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Archive for 'Books'

The Norman Geras Reader

A collection of writings by our much-missed friend Norm Geras has been published by Manchester University Press.
I was fortunate to meet Norm when he visited Washington, DC, some years ago, and I was among the Harry’s Place authors honored with one of his profiles.

Obama the reader

Let me stipulate that Barack Obama’s avid book-reading did not necessarily make him a better president (or a worse president, for that matter). Nor does the fact that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to read many books (although he has published several ghost-written books) necessarily mean that he will be a bad president. (There are plenty [...]

2016 on its death bed

As the old year of 2016 is now dying, here are some of my favourite pieces of writing about death.
This came to mind because of the very recent death of Richard Adams. The death scene which ends Watership Down – well, there must be a German word which describes knowing something is sentimental, yet still [...]

War Stories

For years afterwards in the 1950s, the war remained an inexhaustible subject with a huge audience. The memory thus transmitted to later generations is a fragmentary one. An obvious reason is the unparalleled extent and complexity of Britain’s war. For Russians, arguably the war can be encapsulated by the sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad, the [...]

The World Federation

One reason I like John Wyndham’s sci fi novels is that they happen in a recognisable political world.  A disaster happens, the Triffids take over and society falls apart, and when the world floods in The Kraken Wakes the government shows itself to be believably ineffectual.
I’m not up with sci-fi  so don’t know how true [...]

The Unread Guards

So there’s Lionel Shriver mischievously addressing the Brisbane Writers Festival about cultural appropriation through the sillier examples of sombreros and sushi and, more seriously, making the old cry for artistic freedom and the play of the imagination. Although what she said was not startling it did inspire performance art. One was from Yassmin Abdel-Magied who [...]

John le Pilger

Guest post by Sackcloth & Ashes
At the conclusion of John le Carre’s 1974 spy-thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the donnish spook George Smiley confronts ‘Gerald’, the Soviet mole within British intelligence (in case anyone has yet to read the novel or see the TV series or 2011 film, I won’t name ‘Gerald’ immediately so as [...]

Have yourself a dreary little Christmas

Christmas is the season for potted histories of the festival. Bolted on to the pagan solistice, celebrated for twelve feasting days in the middle ages, half stamped out by the Puritans under Cromwell, which caused pro Christmas riots.  Christmas was fading from the scene under the Georges and then revived by the Victorians.  Prince Albert brought [...]

Dear Infidel

Tamim Sadikali’s Dear Infidel explores the dynamics of two British Muslim families, cousins, as they prepare for Eid ul-Fitr and look back on the events which have shaped them. I found it both absorbing and unsettling.
Aadam, a software developer, is preoccupied with Iraq and the War on Terror (the novel is set in 2004).  Initially I [...]

The Austrian Resistance: 1938-1945

Guest post by Karl Pfeifer
Austria today is one of the most prosperous democratic countries in Europe. The majority of those who were brought up in the Second Republic reject National Socialism, anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism and German nationalism and hold that Austria should have resisted Hitler in 1938.
Sweeping judgments on Austria are often heard in [...]