Literature

Sweden in the 1930s: a “shithole country”

Author

Barrie Hardy

“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.

The life and work of Georg Lukács

Author

John Cunningham

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.

Reading or stagnating?

Author

Daisy Thomas

“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.

The Glorious Heresies

Author

Matt Kinsella

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.

The Good Soldier Schwejk

Author

Jill Mountford

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.

George Orwell, Spain, and revolution

Author

George Chance

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.

The Satanic Verses thirty years on

Author

Matthew Thompson

It is thirty years since the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, partly based on the life of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, sparked protests across the Muslim world, with riots in India and Pakistan in which dozens of Rushdie's fellow Muslims were shot dead, book burnings on the streets of Britain, and ultimately an Iranian death sentence which sent its author into hiding under armed police guard.

Richard Wright and Stalinism

Author

Dan Katz

Richard Wright, the American author of the novels Native Son and Black Boy, was born on a plantation in Roxie, near Natchez, Mississippi in 1908. He died of a heart attack in Paris, in 1960, aged 52. For a while, especially in the early 1940s, he was an enormously prominent and important leftwing author.

The anxieties of Brexit Britain

Author

Matt Kinsella

Jonathan Coe’s latest volume Middle England has been widely described as the best “state of the nation” novel of the last decade, and deservedly so. Whilst Ali Smith’s Autumn was an impressionistic take on the immediate aftermath of the referendum – the first post-Brexit novel – Coe’s book manages to balance the coverage of political events in the run up to June 2016 with an intimate look at how it all unfolds in the lives of characters last seen in Coe’s two Rotters’ Club novels, as well as introducing many new ones.

Where they linger

Author

Matt Kinsella

In Wayétu Moore’s debut novel She Would Be King, set in the 1840s, three characters find their lives intertwining with each other, and with the future of the newly created Liberia.

All are fleeing persecution: Gbessa, accused of witchcraft, is driven from the West African village of Lai; June Dey escapes from a Virginia tobacco plantation, headed for freedom in New York; and Norman Aragon, child of a Jamaican Maroon and a British colonist, longs to escape his father’s cruel experiments. The three seek sanctuary, and find themselves in Monrovia.

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