All Reviews

Will Poetry Really Save Us?

Franco 'Bifo' Berardi, The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance

reviewed by Daniel Hartley

Let us imagine three rooms, each one sealed off from the others and furnished with a single desk, a keyboard and a computer screen. In the first room sit Deleuze and Guattari, in the second TS Eliot, and in the third FR Leavis. The computer system into which they type is designed to cut and paste extracts from all four thinkers, to superimpose some passages on others, and to create an overall palimpsest of their work. The final product, I claim, would be something akin to Franco ‘Bifo’... [read more]

Meanwhile, in the real world…

Niall Ferguson, The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die

reviewed by Houman Barekat

Bringing together a series of talks given for BBC Radio’s prestigious Reith Lectures, The Great Degeneration is a plain-speaking rallying cry from one of Britain’s most high-profile public intellectuals, urging a return to the first principles of liberal political economy. The relative success of the West, Niall Ferguson explains, has hitherto been attributable to the efficacy and dynamism of its ‘good institutions’; by contrast, countries afflicted by economic underdevelopment,... [read more]
 

The Conformists

Donny Gluckstein, The Nazis, Capitalism and the Working Class

reviewed by Tom Steele

How did it come about that during the 1930s the world’s most advanced and politically well-organised working class so quickly succumbed to Nazism? By the late 19th century the German working class had developed a Social Democratic Party (SPD) of considerable authority and a strong trade union organisation. It was complemented by a notable workers’ educational arm, led by Wilhelm Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, which added to the liberal German tradition of Bildung a strong Marxist... [read more]

An Arbitrary Encyclopaedia

Jonathan Meades, Museum Without Walls

reviewed by David Anderson

Passing some time before a mis-scheduled appointment at St Bartholomew's hospital in Smithfield, I visited the plaque hanging in the attached museum. 'You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive’, runs the bronze-embossed motto, commemorating the first words spoken on this site over a century ago by the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, to his soon-to-be chronicler Dr John Watson MD. Enquiries reveal the plaque's position to be misleading: the meeting took place not here but up some stairs... [read more]
 

The World is a Stage

Nato Thompson (ed.), Living As Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991 – 2011

reviewed by Tom Snow

Socially engaged art may only operate along minor tangents of the art world. However, current interest in the interdisciplinary has rendered these sorts of works a focal point for many. As an impending biennial culture realises itself as a global phenomenon, Social Practice seems as in vogue as ever. Documenta, Manifesta and Istanbul, for instance, have all taken politically oriented contemporary art as their subjects in recent years, heightening visibility and rendering such practices crucial... [read more]

Occupational Therapy

Raja Shehadeh, Occupation Diaries

reviewed by Matt Hill

As the scion of a leading Palestinian family, Raja Shehadeh inherited both a distinguished name and an ample share of the national trauma. Born a refugee in Ramallah, his parents having fled the Israeli-Arab war of 1948, he was again struck by tragedy when his father was murdered in 1985. Those events shadow everything in this book, but its focus is on the miniature burdens of life under Israeli rule. Shehadeh, a human rights lawyer, peace activist and author of several books on the conflict,... [read more]
 

I Am Not Giuseppe Fanelli

Dan Hancox, Utopia and the Valley of Tears: A Journey Through the Spanish Crisis

reviewed by Jamie Mackay

Emerging from a wasteland of empty satellite blocks and ghost allotments Marinaleda, a small town deep in the Andalucian countryside, harvests an optimistic challenge to the symbols of boom-time arrogance that have thrown Spain into a downward spiral of debt and unemployment. Wireless internet is free. Swimming in the public pool costs €3 a year. The public daycare centre costs €12 a month. Housing costs €15 a month and is owned by the collective. Family businesses are actively encouraged... [read more]

Beware False Friends

Tom Vickers, Refugees, Capitalism and the British State: Implications for Social Workers, Volunteers & Activists

reviewed by David Renton

For 20 years, refugees have been travelling to Britain in large numbers; for 20 years they have been refused employment while their cases are considered by the Home Office, a process which can take many years. While their applications are assessed they are forcibly dispersed around the country, disrupting the networks of communal solidarity which have sustained all previous generations of migrants to this country. Successive governments have reduced the benefits open to refugees, pushing many... [read more]
 

An Incantation, A Prayer

AM Homes, May We Be Forgiven

reviewed by Sara D'Arcy

AM Homes’ oeuvre, like many other American authors, is ruptured by the events of 9/11. Pre-9/11 Homes was infamous for her dark and perverse imagination. Her fiction meditated on violence and sexual taboo in modern America, most notoriously in The End of Alice (Anchor, 1997) – a sinister story about an exchange of ‘love letters’ between two paedophiles which makes Nabokov’s Lolita look like child’s play. Homes’ post-9/11 fiction is ostensibly a world away from the work that... [read more]

Good Story

Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton: A Memoir

reviewed by Sarah Emily Duff

In an essay about adapting Midnight’s Children (Jonathan Cape, 1981) for film, Salman Rushdie wrote: ‘Interestingly, on the novel’s first publication, Western critics tended to focus on its more fantastic elements, while Indian reviewers treated it like a history book. “I could have written your book,” a reader flatteringly told me in Bombay. “I know all that stuff.”’ There is much in Joseph Anton – Rushdie’s memoir of his life under the fatwa declared by Iran in... [read more]