All Reviews

Fleeing Babel

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Call Me Zebra

reviewed by Liam Bishop

After reading Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s second novel, Call Me Zebra, I was reminded of a piece by the artist and sculptor Mel Chin. In ‘Circumfessional Hymenal Sea (Portrait of Jacques Derrida)’ an ivory tower, within which further towers appear to be enclosed, rests under a ‘sea’ of books. The perimeter is enclosed with hardbacks, and in the centre are reams of pages rolling and concertinaed into one another. According to Chin, the work originated from a dream based on... [read more]

Reason and its Discontents

Martin Jay, Reason after Its Eclipse: On Late Critical Theory

reviewed by Simi Freund

The last few years have seen a renewed interest in the work of the Frankfurt School. With the ongoing political turbulence affecting the liberal societies of the Western world, people are seeking theoretical tools to lay bare the insidious underpinnings of Western modernity, the coercive tactics sewn into apparently emancipatory concepts like Enlightenment, progress, freedom, democracy, technology and capitalism. With an increasing awareness of the darker side of these concepts, and as the... [read more]

Prospects for Connection

Ian Holding, What Happened to Us

reviewed by Jacqueline Landey

To read Ian Holding’s What Happened to Us is to be drawn into a state of suspension, to hover with a child, a family and a country on the edge of possible unravelling. Set in suburban Harare between the hey- and dying- days of Robert Mugabe’s presidency, the novel circles around the night a family home is shattered by a brutal break-in. Far from being a one-dimensional portrayal of crime in sub-Saharan Africa, this novel’s depiction of family trauma is presented within a context of a... [read more]

Various Images of Truth

Olga Tokarczuk, trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

reviewed by Antonia Cundy

Reading a novel when you know that you are going to review it is an odd thing. No matter how many times you approach the exercise – whether you diligently insist on reading it once through like a ‘normal’ reader, saving note-taking until a second read, or not – it is impossible to completely escape the reviewer’s mindset. Whilst the story unfolds, another narrative begins to write itself in your own head, the narrative of your review itself. This is particularly true when what... [read more]

Prisons We Choose To Live Inside

Lara Feigel, Free Woman: Life, Liberation and Doris Lessing

reviewed by Emily Bueno

‘There were too many weddings that summer,’ writes Lara Feigel at the opening of Free Woman. Forced to endure a succession of bourgeois nuptials – all take-home marmalade and hand-sewn Liberty print bunting – Feigel, a reader in modern literature at King’s College London, becomes increasingly truculent. Why does it bother her so? In large part, it’s the oppressive uniformity: the ‘apparent assumption’ that marriage ‘remained the only way to live’, with the entire room... [read more]

Meaningful Unreason

Philip C. Almond, God: A New Biography

reviewed by Neil Griffiths

If I were to say, ‘God, I love this book’ a few things are clear: (1) a reviewer (2) is advocating (3) in an emotional register (4) the book under review. What cannot be known is what is what I mean by ‘God’, beyond upping the declarative nature of the sentence and taking the Lord’s name in vain. However, if you’re reading this in the Anglophone West, there will be an assumption. Something around an outmoded intercessionary being that church / synagogue / mosque goers have decided... [read more]

Breaking Bread With the Dead

Laura Freeman, The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite

reviewed by Stephanie Sy-Quia

There is a variety of ways in which I, a woman, could begin a review of a book about another woman relaying her experience of living with anorexia. I could steep my response in the personal, discussing my own relationship with food; or relaying the experience of watching a schoolmate slowly starving herself over the course of our teens (not quite to death, but to infertility, which is after all, wouldn’t you agree, the same thing). I could dangle details of her condition before you: how her... [read more]

Performing Passion

Lena Andersson, trans. Saskia Vogel, Acts of Infidelity

reviewed by Thea Hawlin

‘There are neither words nor syntax for falling in love,’ Lena Andersson observes, ‘however many attempts have been made to parade it through the alphabet.’ Acts of Infidelity might be said to be such a parade. In her long-anticipated sequel to Wilful Disregard (2013), Andersson gives us a book about the dangers of loving the attached. An act between two people in an affair is always more than the sum of its apparent parts, every smile, every kiss, every action forever accompanied by a... [read more]

Sixty Billion Chickens a Year

Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

reviewed by Peter Mitchell

I recently re-read Moby-Dick, because I know how to have fun, and found myself coming down a with a moderate case of metaphor envy. How convenient for Melville, I thought, that he just so happened to have been hunting the the perfect vehicle for his grand mad investigation into capitalism, murder and the cosmos. And how convenient that both that vehicle and the means of hunting it – an enormous floating cow full of magical oils that wrestles giant squid to the death in the most crushing and... [read more]

Anyways Elastic

Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability

reviewed by Bernard Hay

How can you find the truth from pixellated imagery, memories erased by trauma, and stories suppressed by state censorship? Founded in 2010 and nominated for this year’s Turner Prize, the architectural detective Forensic Architecture has become a leading voice in socially engaged spatial culture. Over the past eight years it has developed a practice gathering, analysing and presenting architectural evidence in their search for truth against state-sanctioned injustice. In Forensic... [read more]