Books

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.

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 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.

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.

Explaining a World of Extremes

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Review of 'World Development: An Introduction', eds. Prodromos Panayitopoulos and Gavin Capps, Pluto £16.99

In 1999 World Bank president James Wolfensohn admitted, 'At the level of people, the system isn't working.' This book will help you understand why. Introducing students, teachers and NGO workers to debates about the relationship between state, industrialisation and Third World development, it makes it clear that capitalism is a highly uneven system, creating winners and losers.

Good introductory academic books, such as this, used to be standard in development studies. Hopefully students will read this one before they are fed the routine sycophantic books found on courses today.

Deadly Fibres

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Review of 'Asbestos Blues', Jack McCulloch, James Currey £12.95

With the exception of cigarettes, asbestos is the most common carcinogen in the developed world. The fibre was once promoted as a 'wonder mineral'--crucial to many of the industrial processes and commodities developed after 1945. Asbestos fibre causes three major diseases--asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma --the last of which can occur with minimal exposure and has a latency period of up to 40 years and is incurable.

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.

Food for Thought

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Review of 'The Irish Famine', Colm Tóibín and Diarmaid Ferriter, Profile £8.99

The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight but the English created the famine'--a voice from the time of the Irish Famine of 1847-1849 during which 1 million people died and a further million emigrated. John Mitchell, a journalist, historian and political activist, wrote one of the documents collected in this new volume from a wide spectrum of people affected by the tragedy. From politicians debating their response, to the clergy in Ireland attempting to alleviate the suffering, this selection gives an insight into the lives and deaths of the Irish population.

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