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The Candidate of Beauty

Alexander Stille: D’Annunzio and the Pursuit of Glory, 2 July 1998

Gabriele D’Annunzio: Defiant Archangel 
by John Woodhouse.
Oxford, 420 pp., £25, February 1998, 0 19 815945 5
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... Some writers are as interesting to read about as to read: writers such as Byron, Wilde, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and D.H. Lawrence, who saw their lives as extensions of their art and in many cases set out to shape their own time as well as to describe it in their work. Others, of similar ambition but more modest talent, defined their age as much through the defects of their work as its merits, and what they wrote increases in historical density as it loses literary freshness, becoming a kind of stratigraphic layer in an archaeological dig ...

Eight Million Bayonets

Alexander Stille: Modern Italy, 1 January 1998

Modern Italy: A Political History 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Yale, 534 pp., £35, October 1997, 0 300 07377 1
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... Originally published in 1959 and revised ten years later, Denis Mack Smith’s Modern Italy: A Political History has been the standard work in its field for nearly two generations. Mack Smith has chosen to update it at a propitious moment, now that the Cold War is over and the political parties that governed Italy for the last half-century have been swept from power ...


James Lasdun: Upper West Side Cult, 27 July 2023

The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy and the Wild Life of an American Commune 
by Alexander Stille.
Farrar, Straus, 418 pp., $30, June, 978 0 374 60039 6
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... sleep more than five hours a night, though in practice they seldom had time for more – but as Alexander Stille’s amazing excavation of their largely hidden history makes clear, the piece mostly erred on the side of understatement, so extreme was the megalomania of the group’s patriarch and his associates.The project began with noble ...


Will Self: Cocaine, 5 November 2015

... proposed between his work and that of Leonardo Sciascia seem a stretch, and the American-Italian Alexander Stille manages a more nuanced account of endemic Italian corruption in his Excellent Cadavers (1995). None of which is by way of gainsaying Saviano’s moral courage: to take a public stand against organised crime and its symbiotic relationship ...

Dun-Coloured Dust

Thomas de Waal: Russia’s war, 15 July 1999

Russia's War 
by Richard Overy.
Penguin, 416 pp., £8.99, July 1999, 0 14 027169 4
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by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 512 pp., £12.99, May 1999, 0 14 024985 0
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... prize in the struggle with Hitler. A harsh winter made conditions unbearable. When the journalist Alexander Werth visited Stalingrad after the battle was over in February 1943, it was so cold that he found he could not write three words on a piece of paper with an ungloved hand. Yet these were the kinds of temperature in which soldiers fought ferocious ...

Travelling in the Classic Style

Thomas Laqueur: Primo Levi, 5 September 2002

Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics 
by Robert Gordon.
Oxford, 316 pp., £45, October 2001, 0 19 815963 3
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Primo Levi 
by Ian Thomson.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 09 178531 6
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The Double Bond: Primo Levi, a Biography 
by Carole Angier.
Viking, 898 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88333 6
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... his close friend Nissim, supported the Mussolini-Hitler alliance until it almost killed her. (Alexander Stille tells the story of the wide range of Jewish responses beautifully in Benevolence and Betrayal.) In other words, Levi did not lose his world as Wiesel, Améry, Celan, Aharon Appelfeld and so many others lost theirs. His was the voice neither ...

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