Books

Materialism

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The thread linking Thomas Aquinas, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Friedrich Nietzsche to Karl Marx may seem tenuous to many, but with typical verve and bravura and not a little waspish humour Eagleton has made these connections in his defence of materialism and critique of the metaphysical. In the preface he nails his colours to the mast of “unabashed universalism” which he hopes will scandalise “only those postmodern dogmatists for whom all universal claims are oppressive”.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

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Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is an exciting new book for kids which is creating a stir. When I was a kid it was hard to find books with inspirational female characters for younger children. Michael Foreman’s All the King’s Horses was one of our favourites, as well as his retellings of classic fairy tales (both criminally out of print for years), but similar offerings were hard to come by.

A Revolution Undone

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H M Hellyer was both witness and participant in the momentous events that shook Egypt in 2011 and the subsequent developments that finally led to the military coup of July 2013. From visiting and staying in Tahrir Square to helping form one of the numerous local committees that sprang up to guard and look after local communities when the regime sent out its thugs, Hellyer was joyously drawn to the revolution and his world outlook was transformed.

The Dilemmas of Lenin

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Writing about Lenin is a crowded field and inevitably controversial. This reflects the extraordinary role played by Lenin himself in the only socialist revolution thus far in the history of capitalism. Hated and demonised by Cold War historians, distorted and buried under the Stalinist rewriting of Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution, all writers who attempt to present what Lenin actually wrote, said and did are most welcome.

Testosterone Rex

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Testosterone Rex is a firm riposte to the recent book Testosterone: Sex, Power and the Will to Win, which places testosterone as so important that “a simple fact remains: without testosterone there would be no humans to have a history”. This bold claim is challenged by neuroscientist and feminist writer Cordelia Fine, who wrote the bestselling Delusions of Gender.

The Disappearance of Émile Zola

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On Monday 18 July 1898 the French novelist Emile Zola was sentenced to a year in prison and a 3,000 franc fine. His crime was to have written an open letter to the French president entitled “J’accuse” (I accuse).

In it Zola accused military officials, including the minister of war, of falsely convicting Major Alfred Dreyfus (a Jewish officer) of passing military secrets to Germany. Fully aware that he risked prosecution for libel by denouncing the army and government’s handling of the Dreyfus affair, Zola boldly stated:

October 1917

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Books marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution are not in short supply. But this is among the few to praise the revolution rather than seek to bury it.

American Marxist Paul Le Blanc provides an introduction to the collection of articles with an overview of eyewitness accounts and interpretations by historians with varying degrees of sympathy, mostly none.

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