Death and Life in Knausgaard

by Andy Merrifield

The search for answers became Knausgaard’s quest for self-clarification, his attempt to find wholeness again – or perhaps to find wholeness for the first time. It was a literary quest as much as anything else: how to find the right words to represent a life, prompted by a sudden insight into death. Writing wasn’t and still isn’t cathartic for Knausgaard; he insists on that. It is torture, a twisted medium that buys time, that somehow offsets death. My Struggle became Knausgaard’s personal struggle, his trial, perhaps even The Trial. Only here K. is Knausgaard himself, and The Trial in question is one in which Knausgaard – let’s henceforth call him K. – is both judge and jury. The case that follows is to prove his own innocence – or guilt. In My Struggle, K. accuses himself. [read full essay]

'We cannot know what the author's intentions were'

Espen Hammer, Adorno's Modernism: Art, Experience, and Catastrophe

reviewed by Stuart Walton

The verdict passed on culture by the historical catastrophes of the twentieth century, that it had failed in its innermost core by failing to reach the innermost core of human beings, was one of Theodor Adorno's most non-negotiable contentions. What was left of culture after Auschwitz was pure ideology, or else the delusive puerility of the culture industry. It had failed according to its own criteria. Not only had it not exorcised the demons of social turbulence according to the Aristotelian... [read more]

Keep Calm and Be Modern

Owen Hatherley, The Ministry of Nostalgia: Consuming Austerity

reviewed by Benjamin Noys

Moaning about Britain is a very British thing to do. The national ideology of ‘muddling through’, of compromise and moderation, is usually accompanied by a moaning about the misery of these compromises. The British, or perhaps that should be the English, are never so happy, it seems, as when they are queuing and complaining. Owen Hatherley’s Ministry of Nostalgia brings to bear his considerable polemical gifts to analyse a particular instance of ‘muddling through’: the emergence of... [read more]
 

'A War Against Civilisation'

Annebella Pollen, The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Intellectual Barbarians

reviewed by Anna Neima

A dissonant, disquieting collection of over 100 images – many of them previously unseen – accompany art and design historian Annebella Pollen’s account of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: eye-catching, brightly coloured, Kandinsky-style designs; black and white photos of solitary, near-naked figures posed ritualistically out-of-doors; groups of young people dancing, hiking and camping in a heterogeneous range of costumes, some reminiscent of Robin Hood: Men in Tights and the modern craze... [read more]

Director's Cut

Paul Fischer, A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power

reviewed by Stephen Lee Naish

It is no coincidence that North Korea seems to exist as an almost real-time movie. The country comes across in weird combination of gangster films like The Godfather, and Once Upon a Time in America, and the old science fiction adaptations of 1984 and Brave New World, played out over a seventy year period with no end credits in sight. The Kim dynasty, thus far including Kim Il-sung, his son Kim Jong-Il, and since 2011, Jong-il's young son Kim Jong-un, are the main stars of the picture, prima... [read more]
 

'No Words Came'

Simon Critchley, Notes on Suicide

reviewed by Pascal Porcheron

At the tail-end of spring nine years ago, my uncle, who I hated and barely knew, boarded a train from London to Hastings. At the station in Hastings, he walked to the beach. At the beach, he slashed his wrists and walked into the sea. At some point he stopped walking and, we can only surmise, the water gradually lifted his feet from the sea bed and carried his body further from the shore. Perhaps the tide beat him back towards the land, and he was forced to swim out to his fate. Perhaps the... [read more]

Art and the 'Real'

Christoph Cox, Jenny Jaskey & Suhail Malik eds., Realism Materialism Art

reviewed by Hatty Nestor

Realism Materialism Art is an anthology of essays published by the Centre of Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York, in conjunction with Sternberg Press. To uncover the relationship between realism and materialism within the sphere of art, the editors have selected a rich combination of exhibitions, talks and theorists through which to discuss current questions in critical theory. Featuring essays by Graham Harman, Boris Groys, Christoph Cox and Susan Schuppli, Realism Materialism Art... [read more]
 

‘Upturned carts, cobblestones, pieces of furniture...'

Eric Hazan, A History of the Barricade

reviewed by Ian Birchall

Barricades are even more old-fashioned than Jeremy Corbyn. They belong to an age before opinion polls and focus groups, when people simply took to the streets to fight for what they believed were their rights. Barricades were a means of defence, but they could be more than that, enabling a rebel population to trap forces with superior weaponry. In 1588 the inhabitants of Paris erected a network of barricades ‘so dense that soldiers were caught as if in a net, under fire from the barricades... [read more]

History on the Flip-side

Harry Harootunian, Marx After Marx: History and Time in the Expansion of Capital

reviewed by Marie Louise Krogh

The 7th of October 1917 marks the date of a ruptural reconfiguration not only of the social, economic and political history of Russia, but also of the intellectual landscape of Western Europe. Until this point European Marxists had – following some of Marx's own suggestions – seen the most 'advanced' capitalist economies as the inevitable site of the coming revolution. With the overthrow of the Tsar and the subsequent failure of the Bavarian Council Republic, all this changed. Western... [read more]
 

Of Slashes and Hyphens

Rachel Price, Planet/Cuba: Art, Culture, and the Future of the Island

reviewed by Dunja Fehimović

Rachel Price's Planet/Cuba is a timely, insightful and innovative study of contemporary Cuban culture. Nevertheless, the eye-catching cover and strikingly stark title of this significant text turn out to be its first stumbling blocks, establishing unfair and false expectations regarding the kind of relationship between Cuba and the world that it develops and that constitutes one of its most innovative proposals. The slash that separates the two nouns, also known by the telling technical name of... [read more]

Angst Squared

Francis O'Gorman, Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History

reviewed by Phil Jourdan

The quiet agony of worrying is a familiar topic for this reviewer. It feels necessary to state this outright, though I couldn't say why. This defensiveness, however, is quite in keeping with the spirit of Francis O’Gorman’s Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History. Its worried author spends the first dozen or so pages of his book on worrying mostly worrying about how tricky the act of writing about worrying has proven and will continue to prove to be. This book is itself an act of... [read more]