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Two Sad Russians

Walter Kendrick, 5 September 1985

The Confessions of Victor X 
edited by Donald Rayfield.
Caliban, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 9780904573947
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Novel with Cocaine 
by M. Ageyev, translated by Michael Henry Heim.
Picador, 174 pp., £7.95, February 1985, 0 330 28574 2
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... sex; for posterity, it lies in practically everything else – the minutiae of daily life that ‘Walter’ provided without thinking twice about them. The same is true of Victor’s Confessions: his detailed descriptions of sex acts quickly pall, and the narrative of his degeneration into a pederastic masturbator is both lugubrious and boring. But the ...

Gehenna

Walter Kendrick, 2 August 1984

The Brothers Singer 
by Clive Sinclair.
Allison and Busby, 176 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 85031 275 2
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The Penitent 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Singer.
Cape, 170 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 224 02192 3
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... When Isaac Bashevis Singer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, not everyone was gratified. Clive Sinclair begins The Brothers Singer with a quotation from a BBC radio interview broadcast minutes after the award had been announced: the ‘astounded’ interviewer suspected that ‘some kind of American Mafia’ was at work in the Nobel Committee, while the ‘serious’ Professor Bradbury, discounting this theory, ascribed Singer’s triumph to ‘the domination of American writing in the world today ...

Taking what you get

Walter Kendrick, 6 December 1984

Getting to know the General: The Story of an Involvement 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 224 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 370 30808 5
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Saints, Sinners and Comedians: The Novels of Graham Greene 
by Roger Sharrock.
Burns and Oates, 298 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 86012 134 8
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Travels in Greeneland: The Cinema of Graham Greene 
by Quentin Falk.
Quartet, 229 pp., £14.95, September 1984, 0 7043 2425 3
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The Other Man: Conversations with Graham Greene 
by Marie-Françoise Allain.
Bodley Head, 187 pp., £7.50, April 1983, 0 370 30468 3
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... The longevity of artists creates special difficulties for their critics. Ideally, from a critical point of view, artists ought to follow Keats’s example and die young, leaving behind a tidy oeuvre about which coherent generalisations can be made. Too often, however, artists survive to an unreasonable age, passing through phase after phase, advancing and regressing with no steady rhythm, every year or so tossing a new stumbling-block into the path of those who would like to understand them ...

Shall we tell the children?

Paul Seabright, 3 July 1986

Melanie Klein: Her World and her Work 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hodder, 516 pp., £19.95, June 1986, 0 340 25751 2
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Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey 1924-1925 
edited by Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick.
Chatto, 360 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 7011 3051 2
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... could be contained. Klein’s daughter Melitta left for the United States in 1945 with her husband Walter Schmideberg, and mother and daughter remained unreconciled to the end. The last fifteen years of Klein’s life saw her consolidate her command on psychoanalysis in England, a command achieved at the cost of alienating a number of her erstwhile supporters ...

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