Books

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.

The Great Walls of Mexico

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Review of 'Jose Clemente Orozco in the United States', eds. Renato Gonzáles Mello and Diane Miliotes, WW Norton £40.00

The Mexican Revolution, whatever else may be said about it, succeeded in producing an astonishingly rich visual art. This was the political mural, a unique form of expression, particular to the time and place of the Mexican Revolution. The three most famous and successful practitioners of this art form were Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco.

The Meat of Capitalism

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Review of 'The Pig and the Skyscraper', Marco d'Eramo, Verso £20

First published (in Italian) in 1999, two years before four hijacked planes shattered American illusions of invulnerability and changed our world, this book explores capitalism in the US--the land where it stands exposed in 'all its naked force'. The author, an Italian journalist and writer, uses Chicago as a prism through which to track, analyse and comment on the history of US capitalism in all its complexity.

Not in Denial Anymore

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Review of 'Telling Lies About Hitler', Richard J Evans, Verso £14 and 'The Holocaust on Trial', DD Guttenplan, Granta £9.99

In April 2000, at the cost of a three month, £2 million trial, David Irving was confirmed as a 'pro-Nazi polemicist', who had deliberately falsified the historical record in order to deny the reality of the Holocaust. 'The Holocaust on Trial' and 'Telling Lies About Hitler' are two accomplished accounts of Irving's attempt to sue Deborah Lipstadt for libel, after she exposed his methods.

Scar on the Conscience of the World

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Review of 'Class Struggle and Resistance in Africa', ed. Leo Zeilig, New Clarion Press £12.95

Tony Blair's stance towards Africa effectively sums up that taken by the rulers of the world more generally. At the Labour Party conference last October he called Africa 'a scar on the conscience of the world'--before authorising the sale to impoverished Tanzania of a military air traffic control system that even the World Bank has condemned as inappropriate. Africa, in other words, is a basket case, there just to be exploited economically and militarily.

The plight of Africa is indeed grim. Giovanni Arrighi sums it up in the latest issue of New Left Review:

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