Books

Imagine There's No Europe

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Review of 'The Years of Rice and Salt', Kim Stanley Robinson, Harper Collins £16.99

A community of souls are reincarnated time and time again, experiencing various lives in a kaleidoscope of relationships--as lovers or family, rulers or ruled, oppressor or oppressed. After each lifetime they meet in the bardo, the antechamber to eternity, to have their karma assessed and a judgment made against them which will determine the nature of their next life.

Sowing the Seeds of Hate

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Review of 'Terrorism and War', Howard Zinn, Seven Stories Press £7.99; 'Bin Laden, Islam and America's New War on Terrorism', As'ad Abukhalil, Seven Stories Press £6.99 and 'Terrorism: Theirs and Ours', Eqbal Ahmad, Seven Stories Press £4.99

These three books may be small in size, but they deal with a big issue and offer big answers. In a series of interviews Howard Zinn offers some illuminating answers to probing questions revolving around 11 September, while As'ad Abukhalil deals predominantly with the rise of Islamophobia since those events. Eqbal Ahmad's book was a talk given at the University of Colorado in October 1998. Ahmad sadly died in May 1999. His talk, however, remains refreshing, and could quite easily be mistaken for having been written after 11 September.

All About Eric: A Cautionary Tale

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Review of 'Interesting Times: A Twentieth Century Life', Eric Hobsbawm, Allen Lane £25

I wrote a letter to the 'Guardian' about six years ago suggesting there might be two Eric Hobsbawms. One ended his book on the 20th century, 'The Age of Extremes', by describing the system as out of control and threatening all of humanity. The other was at that very time praising New Labour's approach to politics.

Antiques or History?

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Review of 'What is History Now?', ed. David Cannadine, Macmillan £19.99

This collection was supposed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of EH Carr's seminal work 'What is History?' Carr was a fascinating character--a Foreign Office diplomat who became a Marxist, a columnist on the 'Times' who wrote history, a friend of Trotsky's biographer Isaac Deutscher, and a rebel in his way.

Strong with the Weak, Weak with the Strong

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Review of 'The Moro Affair', Leonardo Sciascia, Granta £7.99

Leonardo Sciascia was one of Italy's greatest modern artists. He was also a member of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry set up in March 1978 to investigate the kidnapping and subsequent killing by the Red Brigades of the former prime minister and president of the ruling Christian Democratic Party, Aldo Moro. He produced a report that raised questions that the Italian state did not want asked. This book contains his report and also his analysis of the Moro affair.

No Age of Innocence

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Review of 'The Edge', Alan Gibbons, Orion Books £4.99

Children's books are making the headlines. This isn't new, as any book that deals with sex, drugs or rock and roll is worth a scream from the 'Daily Mail'. What seems to be new is that some children's books are being read by adults. Philip Pullman, author of the 'Dark Materials' trilogy, won an adult prize, the Whitbread Award, and the 'Harry Potter' books are published with more serious 'adult' covers. Meanwhile Terry Pratchett has always written books that have been read by anyone over the age of eight.

The Setback That Lasted Thirty-Five Years

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Review of 'Six Days of War', Michael B Oren, Oxford University Press £25

The Arab governments referred to the Six Day War, with tragicomic understatement, as 'the setback'. In reality the conflict, in June 1967, was a shattering example of Israel's military superiority over its Arab neighbours which left it in illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The Carbon Club

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Review of 'Private Planet', David Cromwell, Jon Carpenter Publishing £12.99

This book is full of shocking figures. According to the United Nations the gap between the richest fifth of the world's population and the poorest grew from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1997. Three fifths of the population in developing countries--that's almost 3 billion people--lack basic sanitation. In Mozambique, the IMF-imposed measures mean that patients at Maputo Central Hospital have to pay $4 to see a doctor--this is the equivalent of the average person in Britain paying £160.

The Complete Works of Isaac Babel

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Review of 'The Complete Works of Isaac Babel', ed. Nathalie Babel, Picador £30.00

As one of the greatest writers of the early Soviet period in Russia, the first single volume edition of the works of Isaac Babel is an event. In the epoch of war and revolution Babel is an author of the first rank.

Born in the busy Russian port of Odessa on the Black Sea in 1894, Babel grew up in a shtetl, a Jewish village. The son of a small businessman of mixed fortunes, he grew up amid cultural riches and material poverty, assailed by racism from all sides.

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