Diary

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Not a masterpiece by any other name

THERE's nothing quite like a French literary scandal. This one involves one of France's most respected novelists, Marguerite Duras, three Paris publishers and a mischievous young writer. Duras is famous for producing short, exquisitely wrought novels that are received with awed deference by the French chattering classes. She is the author of The Lover, which was made into a steamy film this year, a member of the Academie Francaise and has a Parisian street named after her. Now the love affair is over. Guillaume Jacquet, a Duras sceptic and writer on the magazine Reaction, selected an early novel of Mme Duras, L'Apres-midi de Monsieur Andesmas. He then changed the names of the characters, had his girlfriend retype the 50-page script, and gave the book a new title - Margot et l'Important (Margot and What is Important) and submitted it to Gallimard, POL and Editions de Minuit as his own work. To the delight of the French press, all three turned it down - a work that Gallimard published, and still has in print.

IT clearly runs in the family. The man in charge of that leaky German embassy which has just shot down our government's version of the sterling crisis is Ambassador Baron Hermann Von Richthofen - a great nephew of Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, who personally downed 79 British and a Belgian aircraft during the First World War.

Baz-bashing

UNACCOUNTABLY, the name of the BBC Newsnight editor, Keith Bowers, comes out as Keith Baz on the corporation's own directory of staff at Labour's conference in Blackpool. Thereby hangs a tale. Newsnight has not been popular with most conference-goers, not least for Tuesday night's piece on where the economy would be now if Labour had won the election, which shocked those who thought things couldn't possibly be any worse than they are. A delegate was later to be spotted in the Winter Gardens growling 'Where's that bloody Keith Baz? I'm going to bloody kill him.' Five minutes later he found himself flung against a wall by a posse of security guards, eager to prevent him assassinating Keith Vaz, the MP for Leicester East.

IS THIS (above right) the earliest example of the toe job as art? Tumi, the north London gallery which is exhibiting it and other reproductions of central Mexican sculpture from 1200BC, believes the 8in-long statue may be unique. 'You never saw a toe job in Picasso or Matisse, did you?' says the gallery's Simon Roiser. 'What's really interesting is that the characters have animal headdresses, to represent gods, so the pieces are religious artefacts rather than pieces of pornographic pottery.'

Artistic sacrifice

YOU'VE just missed the last chance to see 'When love cuts', a 7ft portrait of a man that was the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Medway Arts Centre in Chatham, Kent. It ended yesterday. However, we can tell you about the artist, Navraj Sihra's, choice of paint. In order to convey the right degree of emotional intensity, he enlisted the help of a local doctor, who siphoned off a pint of Sihra's blood for use as pigment.

KEITH FLOYD, the bon viveur, was proving something of a disappointment to his literary alter ego in London on Wednesday night at the launch of his new book, Floyd On Hangovers. Floyd the man quaffed red wine rather than white as his books advise and was smoking. 'Smoking and drinking together,' writes Floyd the author, 'are like tickling your arse with a feather while hitting yourself on the head with a hammer.'

Hail to the Fifties

AN attempt is under way this weekend to rehabilitate the unloved architecture of the Fifties in a conference organised by the Twentieth Century Society at London's Architectural Association. Alan Powers, the society's honorary secretary, savours the camp excesses of buildings such as Coventry Cathedral - 'they're a little like ice-cream parlours'. However, he hates the South Bank's Shell Centre and 'anything around Holborn Viaduct', although 'I rather like Harlow (a Fifties new town). It's an absolutely delightful place. It is built mostly in attractive yellow brick and all the houses have nice big gardens. Very pleasant.'

SPOTTED in the rear window of a Rover 800 yesterday, a sticker reading 'Buy Blitish'.

A DAY LIKE THIS

2 October 1942 Conrad Russell writes to Lady Diana Cooper from Wells in Somerset: 'I travelled from Paddington with a Lance-Corporal who quoted Juvenal to me in Latin and alluded lightly to Plato's Republic. The conversation must have continued on a high level, as he certainly mentioned the following people - Confucius, Buddha, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Gandhi, Dreyfus, Roger Casement, Voltaire, Rousseau and many others. He told me that before the war he was a prize-fighter and acrobat. I don't think I have ever spoken to a prize-fighter before. They seem to be highly cultivated men.'

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