Books

Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa review – searing Syrian road trip

The poetic and horrific combine in this tale of love and death set in a Syria torn apart by civil war Hisham Matar The Guardian Recently, at a literary festival in Italy, the Syrian author Khaled Khalifa spoke about life in Damascus. “Everyone has left, but a few stubborn souls like me remain. We cling to each other.” Then his face lit up, which happened every time he was about to tell one of his signature anecdotes that mingle defiance with ... Read More »

The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree: A picture book about deafness

I’ll start with a disclaimer: I love Angeliki Pedersen, author of The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree. We attend the same parish, and I think I must have met her the first time we visited here. She’s the kind of person that reaches out to strangers at coffee hour and makes them feel welcome. © Charlotte Riggle As Angeliki and I got to know each other, we learned that we’re more than just members of the same parish. We’re also ... Read More »

Europe’s Glorious Years of Peace and Prosperity

The Munich Security Conference was a depressing gathering this February. By Michael A. McFaul The New York Times THE GLOBAL AGE Europe, 1950-2017 By Ian Kershaw Throughout the Cold War and for decades thereafter, Wehrkunde (as the conference was known when it started in 1963) was the premier event for Europeans and Americans committed to NATO, trans-Atlantic ties and the West. For decades, Senator John McCain led the American congressional delegation. In his last address to the conference in 2017, ... Read More »

Second Class Citizens: The Parallel Lives of Indonesian Domestic Workers in Hong Kong

Your maid wants a day off? Your maid wants a room of her own? Your maid wants her own clothes? Your maid has Body Odour. Your maid has sex? The problems of maid ownership are laid bare in Rebecca Sampson’s wonderful Apples for Sale. Colin Pantall Photographic Museum of Humanity Apples for Sale tells the story of Indonesian Maids working in Hong Kong. It’s a book about migration, labour, and regional relationships. It’s about Indonesian maids working in Hong Kong, ... Read More »

Turkey’s Killing Fields

“The Thirty-Year Genocide” Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities, 1894-1924 By Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi By Bruce Clark The New York Times Using the word “genocide” to describe an episode of mass killing has consequences. If the horrors are unfolding now, it invites other countries to intervene and punish the perpetrators. If the unspeakable events are in the past, the word’s use can affect the way they are discussed, by historians or ordinary people. Once the term “genocide” has ... Read More »

The End of the American Century

What the life of Richard Holbrooke tells us about the decay of Pax Americana George Packer The Atlantic What’s called the American century was really just a little more than half a century, and that was the span of Richard Holbrooke’s life. It began with the Second World War and the creative burst that followed—the United Nations, the Atlantic alliance, containment, the free world—and it went through dizzying lows and highs, until it expired the day before yesterday. The thing ... Read More »

Six books that shock, delve deeply and destroy pieties: your guide to the 2019 Stella Prize shortlist

Young people – how they think and feel, how institutions (families, schools, clinics, courts) fail them – are a recurring theme in the books shortlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize. Camilla Nelson The Conversation These six surprising books – four novels, a memoir and a collection of essays – cover subject matter as diverse as grief, loss, history, childhood, and Indigenous resistance. They make risky aesthetic choices. Some feature dazzling experiments with language, structure and form. Despite, or, more likely, ... Read More »

Bring Behrouz home to Australia: he is one of us

There is a pivotal moment in Behrouz Boochani’s book, No Friend but the Mountains. In late August, 2013, a propeller-driven plane stands waiting on a strip on Christmas Island, to take asylum seekers to a faraway destination. Arnold Zable The Age Each man is escorted at two-minute intervals, 50 metres from a bus to the plane. They are held by the arms between two officers. At the base of the stairs, they are handed over to a second pair of officers, ... Read More »

The Invisible Man

Introduced by writer Anna Funder The extraordinary story of Behrouz Boochani, the man who won Australia’s richest literary award but remains unable to set foot in this country. ABC Australian Story The stateless refugee, who’s in detention on Manus Island, smuggled out his entire book text by text on a smuggled mobile phone. In January, No Friend But the Mountains won the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, Born during the Iran-Iraq war and suffering persecution as a Kurd in his ... Read More »

The best books by women of the 21st century

On International Women’s Day, writers and critics pick the best works by women since 2000 Martin Doyle The Irish Times SINÉAD GLEESON You don’t need me to tell you to read everything pre and post-2000 by the greatest Irish writer, Anne Enright (who just happens to be a woman) – but you really should. Or to read our poets: Eavan Boland, Rita Ann Higgins, Elaine Feeney, Sinéad Morrissey, Leanne O’Sullivan. You already know all about the success of Marian Keyes ... Read More »

Five books on work by French authors that you should read on your commute

An emerging genre of fiction in France is providing an unlikely brand of escapism. Growing numbers of French writers are choosing work as their subject matter – and it seems that readers can’t… Amy Wigelsworth The Conversation The prix du roman d’entreprise et du travail, the French prize for the best business or work-related novel, is testament to the sustained popularity of workplace fiction across the Channel. The prize has been awarded annually since 2009, and this year’s winner will ... Read More »

‘How to Hide an Empire’ Shines Light on America’s Expansionist Sidε

The word “empire” has a distinct place in the American lexicon: readily applicable to other countries but rarely, if ever, to the United States itself. Jennifer Szalai The New York Times Even in the spring of 2003, when American forces were occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and government officials were writing torture memos, the defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld seemed almost offended when a reporter asked whether the United States was engaged in anything like “empire-building.” “We’re not imperialistic,” Rumsfeld insisted. “We ... Read More »

The world is run by those who show up

In this edited extract of the new book The Change Makers, Professor Marcia Langton tells author Shaun Carney that when you do the right thing at the right time, people will later call you a leader. Shaun Carney The Mandarin What kind of leader am I, if I’m a leader at all? I am required as a professor to be an academic leader. As a result of that, and the pressure in the academy to publish and, increasingly, to show ... Read More »

On the Front Lines of the Climate Change Movement: Mike Roselle Draws a Line

The beard is graying. The hair is clipped military-short. Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank CounterPunch He is a large man, oddly shaped, like a cross between a grizzly and a javelina. It’s Roselle, of course, Mike Roselle—the outside agitator. He and a fellow activist have just spread an anti-coal banner in front of a growling bulldozer in West Virginia on a cold February morning in 2009. He’s in this icy and unforgiving land to oppose a brutal mining operation ... Read More »

Behrouz Boochani’s literary prize acceptance speech – full transcript

Asylum speaker accepts $125,000 Victorian premier’s literary prize via video from Manus Island, where he has been held for six years Behrouz Boochani The Guardian This is a transcript of the speech Behrouz Boochani delivered via video link on 31 January 2019 Behrouz Boochani wins Australia’s richest literary prize When I arrived at Christmas Island six years ago, an immigration official called me into the office and told me that they were going to exile me to Manus Island, a ... Read More »

Behrouz Boochani wins $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature

The winner of this year’s $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature couldn’t be at the awards presentation on Thursday evening. Jason Steger The Sydney Morning Herald He was unavoidably detained elsewhere – on Manus Island, where he has been incarcerated for more than five years. Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani’s​ poetic memoir, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (translated by Omid Tofighian), not only won Australia’s richest writing prize, but also the $25,000 non-fiction prize in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, ... Read More »