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“Zbigniew had once had a sense of the British as a moderate, restrained nation. It was funny to think of that now. It wasn’t true at all. They drank like mad people. They drank to make themselves happy, and because alcohol was an end in itself. It was a good thing and people want good things, want more and more of them. So, because alcohol was good, the British wanted more and more of it.” Seen from the perspective of an immigrant—a plumber from Warsaw in John Lanchester’s new novel Capital (Faber)—the British may well appear an inordinate, pleasure-seeking, drunken…

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