PositiveThe New StatesmanNeither straight art history nor a preachy eco-Doomsday book, it contains elements of both, and a lot more besides ... If Albert and the Whale were a room, it would be an alchemist’s laboratory with a stuffed crocodile suspended from the ceiling, full of freaks and fascinations, reef-encrusted in time. More prose poem than straight prose, its language is intoxicated ... Another problem is that while the author weaves a huge number of quotations into the text, he puts nothing in quotation marks. There are no footnotes, so if you want to check his facts and sources you have to go to a referencing web page set up by the publisher which, when I was writing this review, was not up ... But I quibble. If you are prepared to enter the dream and leave drear nit-picking behind, Hoare’s lush imaginings sweep you through 500 years on a sea of connections. Be warned – it’s a depressing ride. Love of the sea is nothing else than love of death, said Thomas Mann, who loved to quote Prospero: \'My ending is despair.\' You understand why Dürer’s angel looks so grumpy.
Onno Blom, tr. Beverly Jackson
PositiveNew StatesmanThe book’s strength does not lie in art historical investigation. It is at its best when describing the city of Leiden and providing a wide background panorama to Rembrandt’s early life ... There are some translational oddities in the book, and some wince-making clichés: \'Rembrandt’s self-portraits are windows into his soul,\' etc. The author can be irritating ... However, Young Rembrandt is well researched and it certainly widens our understanding of the local historical context. The illustrations are beautiful.
PositiveThe Times (UK)[Barnes] paints a fin de siècle landscape of languid princesses, expensive whores, orgiastic balls, white peacocks (the coloured ones being vulgar), green lilies, absinthe, androgyny, drugs, boredom, wit and a lot of sexual gossip ... Reading this book is like re-spooling Andy Warhol, or reading Nicholas Coleridge’s recently published The Glossy Years ... It’s top international tittle-tattle, awash with cantankerous snobbishness, reminding you that high society is always a pretty small fishpond whose fish sparkle as brightly as the jewelled shell of today’s tortoise — until tomorrow’s flashier reptile comes along ... [Barnes\'] sparkling and very enjoyable book has a serious subtext; no borders should be erected that hinder the flow of knowledge and ideas. Art and science are best served if we are free to travel the whole world to do our intellectual and decorative shopping.
RaveThe New Statesman\"Dikötter’s relentless cataloguing of the sort of banality that warps everyday reality under dictatorship sharpens the horrors we already know about. His subject is not the huge, senseless waves of unpredictable terror, torture, purges, famines and wars. Rather, he shows us the nuts and bolts, the small processes by which communities are torn apart and individual humanity is systematically dismantled by the destruction of truth and logic, followed by the sowing of confusion and terror to produce docile, atomized individuals whose ecstatic praise of the regime, prompted by fear, transforms all sections of society into liars ... This is a wonderfully moving and perceptive book, written by a very brave man. Dikötter lives in Hong Kong, where he is chair professor of humanities at the university. His books are banned in China. He is not afraid to describe Xi Jinping as recreating a dictatorship on the Leninist model.\