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.
Life & Style blogs
'I am a paedophile': Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
Scientists discover 'stroke protection gene' – that also guards against heart attack and migraine
Dame Vivienne Westwood: The former Queen of Punk may now be an establishment pillar, but her work is still controversial – and much copied
Revealed: Lidl’s £4 perfume smells identical to Chanel’s £70 scent - but the difference is in the bottle
Regin: US and UK intelligence services could be responsible for snooping spyware
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?
- 4 Halle Berry takes ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry to court for allegedly trying to make daughter look less African-American
- 5 Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
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