Gareth Jenkins

Rights of Passage

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The rise of imperialism in the 19th century was reflected in the literature of the period. Gareth Jenkins examines the contradictions of empire's novelists.

It would be easy to dismiss the literature of imperialism as little more than boys' own stuff - adventure stories designed to glorify Britain's conquest of the globe and mask its brutality with myths about bringing light to the benighted heathen.

Naked Law

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Review of '10th District Court', director Raymond Depardon

Courtroom drama is the stuff of innumerable television programmes and films. The fascination it holds for us lies in the sense that here, the guilty meet their just desserts and the innocent are exonerated. Everything is crafted to produce an effect of conviction (in a double sense) that transcends everyday experience.

This is part of a social mystique. The concentration on the individual drama unfolding in the courtroom may raise broader social issues but overall it reinforces the sense that only in this authorised space can we find redress for what is wrong in society.

Money and Market Reign Supreme

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Review of 'The Last Mitterrand', director Robert Guédiguian

Not for nothing was François Mitterrand, socialist president of France between 1981 and 1995, known as the sphinx. His personal and public life remained, until very near the end of his life, inscrutable. It was only after Mitterrand's death from prostate cancer in early 1996 (the illness had been a secret) that aspects of his early political life became a matter of acute controversy, following the sensational publication of his memoirs, edited from interviews by the journalist Georges-Marc Benamou.

Say It Ain't Joe

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Review of 'Sartre Against Stalinism', Ian Birchall, Berghahn Books £16.99

During his lifetime Jean-Paul Sartre achieved a fame denied to most 20th century novelists, playwrights and philosophers. It wasn't just that his ideas - about struggling for freedom in an absurd world - struck a chord with a generation revolted by the collapse of the Third Republic, by the Nazi Occupation and by the collaborationist Vichy regime. It was that he was prepared to intervene, as a committed intellectual, in the great political movements of his time.

An Uncivil War

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Review of 'Marx, Tocqueville, and Race in America', August Nimtz, Lexington Books £20.95

Central to the argument in this book is Marx's famous comment in Capital, 'Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black skin it is branded.' This, Nimtz argues, underpinned Marx and Engels' approach to the American Civil War (1861 to 1865). At stake was the development of the American working class - and indeed of the European working class - not only the fate of the black slaves. Thus Nimtz shows how important race was to Marx and Engels' understanding of class - contrary to received wisdom.

Respect: 'The Unity We're All Looking For'

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Julie Bundy and Gareth Jenkins spoke to activists at the launch convention about how they see the coalition developing.

Over 1,400 people attended the founding of the Respect coalition at Friends Meeting House in London at the end of January: the young and the old, trade unionists, the left and those who have come to politics though the anti-war movement. The convention represented something historic in British politics - an embryonic movement making a decisive break from seeing the Labour Party as the party of the working class.

Edward Upward: No Home but the Struggle

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Gareth Jenkins analyses Edward Upward‘s contribution to 20th century literature.

The novelist Edward Upward recently celebrated his 100th birthday. He is the last link with a generation of writers - writers like the novelist Christopher Isherwood and the poet W H Auden - who were radicalised in the 1930s by the horrors of fascism and the struggle of ordinary people for a better world.


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