What are you reading? – 28 November 2019

Our fortnightly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 28, 2019
Pile of books
Source: iStock

Kalwant Bhopal, professorial research fellow and professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, is reading The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah: The Autobiography (Scribner, 2018). “This is a frank and honest account of the life of Zephaniah, his brushes with the law and how he broke away from criminality to pursue his creativity. The book reveals the man behind his many talents, from poet, playwright, novelist and musician to political activist, and his passion for humanitarianism. Zephaniah’s memories provide a vivid, compassionate and touching account of the harsh realities of racism and how he used the power of poetry to push boundaries. His writing constantly reminds us of the inequalities outsiders continue to face on a daily basis. Referring to the British Establishment, he says: ‘I find it difficult to respect an institution that has its roots in class division, robbing people of their lands, subjecting people to slavery and claiming a divine right to rule.’”

John Anchor, professor of international strategy at the University of Huddersfield, is reading Terry Waite’s Solitude: Memories, People, Places (SPCK, 2017). “Some of us long for solitude, whereas others dread it. Sometimes it can be thrust upon us unexpectedly. Terry Waite is in the latter category – having spent five years in solitary confinement in Beirut as a hostage of Hezbollah, the Shia political/military organisation. His ordeal and his early life in East Africa inform his view of the solitude of other people in a range of locations. These include the eponymous US mountain village in Utah state, the Australian outback and a Moscow suburb. In the last, he met with George Blake, the MI5 double agent who escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison before fleeing to the Soviet Union. The case studies vary considerably in length and, hence, in their level of detail. However, each offers its own special insights into the status of solitude.”

Maria Delgado, professor and director of research at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, is reading The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics (edited by Peter Eckersall and Helena Grehan; Routledge, 2019). “From Sir Anril Pineda Tiatco’s treatment of protest performances in the Philippines to Peter Boenisch’s coverage of Milo Rau’s retelling of contemporary traumas, the contributors to this volume grapple with what constitutes political action and why it matters. Practices in Burkina Faso, Burma and Buenos Aires are given due attention, while the resonance of key artists – both canonical and contemporary (the Chilean dramatist Guillermo Calderón, the German company Rimini Protokoll) – are debated and discussed. Key questions around participation, inequality, surveillance and our fractured world post-Brexit, post-truth and post-neoliberalism run through the different chapters. For those seeking to look beyond the Anglo-American scene to performance in the southern hemisphere, this is a carefully curated volume that asks important questions without ever resorting to easy answers.”

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