Heidegger and the Giant Jellyfish

by Stuart Walton

In Heidegger's view, what was happening to the Jews in the 1930s was not so much the administratively planned extermination of a people, but more their historically determined self-destruction, for which they had only themselves to blame. 'When what is essentially “Jewish” in the metaphysical sense fights against what is Jewish, the high point of self-annihilation [Selbstvernichtung] in history has been reached; assuming that the “Jewish” has everywhere completely seized mastery, so that even the fight against “the Jewish”, and it above all, falls under its sway.' That said, the struggle for supremacy had been anything but a level playing-field. At the end of the decade covered by the first period of the Notebooks, while the war in Nazi-occupied Europe was still raging, Heidegger offered this lament: 'The Judaism of the world, spurred on by those who were allowed to emigrate from Germany, is intangible everywhere and does not need to engage in warlike acts in spite of their display of power, whereas we [Germans] are left to sacrifice the best blood of the best of our nation.' [read full essay]

Poems of the British Gulag

by Alex Niven

The War Poets, and their continuing centrality in British cultural life, from GCSE syllabi to media outlets where they are often the only poetry to feature in any given year, are at the heart of a modern liberal value complex that recuperates Remembrance Day’s human factor while leaving the door open for revanchist nationalism. It is not that their poetry is bad per se – indeed Owen and Rosenberg in particular are, in their best moments, capable of truly affecting and strange writing. Yet there is something much too comfortable and comforting about their reception. The real singularity of the best World War I poetry springs from the deep realisation on the part of the soldiers in Flanders and elsewhere that they were fighting not for a tangible communal goal, like the later repulsion of Fascism in World War II, but for an obscure web of motives derived from an epochal crisis in British capitalism and imperialism. [read full opinion]

Self and the City

Ferdinand Addis, Rome: Eternal City

reviewed by Nicolas Liney

By all accounts, the city of Rome should have passed into the footnotes of history long ago, a sad victim of multiple sackings, internecine division, depopulation and egregious neglect. Case in point: in the early fifth century, a roaming military force of Visigoths crept uncomfortably far into Italy, bypassing the new capital Ravenna, and encircling Rome. Negotiations faltered, and in 410 CE the city was systematically, scrupulously levelled. The sacking was, by the standards of its age,... [read more]

Mexico’s Fraternal Republic

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, A New Hope for Mexico

reviewed by Daniel Whittall

On July 1st Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he is more commonly known, and his National Regeneration Party, MORENA, won 53% of the vote in the Mexican elections. Their victory came as little surprise to those who had followed the polling, which had put them as the front runners for some time. Having run twice before – 2006 and 2012 – and lost out marginally, under circumstances where electoral fraud was likely used to overcome him, AMLO now has a governing majority that even the... [read more]

Sound and Form

Andrew Wynn Owen, The Multiverse

reviewed by Liam Bishop

William Blake saw, in the age of scepticism, Enlightenment philosophy heralded as damaging to what he thought was the unifying power of the poetic vision. Should the sun and moon be overcome by doubt ‘they’d immediately go out’ he wrote in ‘Auguries of Innocence’. Andrew Wynn Owen, in his collection which draws on images and arguments from religion and science, also questions what scepticism might mean for our aesthetics. He takes us to a similar time of wonder and trouble. ... [read more]

Reassuringly Optimistically Deranged

Paul Ewen, Francis Plug: Writer in Residence

reviewed by Hugo Brown

Francis Plug, the protagonist of Paul Ewen’s novel series of the same name, is ‘a brilliant, deranged new comic creation.’ On the cover of most novels, there is always one quotation like this that stands out against the rest. Looking back through my recent memory; Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is ‘raging and elegiac,’ Gonzalo C. Garcia is ‘a deep and hilarious new literary voice’ and Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled is ‘one of the strangest books in memory.’ At their best,... [read more]

Strings of Letters and Names of Warehouses

Edouard Louis, trans. Lorin Stein, History of Violence

reviewed by Stephanie Sy-Quia

There is something suspicious in the ways Edouard Louis’s 2014 debut novel, The End of Eddy, has generally been discussed, in its branding as a novel of growing up gay and poor in post-industrial Northern France, which even appears in the blurb. The phrase is now de rigueur for reviewers: ‘growing up gay and poor’ (James Macaulay in The Washington Post), ‘growing up gay in a violent, neglected town in Northern France’ (Kim Willsher in The Guardian), ‘growing up gay in industrial... [read more]

Fear, Scaremongering and Control

Anna Burns, Milkman

reviewed by Genevieve Sartor

A common reference in reviews of Anna Burns’ Booker Prize-winning Milkman is head judge Kwame Anthony Appiah’s comments in praise of the novel: that it will help people to think about #Metoo, that its portrayal of the Troubles is comparable to the fractured societies in contemporary Lebanon and Syria, and that although it is a difficult read – akin to ‘climbing to the summit of Snowdon’– it is ‘worth it when you reach the top.’ While Appiah’s associations (which Burns has... [read more]

two blue ticks

Olivia Sudjic, Exposure

reviewed by Rebecca Watson

You know the image: the apartment is clean, airy and quiet with a just ripe fruit bowl. The shower is even in temperature and power, and the bed not too soft, nor too hard (‘Ah’, you sigh at the end of another productive day, ‘just right’). There’s a large desk by the window that looks out across the endless, slowly swaying sea. The sun warms, never glares. You place, gently, in the middle of the desk, a notepad. Next to it sits a smooth-nibbed pen. The cliché comes to you (a... [read more]

‘Since when did doing your job become a crime against humanity?’

Mohammed Hanif, Red Birds

reviewed by Michael Duffy

The war on terror waged across Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border has continued unabated since 9/11, but the methods by which it is fought seem increasingly modern and technological. Transcripts from drone operators have shown neutralised targets being referred to as ‘bug splats,’ ‘dismounts’ and ‘squirters’ – impersonal and dehumanising terms that reflect the physical and rhetorical distance with which the American military is able to go about its business. Although Red Birds... [read more]

‘He is the instigator of nothing’

Tom Engelhardt, A Nation Unmade by War

reviewed by David Renton

In a recent issue of the London Review of Books, the historian of popular reactions to British Empire Linda Colley observed that political systems can often be strengthened by military victories. Since the drafting of the American constitution in 1787, she continued, the United States has enjoyed martial success, from the expansionist wars against native Americans and against Mexico to victories in colonial wars and in the two world wars. Even defeat in Vietnam was mitigated by the 8,000 miles... [read more]

A Heady, Giddy Time

James Cook, Memory Songs: A Personal Journey Into the Music That Shaped the 90s

reviewed by Thom Cuell

For James Cook, a memory song is 'a piece of music so bound up with my past it is almost a physical part of it, like an old school book.’ In this book, which combines the memoir of a struggling musician trying to make it in the pre-Britpop boom with intelligent and sensitive critique of artists ranging from John Barry to Nirvana, Cook analyses the songs which marked important stages in his life, as well as their impact on the broader musical scene. The bulk of Memory Songs is concerned... [read more]