“Outside my work the thing I care most about is gardening – George Orwell
Inspired by her encounter with the surviving roses that Orwell is said to have planted in his cottage in Hertfordshire, Rebecca Solnit explores how his involvement with plants, particularly flowers, illuminates his other commitments as a writer and antifascist, and the intertwined politics of nature and power.
Following his journey from the coal mines of England to taking up arms in the Spanish Civil War; from his prescient critique of Stalin to his analysis of the relationship between lies and authoritarianism, Solnit finds a more hopeful Orwell, whose love of nature pulses through his work and actions. And in her dialogue with the author, she makes fascinating forays into colonial legacies in the flower garden, discovers photographer Tina Modotti’s roses, reveals Stalin’s obsession with growing lemons in impossibly cold conditions, and exposes the brutal rose industry in Colombia.
A fresh reading of a towering figure of the 20th century which finds solace and solutions for the political and environmental challenges we face today, Orwell’s Roses is a remarkable reflection on pleasure, beauty, and joy as acts of resistance.”
“Did the UK government really ‘follow the science’ throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as it claims?
As head of the Wellcome Trust, Jeremy Farrar was one of the first people in the world to hear about a mysterious new disease in China – and to learn it could readily spread between people. A member of the SAGE emergency committee, Farrar was a key figure in both the UK and the World Health Organization at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic amid great uncertainty, fast-moving situations and missed opportunities. Spike is his widely acclaimed inside story. His account casts light on the UK government’s claims to be ‘following the science’ and is informed not just by Farrar’s views but by interviews with other top scientists and political figures.”
“Do Not Disturb is a dramatic recasting of the modern history of Africa’s Great Lakes region, an area blighted by the greatest genocide of the twentieth century. This bold retelling, vividly sourced by direct testimony from key participants, tears up the traditional script.
In the old version, an idealistic group of young rebels overthrows a genocidal regime in Kigali, ushering in an era of peace and stability that makes Rwanda the donor darling of the West, winning comparisons with Switzerland and Singapore. The new version examines afresh questions which dog the recent past: Why do so many ex-rebels scoff at official explanations of who fired the missile that killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi? Why didn’t the mass killings end when the rebels took control? Why did those same rebels, victory secured, turn so ruthlessly on one another?
Michela Wrong uses the story of Patrick Karegeya, once Rwanda’s head of external intelligence and a quicksilver operator of supple charm, to paint the portrait of a modern African dictatorship created in the chilling likeness of Paul Kagame, the president who sanctioned his former friend’s murder.”
“When the news first began to trickle out of China about a new virus in December 2019, risk-averse financial markets were alert to its potential for disruption. Yet they could never have predicted the total economic collapse that would follow in COVID-19’s wake, as stock markets fell faster and harder than at any time since 1929, currencies across the world plunged, investors panicked, and even gold was sold.
In a matter of weeks, the world’s economy was brought to an abrupt halt by governments trying to contain a spiralling public health catastrophe. Flights were grounded; supply chains broken; industries from tourism to oil to hospitality collapsed overnight, leaving hundreds of millions of people unemployed. Central banks responded with unprecedented interventions, just to keep their economies on life-support. For the first time since the second world war, the entire global economic system contracted.
This book tells the story of that shutdown. We do not yet know how this story ends, or what new world we will find on the other side. In this fast-paced, compelling and at times shocking analysis, Adam Tooze surveys the wreckage, and looks at where we might be headed next.”
“How should we talk about sex? It is a thing we have and also a thing we do; a supposedly private act laden with public meaning; a personal preference shaped by outside forces; a place where pleasure and ethics can pull wildly apart.
Since #MeToo many have fixed on consent as the key framework for achieving sexual justice. Yet consent is a blunt tool. To grasp sex in all its complexity – its deep ambivalences, its relationship to gender, class, race and power – we need to move beyond ‘yes and no’, wanted and unwanted.
We need to interrogate the fraught relationships between discrimination and preference, pornography and freedom, rape and racial injustice, punishment and accountability, pleasure and power, capitalism and liberation. We need to rethink sex as a political phenomenon.
Searching, trenchant and extraordinarily original, The Right to Sex is a landmark examination of the politics and ethics of sex in this world, animated by the hope of a different one.”
In this astonishing collection of essays, the award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller explores the silence in which so many important things are kept. He examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it: to risk words, to risk truths. And he considers the histories our bodies inherit – the crimes that haunt them, and how meaning can shift as we move throughout the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood.
Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Liam Neeson, Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love affairs, white women’s tears, questions of aesthetics and more, Miller powerfully and imaginatively recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice.
With both the epigrammatic concision and conversational cadence of his poetry and novels, Things I Have Withheld is a great artistic achievement: a work of beauty which challenges us to interrogate what seems unsayable and why – our actions, defence mechanisms, imaginations and interactions – and those of the world around us.
Britain didn’t just put the empire back the way it had found it.
In Uncommon Wealth, Kojo Koram traces the tale of how after the end of the British empire an interconnected group of well-heeled British intellectuals, politicians, accountants and lawyers offshored their capital, seized assets and saddled debt in former ‘dependencies’. This enabled horrific inequality across the globe as ruthless capitalists profited and ordinary people across Britain’s former territories in colonial Africa, Asia and the Caribbean were trapped in poverty. However, the reinforcement of capitalist power across the world also ricocheted back home. Now it has left many Britons wondering where their own sovereignty and prosperity has gone…
Decolonisation was not just a trendy buzzword. It was one of the great global changes of the past hundred years, yet Britain – the protagonist in the whole, messy drama – has forgotten it was ever even there. A blistering uncovering of the scandal of Britain’s disastrous treatment of independent countries after empire, Uncommon Wealth shows the decisions of decades past are contributing to the forces that are breaking Britain today.”
The Western world has turned its back on refugees, fuelling one of the most devastating human rights disasters in history.
In August 2018, Sally Hayden received a Facebook message. ‘Hi sister Sally, we need your help,’ it read. ‘We are under bad condition in Libya prison. If you have time, I will tell you all the story.’ More messages followed from more refugees. They told stories of enslavement and trafficking, torture and murder, tuberculosis and sexual abuse. And they revealed something else: that they were all incarcerated as a direct result of European policy.
From there began a staggering investigation into the migrant crisis across North Africa. This book follows the shocking experiences of refugees seeking sanctuary, but it also surveys the bigger picture: the negligence of NGOs and corruption within the United Nations. The economics of the twenty-first-century slave trade and the EU’s bankrolling of Libyan militias. The trials of people smugglers, the frustrations of aid workers, the loopholes refugees seek out and the role of social media in crowdfunding ransoms. Who was accountable for the abuse? Where were the people finding solutions? Why wasn’t it being widely reported?
At its heart, this is a book about people who have made unimaginable choices, risking everything to survive in a system that wants them to be silent and disappear.
For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike – either free and equal, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a reaction to indigenous critiques of European society, and why they are wrong. In doing so, they overturn our view of human history, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery and civilization itself.
Drawing on path-breaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we begin to see what’s really there. If humans did not spend 95 per cent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture, and cities, did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organization did they lead to? The answers are often unexpected, and suggest that the course of history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful possibilities than we tend to assume.
The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision and faith in the power of direct action.
“Meet the mother whose children were taken away, and the father who fought for his son. Listen to the radical social worker, the judge, the lawyer. See inside the homes of foster carers, adoptive parents and children in care. Because behind closed doors, a scandal is ongoing.
We now remove more children from their parents than ever before, more than any other western country. Not because of a rise in physical or sexual abuse, but because of complex factors that are overlooked and misunderstood.
Children’s Care is a system where fathers are ignored, and mothers are punished for experiencing abuse. Rife with prejudices about race, ableism and class, determined by a postcode lottery. Blind to poverty and its effects on family life. And, at its very worst, an exercise in social engineering that can never replace parental love.
This is not a soft issue. Not a ‘women and children’ problem. It is a prism through which we can understand the deepest issues at play in politics, economics and society today, and it is happening behind closed doors.
Because of legal restrictions against reporting in family courts, the uneasy work of social care and the shame poured on parents, these problems remain out of our sight. They are the subject of horror headlines or stale statistics. But family life is at the heart of who we are as people, and it is they who can help us understand.
From North to South, rich and poor, Black and white, these are the people who know, first-hand, what is going wrong – and how we can fix it.
These are their stories.”