18 NOVEMBER 2000, Page 54

David Gilmour

Graham Robb is one of the most stylish and stimulating of biographers. He is also chasteningly prolific, and his Rimbaud (Picador, £20) follows Balzac and Victor Hugo in a line of brilliant literary lives pub- lished since 1994.

The Spanish Civil War is a subject too prone to close chronological narrative, but in Comrades (HarperCollins, £19.99) Paul Preston deals with it in a series of percep- tive biographical portraits. There is a par- ticularly fine essay on Manuel Azaiia, the most civilised political leader Spain has ever had.

A good biography of Lord Salisbury, that master of irony and diplomatic skills, has long been needed. Andrew Roberts pro- vides it in Salisbury (Weidenfeld & Nicol- son, £25), a magisterial volume which should ensure that its subject no longer remains the neglected triumvir of great late Victorian prime ministers.

More Books of the Year next week