Malcolm Turvey, The Filming of Modern Life: European Avant-Garde Film of the 1920s
reviewed by Jeremy Spencer
In the 1920s, the embrace of film as a medium for visual art by members of the European avant-garde led to an outpouring of creativity. Artists such as Hans Richter, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Salvidor Dalí and film-maker Dziga Vertov made the enduring and fascinating films explored in Malcolm Turvey’s The Filming of Modern Life. Turvey explores how these films resisted and embraced, sometimes simultaneously, the specific concrete transformations wrought by modernity.
To explain... [read more]
John Lang and Graham Dodkins, Bad News: The Wapping Dispute
reviewed by Richard Sharpe
Bad News is a timely and insightful account of the 1986-87 dispute between the print and clerical unions and Rupert Murdoch’s empire of newspapers. The general facts are known: Murdoch built a plant in Wapping to consolidate the two wings of his newspaper empire in the UK - the Times part and the Sun / News of the World part; he wanted direct input by journalists and a curb on union action; after a rough and bloody contest, aided by the vacillations of key union leaders, he got his... [read more]
Ilan Pappé, The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel
reviewed by Matt Hill
At the outset of The Time that Remains, a film by Israeli director Elias Suleiman, a man driving home from Tel Aviv airport gets lost in a rare Middle East thunderstorm. 'Why the hell am I here?' he says into the darkness as rain whips the windows. 'And where the hell am I?'
His sense of displacement has an existential edge because the character, like his director, is not just an Israeli but a Palestinian too. This may sound like a riddle, but it is a fact that 1.3 million Arabs live as... [read more]
Peter Ackroyd, The History of England Volume I: Foundation
reviewed by David Renton
Millions of readers know what to expect from a Peter Ackroyd history: an eye for detail, the appalling anecdote, deep use of literary and archaeological sources. The History of England exhibits these familiar virtues. The literary sources begin with the Greek merchant Pytheas, landing in Britain two centuries before Caesar. A Viking triumph is illustrated by a quotation from a 10th century lament. To illustrate the ubiquity of violence in mediaeval England, Ackroyd cites the story of a 12th... [read more]
McKenzie Wark, The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International
reviewed by Ian Birchall
Few left currents have been as adept at using capitalist marketing techniques as the Situationists, with their relentless self-promotion. They have succeeded in fooling a younger generation by retrospectively inserting themselves into a history to which they were at best marginal. Thus Jonathan Derbyshire (Guardian, 20 August) assures us that they exerted ‘the most profound influence on the French student movement in May 1968’. I was in Paris in the aftermath of the general strike, meeting... [read more]
‘Sunday May 17 1959. It was late when the phone rang at the Sunday Express. Frank Draper, a junior reporter on the night shift, reached for it. When he was interviewed by the police five weeks later, this was how he described the conversation that followed; “Are you interested in a murder?”’ That’s how Mark Olden’s investigative Odyssey begins. It could be the opening of a classic detective novel, but this is no fiction.
On that early summer day, a young Antiguan carpenter called... [read more]
Tim Wu, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires
reviewed by Richard Sharpe
Tim Wu has an interesting and hopefully erroneous thesis about the Internet and the services it provides in the information economy. It, like the other information technologies before it, may come under the control of monopolist or oligopolistic capitalist interests after its short period of openness.
The telegraph, the telephone, radio, film and TV have all gone this way: they started as a disruptive and open technology only to become a closed system dominated by a few companies. In other... [read more]
Emma Fattorini, Hitler, Mussolini & The Vatican: Pope Pius XI and the Speech that was Never Made
reviewed by Hugh O'Shaughnessy
For decades historians have been fascinated by the riddles which surround the attitude of the aristocratic Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, towards the government and people of Germany – in which he served the Vatican as its nuncio before he was appointed Secretary of State – and to Jews whom he is charged with doing too little to protect. Notably through the writings of Rolf Hockhuth’s play The Representative (1963), the impression has been given that there was no strong force in the... [read more]
In the year of the Arab Spring it is timely to examine the role of states and international organisations in the internal politics of other states: rhetorically, what justifies military intervention in Libya but not Syria to defend human rights? Charles Beitz’s arguments for a ‘fresh start’ to understanding the idea of human rights centre on human rights as a matter of ‘elaborate international practice’: that every human being has human rights, is ‘the subject of global concern’,... [read more]
Matthew Parker, The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire and War
reviewed by Tony Norfield
Britain was once the world’s biggest slave trader, transporting African slaves to colonies in the Americas. Two-thirds of the slaves worked on sugar plantations in the Caribbean, and this book gives the history of the British families who owned them: the ‘sugar barons’. Parker’s account of the mercantile entrepreneurs who developed plantations in the West Indies tells of how their colossal wealth made the King of England look like he was down on his luck. But more enlightening is his... [read more]