Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life by Susie Harries - review by Simon Heffer

Simon Heffer


Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life


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Nikolaus Pevsner means only one thing to millions of people: The Buildings of England. The series is synonymous with him, or vice versa. Between the late 1940s and the early 1970s Pevsner, later assisted by one or two trusted writers, drove the length and breadth of England trying to spot as many buildings as he could of aesthetic or historical interest (the two were not inevitably the same). He often feared he would die before he completed the task, and he did not keep his health for very long beyond the publication of Staffordshire, the final volume. The early volumes were superficial and, by his own admission, not always adequate. By the time of his death, high-class revisions and expansions had made the series widely feted. Now, volumes several times the size of their originals make these definitive works of reference.

What is most remarkable is that Pevsner had to work at his affinity with England. He was an assimilated German Jew of Russian heritage who arrived in England in search of work after Hitler came to power. He had converted to Christianity and his children were not even

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