In this week’s TLS – a note from the Managing Editor
Few writers have been so deeply involved in the business of writing as Sir Walter Scott. Described by Thomas Carlyle as “a Novel Manufactory”, Scott oversaw a production line employing many hands – amanuenses, house readers, compositors, and his business partner, James Ballantyne – not to mention the fictitious “pseudonymous editor-historians” in the novels, and his own later re-editing of his “grande opus”. This makes the task of reconstructing an “authentic” version of the Waverley novels a challenging one: Kathryn Sutherland respects the diligent case-by-case negotiations evident in the new Edinburgh Edition.
Scott, Sutherland writes, “invented the historical novel in its modern form”. History creates its own fictions and dramas as it evolves. Thomas Barfield reviews a number of recent books on Afghanistan, and notes that a focus on leading figures or dramatic turning points (occupation, surge, withdrawal) sometimes obscures a messier truth: a world of many actors with diverse motives, also in need of delicate case-by-case negotiation. Stephen Lovell reviews 1990, which examines Russian society in a year of transition, but wonders if that year was a genuine turning point, or just a useful snapshot from a longer, more awkward transition.
Decades earlier, Russia had withdrawn from Austria, leaving “a symbolic cache of arms and tanks” as a gift and covert threat. The Austrians reciprocated by giving the Russians a report from the 1850s made by one of the Austrian spies who had been monitoring the exiled Karl Marx. As Duncan Kelly points out, reviewing a new biography of Marx, the fervent Communist was, for some of the time, an unwitting puppet of his enemies in Vienna.
In Commentary this week, Eleanor Margolies investigates an intriguing link between real puppetry and Arthur Rimbaud. Charleville-Mézières, Rimbaud’s hometown, is home to the world’s largest puppet festival, as well as the Institut International de la Marionnette; but the connections, Margolies argues, go much deeper than that.