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Wanting Legs & Arms & Eyes

Clare Bucknell: Surplus Sons, 5 March 2020

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England 
by Rory Muir.
Yale, 384 pp., £25, August 2019, 978 0 300 24431 1
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... in a different position. How they chose a profession, or how their parents chose one for them, as Rory Muir demonstrates, determined to a substantial degree the quality and even the length of their life. Barring a couple of unlikely ways out, such as marrying a rich heiress (rare because rich heiresses tended to marry men at least as rich as they were), or ...

How to Serve Coffee

Rory Stewart: Aleppan Manners, 16 February 2017

Aleppo Observed: Ottoman Syria through the Eyes of Two Scottish Doctors, Alexander and Patrick Russell 
by Maurits H. van den Boogert.
Arcadian Library, 254 pp., £120, September 2015, 978 0 19 958856 5
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... Why would two such energetic Enlightenment scholars from Edinburgh University – who knew Adam Smith and William Robertson – choose on their return from the East to establish their intellectual life in London, rather than the Athens of the North? And why – when Dr Johnson’s contemporary portrait of Scotland is neurotic about the loss of authenticity ...


Rory Stewart: In Afghanistan, 11 July 2002

... been quoted again and again since 11 September, including by George Bush, Tony Blair, Iain Duncan-Smith and an endless string of journalists: ‘Whoever kills a soul is like one who has killed the whole of Mankind.’ This sentence is at the heart of the Politically Correct campaign to ensure that the war fever against Islamic terrorists doesn’t lead to an ...

Pop your own abscess

Rory Scothorne: Definitions of Poverty, 22 February 2018

The New Poverty 
by Stephen Armstrong.
Verso, 242 pp., £12.99, October 2017, 978 1 78663 463 4
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Poverty Safari 
by Darren McGarvey.
Luath, 244 pp., £7.99, November 2017, 978 1 912147 03 8
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... functioning of the market order. During his tenure as work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith sought to redefine poverty in terms of behaviour, emphasising drugs, alcohol, worklessness, family stability and parenting skills, an approach which conveniently sidestepped the distributional consequences of economic policy and wage levels just as the ...

Who’s your dance partner?

Thomas Meaney: Europe inside Africa, 7 November 2019

The Scramble for Europe: Young Africa on Its Way to the Old Continent 
by Stephen Smith.
Polity, 197 pp., £15.99, April 2019, 978 1 5095 3457 9
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... which can only be alleviated one bad actor at a time. In tone​ , if not in argument, Stephen Smith’s Scramble for Europe belongs to the crisis literature that began to appear in 2015 after Merkel’s decision to allow more refugees into Germany than EU burden-sharing rules required. The notion of a ‘European refugee crisis’ had already coalesced in ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... addicted to thirty-mile walks in his oldest tweeds, he might have been more at home with Rory Stewart, but there’s possibly a bit of Buchan’s vision in the Black Stone of Brexit, and a bit of Hannay in Johnson’s swagger. It can’t only be down to Hitchcock that The Thirty-Nine Steps has never been out of print, or that most bookshops still ...


Alan Bennett: What I Did in 2015, 7 January 2016

... March. This last week I finish reading Common Ground by Rob Cowen and The Places In Between by Rory Stewart, both books about wildernesses, Stewart’s in Afghanistan, Cowen’s in almost comical contrast in and around Harrogate. As he tells the story Stewart seems in regular peril of his life, Cowen less so as he just makes expeditions from his suburban ...

Frameworks of Comparison

Benedict Anderson, 21 January 2016

... of philosophy, sociology, economics and politics based on the grand tradition of Machiavelli, Smith, Constant, Ricardo, Hegel, Marx, de Tocqueville, Weber and so on. My department had a subsection called Political Theory, which was usually taught by a European scholar and whose range extended from Plato to Marx, but included no Americans. The second ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... The Vegetarian and Human Acts have won startling numbers of readers in the translations by Deborah Smith, in which the underspecification, repetition and starkness of Korean have been, by Smith’s own account and with Han’s full approval, enhanced by ‘occasional interpolations’ after she listened ‘more carefully to ...


Alan Bennett: Selling my hair on eBay, 6 January 2022

... belonging to Henrietta Roberts (later Dombey), the daughter of Michael Roberts and Janet Adam Smith. What occasioned Rupert’s interest was his having been to look at a very grand house for his magazine (World of Interiors), the expensive decoration of which included several Ben Nicholsons. This reminded me that over the fireplace in the very rundown ...

Even If You Have to Starve

Ian Penman: Mod v. Trad, 29 August 2013

Mod: A Very British Style 
by Richard Weight.
Bodley Head, 478 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 224 07391 2
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... afternoon spent in the stagnant pool of daytime TV, I came across the renowned impressionist Rory Bremner (known for his ‘sharp satire and unforgiving political commentary’) giving himself over to a satirical – sorry, sartorial – makeover, in a Brighton boutique which specialises in everything Mod. The odd thing about this (OK, one of the odd ...

The Satoshi Affair

Andrew O’Hagan, 30 June 2016

... tawny port stood on the bar, and I was inspecting it when MacGregor arrived with Mr and Mrs Smith. That’s what he’d been calling them in his emails to me. Craig Wright, 45 years old, wearing a white shirt under a black jacket, a pair of blue chinos, a belt with a large Armani buckle and very green socks, wasn’t the kind of guy who seems ...

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