"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Notes on the London Review of Books 41/10 (23 May 2019)

If there's a theme to this issue of the London Review of Books it is surely historical materialism and its ghosts, for lack of a better phrase. A case in point is a review of Brett Christophers, The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain (Verso, 2018), 394pp. The review discusses Christophers' evidence of how much land has been sold off, and so cheaply and with so few requirements or regulations, in the last several decades in the United Kingdom, whose government has deliberately kept poor, vague, or non-existent records of much of this transformation. One result of this is that it has jacked up housing prices by an enormous margin ("on average--that is, for all kinds of housing--land now accounts for 70% of a house's sale price. In the 1930s it was 2 per cent").

Jacqueline Rose has a long essay, "One Long Scream," that makes for very harrowing reading indeed. She has done some very interesting work in a number of areas, including the intersection of psychoanalysis, politics, and trauma. She also notes one of the few psychoanalysts in South Africa today, Mark Solms, whose work has gained international attention

Her essay looks back over the last quarter-century in South Africa, discussing a number of works, including My Father Died for This by Lukhanyo and Abigail Calata.

As an Anglican coming of age in the 1980s, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a hero to me from a great distance. I followed the move from apartheid to freedom with great interest, and later on I would review the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in great detail for how it handled some truly vexed questions about memories of the past and their possible healing.

But I have not followed events closely since the turn of the century, blithely assuming that progress was being made much more quickly and comprehensively than Rose shows it actually is. The tortured state of progress is illustrated in part by Rose discussing various presentations and evaluations of the life of Winnie Mandela, including, most recently, The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela (2018).

Clair Wills next reviews Eamonn McCann, War and an Irish Town (Haymarket, 2018), 330pp. This is a reissue of a book McCann first published in the 1970s. It shows the enormous complexity of the issues in the latter half of the twentieth century and how the politics was often shifting.

The essay has really forced me to start reading in Irish history. Previously I confess that my Scottish and English grandparents have left me with a residue of snobbery about the Irish, and a very strong pride about British imperialism. But I am increasingly recognizing that both were grossly unjust.

Sudhir Hazareesingh next reviews Herrick Chapman's France's Long Reconstruction: In Search of the Modern Republic (Harvard UP, 2018). It only reinforces my desire to read more about de Gaulle, who seems by all accounts to have been a maddeningly complicated man.

Poor Charles Darwin. Rosemary Hill reviews the latest volume (26) of his Correspondence. It seems the fate of all revolutionary men that they are bombarded with letters, and Darwin, we are told, is no less the case. But apparently with extraordinary patience and effort, he responded to nearly all his letters personally.

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