translated by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 281 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 85635 687 5
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... Altklug is the German word: literally ‘old-clever’, as wise as the old, an old head on young shoulders, precocious. Their dialogue moves as purposefully as a flow diagram. They ask questions like scrupulous logicians: ‘For instance, which theatres have they played in, how long their longest applause lasted, what sort of people they’ve been ...

Off the Verandah

Adam Kuper: Malinowski’s Papuan peregrinations, 7 October 2004

Malinowski: Odyssey of an Anthropologist 1884-1920 
by Michael Young.
Yale, 690 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 300 10294 1
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... Michael Young’s biography takes Bronislaw Malinowski to the age of 36, when the brilliant Polish anthropologist completed his field study of the Trobriand Islands, married, and prepared to make his career back in Europe. Young is a Melanesian ethnographer himself, and the book comes into its own when Malinowski arrives in Australia, on the eve of the Great War, and begins the expeditions to Papua that effectively marked the beginning of modern anthropology ...

The Nephew

David Thomson, 19 March 1981

Charmed Lives 
by Michael Korda.
Penguin, 498 pp., £2.50, January 1981, 0 14 005402 2
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... of Hungarian nerve, social bluff and show-business instinct once commanded the British cinema. In Michael Korda’s telling, however, the panorama of picture-making is not always alight with understanding or information. The author may have been born on the night in 1933 when his uncle Alexander Korda’s first great success, The Private Life of Henry ...

I ain’t a child

Roy Porter, 5 September 1996

Growing Up Poor: Home, School and Street 1870-1914 
by Anna Davin.
Rivers Oram, 289 pp., £19.95, January 1996, 9781854890627
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... from the butcher’s barrow, doing the occasional moonlight flit (regularly experienced by the young V.S. Pritchett) and, to escape the workhouse, relying on the kindness of relatives and neighbours – traditions of give-and-take which still survived in the postwar Bethnal Green anthropologised by Michael Young and ...

Family Values

Michael Wood, 17 October 1996

The Last Don 
by Mario Puzo.
Heinemann, 482 pp., £15.99, October 1996, 0 434 60498 4
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... no legacy, to erase the blood and violence and illegality which formed his own career. This is why Michael Corleone is supposed to stay out of his father’s business, to become respectable, a senator maybe, or the governor of a state; and the whole plot of two movies concerns his reluctant, and then not so reluctant, embrace of what seems to him an ...


Elizabeth Young, 25 February 1993

The Case of Anna Kavan 
by David Callard.
Peter Owen, 240 pp., £16.95, January 1993, 0 7206 0867 8
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... years at the offices of Horizon. ‘Understandably, Connolly was never comfortable with Kavan,’ Michael Sheldon wrote in Friends of Promise, his book about Connolly. He was presumably referring to her heroin addiction. Friends and mentors over the years – Rhys Davies. Peter Owen, Brian Aldiss – have made considerable efforts to dispel such feelings of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘L’Enfant’, ‘Caché’, 6 April 2006

directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne.
May 2005
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directed by Michael Haneke.
May 2005
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... won by their film Rosetta, a venture in just the same vein, in 1999. ‘A gritty urban tale of a young couple living on the breadline in France’, the BBC says of L’Enfant. Belgium, as it happens, and more like the criminal fringe than the breadline. But gritty and urban are going to be part of almost anyone’s first impressions. Grim, too. Are we so ...

Facing the Future

Keith Middlemas, 17 December 1981

Fifty Years of Political and Economic Planning: Looking Forward, 1931-1981 
edited by John Pinder.
Heinemann, 228 pp., £9.50, June 1981, 0 435 83690 0
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... as its intellectual arbiters, and PEP remained on the fringe, even though its new secretary, Michael Young, put what he could into Labour’s 1945 ‘Let us face the future’. Afterwards, there was no alternative but to switch from being a ginger group to becoming a fully-fledged research institute, in which professional researchers, jealous of ...

Exotic Birds

Michael Foley, 4 April 1985

... far from slags. They’re not crippled – hopeful and giving still. No bitterness lurks in their young breasts adorned with such taste (Like the mums in a serial ad – a pair but not shoved in your face). The four enter a bar like exotic birds briefly alighting on country streams. Which table’s the problem. To see and be seen yet repel the dull ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Breathless’, 22 July 2010

directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... entirely faithful to our memories, it has scarcely changed. It’s true it doesn’t feel quite as young as it did, and that a certain melancholy, always present, murmurs a little more loudly than it used to. Fifty years are not nothing. But think of some of the other films released in 1960: L’Avventura, Butterfield 8, La Dolce Vita, Elmer Gantry, The ...

Daddy’s Boy

Michael Ignatieff, 22 December 1983

The Shoemaker: Anatomy of a Psychotic 
by Flora Rheta Schreiber.
Allen Lane, 432 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 7139 1636 2
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... as a moral career. In the wake of his conviction for murdering and dismembering six lonely young men at that dreaded address, Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill, Dennis Nilsen must have basked in the thought that, even behind bars, he was still free to roam through the darker corners of the minds of all those people who had scorned or ignored him when he ...

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