'The recent victory of nationalist parties in Hungary and Poland, with their anti-immigrant rhetoric, has emboldened the likeminded in their western neighbours; they eagerly await coming elections while entreating Australia’s hardline refugee policy. They have already set the agenda with Brexit and in the United States, where rightwing populism prevails. Liberal and leftist pundits are plundering European history for analogies to understand these developments, invoking the German template in particular. Is Trump a fascist, indeed a Nazi? Or, if not, at least some (or many) of his supporters? Reading The Vanquished suggests that excessive attention is paid to Hitler and the 1930s, the politics of which were over-determined by the Great Depression. To understand the fragility of parliamentary regimes and the authoritarian appeal, we need to return to the origin of the interwar conflicts in the years covered by this book.'
'It doesn't matter that Wulf's The Invention of Nature is a bit breathless in keeping up with its dazzling hero, and a bit coy about his relationships, because above all the book is intelligent, an optimistic history, well researched, well written, and an ecological cri de coeur.'
'Desert Writing brings to readers stories of desert communities and the individuals who form part of them that are not often featured in literature or media. Train lines have been built, and airports made but the places aren’t any closer; these are remote places – far away from Australia’s heavily populated coastal cities, far from major centres; and far from the imagination of the mainstream population. This distance is what makes these places so interesting, their pasts and futures significant.'
'There is no subject that exposes the tensions, hypocrisies and flat-out contradictions of the United States’ defining myths – manifest destiny, individual liberty, self-reliance, exceptionalism – as starkly as that of race. It is hardly surprising that some of the most trenchant critiques of the nation’s problematic relationship with its own ideals should be found in the work of African-American writers. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Paul Beatty’s satire The Sellout are unalike in almost every respect, but on this point they share a consciousness, if not exactly an attitude. They have a common set of underlying preoccupations, which follow from the obvious historical fact that the institution of slavery made a mockery of the nation’s declared allegiance to the ideals of freedom and equality. What both novelists address, in their very different ways, is the problem of a nation divided against itself, not simply in a material and tribal sense, but on the fundamental level of its founding ideology. Both recognise that its history of conquest, exploitation and systemic inequality generates a profound cognitive dissonance.'
Feminist books pitched to a broad audience, whatever their contents, inevitably face the same criticism: okay, what are the solutions then? This charge could be levelled at Ford’s book, in which apart from the injunction to ‘fight like a girl’, hearty encouragement to masturbate as often as you desire and to find a good girl gang, does not offer much in way of a roadmap forward. Certainly, it would have been illuminating to read about feminist campaigns that need more attention and support and to introduce readers to some impressive feminist thinkers who deserve a wider audience. Yet this criticism also strikes me as a little beside the point. The authors of feminist blockbusters have always been better at diagnosis than they have at cure and such books are still necessary, including to help prompt the ‘light-bulb’ of recognition that moves feminist identification along.
'Galicia is made strange through the English language; Australia is made strange by non-native English and a Galician worldview. In this collection, the teeming social world of the village takes over, threatening to spill beyond the boundaries of the short form. This collection firmly establishes Calvino as an English prose stylist. The influence of Anglophone modernist minimalism is apparent and appropriate. Through absence and implication, the stories register feelings of loss the characters themselves often lack the language to articulate. If, as Rosalía de Castro wrote, to sing of Galicia in the Galician language offers ‘consolation against evil, relief from pain,’ to write of it in English implies something else entirely.'