Scotland is not going to be an independent nation; neither, in its economics or its society is it very different from the rest of Britain, and the depressing thought is that those of us who live far from Scotland are going to face the same problems – in 2015, and repeatedly, until the majority of people who lack a financial reason to identify with the status quo have enough confidence in their own shared ability to replace it that the begin to see themselves as a class, that is, an alternative set of rulers in waiting. [read full essay]
Stefan Andriopoulos, Ghostly Apparitions: German Idealism, the Gothic Novel, and Optical Media
reviewed by Stuart Walton
The authorised version of the European Enlightenment holds that sovereign human reason, borne aloft on the currents of scientific investigation and discovery, put to rout the irrational forces of superstition and immaterial belief, bequeathing us an intellectual culture in which there would be absolutely no justification, say, three centuries later, for people still to be arguing about the existence of God. What this tidily linear narrative misses is that the immaterial was of continuing... [read more]
Eve Harris’s The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, long-listed for this year’s Man Booker Prize, seeks to elucidate an isolated world—the Haredi, or ultra-orthodox, Jewish community in Golders Green, London. The title reveals the plot: Chani Kaufman, 19 and a little too spunky for most Haredi boys, has finally been arranged to marry 20-year-old Orthodox-yet-secret-Coldplay-fan Baruch Levy.
The book grows from their union, with chapters taking on the perspective of two other characters in the... [read more]
Alain Badiou, Eric Hazan and Ivan Segré, Reflections on Anti-Semitism
reviewed by Eugene Brennan
Badiou and Hazan’s ‘“Anti-Semitism Everywhere” in France Today’, the first text in this two-part volume, situates French anti-Semitism within a historical continuity of harnessing anti-popular sentiment against the most recent arrivals in France. Marine Le Pen has lead her Front National party from widespread Holocaust-denial to brazenly offering kindness and friendship to the Jewish population. Her kindness towards the Jews does not, however, extend to other minorities in France. Le... [read more]
From the Keep-Calm-and-Carry-On aesthetic so beloved of middlebrow publishers and fashion designers, to the sort of atavistic monarchism sparked by the Diamond Jubilee and the Wills-and-Kate retro-domestic revival, the 1940s and ‘50s are – in contemporary argot – the hottest decades in the world right now.
Arguably, in a culture that has raided just about every other corner of 20th-century history to feed its consumer-kitsch sweet tooth, partying like it’s 1949 is merely another... [read more]
New York as a character in a mystery would not be the detective, would not be the murderer. It would be the enigmatic suspect who knows the real story but isn’t going to tell it.
So pens American crime writer Donald E. Westlake, whose words comprise the epigraph to Bleeding Edge, the latest installment in Thomas Pynchon’s varied and well-canvassed repertory. Revisiting the Big Apple as a setting for the first time since his 1963 debut, V, Pynchon heeds Westlake’s direction and employs... [read more]
Howard Caygill, On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance
reviewed by Alex Fletcher
‘Saints, hermits, but also intellectuals. The few who have made history are those who have said no.’ Pier Paolo Pasolini
Our present has been marked by the enduring iteration and persistence of resistances; from the Arab insurgencies, to the resistance of the indignados and aganaktismenoi, to the global eruption of the Occupy movement, to the ‘Taskim Republic’. Whether experienced as images on a screen, or on the street (through a blurred vision provoked by tear-gas) the last several... [read more]
James Heartfield, Unpatriotic History of the Second World War
reviewed by John Newsinger
James Heartfield has written one of the essential books on the Second World War. It is a relentless, uncompromising account of the conflict as a great clash of Empires. The war consumed millions of lives as the great powers battled for supremacy. It was fought in the interests of and for the benefit of the ruling classes with ordinary people in every country making the necessary sacrifices. Without any doubt, this is how the ruling classes themselves regarded the conflict; but, of course, in... [read more]
Jane Austen, perfect social observer, must have perceived only too well the wounds that her challenging life had dealt her. But her confidante and sister Cassandra, possibly under orders from beyond the grave, burned nearly all her intimate letters. Two centuries since the regrettable day Cass decided to make a pyre, the novels Jane Austen left behind continue to make up the material of her soul.
Yet those six spined works never seem to be enough. We are insatiable when it comes to Jane. We... [read more]
Zygmunt Bauman, Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?
reviewed by Nathaniel Barron
The Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) is famous for having (among other things) sewn a noted parchment to the inside of his suit jacket. The emblazoned note served to remind Pascal of a personal, highly charged event of religious revelation - the so-called la nuit de feu (‘Night of Fire’) - whereby a luminous clarity momentarily possessed the Frenchman. ‘From about half past ten in the evening until about half past twelve,’ Pascal said of the night, ‘Fire!’ And yet the... [read more]
Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep
reviewed by Maya Osborne
Recently, a friend said to me that she had banned herself from checking her emails over the weekend, but after an internal battle she had given in and logged on. We are more and more prone to checking our emails if we wake in the middle of the night, and no post on Sunday is as quaint an idea as a village green. Jonathan Crary observes in his 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep that the machinic ‘sleep mode’ ‘supersedes an off/on logic, so that nothing is ever fundamentally "off"... [read more]