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Penguin Classics, 2000
Joyce came into my life in 1951, when I was 16, in the shape of Ulysses, which I read in sixth form as an optional vacation assignment, and which gave me my first deep introduction to literary modernism and literary Ireland. Both have printed their mark on me ever since. Stream of consciousness was my preferred form of prose for several years – I even used it in the French essay paper for A-level. I can’t think of a better writer in English than Joyce, and the mighty, comic, endlessly inventive Ulysses is probably his best work.
The Making of the English Working Class
E P Thompson
Penguin, new ed 2002
I read this in the early 1960s, around the time it was published – and the time I met Edward at a New Left summer school in west Yorkshire. The book and the man became close friends thereafter. No book has made a deeper impression on my sensibility; no book has enabled me to see my own life and history more clearly. What separates it from most social history is its command of language and – for want of a better word – its poetry. Discussing historical movements and people who ended up getting the future wrong, he argues we must ‘rescue them from the enormous condescension of posterity’. Precisely.
The Country and the City
Oxford University Press, 1975
A long, painstaking and beautiful examination of English literature in the search for shifting images of ‘country’ and ‘city’ through history and the often class-freighted and ahistorical meanings we give them. I challenge anyone to read his first chapter and not be eager to go on. As with Joyce and Irishness, so Williams with Welshness: two national cultural elements in my own background that have resonated within my own thought and work.
Vintage, new ed 1991
For me one of the most important English-language novels of the 20th century, Slaughterhouse 5 tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, a US soldier who survives the Dresden bombings and becomes ‘unstuck in his time’, living his life in a random order and repetitively. It combines an extraordinary realism with a wild and dangerous delight that possessed me in the 1970s and beyond like a virus and still hangs on, unshakable, in my writing and thinking and feeling. Years later, trying to write The Gulf Between Us, about three Brit workers trapped in Baghdad during the first Iraq War, I slowly realised it came straight from Kurt Vonnegut. I challenge anyone to read the final chapter and not weep.
Vintage, new ed 1993
As the 1970s’ promise of a scruffy utopia gave way to the buffed dystopia of the 1980s, I decided to look for a second (shorter) creative form and lighted on photography, a search that brought me face to face with Barthes’ masterpiece. Ostensibly a philosophical analysis of photography, it resolves halfway through into a deep and painful examination of Barthes’ long dependent relationship with his recently dead mother. No one of a certain age can read this book and not feel a memoir coming on.
The Rattle Bag
Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney (eds)
Faber and Faber, 2005
Five hundred and more poems from four corners and five continents make up the best poetry anthology you’ll ever encounter. I send copies of it out each Christmas; and there are three copies strewn about the house in case I feel a sudden need of it. In the words of the editors: ‘This anthology amassed itself like a cairn … each poem full of its singular appeal, transmitting its own signals, taking its chances in a big voluble world.’ A gem.
A Life in Letters
Penguin Classics, 2004
I’ve been reading Chekhov (letters, stories, plays) since the 70s, when Richard Eyre bought me his Selected Letters as companion on my travels into my new English version of The Cherry Orchard. This new volume, much enlarged and with excellent notes in a brilliant translation, confirms that Chekhov is in the first rank of writers, thinkers and human beings.
The Angel of History
HarperPerennial, reprint 1995
Forché is the founder of a movement known as Poetry of Witness. Some years ago I encountered her work (Gathering the Tribes, The Country Between Us, Against Forgetting) and knew at once it was important and would last. The Angel of History, published in the mid-90s, is a scarifying account of the bloody horrors that are the 20th century: war, genocide, holocaust, nuclear destruction; but one filled with love and tenderness and a warm awareness of the smallness of things. These are poems that make the earth a better place.
Radical playwright Trevor Griffiths’ A New World: A Life of Tom Paine was at the Globe theatre this summer and his Comedians at the Lyric last month
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun