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Archive for August, 2009

In the forthcoming edition of the New Statesman, A Child In Palestine: The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali has been chosen as the picture book of the week3-19-sh2103198325. Here’s what John Pilger had to say about Naji al-Ali’s work:

This is a ground-breaking book. For the first time, Western readers are beckoned into Palestinian lives by the graphic warmth, inspiration and horror of the cartoonist Naji al-Ali, whose iconic child Hanthala is our witness and conscience, imploring, rightly, that we never forget.

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Writing in today’s Independent, Boyd Tonkin congratulates Elena Cheah on her ‘An Orchestra Beyond Borders – a collection of testimonies from the young men and women who make up the West-Eastern DivVerso 978-1-84467-408-4 Orchestra Beyond Borders smallan Orchestra.

Elena Cheah’s invaluable – and rather inspiring – insider’s book about the West-Eastern Divan project, An Orchestra Beyond Borders, makes it clear that neither the maestro nor his band dreams of swamping divisions of background and outlook in a warm tide of sound.

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Yesterday’s edition of the freesheet Metro included a glowing review of Steven Lukes’ philosophical novel The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat:Verso 9781844673698 Curious Enlightenment small

A Sophie’s World for adults, Lukes’s sparkling novel is an erudite Swiftian romp through Western philosophy as his hero, Professor Caritat, goes in search of the best way to organise society. Not the most tantalising premise, granted, but you’ll end it feeling cleverer than when you began.

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Some recently published and forthcoming, non-Verso, politics, theory and music books that have us excited:

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Join us for a panel discussion to take a closer, more nuanced look at the relationship between religion and society, inspired by Bloch’s epigraph, ‘Only an atheist can be a good Christian; only a Christian can be a good atheist’.

The free event to mark the publication of Atheism in Christianity will be held on Saturday 17th October, 3pm – 5pm, at  Room B35,  Birkbeck College in London. Copies of the book will be available to purchase after the discussion.

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The panellists are:

Jane Shaw, Dean of Divinity, Chaplain and Fellow (New College, Oxford)
Peter Thompson, Director, Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies (Sheffield)
Ben Morgan (Worcester College, Oxford)
Eric Kaufmann (Birkbeck)
George Pitcher (Chair) Religion Editor of The Daily Telegraph &The Sunday Telegraph

A brief glance at any discussion of religion today either online or in print media will make clear just how polarised the debate has become. On the one side, a reductionist rationalism feels itself under attack from the creeping theologisation of society. On the other, those with belief fear the descent into valueless utilitarianism and individualistic hedonism. What results is largely a dialogue of the deaf.

In the long unavailable Atheism in Christianity, Ernst Bloch anticipates the sterility of this binary debate and tries to find a way out of this through recovery of the social voice. His original historical examination of Christianity illuminates the earthly context and denouement of religion. In his virtuoso reading of the Bible, Bloch pursues its long standing fascination for “ordinary and unimportant” people: in the Bible stories’ promise of utopia and their antagonism to authority, Bloch locates the appeal to the oppressed—the desire “to transcend without transcendence.”

Through a lyrical yet close and nuanced analysis he explores the tensions within the text that promote atheism, against the authoritarian metaphysical theism imposed on it by priest interpreters. At the Bible s heart he finds a heretical core and claims that a good Christian must necessarily be an atheist. What of this seeming paradox?

The value of Ernst Bloch’s work is that he takes on both the reductionists and the transcendentalists and tries to discern what can be gained from a dialectical synthesis of the two. Bloch’s highly messianic and even eschatological version of Marxism opened him up to severe criticism in his own lifetime. But now, with the return of religion as a significant social and political force, the time has come to reappraise Bloch’s work and to ask whether it has anything to offer the current debate.

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Nina Power has interviewed Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the departments of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, about her latest book, Frames of War, for the New Statesman:

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I think that even in the Obama administration there is the fear that explicit photographs of torture or death will portray the nation in a bad light or possibly turn national or international sentiment against the US. I find this a very peculiar kind of argument, because it values how we are seen more highly than whether we are seen in a truthful way.

Read more of The Books Interview.

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Against the Current, a Solidarity-sponsored analytical journal for the broad revolutionary left, has published Alan Wald’s review of Ernest Mandel: A Rebel’s Dream Deferred by Jan Willem Stutje:

The personal and political life of Mandel, a Jewish internationalist whose first loyalty was to the working class, is scrupulously restored and judiciously scrutinized in Jan Willem Stutje’s comprehensive biography (…)

Stutje’s work, first released in the Netherlands two years ago and now expertly translated by Christopher Beck and Peter Drucker, represents a powerful commencement of what will surely be an ongoing task of recovering and analyzing this bequest.

With nearly 400 pages, organized into 11 chapters, a conclusion, and superb notes and bibliography, Stutje seeks to embrace at least four simultaneously-progressing narratives: Mandel’s personal biography, his record of political activities in Belgium and Western Europe, his leadership role in the Fourth International, and his intellectual achievements.”

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