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Les Miserables Now playing in Melbourne www.lesmis.com.au Les Miserables tells two stories: one of personal love, the other of revolutionary passion. It is no surprise that most Western adaptations of Victor Hugo's novel have, when deciding what to cut and what to leave in, favoured the clasped hands of romance over the clenched fist of insurrection. The story we all know -- the one that is left after adaptation pares away everything else -- is that of Jean Valjean, the ex-convict who redeems himself through acts of charity.

Diary of a Foreign Minister Bob Carr Newsouth, 2014 502 pages Too often, Bob Carr’s diary sounds like an episode of Grumpy Old Ministers. An 18-month stint as foreign minister in the doomed Rudd-Gillard-Rudd federal Labor government, the globe-trotting Carr gripes about the dead prose of his departmental talking points, the lifeless food and draining jetlag of plane travel, the awfulness of hotels, Canberra (“the City of the Dead”) and contracting viruses from shaking hands all day on the campaign trail “without a hand sanitiser in the car ― damn!”
The open letter below was submitted to Prime Minister Tony Abbott on May 23 at the Australian book industry awards in Sydney. Released by the editors of literary journals Meanjin and Overland, it has been signed by dozens of writers. You can read the full list here. * * * Dear Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Minister for Arts George Brandis.
Taking God To School: The End of Australia’s Egalitarian Education? Marion Maddox Allen & Unwin, 2014 248 pages, $29.99 (pb) To the traditional “three Rs”, Australia has added a fourth ― religion. Religious private schools, religious instruction in public schools and religious counsellors have found generously-funded favour with successive federal and state governments, writes Macquarie University politics professor Marion Maddox, in Taking God to School.
A Spy in the Archives By Sheila Fitzpatrick Melbourne University Press, 2013 346 pages, $32.99 (pb) When Sydney University Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick was doing some crafty archival sleuthing as a British PhD student in the late 1960s in Moscow, it was not unexpected that any state guardians might suspect a female spy at work. Fitzpatrick could see some justification. “Any suspicious archives director who thought I was trying to find out the secrets of Narkompros was dead right”, she notes in Spy in the Archives.
Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958-1962, An Oral History By Zhou Xun Yale University Press, 2013 336 pp, $35.00 In his excellent history book Timelines, John Rees has a graph, which in one image sums up the people’s history contained in Zhou Xun’s Forgotten Voices. The line showing improvements in life expectancy in China suddenly shows a total reversal, a deep plunge into an abyss and then a quick return to the original curve. This abyss was Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward.
Land & Labour: Marxism, Ecology & Human History Martin Empson Bookmarks Publications London, 2014 With several serious global environmental crises bearing down on us, the question of our age must be “what can we do?” British socialist Martin Empson urges us to look into the past and into the future for answers in his new book Land and Labour. His message is that human destruction of its environment is not inevitable, although it is very likely if we don’t draw upon the best and worst examples from humanity’s diverse experience.
The Snowden Files Luke Harding Random House February 2014 352 pages, $30 Luke Harding's The Snowden Files is a well-constructed overview of the biggest intelligence leak in history - but it is not without its flaws. The Guardian journalist tells a detailed story of Edward Snowden - from his childhood in a military, Republican family, his short education and brief, failed army career, to his meteoric rise through the intelligence services that eventually enabled him to turn whistleblower.
One of the greatest novelists and writers of the 20th century has died. Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away on April 17 in Mexico at the age of 87. Commemorating the author, US-based progressive TV and radio show Democracy Now! said on April 18: “It has been reported that only the Bible has sold more copies in the Spanish language than the works of Garcia Marquez, who was affectionately known at 'Gabo' throughout Latin America.”
Sense & Sensibility, an Annotated Edition By Jane Austen (edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks) Harvard University Press 2013 448 pp, $54.95 The Annotated Frankenstein By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (edited by Susan J. Wolfson & Ronald Levao) Harvard University Press 2012 400pp., $45.00 In January, federal education minister Christopher Pyne announced that he wants the national school history curriculum to recognise “the legacy of Western civilisation”.

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