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Impossible Wishes

Michael Wood: Thomas Mann, 6 February 2003

The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Mann 
edited by Ritchie Robertson.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £45.50, November 2001, 9780521653107
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Thomas Mann: A Biography 
by Hermann Kurzke, translated by Leslie Willson.
Allen Lane, 582 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 7139 9500 9
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... no fewer than five biographies since 1995 – four of them (by Klaus Harpprecht, Ronald Hayman, Anthony Heilbut, Donald Prater) published in that single year. The German version of Kurzke’s book appeared in 1999. Six volumes of Mann’s essays were published between 1993 and 1997, and the ten-volume edition of the diaries was completed in 1995. The ...

Bourgeois Nightmares

Gilberto Perez: Michael Haneke, 6 December 2012

... lies not least with the actors: Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn are no match for Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. Haneke’s American remake of Funny Games, even closer to the original movie in story and shot arrangement, is also inferior, and again the actors are a primary reason. The villains aren’t quite right in their social demeanour: Funny Games is a ...

Which Face?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Emigrés on the Make, 6 February 2020

Cold War Exiles and the CIA: Plotting to Free Russia 
by Benjamin Tromly.
Oxford, 329 pp., £75, September 2019, 978 0 19 884040 4
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The Dissidents: A Memoir of Working with the Resistance in Russia, 1960-90 
by Peter Reddaway.
Brookings, 337 pp., £25.50, February, 978 0 8157 3773 5
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... don’t necessarily know which is the true one. Peter was then a tall, rosy-cheeked young man with blond hair flopping over his forehead, like an overgrown schoolboy, and I thought if I had been a Russian I would have been inclined to show him my dissident face, if only to avoid disappointing him. His expulsion from the Soviet Union at first seemed to him like ...

When the Floods Came

James Meek: England’s Water, 31 July 2008

... signed up for one, and on average only two-fifths of the people at risk do sign up. Besides, as Anthony Perry, flood-risk manager for Gloucestershire, explained, the key to the July floods was the water pouring off the Cotswolds, and the agency doesn’t give warnings for those small, nippy rivers. ‘The limitations are small watercourses, where they ...

In the Sorting Office

James Meek, 28 April 2011

... It seemed to be mainly Ikea catalogues, the cover showing an exquisitely lit arrangement of blond, cheerful furniture. The Ikea ideal did not include any obvious area for the sorting of mail. As the greasy slap of the catalogues’ plastic covers hitting the counter became monotonous, my eye kept being drawn to a row of Smurfs balanced on the copper ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story, 8 March 2007

... Oklahoma?’ ‘Yes. We saw it when we were engaged.’ Extraordinary to think of it, the dashing blond boy he had been. ‘Was that Cecil Beaton?’ ‘No idea. Never liked the fellow. Green shoes.’ ‘Smelled delicious.’ ‘What’s that?’ ‘A book. I borrowed it.’ ‘Dead, I suppose.’ ‘Who?’ ‘The Beaton fellow.’ ‘Oh yes. Everybody’s ...

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