What are you reading? – 3 January 2019

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 3, 2019
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Maria Delgado, professor and director of research, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, is reading Sara J. Brenneis’ Spaniards in Mauthausen: Representations of a Nazi Concentration Camp, 1940-2015 (University of Toronto Press, 2018). “Spanish Republicans are some of the forgotten victims of Nazi genocide. Between 10,000 and 15,000 Spaniards were sent to concentration camps, and more than 5,000 of them were killed there. Sara Brenneis’ terrific monograph covers this overlooked area by focusing on accounts from Mauthausen and its subcamps. By examining the narratives that depict the camp – through photographs, memoirs, novels, documentaries, plays and digital media – she maps out a mode of remembering those who have lain at the periphery of Spain’s recent history. This is a book about how art has played a role in nurturing a political consciousness, which makes a timely and important contribution to memory studies both in Spain and across a wider transnational field.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Anthony Hern’s The Seaside Holiday: The History of the English Seaside Resort (Cresset Press, 1967). “From its supposed origins at Scarborough in the 17th century to the post-Second World War development of Butlin’s Holiday Camps, holidays by the sea offer many varied scenarios. With medical opinion and royal patronage in Brighton and Weymouth the initial pacesetters, and then railways, motor coaches and cars facilitating the ever-increasing human flow to the coast, the seaside resort established itself as a key ingredient of ‘Englishness’. Piers, bathing machines, postcards, hotels, boarding houses and landladies, theatres, amusement parks, Punch and Judy shows and donkey rides all find a place in this rich narrative. This is a wide-ranging, effective and engaging book, although a second edition published today would, of course, need a very different, and less optimistic, epilogue.”

Sir John Holman, emeritus professor of chemistry, University of York, is reading Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts (John Murray, 2004). “In 1933, the 18-year-old Patrick Leigh Fermor turned his back on his expensive education and set out to walk to Constantinople. This book tells of the first part of his journey, from the Hook of Holland to Hungary. On foot through pre-war Europe, swinging along without a care, spouting poetry and taking every chance, he sleeps in barns or castles, depending on whom he has been able to charm. The descriptions are lyrical and – having been written up years later (and published in 1977) – possibly embellished. The travel story is larded with musings on architecture, poetry, history and ethnography in a sometimes self-conscious way, but as the story of a scholar-gypsy’s travels in long‑gone Central Europe, it is superb.”

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