Barry Healy

An Imperial Disaster: The Bengal Cyclone of 1876
Benjamin Kingsbury
Hurst, 2018
256 pp, $45

In the early hours of October 31, 1876, there was a terrible convergence of storm, tide and full moon in the Bay of Bengal. Its immediate effect was to send a giant wave, 12 metres high, over the low lying islands and coastal areas.

At least 215,000 people drowned.

It was followed by famine as shocked communities tried to scrounge what food they could. Then at least a further 100,000 died in a cholera epidemic.

The Darkening Age
By Catherine Nixey
Pan Macmillan, 2018
352 pp, $32.99

Do you remember the horror in 2015 when ISIS seized the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, killed archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad who had protected its monuments and attacked the 12-metre-high statue of Athena?

It wasn’t the first time that statue was attacked by religious fanatics. As Catherine Nixey records, in the 4th Century, Christian zealots attacked Palmyra and pulled the statue down. It lay in ruins until Muslim experts put it back together.

The best documentary films are ones that tell a story. Backtrack Boys allows Aboriginal kids from around the Armidale region in NSW to express themselves and show how hard life is for them.

Australia’s waste disposal crisis is set to worsen with other Asian countries following in China’s footsteps and banning imports of recyclables.

2028
By Ken Saunders
Allen & Unwin, 2018
$29.99

This satirical novel is set in Australia’s near future and revolves around an accident-prone Liberal Prime Minister running a hopeless election campaign.  

The setting is near enough to be uncomfortably recognisable but allows Ken Saunders to stretch out today’s neo-liberal realities to the point of absurdity. 

Amateurs is a poignantly funny film that raises serious questions about Swedish multiculturalism, without ever preaching. There is plenty of harsh racist behaviour demonstrated — but the worst of it is committed by migrants against each other.

In the Fade
Director Fatih Akin
Starring Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto & Johannes Krisch
Released in 2017
www.inthefadefilm.com

Between 2000 and 2011, Nazi terrorists murdered and bombed immigrants in Germany without the authorities even noticing. The police were convinced it was just rival ethnic gangs quarrelling.

This film is based on that period, though not drawn from a particular event. 

In the 2009 kids film Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, a joke revolves around the illusion that waste products can be sent to a dump called Mount Leftovers. The joke turns dangerous when the dump suddenly bursts and spews forth.

Australia has been treating China as its Mount Leftovers for decades — 76% of paper and 88% of plastics went to China in 2011.

This year is the 50th anniversary of 1968, the year when revolutionary upsurges occurred all across the globe.

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