Sasha Simic

The mirror and the light

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The final book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about the sixteenth century statesman Thomas Cromwell has finally arrived. The success of the previous books—Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up The Bodies (2012)—made Mantel a superstar among authors and the publication of the final part of the story has been afforded the sort of saturation media coverage more usually associated with the likes of the Harry Potter franchise than with serious literature.

Vasily Grossman and state capitalism

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I greatly enjoyed Bob Light’s article “Vasily Grossman always sided with the oppressed” (January SR). Bob is correct to claim Grossman for the left.

It’s clear Grossman understood there was a fundamental difference between the aims and the achievements of the October Revolution and what constituted Stalinism. For Grossman the crucial year of change was 1937 — the year of high-Stalinism.

Culture Clash: Superheroes are cinema too

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Three giants of cinema have come out against the phenomenally successful series of superhero films produced by Marvel.

In early October Martin Scorsese argued Marvel films were “not cinema” and were more theme parks than films. Shortly after Francis Ford Coppola called Marvel films “despicable”.

Most recently the great socialist film director Ken Loach declared superhero films “boring”, “nothing to do with cinema” and a “cynical exercise” to make profits for big corporations.

Metropolis

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In the late 1980s author Philip Kerr had the inspired idea of taking the architype of the private-eye as developed by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett — the loner trying to deliver justice in a morally corrupt bourgeois world — and placed it in the morally putrid world of pre-war Nazi Germany.

His Bernie Gunther was as hardboiled and full of wisecracks as Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade but he was investigating crime in a society whose leaders were committing “the crime of the millennium.”

Eugene V Debs

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The authors have tried to produce an accessible introduction to the life of the US’s most renowned socialist from the early 20th century.

The format of the book is very odd. Each chapter starts with a straight prose introduction to the following pages of graphics. The prose sequences are highly partisan written as they are (in part) by Steve Max, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

The Corbyn Comic Book

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This collection of comic-strips on the subject of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn comes out of an open call for submissions to writers and artists by the publisher, Self Made Hero, which had the deadline of 12 July this year. It features contributions from professional cartoonists like Steve Bell and Steven Appleby and Martin Rowson from The Guardian. Most of the contributions come from more unknown artists.

How does Russia remember its revolution?

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When a group of us visited St Petersburg and Moscow last month to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution we were not expecting much by way of official commemoration. We were pleasantly surprised to find lots of exhibitions marking the anniversary and even more gratified to discover that many portray the revolution sympathetically.

Hard to Be a God

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Russian director Aleksei German’s last film Hard to Be a God (2014) is an adaptation of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s 1964 novel of the same name.

The Strugatskys were Russian brothers who wrote science fiction novels in the former USSR (Arkady died in 1991 and Boris in 2012). Their most famous work, Roadside Picnic, was filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky as Stalker (1979).

White God

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In contemporary Budapest 13 year old Lili reluctantly moves into her estranged father’s tiny flat when her mother takes up an overseas academic post. Her friend, the gentle giant Hagen, comes too, which doesn’t go down well with her dad. When a neighbour falsely claims Hagen has attacked her, Lili’s father throws him out. Hagen is brutalised by street life in a series of exploitative and abusive encounters.

Look Back in Anger

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Harry Patterson, Five Leaves, £9.99

At the start of the Great Miners' Strike in March 1984 Nottinghamshire's coal-mining industry was second in size only to Yorkshire's with 32,000 employed in the pits. But of those, less than 2,000 workers stayed out for the duration of the year-long strike.

Harry Patterson's useful history of the strike in Nottinghamshire asks why the majority of its miners scabbed.

When the Nottinghamshire miners were balloted in mid-March on whether to join the action with the rest of the NUM, only one in four Notts miners voted to back it.

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