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Index: Occ. Notes

A Christmas tree in Aleppo.

Denis Boyles: ‘It took until this morning, on the BBC’s “Today” programme on Radio 4, for correspondent Jeremy Bowen, cornered by Ford, to finally admit that the rebels have been systematically using the people they were ostensibly “liberating” as human shields, a war crime that went unreported.’

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‘Jane Austen’ and ‘Jane Austen at home’.

Thomas Kebbel: ‘The danger to which a young lady is exposed by imagining too readily that a polite gentleman is in love with her; and the danger to which a young gentleman is exposed by imagining too readily that a good-natured girl is in love with him; the misunderstandings that arise from careless conversation, from exaggerated reserve, from overrated pretensions, from all the little mistakes which create the common embarrassments of ordinary society; these are the minor mischiefs which [Jane Austen’s] pen is devoted to setting in their proper light, and no man or woman turned forty will deny that such work may be of great utility, or that anybody who chooses to read her novels with a view to practical instruction may learn a great deal from them. ‘

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Octavio Paz in Cambridge, 1970.

Richard Berengarten: ‘In the act and process of reading Octavio, whether his prose or verse, my experience is that I am breathed on by a larger, more oxygenated air, so that whatever may be the othernesses that constitute my ‘I’ (subliminal, hidden, unnoticed, potential, dormant, discarded, dismayed, disarrayed …) which, together with my ‘I’, compose the multiple folia of my Self itself – these all get gathered and re-gathered into an opening of lungs and horizons, into a fuller, richer and more acute alertness of the senses to harmonies and dissonances; to the unique minutiae tucked and pleated throughout panoramas and the panoramas resident and resonant in minutiae. ‘

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My part in the downfall of everything.

Anthony Howell: ‘Since its heyday in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, satire as a poetic form has fallen out of fashion. Of course, in other fields, there are still plenty of satirists. Private Eye continues to mock the establishment and spill the beans on cheats. Stand-up comics ridicule our politicians and media stars. There are plenty of films, plays and musicals that deal in derision and the criticism of human pretensions, foibles and iniquity. The satirical vein is still very much in circulation. But poetry itself, the principle organ of mockery in Roman times, appears to have lost sight of this cutting tool with the advent of the romantics. Sincerity replaced wit as the yard stick in the nineteenth century, and resonance achieved through depth of feeling became a more urgent concern.’

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The inside of the open mind.

Frank Jewett Mather, Jr.: ‘The professionally openminded person of to-day is noisy, fretful, hasty, and wholly uncivilized. His fickleness he vaunts as a virtue, he respects nothing but day after to-morrow. He leaps at novelty like a trout at feathers and tinsel, but like an illconditioned trout in August, never takes hold and hooks himself. He handles his mind like a cranky householder who is too busy ventilating his house to furnish it or keep it up.’

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Transits of Venus.

Martin Sorrell: ‘This transition to the vertical was as swift and fluent as had been the movement from lying to sitting, and even more startling. For what we saw, as she stood there, ramrod-straight, was that she had only one leg. The other one ended well above the knee. But there she was, perfectly balanced, perfectly still. She said a few words to her companion, presumably about a dip. Five hops took her into the water. For a minute or two, she simply floated; then she started to move.’

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• First Trollope Prize-winning essays announced.

The judges noted that Lucy Sheehan’s essay successfully “enters the current critical conversation about the nature and effects of space and place in Victorian literary texts, especially how portrayals of space represent or embody ethical positions,” and praised it as a “well-researched, readable, and insightful” text.

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