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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Blog entries on '03 July 2007'

Tuesday 03 July 2007

Dan Hind interview (part 2)


Dan Hind, author of The Threat to Reason


Below is the second part (first part was yesterday) of my interview with Dan Hind, author of The Threat to Reason (Verso):


Yesterday, Dan had a piece on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog. Goodness knows why, but the Guardian blog always seems to attract some right nutters on its comments threads. Anyway, over to my continuing conversation with Dan ...


Mark Thwaite: Speaking with you, in one sense you seem surprised that your book even needed to be written. I'm surprised you're surprised! It seems to be that - particularly since 9/11 - the ruling elites of the UK and US have become dangerously tyrannical and that is obvious for all to see.


Dan Hind: Certainly our rulers have become more authoritarian since 9/11. What surprises me is the ease with which they have been able to claim that their project was in some way enlightened. The idea that the Enlightenment can be re-staged now as a showdown between (Western) reason and (Islamic) faith has gained a measure of respectability that is in a way rather amazing.


MT: The current political climate seems to suggest that every single Muslim in the world is potentially bad and evil and that our brave politicians will wage a war without end against them. How has this nonsense managed to gain any foothold?


DH: The honest answer is that I don't know. History shows that people can be made to be frightened of pretty much anyone. Effective propaganda works with what it has, it generalises from the particular in ways that suit its purposes. Aggressive campaigns to promote prejudice often pose as self-defence. Isolated incidents and a tiny minority of extremists can be made to define whole communities, if the conditions are right. Certainly many people who should know better have gone along with this, even contributed to it. There is an alternative, we can change the subject; it is up to us to step outside the story we have been given, a story that we are tempted to tell ourselves, that evil is external and simple and our leaders are only trying to keep us safe.


MT: Is the War on Terror a racist war, an imperialist war or something else? Are terms like imperialist even very useful to describe the dreadful mistake that was the invasion of Iraq?


DH: Well, last week BBC radio referred to 'the so-called War on Terror'. That was a bit of a breakthrough, though it happened before the recent run of scares. There is a very lively debate about American global policy going on and you can find a wide range of answers to your questions.


We do know that the prime movers in the Iraq invasion were a coalition of imperialists and militarists who were in a hurry to exploit America's 'unipolar' moment. They were backed by a network of institutional interests who could see the benefits of a move to a war footing. Forty percent of America's tax income is spent on defence; that kind of money can change your life, or end it if you are in the wrong place. Readers who are interested in this might want to look at Ismael Hossein-Zadeh's The Political Economy of US Militarism for a detailed recent treatment of this subject.


I am not sure we can expect an entirely adequate explanation of what is going on in a useful timeframe. We can get a reasonable sketch. It is at least as important to try to figure out how to stop it.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 03 July 2007

Fragmentary Futures

Inkermen Press was Publisher of the Week over on The Book Depository the other week. Dan Watt's press have just released a fascinating looking title by Dan himself entitled Fragmentary Futures: Blanchot, Beckett, Coetzee:


Romanticism elaborates a model of fragmentation, different from the fragment as ruined part of a totality from which it is shorn. Rodolphe Gasché argues that the concept of the Romantic fragment would have to be ‘radically recast’ to be applied to contemporary literature. It is via Maurice Blanchot that the fragment is ‘recast’ into an event in which ‘all literature is the fragment’. This book investigates that turn, exploring its implications in the work of Blanchot, Samuel Beckett and J.M. Coetzee. Blanchot’s ‘recast’ fragment demands that literature become fragmentary whether it carries the form of the fragment or not.

Beckett’s prose work unfolds a part of fragmentary writing that appears to be degenerative, as words collide and syntactic structures are eroded. However, fragmentary writing allows the presentation of a damaged work, one under the threat of abandonment, as work in progress; being neither finished nor continued.

The work of Coetzee demonstrates the fragment’s relation to Levinasian ethics, inviting a responsiveness to the ‘other’: a situation that maintains the singularity of the work without reducing it to particular critical positions. The legacy of the fragment remains as much a responsibility for modern literature as for the event of the German Romantic fragment. Fragmentary Futures argues that the fragment points to an impossibility governing the generation of literature itself. The German Romantic fragment is still to come, haunting literature. The ‘recast’ fragment does not exorcise such a revenant but makes its future appearance more fascinating.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Serendipoetry

Omens, after Alexander Pushkin

I rode to meet you: dreams
like living beings swarmed around me
and the moon on my right side
followed me, burning.

I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

-- Louise Gluck
Averno (Carcanet Press)

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Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
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