Literature

Another look at Camus' The Plague

The Plague (La Peste), written by the French-Algerian Albert Camus in 1947, has, unsurprisingly, undergone a surge in sales in recent months (up 1,000 per cent). It was his best-selling novel, and is considered by some to be an allegory of the wartime occupation of France by the Nazis. It is set in the Algerian port of Oran where, at some unspecified time in the 1940s, there is an outbreak of bubonic plague. The disease spreads rapidly despite the efforts of Doctor Rieux (the main character) and a team of helpers. Eventually, after many months, thousands of deaths and severe quarantine...

The Handke controversy

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2019 has been awarded to Peter Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.” Born in 1942, Handke is an Austrian novelist and playwright, best known for works including Offending the Audience and The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. He is also known for his film scripts, one of which, The Left-Handed Woman, an adaptation of his own novel, was nominated for a Golden Palm Award in 1978. The awarding of the Nobel Prize to Handke has caused controversy, owing to his shameful...

Becoming wiser and stronger

Note: this review discusses themes from the latest Philip Pullman book but avoids major plot spoilers; it does discuss previous books in depth, however. Twenty-four years have passed since Philip Pullman first published Northern Lights, the first volume of the groundbreaking His Dark Materials trilogy. In the world of Northern Lights, people’s consciousness exists both inside their heads, and in the form of a daemon, an animal that reflects aspects of their personality/consciousness/soul, which is both part of and independent from their human counterpart. The book follows the adventures of...

More comments on Lukács

First I want to thank Martin Thomas for his “more sceptical assessment” of the work of György Lukács (Solidarity 518). This is precisely what is needed. In the same vein my thanks also to all those who attended the session on Lukács at Ideas for Freedom 2019 recently and gave me the benefit of their thoughts and criticisms. These comments will no doubt find their way into the book I am currently writing on Lukács (excuse the plug!). I don’t feel able at the moment to render a fully detailed response to Martin’s comments, so what follows will no doubt appear rather haphazard in response. The...

Sweden in the 1930s: a “shithole country”

“It’ll be a pleasure to leave this impoverished shithole of a country behind,” says the main character Harry Kvist in the Stockholm Trilogy of historical crime novels by Martin Holmen. Sweden is now reckoned one of the top ten of countries in the world for quality of life, but eighty years ago much of the population lived in abject poverty. Holmen’s three novels — Clinch, Out For The Count and Slugger — paint a grim picture of the life of the urban poor in 1930s Stockholm. Most of them suffer flea bites, their bedsheets doused in strong vinegar to keep the pests away. Summer months bring...

The life and work of Georg Lukács

Georg Lukács (pictured above in 1919) was one of the best-known Marxist writers of the 20th century. He joined the Hungarian Communist Party in December 1918 and was a People's Commissar in the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic of March-July 1919. After fleeing to Vienna, he published History and Class Consciousness (in 1923, but collecting texts written since 1919). He lived in the USSR between 1929 and 1945. He was a minister in the reforming Nagy government in Hungary in 1956, survived the Russian invasion and the repression, and died in 1971. John Cunningham talked with Martin Thomas...

Reading or stagnating?

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or book long enough to suit me.” – C. S. Lewis When I was a young child, I learned an appreciation for the written word through both of my parents reading aloud to me and through listening to audiobooks on long car trips. Somewhere during the dreaded forced reading during my secondary and tertiary schooling, I lost my fascination with reading. Then, over time, with that lack, I noticed other things were lacking. There are so many reasons to read: to inform, to amuse, to connect, to understand, to critique, and so on. Reading is a fantastic way to...

The Glorious Heresies

Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies is a strong debut novel, which won her the Bailey’s Women’s Prize in 2016. McInerney was already known for her blog, Arse End of Ireland, in which McInerney spoke about the impacts of the financial crash on Ireland’s poorest. The novel continues similar themes, focusing on those forced into the fringes of society in Cork. Ryan is a teenage drug dealer, whose gruff persona masks his hidden inner depths: his talent as a pianist, born of childhood boredom and neglect, and his strong desire not to turn out like his alcoholic father, Tony. A scene where he...

The Good Soldier Schwejk

Jill Mountford reviews The Good Soldier Schwejk (and His Fortunes in the World War) - written by Jaroslav Hasek, published 1923, adapted and directed by Christine Edzard, Sands Films, 2017. Currently being shown in Rotherhithe, London, and soon to be released on DVD. Christine Edzard has made it her mission to revive interest in what was possibly the first satirical comedy about the absurdity of war. She adapted The Good Soldier Schwejk (sometimes spelt Svejk, pronounced Shvake) to mark the centenary of World War I. It is about a naive and foolish patriot, unquestioningly loyal to the Austro...

George Orwell, Spain, and revolution

In his 1947 essay, “Why I Write”, George Orwell explained: “The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it…” Homage to Catalonia, in which Orwell bore witness to the murder of the Spanish Revolution, was the product of this defining period of Orwell’s life, at least the literary and political equal of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the February 1936 Spanish...

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.