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New Left Review I/221, January-February 1997

Robin Blackburn

Raphael Samuel: The Politics of Thick Description

Raphael Samuel was a founder of this Review, a constant friend and counsellor to its editors and an outstanding contributor. The articles he wrote for us proved to be landmark texts, amongst the dozen or so most important that we have published. The process of extracting them was laborious since Raphael was an obsessive reviser and re-drafter who loved trying out different versions. Having submitted a very decent draft of the first part of an article he would, instead of completing it, proceed to submit half a dozen further drafts, some almost imperceptibly different from what had gone before, but successively achieving a transformation. ‘This paragraph needs further thickening’, he would say of some already vivid or original passage. If one unwisely offered a mite of corroborative material he would eagerly note it down and use it to further embroider his argument, often in ways one had not at all intended. With the patience of colleagues at breaking point and printers’ deadlines grotesquely overrun, Raphael would turn in a new and utterly resplendent, now very much overlength, version of the still uncompleted article, which we would gratefully publish—accompanied by the inevitable promise of a sequel to follow. To our great loss, this is the last issue of nlr to be delayed by Raphael Samuel.

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Robin Blackburn, ‘Raphael Samuel: The Politics of Thick Description’, NLR I/221: £3

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