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The Independent Culture
! Sacred Games by Gerald Jacobs, Penguin pounds 6.99. Such was the magnitude of the Holocaust that the tragedy of the individual is often masked by the enormity of the genocide of which it was part. Like Primo Levi's If This Is A Man, and Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark, Gerald Jacobs's biography cuts through the statistics to the human story, recounting the harrowing and transcendent tale of Hungarian concentration camp survivor Miklos Hammer. A Jewish medical student, Hammer was conscripted into a forced labour battalion in 1940, spending the next five years being shunted from one camp to the next until his liberation from Dachau, weighing just five stone, in April 1945. An appalling chronicle of wickedness and deprivation which, in its protagonist's fury to survive, comes across as a hymn to the triumph of humanity rather than a dirge to its debasement.

! In God's Country: Travels in the Bible Belt by Douglas Kennedy, Abacus pounds 7.99. This splendidly entertaining myth-buster gets to grips with that most flamboyant and bizarre of modern American phenomena: Christian fundamentalism. Part anecdotal travelogue, part state-of-the-nation journalism, it cruises through America's Bible Belt, enquiring just what it is that makes people "declare for Jesus". En route we meet such glorious oddities as Nashville's heavy metal Christian rockers; mafia hit-man turned saver-of-souls the Rev Tony Parsons; and televangelist and sexual voyeur Jimmy Swaggart. Observant and wryly witty, Kennedy marvels how these white-trash religious weirdos can exercise such disproportionate political influence.

! Looking Through Glass by Mukul Kesevan, Vintage pounds 6.99. The protagonist of this Rushdie-esque story of historical loop-holes and fairytale time- shifts is a young Hindu photographer who, leaning from a bridge to snap a rainbow, tumbles over and recovers consciousness in eve-of-Partition India 50 years earlier. He embarks on a mysterious, tragi-comic journey through a disintegrating Raj, acquiring an eccentric foster family, a gaggle of unlikely friends and a portfolio of Rabelaisian adventures. Kesevan's writing is light and playful, suffused with streaks of ambiguity and rib-cracking humour. His underlying comments on the pliability of history and fickleness of time, however, give his work an intellectual weight that belies its comedic tone.

! Efforts at Truth by Nicholas Mosley, Minerva pounds 7.99. Autobiographies tend to fall into one of two categories - lighthearted anecdotage or po-faced self-justification - neither of which reveal a great deal about their subject. Nicholas Mosley, novelist, screenwriter and son of Oswald Mosley, chooses neither path, setting out instead on a journey of searing self-exposure in which he candidly explores the vicissitudes of his life as an author and Christian. Those looking for juicy insights into the world of Thirties fascism will be disappointed, for Mosley has already dealt with his relationship with his father in two previous works, Rules of the Game and Beyond the Pale. As an insight into the artist's mind, however, and the way he marshals and develops his creativity, it makes Rousseau look positively guarded.

! A Farewell to Prague by Desmond Hogan, Faber pounds 5.99. Like a Picasso or Braque, Hogan's dazzling fifth novel fragments the world and re-evaluates its constituent parts from a variety of curious perspectives. His quasi- autobiographical tale follows the fortunes of Des, an Irishman floating around Europe and the southern US, chronicling all he sees and revealing inch by inch the contours of his own psyche. As linear narrative stands aside in favour of a jumbled, diary-like collection of perceptions and dialogue, the confused rendering of the outer world reflecting the chronicler's own descent into despair and breakdown, this is not so much a novel as a chaotic assortment of miniatures forming a coherent picture of a profoundly incoherent world.

! An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks, Picador pounds 6.99. It's not often you find clinical neurologists connecting with the popular imagination. That, however, is exactly what Sacks does with these fascinating neurological case studies. An inexhaustible tourist at the farther reaches of the mind, he presents, in sparse, unsentimental prose, the stories of seven of his patients, describing their neural disorders and working with them towards adjustment and acceptance. Conditions range from Tourette's Syndrome to autism, amnesia and trauma-induced colour blindness, and it is to Sacks's credit that he neither sensationalises nor patronises his subjects. The result is a series of studies as rich, vivid and compelling as any collection of short stories.

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