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Map Magic

Map Magic

When I worked on a national newspaper, an old, battered copy of The Times Atlas of the World stood propped against the Comment desk. The red cloth binding had come off and the signatures had fallen apart, like breakaway provinces seceding from a crumbling empire. As various benighted places – Darfur, Basra, Helmand – were thrust into the headlines, our reporters and subs would make off with the relevant pages. This battered relic featured countries that no longer existed: Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Yugoslavia and, sprawling across a third of the planet, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
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A World of Words

Whether by luck or judgement I don’t now remember, but I first came across the work of Amos Oz in 1984. The occasion was my sole visit to Israel, when I needed a contemporary guide, my only other literary encounter with Jewish culture having been three historical novels by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Somewhere between Singer’s nineteenth-century Poland and Oz’s modern stories came the horrors of the Nazi era: the bit of Jewish history that everyone knows and that is built into everyone’s idea of the state of Israel. It was in my mind at the time, not least because the parents of our Israeli friend bore the tattoos of the concentration camp on their forearms.
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The Sound of Youth

The Sound of Youth

It’s odd to recall that until the rock and pop revolution of the early Sixties, most British towns had at least one band, usually consisting of a trumpet and trombone, drummer, bass player and out-of-tune pianist thumping out rough versions of New Orleans and Dixieland jazz to young audiences in the back rooms of pubs. This was good drinking and jiving music, although as a young smart alec in those days I snobbishly preferred modern jazz. However, in no forms of jazz did I ever see anyone playing the bass saxophone, the instrument celebrated in Josef Škvorecký’s wonderful novella The Bass Saxophone.
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Dreaming of the Bosphorus

My father Irfan Orga (1908–70) first set foot in England in July 1942, as a staff captain commanding Turkish Air Force pilots completing their training with the RAF. The posting changed his life. In London, challenging the Turkish law of the day forbidding members of the armed forces or diplomatic service from cohabiting with foreign nationals, he took up with a young, irregularly beautiful Norman-Irish lapsed Catholic, Margaret, then married to someone else. She assumed his surname in 1944, seven months before I was born.
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Delayed Gratification

Delayed Gratification is the world’s first Slow Journalism magazine. It’s a printed quarterly publication which revisits the events of the previous three months to see what happened after the dust settled and the news agenda moved on. www.slow-journalism.com
A Late Victorian Afternoon

A Late Victorian Afternoon

They seemed reasonable enough requests. Don’t lie on the bed naked in case passing servants catch an eyeful. Also, in mixed company, could he try to swear only in French? Modest pleas made by Theodore Watts-Dunton to the poet and ex-libertine Algernon Charles Swinburne when they first set up home together. It was 1879 and Swinburne’s relish for brandy and flagellation had reached a critical point. In the nick of time, Watts-Dunton, the gallant walrus-moustached solicitor-turned-author, had plucked his friend from the depths and carried him off for a spot of detox in Putney.
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