Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | Exhumation: the Life and Death of Madan Lal Dhingra, Leena Dhingra | Hope Road Publishing

Madan Lal Dhingra’s great niece, Leena Dhingra, unravels the life and death of an Indian revolutionary in this haunting work that is part history, part memoir.

What was the largest movement of people in history? In 1923, over a million and a half Greeks and Turks were forcibly ‘exchanged’ as part of the Lausanne Convention. In May and June 1940, about eight million people from the Netherlands, Belgium and France fled from the blitzkrieg advance of the German army. But the sorry prize for the largest movement of people must go to the 1947 Partition of India. Seventy-five years ago, up to twenty million people travelled between the newly-created states of India and Pakistan, crossing the border formed by arbitrary political considerations in the last days of the British Raj. Partition was a distressing, painful and bloody process: estimates circulate that something like two million never arrived at their chosen destination. Continue reading Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | Exhumation: the Life and Death of Madan Lal Dhingra, Leena Dhingra | Hope Road Publishing

Review | The Story of Langford Grove School 1923-62 | Blue Horizon Press

The story of Langford Grove School is a period piece. It is the story of the remarkable headmistress and sole proprietor, Elizabeth Curtis. Whether it was gin and scallops for lunch with Frank Auerbach; a fireside chat with David Wynne; Sir Thomas Beecham holding up his orchestra until Curty took her seat; driving Vanessa Bell’s daughter Angelica to Blakeney Point; encouraging early orienteering on Bodmin Moor; caring for and educating Basque children escaping Franco’s cruelty; deciding at the drop of a hat that all lessons one particular term should be learnt in French; or following the Wartime exploits of her Naval Officer son, on whom Ian Fleming was said to have based some James Bond characteristics –  this was “Curty”. Curty was a progressive educationalist who wanted the very best in artistic experiences in beautiful surroundings for the sixty or so pupils in her care at Langford Grove,” from the Preface by Lucinda Curtis, grand-daughter of “Curty”

A century ago, being an educated and intelligent woman meant learning a European language, singing, dancing and music. Women who wanted to go to university were referred to as “blue stockings” (from the group of women who in the 1750s held “conversations” to which they invited men of letters and members of the aristocracy with literary interests.) Continue reading Review | The Story of Langford Grove School 1923-62 | Blue Horizon Press

Review | The Intimate Resistance, Josep Maria Esquirol (trs. Douglas Suttle) | Fum d’Estampa Press

A profound reflection on the human condition, Intimate Resistance is a welcome alternative to those glib bestselling books by counsellors and guides who synthesize complicated intellectual, scientific and spiritual ideas for instant, easy consumption. Living in the present moment is, perhaps, one of the most overused concepts expounded by the advocates of Mindfulness with the likes of Deepak Chopra (a student of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation), Eckhart Tolle and the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh a.k.a. Osho, leading the way.

Society has found itself distanced from Sartrean interpretation and so plays with the idea of finding one’s own personal path to happiness – often only understood as achievement: in other words, success.” (page 13)

Josep Maria Esquirol’s study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence, is underpinned by sound academic argument entwined with the concepts of many the world’s most important and influential philosophers and thinkers – including Arendt, Patočka, Melville, Bachelard, Sartre, Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, Pascal, Voltaire, Camus, Deleuze, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Freud and others – as he develops his own theories, all the while wearing his learning lightly. Intimate Resistance is a lyrical, lucid, poetic read of imaginative explorations and etymological musings conjuring visual vistas. Continue reading Review | The Intimate Resistance, Josep Maria Esquirol (trs. Douglas Suttle) | Fum d’Estampa Press

Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | The Dawn of Language: Axes, lies, midwifery and how we came to talk – Sverker Johansson | MacLehose Press

Sverker Johansson’s The Dawn of Language, adroitly translated by Frank Perry, weighs in at over 400 pages. We’re in the age of Great Simplifiers: each month produces a new crop of hefty volumes.

The Great Simplifiers
Each new volume aims to survey and simplify complex, important scientific arguments for a fairly well-educated reading public. These tomes resemble each other in their ambitions: they review tons of recent research; they give their readers an impression of the intensity and importance of debates; they’re stuffed with colourful examples to hold their reader’s attention; and
– usually – they conclude on a vaguely re-assuring, half-optimistic note. As you look closer, differences become apparent.
Continue reading Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | The Dawn of Language: Axes, lies, midwifery and how we came to talk – Sverker Johansson | MacLehose Press

Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | Beirut 2020: The Collapse of a Civilization, a Journal – Charif Majdalani | Mountain Leopard Press

Remember the Great Fear of March 2020? Remember the empty supermarket shelves, stripped bare of pasta, loo-rolls and flour? Many Brits feared that this was the End of Civilization as We Know It, like in a horror film.

Charif Majdalani’s book is a useful corrective to such needless panics. Last year, people living in Beirut really did see the collapse of a civilization, and Beirut 2020 is a gripping, perceptive account of the process. Continue reading Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | Beirut 2020: The Collapse of a Civilization, a Journal – Charif Majdalani | Mountain Leopard Press

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