Tag: Books

Islands at the end of the civilized world

| October 4, 2012 | 0 Comments
Islands at the end of the civilized world

  The idea of a prison located on an almost inaccessible island is supposed to strike special fear in people being kept there against their will. If the dot of land housing the facility is within sight of the mainland — in sight, that is, of freedom and civilization — then the cruelty of imprisonment […]

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I, spy

| June 28, 2012 | 0 Comments
I, spy

A remarkable true story of enterprise and espionage, of mystery and mayhem, in the Far East Jim Thompson was the best-known western businessman in Thailand, arguably the best known in all of Southeast Asia. Then one day, during a brief holiday in the highlands of Malaysia, he simply vanished — and became famous round the […]

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Four famous fully-engaged French writers

| April 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
Four famous fully-engaged French writers

  Writer/activists are coming back into fashion. It’s time to revisit their French ancestors. When I was about 15, I stumbled on a book no one else seemed to have checked out of the public library in decades: Emile Zola, Novelist and Reformer: An Account of his Life and Work. It was published in 1904, […]

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The walls of the world: keeping in, keeping out

| October 26, 2011 | 0 Comments
The walls of the world: keeping in, keeping out

  Wendy Brown’s Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Zone Books/MIT Press, US$25.95 cloth) is concerned with the role that walls — the Berlin Wall, for example, or the Israeli wall that winds through the West Bank — play in modern political discourse and economic thinking. She begins by quoting Paul Hirst, the late British political theorist. […]

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Roy MacLaren: Memoir of a formidable man

| June 26, 2011 | 0 Comments
Roy MacLaren: Memoir of a formidable man

There are times in The Fundamental Things Apply (McGill-Queen’s University Press, $39.95), Roy Mac­Laren’s memoir of his life in diplomacy, business and politics, when one is reminded of the Lanny Budd cycle by Upton Sinclair. This is a sequence of 11 novels in which the character Budd, an American diplomat, seems to bump into all […]

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The Journey Of Pearl S. Buck

| December 1, 2010 | 0 Comments
The Journey Of Pearl S. Buck

In 1938, Pearl S. Buck, the author of The Good Earth, became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. This simple statement, however, obscures what’s probably a more important one in terms of explaining her career. If you agree that T.S. Eliot, though born in the United States, was actually British, […]

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The French debacle in Dien Bien Phu

| September 2, 2010 | 0 Comments
The French debacle in Dien Bien Phu

Dien Bien Phu is a market town in an almost preposterously remote corner of northwest Vietnam. Today it has a population of about 9,000. In 1953, however, it was so small it wasn’t even considered a community and, in fact, didn’t have a name. The phrase Dien Bien Phu translates roughly as “border-area administrative post.” […]

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