Books

The Common Cause

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Review of 'The Wearing of the Green', Michael Herbert, IBRG £11.95

Over the last two centuries Irish people living in Britain have contributed to many campaigns and protest movements. But those few historians who have told their story, have most often written out this fighting past. Mike Herbert's history is the first full length account to give this radical history due weight.

Herbert does not just tell the story of the Manchester Irish, but locates their narrative within the linked stories of the movements for Irish independence, and of British working class history.

Toxic Shock

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Review of 'Five Past Midnight in Bhopal', Dominique Lapierre, Simon and Schuster £17.99

The tragedy of a toxic leak from Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal, India resulted in the worst industrial disaster in history, causing over 30,000 deaths and 50,000 injuries, and is felt almost 20 years after 'the event'. It was a request for help setting up a clinic that prompted Dominique Lapienne to spend three years searching for the truth behind the leak.

Riding the Crest of a Wave

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Review of 'The Scar', China Miéville, Macmillan £17.99

Fantasy is one of the most popular forms of fiction today. A visit to any bookshop will reveal row after row of fantasy novels, mostly adventure stories but with a growing comedy section as well (mostly written by Terry Pratchett). The great bulk of these novels are set in some sort of romanticised feudal society where good is battling against evil, the lower classes know their place and magic works. There are elves, dwarves, trolls, dragons, princes and princesses, wizards and, inevitably, those most maligned of fictional creatures, orcs, the despised proletariat of conservative fantasy.

Bursting the Dam of Dissent

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Review of 'Power Politics', Arundhati Roy, South End Press £7.99

'To be a writer--supposedly a famous writer--in a country where 300 million people are illiterate is a dubious honour,' writes Arundhati Roy in this latest collection of her essays. Roy's way of addressing this contradiction has been to use her fame to give a voice to those who feel they have no power. She has obviously been effective, for she faced a prison sentence this year for standing up to the Indian High Court which had allowed a massive dam project to go ahead that will mean 25 million people losing their homes and livelihoods.

Spirited Rebellion

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Review of 'Falun Gong's Challenge to China', Danny Schechter, Akashic Books £11.99

One of the unexpected side effects of China's economic reforms over the last 20 years has been a flowering of religious expression and organisation. Local temples and cults, 'folk religions', Confucianism and Taoism--all have gained millions of believers, as have Buddhism, Islam and many varieties of Christianity. The Chinese state has responded in many different ways, ranging from outright repression to official attempts at co-option.

Coming Out from the Shadow

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Review of 'France: The Dark Years', Julian Jackson, Oxford University Press £25.00

From 1934 until 1944 France was engulfed by a civil war. Following the surrender of the French republic, a French state based in Vichy waged war against Jews, Communists and other 'undesirables'. Technically France was divided into zones of occupation, with the Vichy regime directly responsible for the southern third, and the Nazi occupiers for the rest of the country. But even in those zones French police and civil servants were largely responsible for sending Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz and the other death camps, and for waging war on the left.

Awakened from the Nightmare of History

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Review of 'That They May Face the Rising Sun', John McGahern, Faber £16.99

I first encountered John McGahern's novels when, in my early teens, I made my first foray into the adult section of the local library and came across 'The Dark'--a nice, short, approachable novel, so I thought. And it had the word 'fuck' on the first page. I didn't know then that the novel, first published in 1965, had been banned in the Republic of Ireland, and that subsequently McGahern had lost his job as a teacher.

Purging the Demons

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Review of 'Two Hours that Shook the World', Fred Halliday, Saqi Books £12.95

This seems at first sight a sober and often intelligent book--a useful antidote to post 11 September hysteria. For example, we learn that big governments like the US often commit terrorist acts, and that 'international terrorism' is a secondary phenomenon, certainly not a major threat to international order. In addition, the current 'discourse' between the 'west' and 'Islam' is meticulously picked apart.

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