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Tricky Business

Megan Vaughan: The Middle Passage, 12 December 2002

The Diligent: A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade 
by Robert Harms.
Perseus, 466 pp., £17.99, February 2002, 1 903985 18 8
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... The Billy brothers were expecting big profits from the sale of Africans they would never see. Robert Harms has based his riveting account of the ‘worlds of the slave trade’ on a journal kept by a young lieutenant on the Diligent, Robert Durand, a document sold in the 1980s to the Beinecke Library at Yale, where ...

Bernie’s War

Philip Purser, 23 May 1991

A German Requiem 
by Philip Kerr.
Viking, 306 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 670 83516 1
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... My instinct is that it should be severely rationed: a maximum of one killing and two bodily harms per book, averaged out over the writer’s oeuvre. Indiscriminate use blunts the effectiveness when it is really needed. It is also very difficult to do well. In his first few pages, Kerr has a decapitation of a Russian soldier which is sudden, brutal and ...

Unlike a Scotch Egg

Glen Newey: Hate Speech, 5 December 2013

The Harm in Hate Speech 
by Jeremy Waldron.
Harvard, 292 pp., £19.95, June 2012, 978 0 674 06589 5
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... by the exposure of sweatshop labour practices in their supply chains. These are surely justifiable harms caused by speech. There is, however, no obvious reason why all harms caused by speech must be justifiable. Waldron duly rejects the only words doctrine, on the plausible ground that some uses of speech – ‘hate ...

Beach Poets

Blake Morrison, 16 September 1982

The Fortunate Traveller 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 99 pp., £3.95, March 1982, 0 571 11893 3
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Sun Poem 
by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Oxford, 104 pp., £4.95, April 1982, 0 19 211945 1
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Collected Poems 
by Bernard Spencer, edited by Roger Bowen.
Oxford, 149 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 19 211930 3
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Selected Poems 
by Odysseus Elytis.
Anvil, 114 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 85646 076 1
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Poems from Oby 
by George MacBeth.
Secker, 67 pp., £4, March 1982, 9780436270178
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The New Ewart: Poems 1980-1982 
by Gavin Ewart.
Hutchinson, 115 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 09 146980 5
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The Apple-Broadcast 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 133 pp., £3, November 1981, 0 7100 0884 8
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... e lil booee eye an e twiss mout. an e big bubby muddah got e chattel up safe an fat in she out a harms way. so is family now an i owns it ... Both Walcott and Brathwaite have written much about exile, which is also the keynote in the work of Bernard Spencer, who died in mysterious circumstances in Vienna in 1963 (he was found dead on a railway ...

Judicial Politics

Stephen Sedley, 23 February 2012

... did so on the ground that its deviousness was a matter for political debate, not for adjudication. Robert Stevens in his book The English Judges comments that my decision did not endear me to ministers, but I doubt that allowing judicial review to proceed would have been more likely to earn their gratitude. Judges who sit in the Administrative Court could give ...

Unsluggardised

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 18 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... gold signet ring bearing on its bezel the initials ‘W.S.’ It was bought for 36 shillings by Robert Bell Wheler, a local historian, and later donated to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, where it still resides. When the Romantic painter Benjamin Robert Haydon heard news of the discovery he wrote excitedly to his friend ...

We Are All Victims Now

Thomas Laqueur: Trauma, 8 July 2010

The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood 
by Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman, translated by Rachel Gomme.
Princeton, 305 pp., £44.95, July 2009, 978 0 691 13752 0
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... set trauma on a new course. And psychoanalysis reciprocated the favour. Not only did analysts like Robert Jay Lifton and Bruno Bettelheim help construct the Holocaust as the paradigmatic case of a traumatic event that could not fail to leave ‘a trace on the individual and collective memory’, they also developed a clinical entity, ‘survivor syndrome’ or ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman, 1 July 2015

The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... Partisan Review, the Kenyon Review and Sewanee Review, with a good deal of auto-canonising. Robert Lowell, almost by default it seemed, was ceded pride of place, the ‘most important American poet now at work’. Lowell and Randall Jarrell, roommates at Kenyon College in the 1930s, and to a lesser extent Berryman too, were big on rating and ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest, 22 March 2018

TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... a Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield (c.1590), Antony Munday’s two-part Downfall and Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon (1598) and Jonson’s unfinished Sad Shepherd – remember or re-enact the paradigmatic story of Robin Hood. In George Peele’s Edward I, the Welsh bandit Prince Lluellen and his followers give their cause a veneer of mischievous ...

How can we live with it?

Thomas Jones: How to Survive Climate Change, 23 May 2013

The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix It 
by Dieter Helm.
Yale, 273 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 300 18659 8
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Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering 
by Clive Hamilton.
Yale, 247 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 300 18667 3
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The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live 
by Brian Stone.
Cambridge, 187 pp., £19.99, July 2012, 978 1 107 60258 8
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... larger one, driven by coal. ‘The benefits to Perth are direct and immediate (new water) and the harms are diffuse and intergenerational,’ Robert Glennon wrote in National Geographic last year. ‘That’s what makes climate change such an intractable problem.’ There’s no immediate need for desalination in ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... sent copies of poems they had been working on to famous poets, including the poet laureate Robert Southey. We don’t have Charlotte’s letter to Southey, or know which poems she sent, but parts of her letter are quoted in his and show her extravagant style of praise – she begs him to ‘stoop from his throne of light and glory’ – which he ...

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