A week in books
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Saturday 13 June 1998
Rome's implacable loathing of Carthaginians set a pattern for neighbour hating (and baiting) which still surfaces in nuclear tests and football games alike. No doubt carvers of tabloid tablets glowered across the straits of Sicily as they inscribed the Latin equivalent of `Achtung! Surrender' or `Hop off you Frogs'. Since that sort of passion may not be quite invisible in the coming weeks, it's good to find a lively and eclectic guide to `the dividing lines of race and culture' on hand for those outbursts of hysteria.
Edited by Susan Greenberg, Hate Thy Neighbour (pounds 9.95) is the first in the promising `MindField' series of topical anthologies from Camden Press. Packaged as a blend of book and magazine, and strongly reminiscent of the much-missed New Society in its brightest days, this inaugural issue mingles polemical essays, factual digests, interviews, poems, photos and (not least) Robert Thompson's tart cartoons. If the quality (inevitably) varies, the width impresses mightily: Ann Leslie investigates embattled Englishness, Judah Passow surveys Israel's `black Jews' from Ethiopia, Sousa Jamba defends African tribal pride, Roland Littlewood meets the BNP, Seamus Deane recalls his Irish childhood - and so on. Endlessly flexible in pace, tone and angle, the whole project brings to mind a kind of streetwise Granta. It deserves to flourish.
In the course of an interview that flays the lazy pieties of multiculturalism, the veteran radical A Sivanandan underlines that `the more hybrid things are, the more alive they are'. Fighting prejudice, he says, must not mean a search for `cultural enclaves'. Enclaves become crucibles, and crucibles may ignite into cockpits.
For the sorry proof of that, explore Radha Kumar's brilliantly compact expose of the 20th-century diplomat's favourite folly: Divide and Fall? Bosnia in the annals of partition (Verso, pounds 14). In this small gem of a book, Kumar places the West's `multicultural' solution to the Bosnian war in a long, inglorious line of botched partitions. This runs from Bengal (split by the Raj in 1905) through Ireland after 1920, then Israel-Palestine, India-Pakistan, and finally to Cyprus. (Korea and Vietnam would take another, even sadder book.)
Partition, she concludes, is `more likely to inflame and prolong ethnic conflicts than solve them'. In each case, the professed respect for cultural differences that drove the diplomats did little more than mask a grubby quest for a quick fix and an exit route to help the major powers involved. In each case, the deal stored up endless trouble for the future. And what trouble! The salt of Rome stung Carthage into barrenness. Now, the farmers of Rajasthan and Baluchistan have to till a tainted earth whose lasting curse may prove to be much more terrible than that.
It is a crazy place to play in summer, writes Paul Scholes
It was all about Liz’s cocaine-fuelled brainwave, 'The Metwork'
Life & Style blogs
World’s largest chocolate manufacturer adds voice to warnings of 'potential cocoa shortage by 2020'
We can't easily shut down Russian webcam hackers, admits Information Commissioner
GTA 5, Xbox One review: Next gen Los Santos is beautiful chaos
Unpaid make-up artists reveal the ugly side of Miss World
GTA 5 PS4/Xbox One gets new songs from Lorde, Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown and more
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds Kent seat
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'
G20 summit: David Cameron warns Vladimir Putin that Russia's relationship with the West is at a 'fork in the road' over Ukraine
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track
- 1 Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
- 2 John Smid: Former leader of US ‘gay cure’ group has just married a man
- 3 These grandmas smoking weed for the first time are wonderful
- 4 Pastafarian former porn star Asia Lemmon allowed to wear colander in driving licence photo
- 5 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A prestigious IT & Telecoms Sales and Su...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Suppo...