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Index: Biography and Memoir

Yellow.

Dan Coyle: ‘Carroll County was my Provence, Mount Airy my Arles, rusty cars and clapboard sheds my Roman ruins. When a certain slant of late-afternoon sunlight fell on such a ruin, I took it as a blessing of sorts. My life a ruin, I would make art of it.’

A resumé of Resistance.

Ian Seed: ‘”Curriculum Violette” offers us a fleeting and yet powerful portrait of the life of Violette Szabo (1921-45), a French-born British agent who fought alongside members of the French Resistance and who died in Ravensbrück concentration camp.’

Honey.

Nigel Wheale: ‘On the staircase, hung with a wildly florid wallpaper, peony blooms on a dark green ground, a locked gun cabinet next a tall thin glass-fronted case, inside a single racket and shuttlecock. Also, a large, nineteenth-century studio portrait: an intimidating, whiskered man – the grandfather from the island further north? – and standing next to him, a girl, about twelve years old, who stares out with the meaningful gaze that only old or ‘anthropological’ photographs seem to capture, some quality of the iris caught in a particular way.’

Le meurtre.

Michelene Wandor: ‘The scene is set for a detective story/political thriller. The opening chapters are short, sometimes poetic, vivid, trailing possible clues and questions. As I read it, I expected Hercule Poirot to appear at any moment, twirling his moustache, gathering the cast together to solve the mystery, to point out the culprit, who is then turned over to the police.’

Adorno and the ‘Philosophy of Modern Music’.

Tronn Overend: ‘Adorno selects the thesis and the antithesis of Stravinsky and Schoenberg as his case studies. In Kantian terms, they are in permanent opposition, never reconciliation. In other words, there can be no synthesis, because, as Schoenberg had remarked, ‘the middle road is the only one which does not lead to Rome.”‘

Seeing with Words.

Hoyt Rogers: ‘In Bonnefoy’s estimation, the deserted landscape, in which a few scattered human beings merely throw the solitude into deeper relief, is one of the major inventions of the Seicento, championed by Poussin and his followers such as Dughet.’

The Good Writer Hašek.

Stephen Wade: ‘Hašek shows a world of rigid maintenance of all the power structures which make and sustain the social world of the Empire, but he shows it from the bottom. If we look at such a rigid world of apparent moral enforcement and social hierarchy from a standpoint of a non-person, then the absurdity will show.’

Strictly scrum.

Michelene Wandor: ‘For those who understand rugby, know its history and personnel, there will be riveting insights into the minutiae of who was chosen, who rejected, which managers did and didn’t do what. Haskells’ hero, Lawrence Dallaglio, appears at intervals, as an important influence. The book begins with a boat trip and a series of out-of-mind and scatological things happening.’

Reflections on my first thirty years. Part V.

Alan Macfarlane: I began to realize that effective recall and research and discovery of new connections depended on how I indexed my materials. This led through my two doctorates into an elaborate hand-indexing system based on the ‘One Fact One Card’ method of Beatrice Webb, mediated to me through another very large influence on my intellectual life, Brian (now Sir Brian) Harrison, a few years ahead of me at Oxford.

Reflections on my first thirty years. Part IV.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘Because of the contending influences of my mother and devout uncle, perhaps partly because of the good fortune of living in Wordsworth’s valley, perhaps because of my experience of having feet in Protestant England, Celtic Scotland (through my father and Scottish ancestors) and polytheistic Assam and Nepal, I was always interested in spiritual matters.’

Blind boys.

Stephen Ward: ‘What both Pearson and Scapini realised- and acted upon – was that the ‘despair’ Lucas wrote of, was not insurmountable. One of the secrets of success in this respect was the kinship and the support systems among those afflicted. Life could go on.’

Olive Custance.

Ferdi McDermott: ‘A hitherto unpublished poem by Lord Alfred Douglas is a good example of the ability which he had to nurse a sense of personal hurt into a sense of invincible and righteous indignation. Although he did not include it in his published collections, he must have known that in sending it to his wife, at some time probably between 1913 and the late 1920s, it would eventually reach a wider audience…’

Poems from ‘The Messenger House’.

Janet Sutherland: ‘During the second journey they met Captain Spencer, a travel writer, who had just emerged from Quarantine having inadvertently crossed and re-crossed a border in dense woodland. Captain Spencer writes about meeting Davies and Gutch in one of his travel books. I loved the roundness of reading both their accounts, something I hadn’t expected to find when I first read the family journals.’

Reflections on my first thirty years. Part III.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘This was also a period when my teachers and  fellow doctoral students were being invigorated by new ideas of social and population history coming from France and by the archival revolution made possible by growing national wealth. it was a hopeful time, with a new engagement with international philanthropy and new experiments in cinema, drama, poetry, classical and ‘pop’ music.’

Reflections on my first thirty years. Part II.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘It is difficult to remember those pre-internet ages and to remember that until the 1960s a family such as ours did not even have a telephone in the house. Even when we moved to Cambridge in 1971 home phones were not commonplace and we did not have one in our fenland home until the 1980s.’