Henning Mankell, the creator of the Swedish detective Wallander and activist for Palestinian and African rights, died at home on October 5 aged 67. He had been diagnosed with cancer early last year. Many fans of crime fiction will remember Mankell best for his Wallander novels — dark Scandinavian crime stories featuring a cynical, aging detective. Yet his stand for Palestinian rights is also an important part of his legacy.
Books are lives compressed, humanity summarised into screaming or striking stories. One would think the book world would be a safe haven from inequality. But instead the traditional publishing industry — the big corporate publishers — is perpetuating prejudice and limiting ideas by elevating certain authors, characters, and thoughts above all others, with significant social consequences.
The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to the US Empire Verso, 2015 624 pages, hardback George Orwell said: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” These are dark times, in which the propaganda of deceit touches all our lives. It is as if political reality has been privatised and illusion legitimised. The information age is a media age. We have politics by media; censorship by media; war by media; retribution by media; diversion by media — a surreal assembly line of clichés and false assumptions.
A World to Build: New Paths Toward Twenty-First Century Socialism Marta Harnecker Monthly Review Press, 2015 US$19, paperback The emergence of diverse, complex and popular social projects in Latin America — several of which have involved winning governmental power —- is arguably the most important phenomenon shaping radical politics in the 21st century. The political practices of popular movements and political parties engaged in these revolutionary projects can inspire and educate radicals and activists all over the world.
Mrs Engels By Gavin McCrea Scribe, 2015 352 pp, $29.99 For those hankering to know what Communist Manifesto co-author Frederick Engels’ erect penis looked like, page 37 of this novel is for you. “In its vigours, it points up and a bit to the side,” says Lizzie Burns, the first-person narrator of the entire story. Gavin McCrea’s Burns is a brilliant narrative voice, and his writing sparkles. Burns’s rich brogue and incisive humour are wonderful.
R&R: A Novel By Mark Dapin Viking, 2015, 287 pp, $32.99 Mark Dapin is a rising star of Australian writing, having first made his mark as a journalist with a string of newspapers. He is a knock-about sort of working-class bloke, who brushed up against the British socialist movement before migrating, a bit of a boxer as well as a writer. Interviewing the light welterweight world champion Kostya Tszyu for the Sydney Morning Herald, Dapin famously persuaded Tszyu to let him spar with him in the ring. Tszyu didn’t muck about, breaking three of Dapin’s ribs.
Wallis Simpson, Edward of Windsor, Adolf Hitler (fourth, fifth and sixth from left). 17 Carnations: The Windsors, The Nazis & The Cover-Up By Andrew Morton Michael O’Mara Books, 2015, 327 pages
Marines join protesting German workers in Berlin during the November 1918 revolution. The German Left & the Weimar Republic By Ben Fowkes Haymarket Books, 2015 399 pages, US$28. Socialist historian Ben Fowkes has given us a unique and vivid text documentary of the German workers’ movement during the tumultuous years of its greatest influence — from November 1918 to its defeat by Nazism 15 years later.
Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic By Margaret Gray University of California Press, 2014 Over the past few decades there has been a rapid growth of interest in buying food that does not come from large-scale industrial farms. Concerns exist over their use of large amounts of commercial fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms, and inhumane treatment of farm animals.
Anti-government protests in Bahrain, 2011. Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & the Arab Spring That Wasn’t Toby Matthiesen Stanford University Press, 2013 In 2011, when a wave of protest and rebellion swept the Arab world, the monarchical states making up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were not exempt from the unrest.