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lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland)

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The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart
The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart
by Francis Stuart
Edition: Paperback

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent edition, 7 Dec. 2008
Francis Stuart was an Irish novelist who, during World War 2, moved to Germany and made a series of anti-Allied, pro-German propaganda broadcasts to Ireland on Nazi radio. These broadcasts were monitored by G2, the Intelligence section of the Irish Army, transcribed and preserved in the Irish Military Archives.

After the war, Stuart's record as a collaborator made it difficult for him to find work. Nevertheless, he kept on writing and his work increasingly revolved around themes of betrayal and isolation. In the early 70s, his best novel "Black List, Section H" attracted the attention of a generation of young Irish people, many of whom would become important writers and journalists. Stuart's independence and resolutely critical stance became something of an inspiration to writers such as Colm Toibin, Fintan O'Toole, Paul Durcan and Hugo Hamilton. Part of this was due to the fact that although it was known that he had made broadcasts on Nazi radio, nobody had a record of what he had said. Stuart himself said that the broadcasts had been "mostly about literature". His books, his own public statements and his friends all painted him as a political innocent who had strayed into collaboration because of his mysterious and strangely moving obsession with suffering. His hatred of democracy (which he associated with venality and material gain) was characterised as a brave and inspiring rejection of easy consensus.

The situation changed when this book was published, two years after Stuart's death. Brendan Barrington, a young American of Irish origin, retrieved the transcripts of the broadcasts and presented them in this book, along with a long and highly acute introduction that placed them in the context of Stuart's pre-war fiction and political statements. When Stuart spoke on German radio, he was very far from being a naive young man in his early 20s; he was already forty, and had published almost a dozen novels.

The content of the broadcasts forced some, but not all, of Stuart's fans to make a painful reassessment of their hero. The broadcasts were not "mostly about literature", or even partly about it. They were, for the most part, straight and rather pedestrian anti-Allied propaganda, full of lavish praise of the German "fighting spirit", evident admiration for Hitler and long passages angrily denouncing the Allied leadership as being corrupted by an unhealthy fondness for democracy. Stuart was revealed as being an out-and-out Nazi shill. His postwar novels were not, as had been previously thought, painfully honest meditations on events that had actually happened to Stuart and decisions and actions he had actually made, but self-serving fantasies designed to paint his actions in the most favourable possible light.

So why four stars? Because somebody had to reveal the truth about Francis Stuart, and Brendan Barrington did so. This book is a model of responsible and honest scholarship, which is a lot more than you can say for practically everything else ever written about Stuart.

Towards the end of his life, Stuart was given the greatest honour that Ireland can give to a writer: he was awarded the title of "Saoi" by the publicly-subsidised Irish artists' council Aosdána. He subsequently appeared in a TV documentary in which he characteristically declined to regret having been a Nazi collaborator. Shortly afterwards, the distinguished poet Maire Mhac an tSaoi, a member of Aosdána, proposed a motion that Stuart should publicly apologise for his remarks, and also resign from the council. A majority of Aosdána's members voted against the motion. Maire Mhac an tSaoi, to her eternal credit, resigned from the council in protest.

Stuart's best writing is extremely narrow in scope and limited in quantity. He wrote an enormous amount, but even his admirers would concede that the bulk of his work is second-rate. His obsession with violence and suffering was pathological. His fondness for provoking scandal was adolescent. He was, as his admirers admit, a clumsy and graceless writer. Although he personally seems to have been in his later years a man of great personal charm, as a writer he suffered his whole life from a chronic lack of sympathy for (and interest in) other people.

Finally, compare him to his exact contemporary and, politically speaking, exact opposite, George Orwell. Orwell spent his brief career trying to speak for people who he felt needed someone to speak up for them. Stuart spent the first part of his very long career speaking up in favour of hatred, violence and chaos, and then spent the second part of it glossing over the things he'd done in the first part. Most of Stuart's work is only of interest to the literary historian. In non-fiction, at any rate, Orwell was hardly able to write an uninteresting sentence.

I recommend this book. It's the only book by Francis Stuart that most of us will ever need to read.

Twilight of  the Idols and The Anti-Christ (Penguin Classics)
Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ (Penguin Classics)
by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who are you? Where are you going?, 6 Dec. 2008
I am no expert on Nietzsche's work; I've read about half his books in translation over the years, and he says a lot of things that I find distasteful, offensive, silly or just plain wrong.

However, I have to admit that insofar as I am able to make up my mind for myself about what I read, I learned that particular knack from reading Nietzsche. At any rate, I can remember reading this book in my late teens and having the alarming experience that the author seemed to know what I was thinking even though he had died 70 years before I was born. Nietzsche is European philosophy's most brilliant and acute commentator on the process of reading and thinking; he acquired, painfully, the ability to tell what books and what authors were useful and helpful, at least to him, and also what ones weren't.

That's why he is the philosopher that everybody should read in her or his late teens. It's not that you are supposed to agree with his opinions; it's more that he displays by example a style of thinking, a model of being a thinking person, against which (or with which, if you're that way inclined) you can define yourself. Nietzsche shows you a very strong and convincing image of what it is to be someone who is able to think - and when you are 17 or 18 and barely know what to think of yourself, that is really valuable.

It helps that Nietzsche is probably the funniest philosopher of all time. As far as wit, sarcasm and hilarious abuse are concerned his only rival is Arthur Schopenhauer, and Schopenhauer's work is mostly confined to one enormously long book. Nietzsche's is spread out among several relatively short books. His abuse of people he doesn't rate is truly exhilarating. Insofar as philosophy has ever produced a genuine punk, it was this chronically ill and ultimately insane former philologist. Funny how things work out.

A really fine translation of two very good books. "Twilight of the Idols" is a sort of sampler of Nietzsche's favourite themes; it's not his most groundbreaking book, but a perfect introduction to his work for the newbie. "The Antichrist" is his attack on Christianity - not so much on Jesus as on the movement started in his name, although Nietzsche is not the kind of guy that pretends to really respect Jesus, either.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 9, 2011 10:19 PM GMT

Plays and Controversies: Abbey Theatre Diaries 2000-2005
Plays and Controversies: Abbey Theatre Diaries 2000-2005
by Ben Barnes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.05

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What plays? What controversies?, 6 Dec. 2008
Ben Barnes was Artistic Director of Ireland's Abbey Theatre from 2000 to 2005, during which time he presided over a number of high-profile disasters, including a spectacular fall-off in audience numbers, the virtual closure of the Abbey's new writing stage and a number of public disputes with writers, as well as a serious financial crisis. Eventually, after barely surviving a motion of no confidence, he was forced to resign.

In these, his diaries, he has done his best to set the record straight about his term as chief of the oldest and arguably the most illustrious national theatre in the world. Unfortunately for his place in history, the book is extremely boring and certainly not up to the standard of other published diaries by artistic directors of national theatres. Peter Hall's and Richard Eyre's diaries, to name but two, are far richer, juicier and better written. Barnes's prose style is a slightly more dull version of arts administrator boilerplate; the Abbey's management accounts for the period would probably have more wit and flair, and would certainly have more drama and excitement.

Most of the content of this book will only be of interest to the people who it's about, so it's a bit of a mystery why Barnes wanted to publish it at all. The whole thing has a strange air of score-setting, characterised most obviously by the title: "Plays and Controversies". But this in itself in a strange choice. There were hardly any plays, because under Barnes and his remarkably pusillanimous literary department the Abbey's output of new writing slowed down to a mere trickle, and there was no controversy about his performance as artistic director; everybody agreed that he sucked.

Still, it will probably be of interest to future scholars of Irish theatre history who want to know the origins of the theatre's early 21st century decline.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2009 2:36 PM BST

Image and Reality: Israel-Palestine Conflict
Image and Reality: Israel-Palestine Conflict
by Norman G. Finkelstein
Edition: Paperback

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its point of view is nothing but respect for the truth, 3 Dec. 2008
Somebody, I forget exactly who, pointed out that Norman Finkelstein's books about the Arab-Israeli conflict are not actually works of Middle Eastern history but books about American history. This is essentially true, in that Finkelstein does not write narrative history or even critical history; he is essentially a scholarly critic of American opinion on the conflict, and the general tendency of his work is to point out the gap between what American writers have tended to say about the conflict and what the historical record actually shows. So, the meat of this book is his relentless, meticulous and devastating demolition job on Joan Peters' book "From Time Immemorial", a work that no professional historian is now willing to cite but which still has a loyal and uncritical readership out there among people who think that the Israeli government can do no wrong.

It can be seen, therefore, that criticising Finkelstein for having an "agenda" is beside the point. It's never very to the point anyway, since everybody who writes a book about anything whatever has an agenda, in that they have something that they want to say about the subject. Finkelstein's agenda is simply open for anyone to see. This book also contains his relatively brief and offhand dismissal of Michael Oren's "Six Days of June", which is interesting partly because that book is often cited as an "objective" history of the Six Day War, and Finkelstein doesn't find it difficult to prove that it is nothing of the sort, being heavily biased in favour of the Israeli side.

He performs an essential public service, and has been vilified and slandered for doing so. Finkelstein remains one of those fiercely independent thinkers who are the backbone of any secular culture; when there are no more guys like him, who are prepared to insist on telling the plain truth no matter how much it costs to him personally (and it has cost him a great deal, in terms of advancement in his actual career as an academic), then you live in a society where there are no effectively more public intellectuals, merely timeservers and lickspittles. My own country, Ireland, has reached that condition.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 18, 2010 8:54 PM GMT

The Yom Kippur War: The Arab-Israeli War of 1973 (General Military)
The Yom Kippur War: The Arab-Israeli War of 1973 (General Military)
by Simon Dunstan
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, brief but detailed military history, 28 Nov. 2008
This short but well-illustrated book is a concise and even-handed military history of the Yom Kippur War. The other reviewer is right to believe that this was originally published as two separate volumes, covering the Sinai and the Golan Heights respectively. The one-volume edition has some extra material and some extra photographs, and is also quite a bit cheaper than buying the two volumes separately, making for excellent value.

Israel was not prepared for the Yom Kippur War, and there is still disagreement about why it wasn't. It is well-known that Egypt and Syria were still angry about their crushing defeat in the Six Day War of 1967, and that Egypt's President Nasser in particular wanted revenge. Israel and Egypt kept up the so-called War of Attrition along the Suez Canal for some time after 1967. Nasser died in 1970, and his successor Anwar Sadat made peace proposals to Israel that were rejected immediately, even though they were, as Dunstan points out, very similar to proposals that Israeli Minister of Defence Moshe Dayan had himself put forward. Sadat somewhat reluctantly decided that he had no option but to make military preparations.

A combination of factors prevented the Israelis from taking Sadat's preparations seriously. One was that he and his predecessor had a habit of announcing that they were going to go to war against Israel, and the Israelis ended up not believing him. Another was that the Israelis were so over-confident after their stunning military victory in 1967 that they refused to believe that Israel or Syria presented credible threats. Another was that Prime Minister Golda Meir, in what may have been one of her relatively few shrewd moments, was convinced that in any future conflict with Egypt or Syria, Israel should not strike first because it would cause Israel to be seen as the aggressor. In those days, relations between the US and Israel were not as friendly as they are now and aggressive action on Israel's part, such as a pre-emptive strike, would have made the US less likely to offer crucial military and logistical support later on.

As a result, when the Egyptian army launched its offensive across the Suez canal, Israeli defences were under-prepared. Dunstan rightly praises the remarkable work of Egyptian combat engineers in using high-pressure water jets to cut holes through the enormous bank of sand and rubble that constituted the front line of the Israeli fortifications. The first wave of the Egyptian offensive was very successful.

Israel reeled from the sudden attack. The Egyptians and Syrians had excellent weaponry, using infantry armed with shoulder-launched missiles with devastating effect against Israeli armour. They also had a good plan, and at least in the early stages of the war their soldiers fought bravely and skilfully.

However, Israel had a number of factors in its favour. Its command structure was a good deal more flexible than that of the Arab armies, allowing more initiative to field commanders. Syrian commanders kept being recalled to the operational HQ many miles behind the front line in order to receive fresh orders, whereas the Israelis gave their commanders a long leash. Israel began to receive supplies from the USA. Almost as importantly, it was seen to be doing so; in one amusing propaganda coup, a US Air Force C5 transport landed in Israel and unloaded a main battle tank, signalling to the world's press that America was even prepared to supply Israel with heavy armour. As soon as the journalists had filed their stories and gone home, the tank was loaded onto the plane and flown back to Germany where it came from; America was prepared to seem more generous than it actually was.

Perhaps crucially, the two sides were not fighting for the same reasons. The Arab armies were fighting partly for ideological reasons and partly to regain lost prestige. Their remarkable success in the early phases of the war helped them to recover that prestige. The Israelis, however, were fighting for national survival, or at any rate believed themselves to be doing so. This boosted Israeli morale, and is one of the reasons behind the many acts of remarkable valour displayed by individual Israeli units.

The fighting lasted throughout October 1973 until the Israelis managed to turn back the Arab armies. A ceasefire was signed. The Israelis had technically won, but the myth of Israeli military invincibility was shattered forever. Israel lost more soldiers per capita in one month of fighting than the USA lost over the course of the entire Vietnam war. Egypt and Syria felt, with some justice, that although they had lost many more men than the other side, they had made their point. Israel did not cease to occupy the West Bank or the Gaza strip, but in 1982 they finally withdrew their troops from the Sinai. The whole region still lives with the consequences of the Yom Kippur War.

The Glass Enclosure: The Life of Bud Powell  (Bayou Jazz Lives)
The Glass Enclosure: The Life of Bud Powell  (Bayou Jazz Lives)
by Alyn Shipton
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but too short and not detailed enough, 25 Nov. 2008
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Most jazz musicians have unsatisfactory biographies. Bud Powell is no exception. This book is not actually bad; it was probably a labour of love for the authors, seeing as how Bud Powell is still a largely under-appreciated musician. A towering pianist and gifted composer, the peer in every respect of musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, he suffered from drug, alcohol and psychological problems and his recorded legacy is tragically inconsistent, with the bulk of his greatest work being made early in his career and his later decline being all too audible on record.

Groves and Shipton have done research, and the book is written in a good, plain, unpretentious style. It tells the story of Powell's troubled career in a clean and economical manner and it does a good job of supporting Powell's reputation as one of the central figures in modern jazz. The trouble is that it's just not long or detailed enough.

A musician of Powell's stature deserves a proper critical biography, preferably containing some musical examples. There are a lot of anecdotes about Powell and most of them are in here, but anyone who loves jazz must want more detail about what was distinctive and impressive (or otherwise) about Powell's music. His life was sad and almost relentlessly downbeat, but his music at its best could be exhilaratingly powerful and lively; someone really needs to try and work out what Powell was doing, how he might have done it and what it means to us. At the moment, the best way into Powell's music is by learning to play it, but that's beyond the reach of most people.

The last period of Powell's life has been lovingly documented in Francis Paudras' memoir "Dance of the Infidels" but that book is about the winter of his career, when his playing was not at its peak. It is one of the saddest books I've ever read, but like this book it has very little to say about Powell's music. If Stanley Crouch ever gets his finger out and finishes the Charlie Parker biog he is supposed to be working on, we might finally have a model critical biography of a modern jazz musician that realises that the music is ultimately more important than the anecdotes, and it might help to spur someone to do the same thing for Powell. In the meantime, this well-written and disciplined book is the best we have.

The Amazing Bud Powell: Vol. 1 (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)
The Amazing Bud Powell: Vol. 1 (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)
Price: £6.05

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part 1 of the motherlode, 25 Nov. 2008
Bud Powell made quite a lot of recordings for a man who may never have entered a recording studio completely clean, sober and in an entirely sound mind, and among the most consistently brilliant recordings he made were the ones he made for Blue Note around the start of his career.

He was undoubtedly one of the great and tragic figures of modern jazz. Born into a musical family, he was a child prodigy who was playing Bach and Mozart at an early age. He started playing jazz in his teens and his speed, power and precision were formidable. He learned much from his great contemporary Thelonious Monk but their styles as players were very different; Monk's style was a unique tool which drew on stride piano and his own utterly individual style as a composer, but Powell, it was often said, could play anything. Powell watched horn players such as Parker, Gillespie and Davis and, it was said, came to the conclusion that the piano was a superior instrument because piano players didn't need to draw a breath. He developed a style of playing very long, intricate and flowing runs with his right hand. When he's on form, as he is on this recording, listening to him is one of the most exhilarating experiences I know.

Powell's early period of youthful confidence was cut short when he received a severe beating at the hands of the police. That happened before he ever made a recording as a leader, so we may never know what he was like before his troubles began in earnest. He later suffered from alcoholism and severe psychological problems and was repeatedly hospitalised. He died in 1966. Almost all his recordings are worth listening to, but on some of the later ones his playing is sluggish and uncertain and sometimes it falls apart completely, making for painful listening.

This album contains some of his finest work. "Un Poco Loco" is one of his best compositions, by turns disorienting and relaxed. The album contains two earlier takes, in which drummer Max Roach can be heard developing the brilliant, nagging cowbell rhythm that plays an essential role in the final master take. The horn section consists of a teenage Sonny Rollins and the late Fats Navarro, and both are on flying form.

The writer Geoff Dyer has observed that some jazz musicians, such as Chet Baker and Art Pepper, seem to draw you in with their sound: their music speaks about their own weakness and fragility. Bud Powell's music is seldom like that. At its best, it was nearly always about his own sense of freedom and vitality. He makes even a ballad like "Over The Rainbow" into a spectacular romp around the harmonies. Later on, he could and did deliver hauntingly bleak performances, such as his chilling, hymn-like version of "It Never Entered My Mind", but at this stage of his career he seems to have been almost unstoppable. His sense of harmony is acute and highly sophisticated, and he makes the bebop cliché of the flattened fifth seem fresh and individual. Even here, his music is not just upbeat but contains shadows and fascinating ambiguities.

Volume 2 of this album completes these early Blue Note sessions. Powell went on to make recordings with Blue Note before switching to the Verve family of labels, a period beautifully documented on the excellently packaged "Complete Bud Powell on Verve", but he never again reached such a pitch of consistent excellence as he did here.

The history of jazz is full of sad life stories and Powell's is one of the saddest, but his music is still beautiful, powerful and life-affirming. He is my favourite jazz musician, and possibly my favourite musician, period. If you are going to start listening to his work, start here.

Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz
Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz
by pr Levi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read it, 17 Nov. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The great majority of personal testimonies of the Holocaust have been written by people who were victims of it, and while all of it is fascinating, horrifying and essential reading, it must be admitted that not all of it is of the same literary quality. In general, the more truthful and better-written they are, the harsher and more disturbing they are likely to be, and the less likely they are to provide us with easy platitudes about the survival of the human spirit, or instructive little parables about saintly fools. This is why Primo Levi's books are, to my mind, far superior to Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning", or even the works of Elie Wiesel.

Nevertheless, all Holocaust testimony should be available to us and it should all be read. There is, of course, another kind of Holocaust writing that is for obvious reasons less popular with the reading public, but which is still of crucial importance: that which was written by people who perpetrated the crimes. Most people would prefer to read about what it's like to undergo terrible experiences, than read about what it's like to inflict them. The trouble is that most of us in comfortable, relatively prosperous countries seldom have to undergo terrible experiences. We are more often in the position of allowing them to go on in our name, and with our tacit consent.

Most of the chief culprits of the Holocaust were dead or disappeared by the end of the war, but there is a still a very large amount of information written by former Nazi functionaries which is of considerable importance. The most substantial and important mass of material by a single person, other than trial evidence, is probably the written testimony of former Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Höss, all of which is collected in this book.

This collection supersedes an earlier translation of Höss's memoirs by former British Army officer Constantine Fitzgibbon. Fitzgibbon's translation is good, but this edition is more complete and contains things like Höss's last letters to his wife and family.

Höss's character, as revealed in this book, is that of a man who seems to have been an almost perfect fit for his job. Obedient, diligent, hard-working and thorough, he seems to have taken no great pleasure in his job but it never occurred to him for a second to refuse to do it. He personally supervised the expansion of Auschwitz from a small concentration camp based in an old Polish army barracks to, as he put it himself, the greatest extermination centre of all time. The Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor were solely for the purpose of extermination, but Auschwitz was a multi-function camp and thousands died from illness and starvation as well as from execution. Nobody knows exactly how many people died at Auschwitz but I am inclined to accept the figure of approximately 1.1 million, suggested by the great Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg.

There are a couple of flaws in this edition. I personally think that the title "Death Dealer" is lurid and unnecessary, and prefer the earlier translation's plain title "Commandant of Auschwitz". The photographs are atrociously reproduced, murky and blotchy and almost impossible to figure out. It does have, however, the benefit of an excellent preface by Primo Levi (far more informed and perceptive than the earlier translation's rather silly preface by Bertrand Russell, which suffered from Russell not having enough access to the archives) and some very useful diagrams of the camp. Plus, as stated above it is more complete.

There is no inspiring tale of hope in this Holocaust story. Höss did his work, was arrested at the end of the war and apparently badly treated by his British captors, but was then handed over to the Polish authorities who behaved towards him with remarkable and exemplary kindness. This seems to have inspired him to finally feel guilt about his crimes, which is not expressed in his memoirs so much as in his mawkish letters to his family. He was hanged at Auschwitz in 1947. His book is a glimpse into the mind of a man who was one of the principle administrators of mass murder. Everyone should read it, because the truly frightening thing about Höss is that he wasn't a sadistic psychopath who enjoyed torturing people; he was a dull, unimaginative and ordinarily callous bureaucrat who was able, like most of us, to close his mind to the consequences of his behaviour for as long as he was allowed to get away with it. Höss is more like us than Hitler ever was, or Göring. That is why this book should be taught in schools.

Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History
Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History
by Norman G. Finkelstein
Edition: Hardcover

63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very fine book, 17 Nov. 2008
Norman Finkelstein is controversial. Look at the review ratings for this book, on this site in the middle of November 2008 - ten reviews, with eight of them being five- or four-star, and two being one-star. You can't be indifferent about the guy. He is bullish, angry, abrasive and confrontational, very much like the man who is his chief antagonist in this book: Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. These two were destined to end up in a head-to-head match and it finally happens within the pages of "Beyond Chutzpah", the very title of which is a sardonic nod at Dershowitz's own book "Chutzpah". Readers who have no Yiddish may be forgiven for thinking that "chutzpah" means simply "bravery". It also has connotations of "nerve", "cheekiness" and even "impudence". Finkelstein has clearly run out of patience with what he sees as Dershowitz's chutzpah.

Living as I do in Ireland, and being an atheist gentile with a merely scholarly interest in Judaism, I would point out to Mr. Finkelstein that his scepticism about Irish antisemitism is not entirely well-founded. "Jew" was still a term of abuse among kids when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. Fairly recently, within the last few years, I witnessed a well-known Irish actor making crudely antisemitic remarks in a Dublin bar; I called him on them, and only narrowly avoided having him kick my head in (his friends ushered him out before he could cause any trouble).

Nevertheless, any book that carries endorsements from Israeli academics such as Baruch Kimmerling and Avi Shlaim surely ought to have something to it. The genius of Norman Finkelstein is that his method is completely transparent; like Chomsky's, it is nothing but scholarship, in that he compares one document to another and points out consistencies and, where they are obvious, inconsistencies. As he says himself, it is not very difficult to demonstrate that Alan Dershowitz has consistently misquoted sources, used other people's sources without citing them, twisted statements made by his enemies, etc. etc. Finkelstein demonstrates the fact, over and over again. The hard bit is getting anyone to take notice. The unexpected pleasure of this book is Finkelstein's exhaustive demonstration of the depths to which Alan Dershowitz will sink in order to win a fight. Finkelstein has elsewhere succeeded in utterly discrediting Joan Peters' infamous book "From Time Immemorial": here, he shows that Dershowitz not only quotes whole chunks of guff from that book without giving it credit, he often didn't even bother to do it himself, but got his research assistants to do it for him. I find it hard to believe that Dershowitz's reputation as an honest commentator can long survive an onslaught such as this. And yet all Finkelstein has done is point out the extent to which Dershowitz's remarks simply fail to correspond to documented reality.

Yes, Finkelstein can be rude and obnoxious. His website in particular is littered with heavy-handed sarcasm and clunking polemic, but then he has been repeatedly penalised for simply attempting to tell the truth, whereas Dershowitz has risen to the heights of US academia whilst being, all along, a shameless apologist for disgusting brutality and hypocrisy. Finkelstein, for all his bad temper and inability to be serene about his situation, is simply and inconveniently in the right. He may be an embarrassing person to have on one's side, but the likes of Dershowitz, on the evidence that this book supplies in such careful and meticulous detail, are morally repugnant.

The moral nadir of the book is Dershowitz's shameless attempt to claim that Finkelstein thought that his own mother - a concentration camp survivor - had been a camp "Kapo", based on a blatant misreading of a passage in Finkelstein's own memoir. After such knowledge, what forgiveness? It would take a better man than me to forgive Dershowitz for something like that.

The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (Penguin Classics)
The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (Penguin Classics)
by T. Carmi
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent book, 14 Nov. 2008
This magnificent anthology of Hebrew verse prints the originals as well as the translations, and contains many poems that were not available in print anywhere when the book was first published - and which for all I know, are still otherwise unavailable today. It covers millennia of Hebrew poetry from the earlier parts of the Hebrew Bible to modern Israeli poets such as Bialik and Amichai. A superb job of collection, selection and translation. The editor (a distinguished poet himself) deserves a medal.

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