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The Continuing Adventures of Mr Ross Hall, Esq. (& Madam Zell)

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Continuing Adventures of Mr Ross Hall, Esq.

(& Madam Zell)

W should we make of him? Like William Godwin, father of

Mary Shelley, he was a pedagogue incapable of practising what he preached. He wrote a treatise known to every educated person at the end of the eighteenth century on how to educate a young boy and left his own five children with the Foundling Hospital in Paris.

Edmund Burke observed that his often-expressed ‘love of humanity’ was a charade which excused him from any real concern with the suffering of men and women. Contemporary humanitarianism follows his impulse, allowing the heart and not history to lead it towards causes that can do no wrong: it doesn’t care for human beings too much but it likes to take care of them. As

Flaubert had to remind his mistress Louise Colet half a century later: ‘Don’t imagine that the pen has the same instincts as the heart.’ Rousseau was hopelessly dependent on his gouvernante

Thérèse Levasseur, not to speak of poor Madame de Warens, and yet proclaimed his proud ‘Roman courage’ and his defiant independence: if he had a need it was for a lack of binding attachments.

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The Road Not Taken

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Road Not Taken

F  S  C

Arriving at the former edge of the known world by plane almost entirely disqualifies me from writing from Santiago de

Compostela, although I can plead one mitigating circumstance for my aberrant choice of transport. My gazetteer – ‘in a new English translation, from the original Latin of the twelfth-century

Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago de Compostela, the earliest account of the pilgrim routes through France and Spain to the shrine of

St James’ – is so bulky it couldn’t possibly fit into a knapsack.

Imagine the ignominy of collapsing somewhere under the weight of a book as big as a paving stone! Stones clutter the landscape for an exceedingly long time and don’t need to shorten the life of those beneath them.

Anyway I’m forgetting; this is a book not just about Santiago, but about the places where the trail originates in France: St-Denis,

Vézelay, Le Puy and Arles. These are the tributaries that converge like a reverse delta on Puenta la Reina to form the Camino de

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Overwhelmed by Aura

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Overwhelmed by Aura

A’ P

There is a famous profile portrait of him, gaunt-cheeked, old and slightly gibbous, the face luminously pale above the black coat and trousers, the monumental line of which is broken only by the soft blur of the hand. It is an ash-and-clinker picture, as weighty and dark as Whistler’s famous painting of his mother. It dates from the last year of his life, , when he was known to every selfrespecting surrealist, if not to the public: the picture was taken by the young American photographer Berenice Abbott in her studio on the rue du Bac; her boyfriend, Man Ray, had been neighbour to the photographer in his little trois-pièces at  bis rue CampagnePremière, a spartan, utile studio-apartment which turns up in many of his prints. Atget was in the retail trade. The sign on his door read simply: ‘Documents pour artistes.’

His first biographer had problems finding out anything at all about the earlier life of Eugène Atget. Born in modest circumstances at Libourne in Gascony in , he was brought up in

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Five Postcards from Badenweiler for Zinovy Zinik

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Five Postcards from Badenweiler for Zinovy Zinik

If it’s true that the great spa towns, those temples of propriety from Carlsbad to Vichy, are really vantage points for observing

Europe as an allegory – this was the whim of the aristocratic memoirist Charles Joseph, Prince de Ligne (-) – then

Badenweiler is the continent’s gazebo.

Tucked in the lap of a valley on the southern slopes of the Black

Forest between Freiburg and the great bend of the Rhine at Basle, a hundred kilometres south of Baden-Baden, the most famous spa of all – where Dostoevsky tried to gamble himself out of debt in the summer of  and the French collaborationists ignominiously gathered in  for what Louis-Ferdinand Céline, in his novel Nord, called ‘the “Everything Goes” Casino of History’ –

Badenweiler looks down onto the silt flats and water meadows, the Ried of Upper Alsace.

This is where the cities of the Decapolis once thrived under the

Holy Roman German Empire, centres of humanist learning like

Colmar, Selestat and Munster. Albert Schweitzer – organist, Bach scholar, theologian, humanitarian physician to French Equatorial

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A Lance for Hire: Four Hundred Years of Don Quixote

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

A Lance for Hire

F H Y  D Q

Miguel de Unamuno called it ‘the Spanish Bible’; Don Quixote may not be holy writ, but like all great literature it describes us.

Cervantes steps out of Spain when its golden age had waned so rapidly as to seem ‘no more than an illusion’ and tarries in ours.

We, on the other hand, remain within its thousand pages and are unable to lift ourselves out of its rather plot-poor scenery to the vanishing point that would bring it wholly within our historical purview.

I mention the vanishing point advertantly, because Cervantes lived at a juncture in European history that had already witnessed not only the Iberian discovery of the globe in the search for precious metals and spices and the invention of the printing press in the Rhine Valley, but a ground-breaking shift in trade practices that would eventually to lead to the superseding of feudal Europe itself. The discovery of perspective in Florentine art and architecture accompanied the import of that dangerous cipher zero out of the east. Zero has no referent in nature; it exists only in the mind.

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