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The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Thornton Wilder, Penguin Classics (first published 1927)
This novel is about the collapse of a bridge in Peru in the 17th century and the deaths of five people. A Jesuit priest sets out to prove that they deserved to die and ends up proving the opposite. The family of the novelist Nina Bawden, whose husband died in the Potters Bar rail crash and who was herself injured, told me about this story and its resonance for pondering the illogicality of fate.
A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens, Wordsworth Editions (first published 1859)
Lawyer Sydney Carton is dissolute and unlovable. But twice he saves the day for Charles Darnay, an undercover member of the aristocracy who resembles him in appearance. In the early part of the book he secures his acquittal in a terrorism trial at the Old Bailey and at the end he performs an act of supreme sacrifice in substituting himself for Charles at the guillotine of the French Revolution. As novels about lawyers go, I prefer this one to the more commonly chosen To Kill a Mockingbird.
Samuel Butler, Penguin Classics (first published 1872)
A traveller arrives in a country where criminals are regarded as being ill and the sick are treated as criminals. A form of doctor known as a ‘straightener’ arrives to flog a man ‘ill’ of embezzling money, while a bout of stealing socks is a polite social excuse and a man dying of consumption pleads his innocence of disease. Written in the 19th century – before Brecht, Kafka or Saramago.
The Master and Margarita
Mikhail Bulgakov, Vintage Classics (first published 1967)
Banned by Stalinist Russia, this book was only published many years after the author’s death in 1940. It interweaves chapters about Pontius Pilate with a fantastical tale of a magician who is Satan in disguise and his retinue, which includes a talking black tomcat. A satire of politics, religion and reality whose multiple meanings fascinate on every re-read.
Ah, But Your Land is Beautiful
Alan Paton, Penguin 1983
Written 30 years after his other masterpiece Cry the Beloved Country, this novel explores passionately – but also with irony – the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Particularly telling for me was the description of the way in which laws such as the Group Areas Act were used to legitimise injustice. The book tells the story of people, from a schoolgirl to a station master, who come up against these laws and fight back.
George Eliot, Wordsworth Classics (first published 1876)
I love all George Eliot’s novels, but this one, which was her last, is courageous as one of the first literary denunciations of the dehumanising effects of racism. Daniel Deronda has to come terms with his discovery that he is Jewish and confront the anti-semitism of the time. Gwendolen Harleth, the heroine, marries for power rather than love and suffers the consequences.
Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics, 1948-1998
Faber and Faber 1998
I met Harold through Red Pepper and spoke alongside him at Red Pepper meetings. This book (my copy of which he signed for me) includes his reflections on the arrest of Kurdish actors rehearsing his play Mountain Language and the seizure by police of the toy guns hired from the National Theatre, a case of reality mimicking art. My firm sued the police for the actors – we were disappointed when the police settled it as we were looking forward to calling Harold as a witness in the trial. Harold’s plays and writing reflect his deep understanding of oppression and tyranny in all their manifestations.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Carson McCullers, Penguin Modern Classics (first published 1940)
Deaf-mute John Singer makes friends with a cast of characters in the Deep South of the US in the 1930s. Full of humanity, this novel is a heartfelt plea for lonely people who are mistreated and marginalised by an uncaring society and for the human need for the love of others.
Louise Christian is a civil liberties and human rights lawyer, and her selections can be purchased here.
A portion of the sales from purchases made through Red Pepper/Eclector’s book store contribute money to Red Pepper. Not all titles are available.
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
The global elite have been stealing from society on an unprecedented scale, writes Tom Walker
Richard Murphy says that the appropriate political will and understanding of tax can put an end to offshore avoidance and evasion
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes