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Into the Underworld

Iain Sinclair: The Hackney Underworld, 22 January 2015

... be more empowering than to sit looking at an immaculate rectangle of water, a three-dimensional David Hockney which will never be disturbed by a thrashing alien presence? Neighbours lacking this obscene quantum of liquidity might well complain about the noise, the dust, the inconvenience and the damage to their foundations. It doesn’t signify. And ...

To the End of the Line

Ferdinand Mount: The Red Dean, 26 April 2012

The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson 
by John Butler.
Scala, 292 pp., £16.95, September 2011, 978 1 85759 736 3
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... it until his death. After he had swallowed something once, he never stopped taking the medicine. David Caute begins The Fellow Travellers: Intellectual Friends of Communism (1973) with the story of Hewlett and Nowell escaping from the World Peace Council and clambering aboard a local bus going they knew not where and Hewlett saying to the driver: ‘Tickets ...

Like Hell

Thomas McKeown, 1 October 1981

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings 
translated by Eisei Ishikawa and David Swain.
Hutchinson, 706 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 09 145640 1
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... good crop of tomatoes, which ‘formerly were difficult to raise inside the city because of blight and insects’; and ‘fauna at the hypocenter had recovered to a degree that did not differ from that in other districts.’ There is cosmic justice in the conclusion that if man destroys himself, many of his humbler fellow creatures will resume their ...

Cuba Down at Heel

Laurence Whitehead, 8 June 1995

The Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Documents 
Brassey (US), 376 pp., £15.95, March 1994, 9780028810836Show More
The Cuban Revolution: Origin, Course and Legacy 
by Marifeli Pérez-Stable.
Oxford, 252 pp., £16.95, April 1994, 0 19 508406 3
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Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis and the Soviet Collapse 
by James Blight, Bruce Allyn and David Welch.
Pantheon, 509 pp., $27.50, November 1993, 0 679 42149 1
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Castro’s Final Hour: The Secret Story Behind the Coming Downfall of Communist Cuba 
by Andrés Oppenheimer.
Simon and Schuster, 474 pp., $25, July 1992, 0 671 72873 3
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Revolution in the Balance: Law and Society in Contemporary Cuba 
by Debra Evenson.
Westview, 235 pp., £48.50, June 1994, 0 8133 8466 4
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The Problem of Democracy in Cuba: Between Vision and Reality 
by Carollee Bengelsdorf.
Oxford, 238 pp., £32.50, July 1994, 0 19 505826 7
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Back from the Future: Cuba under Castro 
by Susan Eva Eckstein.
Princeton, 286 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 691 03445 1
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Fidel Castro 
by Robert Quirk.
Norton, 898 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 393 03485 2
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Healing the Masses: Cuban Health Politics at Home and Abroad 
by Julie Feinsilver.
California, 307 pp., £35, November 1993, 0 520 08218 4
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Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution 
by Thomas Paterson.
Oxford, 364 pp., £22.50, July 1994, 0 19 508630 9
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... Even after 35 years, the simplest questions about Cuban politics remain almost beyond the reach of objective analysis. Is the Castro regime a tyranny which can only perpetuate itself by resort to repression, as the Cuban-American community in Miami and elsewhere insists? Or does it persist, despite the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the deepening economic crisis, essentially because it incarnates a national identity struggling for survival against the engulfing pressure of US political, economic and cultural expansionism? Is the regime doomed to collapse, with only the ruthlessness of the Jefe Máximo to delay the inevitable? Or has it so transformed Cuban society that the next generation are bound to construct their future largely on the foundations laid down by the Revolution? In 1962, we now learn from The Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Documents, the CIA answered such questions in the following terms: The Castro regime retains the positive support of about 20 per cent of the population, but dissent is increasing ...

Cropping the bluebells

Angus Calder, 22 January 1987

A Century of the Scottish People: 1830-1950 
by T.C. Smout.
Collins, 318 pp., £15, May 1986, 9780002175241
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Living in Atholl: A Social History of the Estates 1685-1785 
by Leah Leneman.
Edinburgh, 244 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 85224 507 6
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... paternalism’. Perhaps the jocundly pastoral, fresh-faced musicians and dancers in David Allan’s famous painting of a ‘Highland Wedding at Blair Atholl’, which is reproduced as her dust-jacket, are less idealised than one has supposed. Whatever good there was in 18th-century ways of life in Scotland – and notwithstanding the brief ...

Rodinsky’s Place

Patrick Wright, 29 October 1987

White Chappell: Scarlet Tracings 
by Iain Sinclair.
Goldmark, 210 pp., £12.50, October 1987, 1 870507 00 2
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... centre’ concerned with the local history of immigration. Above the tiny synagogue is the room of David Rodinsky, a Polish Jew of increasingly mysterious reputation. Latterly described as a translator and philosopher, he is said to have lived here in some sort of caretaking capacity. One day in the Sixties Rodinsky stepped out into Princelet Street and ...

The Right Kind of Pain

Mark Greif: The Velvet Underground, 22 March 2007

The Velvet Underground 
by Richard Witts.
Equinox, 171 pp., £10.99, September 2006, 9781904768272
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... or Crosby, Stills and Nash, is already on board. Then there is the curse of Dylanology, such a blight on pop criticism: worship of lyrics as ‘poetry’, modelled on pop’s least representative major figure. This sort of writing fails the reality of pop: its special alchemy of lyrics that look like junk on the page, and music that seems underdeveloped ...

That Disturbing Devil

Ferdinand Mount: Land Ownership, 8 May 2014

Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership 
by Andro Linklater.
Bloomsbury, 482 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 4088 1574 8
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... private property was beginning to produce the economic goods, it fell under an ideological blight. Proudhon’s thunderous pronouncement that ‘Property is theft’ hit the popular imagination in 1840, just as white men were sweeping the natives off their ancestral lands all over the globe. To many, this looked like a replay of the destruction of the ...

The Olympics Scam

Iain Sinclair: The Razing of East London, 19 June 2008

... overblown epic: junkyard frolics, athletic events taking place across the panorama of blight, wheel-hubs for discuses. Trail of the Spider by Anja Kirschner and David Panos announced itself as a Situationist spaghetti western shot on Hackney Marshes; where, the makers assert, the land-grab expansionism of the ...

On (Not) Saying What You Mean

Colm Tóibín, 30 November 1995

... tiled roofs and picture windows. (The Irish Times, in its infinite snobbery, called it Bungalow Blight.) We went through the book and then began to drive around the countryside looking at examples of House Number Five, or House Number Sixty-Two, cheering with delight when a number which we had particularly favoured appeared in front of our eyes in the ...

Good New Idea

John Lanchester: Universal Basic Income, 18 July 2019

... for a great range of thinkers, including Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams in Inventing the Future, David Graeber in Bullshit Jobs, Paul Mason in Post-Capitalism, Rutger Breman in Utopia for Realists, and Peter Barnes in With Liberty and Dividends for All. UBI is definitely having a moment.Guy Standing is a long-standing member of BIEN, the Basic Income Earth ...

Fed up with Ibiza

Jenny Turner: Sybille Bedford, 1 April 2021

Sybille Bedford: An Appetite for Life 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 432 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 1 78474 113 6
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... ate with M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child. And when she settled in England in the 1960s, Elizabeth David told her that the bit in her first novel about a dinner of sea urchins, ‘heaped in a great armorial pile … like the unexplained detail on the hill by the thistles and the hermitage of a quattrocento background’, followed by a plain grilled loup and no ...

The Things We Throw Away

Andrew O’Hagan: The Garbage of England, 24 May 2007

... 100 Agents of Change’ in the waste debate. Standing at number 28 – one above new entrant David Miliband, the environment secretary – is a man called Andy Moore, who is head of the Community Recycling Network. The first time I met him, in the bar at Paddington Station, he seemed weary but refreshingly non-morose when it came to talking about ...

The End of British Farming

Andrew O’Hagan: British farming, 22 March 2001

... The Constable picture fades into a new world of intensive industrial farming and environmental blight. The Cornfield is said to show the path along which Constable walked from East Bergholt across the River Stour and the fields to his school at Dedham. Last October I made my way to Dedham. It was another wet day, and many of the trucks and lorries ...

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