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Helen Douglas – Love & Arms: Violence and Justification after Levinas

Thursday, March 31st 2011 at 5:30 PM

Love & Arms: Violence and Justification after Levinas

Helen Douglas has been a pioneer of philosophical counselling in South Africa, but her first book on philosophy has just appeared, and we’re delighted to be launching it here. Helen was deeply involved in the struggle in South Africa as a part of Operation Vula, and a major focus of this philosophical enquiry is on violence and whether and how it can be justified, by drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas.


Ben Turok: Understanding the ANC Today

Wednesday, March 30th 2011 at 5:30 PM

Join Professor Ben Turok as he discusses his new series charting the history and the ideology of the ANC –

1. The Historical Roots of the ANC

2. The ANC and the turn to Armed Struggle

3. Readings in the ANC Tradition Volume 1: Policy and Praxis

4. Readings in the ANC Tradition Volume 2: History and Ideology

5. Development in a Divided Country

6. The Controversy about Economic Growth

Professor Ben Turok is a member of parliament in South Africa, representing the ruling party, the African National Congress. He has been a member of the Liberation Movement for many decades, was an accused in the 1956 Treason Trial, with which he served 3 years in prison, and was in exile for 25 years, returning to South Africa in 1990.


March Newsletter

Wednesday, March 30th 2011 at 1:10 PM

Books of the Month


Reports before Daybreak by Brent Meersman 

This is a fascinating, thrilling and evocative piece of writing. Whilst it is structurally a novel, which follows the lives of fictional characters, it is really an exploration of the realities of life in South Africa from 1978 to 1990. We meet Zukiswa, Francois, Joseph, Alicia and Mfundi, and follow their journey through some of South Africa’s darkest events and most turbulent years to the point where there is a genuine sense of hope about the future.

The novel is interspersed with genuine headlines from the press of the day – both locally and internationally (with a very stark difference between the two), and short biographies of key figures of the day, on both sides of the struggle (most of whom did not live to see the change that was hard-won in the country), and stories of life in some of the toughest professions – the miner, the doctor, the hangman.

These diverse elements combine to create a story rich in imagery and with a strong sense of place, with characters that soon become just as real to the reader as those whose biographies also appear. Their stories are engaging and alarming – and the brilliance of this novel is the lasting impression that all of this leaves, of the breathless uncertainty and appalling violence of this period, and the incredible strength that people found to go on believing.



Penguin Mini Modern Classics Box Set

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Penguin’s Modern Classics series they have published a grand box set filled with short fiction by some of the greatest writers of the last 100 years. It includes pieces by Saki, Nabokov, Kafka, Joyce, Woolf, Wodehouse, Updike, Kipling, Conrad, Calvino, Camus, Borges and many more. Each little volume included in the box set is a piece of literary history. These little volumes are also available individually. Definitely the best way to celebrate the short story form is this showpiece of some of its greatest exponents.



A Good Month for Fiction


The Gordian Knot by Bernard Schlink

 Young lawyer Georg Polger gives up a comfortable existence in Germany to work as a freelance translator in the South of France. But business in the picturesque village is far from booming, and Georg struggles to make ends meet. One day he is approached by a certain Mr Bulnakov, who wants Georg to take over a local translation agency. The previous owner has just died in mysterious circumstances. Everything seems to be going perfectly: Georg falls in love with Bulnakov’s attractive secretary, Francoise, and takes on a lucrative project left unfinished by his predecessor, translating plans for military helicopters. But everything changes when Georg notices Francoise copying his plans. She tells Georg that Bulnakov has threatened to harm her brother, who lives in Poland, if she refuses to do his bidding. When Georg confronts Bulnakov Francoise disappears, and mysterious elements within the village try to hound him out. All he has left of Francoise is a picture she gave him of a church, which she told him was in Warsaw. But when a friend tells him the church is actually in New York, Georg flies to America in a desperate bid to track down Francoise, and unravel the web of deceit. Tailed from his arrival, Georg quickly realises that he is stuck between the CIA and the KGB, and further out of his depth than he can begin to comprehend. But which side was he working for? Who is the mysterious Mr Bulkanov? And did he ever know the real Francoise?


The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar 

First published in 1992, this quirky and brilliant novel has been reissued with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, who is a big fan, comparing Millar to Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.

Morag and Heather, two eighteen-inch fairies with swords, green kilts and badly dyed hair fly through the window of the worst violinist in New York, an overweight and antisocial type named Dinnie, and throw up on his carpet. Who they are, how they came to New York and what this has to do with the lovely Kerry – who lives across the street, and has Crohn’s Disease, and is making a flower alphabet – and what this has to do with the other fairies (of all nationalities) of New York, not to mention the poor repressed fairies of Britain, is the subject of this book. It has a war in it, and a most unusual production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Johnny Thunders’ New York Dolls guitar solos. What more could anyone desire from a book…?


God Hates Us All: A Novel by Hank Moody

There are a few of us Loungers who are big fans of cult television series Californication, but even so it took us a while to realise that not only is David Duchovny’s character, Hank Moody, a real person and really a writer, but also that his claim to fame in the series – the novel God Hates Us All – is ALSO an extant novel. If you know the series, you’ll know exactly what to expect from the book: a “self-loathing yet darkly likeable narrator” in a “coming-of-age tale for an apathetic generation”. This is a deeply ironic, dark yet optimistic read, and the voice for at least some part of a generation.





The Falafel King is Dead by Sara Shilo 

The town has lost its famed falafel king, but the Dadon family have also lost a father and husband. Living with the daily threat of Katyusha missiles from neighbouring Lebanon, and struggling to survive amid the rubble of their lives, Simona and her three children each find their own way of coping with their grief, their fear, and their hopes. Raw, shocking and moving, Sara Shilo’s powerful debut novel recounts the life of an ordinary Israeli family over the course of a single, extraordinary day in prose that we have never been encountered in contemporary Hebrew literature.

A beautifully drawn account of a family collapsing under an unbearable loss …so readable and so engaging.”                                 Guardian

Remarkable…a unique cultural perspective provides the novel with a convincing political core.”                                                         The Times

Shilo’s achievement is to evoke an Israel which the outside world knows little about.”                                                            Independent


We Had it So Good by Linda Grant 

Stephen Newman’s children find it hard to believe that their father once dressed up in Marilyn Monroe’s furs, made LSD at Oxford and lived with their mother Andrea in an anarchist collective. Quite often, Stephen finds it hard to believe it himself…

Born to hardworking immigrant parents in suburban Los Angeles, Stephen never imagined he would spend his adult life under the grey skies of north London, would marry for convenience and stay married, would watch his children grow up into people he cannot fathom. Over forty years he and his friends have built lives of comfort and success, until the events of late middle age and the new century force them to realise that they have always existed in a fool’s paradise.

Entwining three generations’ secrets and longings, We Had it So Good is a richly layered novel that tells many truths, from the fragility of our dreams to how little we know of our parents until it is too late.


Splithead by Julya Rabinowich 

My father and I head towards a nervous breakdown as he attempts to erase three years of Communist indoctrination in the course of a single evening. I simply cannot comprehend that Lenin, the friend of all children, is now allegedly an arsehole.”

When 7-year-old Mischka and her family flee the oppressive USSR for the freedom of Vienna, her world seems to divide neatly in two: there’s life as she knew it before, and life as she must re-learn it now. But even as she’s busy dressing her new Barbie, perfecting her German, and gorging on fresh fruit, Mischka is aware that there’s part of her that can never escape her homeland, with its terrifying folktales, its insidious anti-Semitism, and its old family secrets. As her parents’ marriage splinters and her sister retreats into silence, Mischka has to find her own way of living when her head and her heart are in two places at once. There is darkness galore in this novel. But there is also much comedy to be had in its twisted and enchanted tales.


Kitchen Boy by Jenny Hobbs 

Luck matters. Life is chancy. An oval ball can bounce any way.
Springbok legend, celebrated war hero, thriving businessman – that was JJ Kitching, known to all as Kitchen Boy. His was a life as large as a sports stadium, as thrilling as an escape from a burning war plane. But now he lies dead in his coffin in a Durban cathedral. Funeral goers remember a glowing Natal childhood and the thunder of the rugby field, but also reveal lives lived on the sidelines and Kitching’s heavy war secret. Kitchen Boy is a novel about losses and victories, about justice and reconciliation in a tough world of tackles and tries.




Apocalypse for Beginners by Nicolas Dickner

Micky is your average teenage boy, until he meets 17 year old Hope Randall. Living in what was once an exotic pet shop with a bathtub for a bed, Hope is anything but average. For each member of her family, the onset of puberty has brought with it a prophetic vision of the end of the world, which invariably tips the expectant prophet over the edge when the armageddon fails to materialise. So far, Hope has not yet started her period or received her revelation. Instead, she picks a date at random, has it ‘confirmed’ by the best-before date on a batch of ramen noodles, and begins to wait for the worst. In the meantime, Micky is falling helplessly in love. But will he risk losing his soulmate if he confesses how he feels? And what kind of future can you have with someone who believes that doomsday looms? Moving between Canada and Japan, between solid ground and flights of the surreal, Apocalypse for Beginners is the lovely, surprising story of two people travelling from friendship to romance, and from separation to the possibility of reunion. From the author of the much loved Nikolski.



Voice of America by E.C Osondu

These are stories of Nigeria and of America, and of the frayed bonds that connect the two. Hostages are taken from an American expat bar. Attempts are made to get visas, and those who have succeeded return covered in wealth or in ignominy. Children are told tales of spirits who ride on horses and take bad little girls as their wives, but when hooves and flames do come to their house they are real enough. A man arrested at a brothel is framed as an armed robber by a corrupt police force. The radio station Voice of America brings a new pen pal, and some very high hopes, to a group of young men. This is a Nigeria of gossip and spells, of families and refugee camps, and Osondu makes it his own. Voice of America is an original, deft and darkly funny book. Osondu was awarded the 2009 Caine Prize for the first story in this volume – Waiting.

A clear head and a great ear, writing from crucial places.”    Jonathan Franzen

Osondu succeeds in creating a vivid and fully imagined world that is uniquely his own. It is a wonderful achievement.”                            Petina Gappah, Observer

Osondu’s prose style is that of the raconteur. It is direct and unmannered, it is inventive and humorous, but above all it is compelling.”               Helon Habila, Guardian


The Breakers by Claudie Gallay

In the storm-swept landscapes of Normandy’s Cotentin coastline lies a village that might just be at the ends of the earth. A woman has recently arrived in the community to seek healing for some deep sorrow. She spends her days observing and cataloguing migratory birds. On the day of a battering storm a stranger appears in the auberge’s bar, arousing her curiosity. He stirs up suspicion in the village, looking for answers to apparently unanswerable questions about his family, lost years earlier in an accident at sea. His brother’s body was never found. But what actually happened? How was it that the lighthouse did not guide them safely to shore?
The eccentric inhabitants of this desolate village seem riveted to old hatreds, and determined to leave secrets buried. But strange things begin to happen: photographs disappear, old toys reappear, and gradually the bird-watcher succeeds in unravelling a tragedy at the heart of a community in which many are suffering still from the absence of people they have loved and lost. And in the process finds her own peace. Set in a vast, empty landscape where the sea endlessly breaks on the rugged shore, The Breakers is as fascinating about the seascape and the birdlife as it is about the inhabitants of the village and the events that unfolded so long ago.

Translated from the French by Alison Anderson (translator of Elegance of the Hedgehog), this comes from the same publishing imprint that discovered Stieg Larsson – so definitely one to watch.

A gem of a book which cracks like a whip, slaps you in the face and ultimately explodes, leaving you stunned and blissful.” François Busnel, L’Express.

A beautifully constructed mystery.”                          Livres Hebdo



The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

A Lover's Dictionary: A Novel by David LevithanAuthor David Levithan has a number of highly-acclaimed Young Adult Fiction titles under his belt, and is perhaps most famous for co-writing Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist which was made into a movie a couple of years back. However, when he wrote a short love story in dictionary form as a Valentine’s gift for his friends, the response was so overwhelming that he set about turning it into a fully-fledged novel with a breathtakingly innovative and beautifully controlled form. Like a fictional version of Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse, Levithan runs through an A-Z of evocative words, each explained by reference to an anecdote or vignette that all add up to one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve read in a long time. Unlike Barthes’ book (which was subtitled “fragments”, and ultimately tried to illustrate the impossibility of capturing the ipseity of love in language) Levithan’s book is like a puzzle – the pieces might not be presented in sequence, but there is a determinable narrative. The characters are not sharply drawn, but emerge wonderfully clearly in a pointillist collage of snatches of conversation, incidents and musings. The writing is absolutely pitch-perfect, and the book a wonderful companion to and illustration of the glories and frustrations, the complexities and the wonder of that most common and elusive of human emotions. One of the best reads of the year.



Books to broaden the Mind



Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: 18th edition with introduction by Philip Pullman:

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable 18th edOpening the cover of Brewer’s dictionary could be compared to opening a Wunderkammer or cabinet of curious words and phrases, and within that cabinet finding many smaller ones in the form of some 30 000 entries. Look up “First lines in fiction”, for example, and you’ll find over 100 sub-headings, from “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to “Woman in white”, each containing their opening lines.

Following the trail of word-crumbs often leads somewhere completely different to where you began, which is really the beauty of this book, as most sub-headings suggest a new, related phrase or word to pursue, until you realise you’re happily lost in a forest of weird and wonderful ideas.

Originally published in 1870 by E. Cobham Brewer  and now in its 18th edition, its “Heritage entries” offer unique insight into the minds of enquiring Victorians, such as “Poison detectors” and “Enchanted castles” while still keeping an eye on the modern world with such entries as “Alligators in sewers” and “Designer babies”.

This is a must-have for all logophiles and the intellectually curious, or just those who’ve always wanted to know the origin of such gems as “Black pigeons of Dodona” or “The Macaroni Parson.”



Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky, with David Foster Wallace

It’s March 1996 and David Foster Wallace has just published his masterpiece Infinite Jest, which will make him internationally famous. Joining him on part of his publicity tour for the book, doing an article for Rolling Stone magazine, is David Lipsky.
What ensues is a five-day long road trip/interview during which Lipsky has his tape recorder running almost non-stop.
12 years later David Foster Wallace will take his own life. The Rolling Stone article will never be published, but the transcripts of that interview becomes for Lipsky: “…the one way of writing about him I don’t think David would have hated.”
They talk about romance, parents, money, literary fame, grudges, favourite films, directors and television shows, addiction and much more. They argue, they disagree and the one-upmanship between them is fascinating to watch. The end result is a candid, unfiltered and, in retrospect, moving account of “what David was like.”
It is one of the most influential voices in American letters in his own words, and a great way to gear up for the publication of DFW’s last, unfinished novel, The Pale King, later this year.



Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore 

Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilisations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the ‘centre of the world’ and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem’s biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women – kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores – who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem. As well as the many ordinary Jerusalemites who have left their mark on the city, its cast varies from Solomon, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent to Cleopatra, Caligula and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from the ancient world of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Rasputin and Lawrence of Arabia. Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique story of the city that many believe will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem: the only city that exists twice – in heaven and on earth.

A fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish.”                                             Christopher Hart, Sunday Times

Astoundingly ambitious and triumphantly epic history…His achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material can hardly be praised enough. There are few themes as demanding as the history of Jerusalem…tautly gripping…a book with its gaze fixed on the stars [but] also with its feet firmly in the gutter… A heavenly city Jerusalem may be; but it is also a relentlessly terrestrial one. The achievement of this marvellous book is to fuse them into one biography.”                     Tom Holland, Daily Telegraph

As one turns the pages of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s absorbing book…[one] becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem’s rulers and the ruled. Montefiore has a great novelist’s eye for detail, a great journalist’s nose for human frailty, and a great historian’s touch… judicious, nuanced, balanced and sensitive… when a history is written this way one can never have too much.”                         Michael Gove, The Times

Montefiore’s book, packed with fascinating and often grisly detail, is a gripping account of war, betrayal, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, persecution, corruption, hypocrisy and spirituality…Montefiore’s narrative is remarkably objective…A reliable and compelling account.”                            Antony Beevor, Guardian


To a Mountain in Tibet by Colin Thubron 


Mount Kailas is the most sacred of the world’s mountains – holy to one fifth of humanity. Isolated beyond the central Himalayas, it is claimed by myth to be the source of the universe created from cosmic waters and the mind of Brahma.

Its summit has never been scaled, but for centuries the mountain has been ritually circled by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims. Colin Thubron joins these pilgrims, after an arduous trek from Nepal, through the high passes of Tibet, to the magical lakes beneath the slopes of Kailas itself.

This haunting and beautiful travel book links Colin Thubron’s sympathetic intuition with the force and poetry of his descriptive writing. He talks to secluded villagers and to monks in their decaying monasteries; he tells the stories of exiles and of eccentric explorers from the West.

Yet there is another dimension in To a Mountain in Tibet. Colin Thubron recently witnessed the death of the last of his family. He is walking on a pilgrimage of his own. His trek around the great mountain, revered by multitudinous others, awakens an inner landscape of solitude, love, grief, restoring precious fragments of his own origins.

A master at the top of his craft…brilliant and strangely bewitching book.”     The Oldie


Faulks on Fiction by Sebastian Faulks

 The publication of Robinson Crusoe in London in 1719 marked the arrival of a revolutionary art form: the novel. British writers were prominent in shaping the new type of storytelling – one which reflected the experiences of ordinary people, with characters in whom readers could find not only an escape, but a deeper understanding of their own lives.

But the novel was more than just a reflection of British life. As Sebastian Faulks explains in this engaging literary and social history, it also helped invent the British. By focusing not on writers but on the people they gave us, Faulks not only celebrates the recently neglected act of novelistic creation but shows how the most enduring fictional characters over the centuries have helped map the British psyche – through heroes from Tom Jones to Sherlock Holmes, lovers from Mr Darcy to Lady Chatterley, villains from Fagin to Barbara Covett and snobs from Emma Woodhouse to James Bond.

A compelling and personal look at the British novel through its greatest characters – the heroes, lovers, snobs and villains – by bestselling novelist Sebastian Faulks

“Faulks on Fiction is not intended as a formal history of the British novel, but it is much more enjoyable than any history of the novel I have read.”                          John Carey, Sunday Times

“Faulks on Fiction is a fine reminder of why you love the characters you do; and it will serve as an introduction to new friends, too.”                    The Times


You are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier 

Something went wrong around the start of the twenty-first century. The crowd was wise. Social networks replaced individual creativity. There were more places to express ourselves than ever before…yet no one really had anything to say. Does this have to be our future?

In You are not a Gadget digital guru and virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier reveals how recent developments in our culture are deadening personal interaction, stifling genuine inventiveness and even changing us as people. Showing us the way to a future where individuals mean more than machines, this is a searing manifesto against mass mediocrity, a creative call to arms – and an impassioned defence of the human.

Jaron Lanier is a philosopher and computer scientist who has spent his career pushing the transformative power of modern technology to its limits. From coining the term ‘Virtual Reality’ and creating the world’s first immersive avatars to developing cutting-edge medical imaging and surgical techniques, Lanier is one of the premier designers and engineers at work today.

Lucid, powerful and persuasive . . . Necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day are reshaping culture and the marketplace.”                                  Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

There is hardly a page that does not contain some fascinating provocation.”                Guardian

Mind-bending, exuberant, brilliant.”                         Washington Post 



The Philosophy Book by Dorling Kindersley        

Another brilliant package from Dorling Kindersley – an innovative and accessible guide to more than 2,000 years of thought.

To the complete novice learning about philosophy can be daunting – The Philosophy Book will help. With the use of powerful and easy-to-follow images, succinct quotations, and explanations that are easily understandable, this book cuts through any misunderstandings to demystify the subject.

Each chapter is organised chronologically, and covers not only the big ideas, but the philosophers who first voiced them, as well as cross-referencing with earlier and later ideas and thinkers. The Philosophy Book untangles knotty theories and sheds light on abstract concepts, and is perfect for anyone with a general interest in how our social, political, and ethical ideas are formed, as well as students of philosophy and politics. Covers major and niche topics, from moral ethics to philosophies of religion


Edge of the Table: Fourteen Cape Flats Youths tell their life stories

Published by the Human Rights Media Centre. At the beginning of this project eight non-governmental organisations (NGO) working with vulnerable youth in Cape Town were identified as recipients of project funds. Over the three-year period this number was reduced to six. They include Workers World Media Productions (WWMP), Molo Songololo, the Young Women’s Chapter of the New Women’s Movement (NWM), Hands On, Youth4Change (Y4C) and Human Rights Media Centre (HRMC).

The HRMC’s project is called Our stories – by us and for us all and it involved the training of young people to play a role in the production of a book of life stories of youth living on the Cape Flats. The result is an important book, which tells the stories of some of the forgotten and disadvantaged youths of the Cape Flats in their own voices. The effect is hugely engaging, and brings home the appalling conditions that children face, right on our doorstep.

“From where I come from, everyone has a story and everyone comes from heartache”. Mario’s words powerfully prefigure the contents of these fourteen life narratives by young people on the Cape Flats. Behind the beauty of the Mother City lies the harsh reality of poverty and young people’s struggles to hold to their ideals in contexts that undercut them. Children learn young about violence, death, addiction and the failures of social institutions to care. Their encounters with life’s rawness force them constantly to refashion relationships that matter. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how we are failing our youth, and how they understand that failure.”                                          Fiona Ross, Associate Professor in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town


Unnatural: The Heretical Idea of Making People by Philip Ball 

Can we make a human being?

That question has been asked for many centuries, and has produced templates ranging from the homunculus of the medieval alchemists and the clay golem of Jewish legend to the cadaverous mosaic of Frankenstein’s monster and the mass-produced test-tube babies of Brave New World’s Hatcheries.

All of these efforts to create artificial people are more or less fanciful, but they have taken deep root in Western culture. They express fears about the allegedly treacherous, Faustian nature of technology, and they all question whether any artificially created person can be truly human. Legends of people-making are tainted by suspicions of impiety and hubris. It is often regarded as the ultimately ‘unnatural’ act.

In Unnatural, Philip Ball delves beneath the surface of the cultural history of ‘anthropoesis’ – the artificial creation of people – to explore what it tells us about our views on life, humanity, creativity and technology, and the soul.

He argues that to call something ‘unnatural’ is to make a moral judgement that has its origins in religious thought. Unnatural traces the threads that link the legendary inventor Daedalus to Goethe’s tragic Faust, the automata-making magicians of E. T. A. Hoffmann, the first robots, and, of course, to Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein.

Furthermore he argues that these old tales and legends are alive and well, subtly manipulating the current debates about assisted conception, embryo research and human cloning – which have at last made the idea of ‘making people’ into flesh and blood reality.

From the author of the highly acclaimed The Music Instinct and Universe of Stone.


Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder 

In the middle of Europe, in the middle of the twentieth century, the Nazi and Soviet regimes starved, shot and gassed fourteen million people in a zone of death between Berlin and Moscow. These were the bloodlands – today’s Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, western Russia and the eastern Baltic coast. In a twelve-year period – 1933 to 1945 – as a result of deliberate polices unrelated to combat, an average of more than a million civilians were murdered annually. At the end of the Second World War the bloodlands fell behind the iron curtain, leaving their history in darkness.

In this revelatory book Timothy Snyder offers a groundbreaking investigation of Europe’s killing fields and a sustained explanation of the motives and methods of both Hitler and Stalin. He anchors the history of Hitler’s Holocaust and Stalin’s Terror in their time and place and provides a fresh account of the relationship between the two regimes. Using scholarly literature and primary sources in all relevant languages, Snyder pays special attention to the testimony of the victims: the letters home, the notes flung from trains, the diaries found on corpses.

Brilliantly researched, profoundly humane, authoritative and original, Bloodlands re-examines the greatest tragedy in European history and forces us to rethink our past

“[Snyder’s] use of Polish sources makes this book almost unique for English-language readers…superb.”                                                Literary Review

A superb work of scholarship, full of revealing detail, cleverly compiled from a number of previously little-known sources.”                           Sunday Times

Gripping and comprehensive… revisionist history of the best kind: in spare, closely argued prose, with meticulous use of statistics.”                  Economist

Snyder set out to give a human face to the many millions of victims of totalitarianism. He has succeeded admirably.”                      BBC History Magazine

“…the figures are so huge and so awful that grief could grow numb. But Snyder, who is a noble writer as well as a great researcher, knows that. He asks us not to think in those round numbers.”                                      Guardian



Architect’s Sketchbooks edited by Will Jones


At a time when so much design is driven by digital platforms and design software, the good old-fashioned art of drawing and sketching by hand can sometimes seem outdated and old-fashioned. And yet, as this beautiful new collection of images gleaned from the pricate sketchbooks of 85 top architects around the globe shows, not only can the art of sketching be an irreplaceable part of the design process, but can result in breathtakingly beautiful images in themselves. The book features selections both from old hands like Norman Foster, Shigeru Ban and Will Alsop, as well as arising generation of exciting new talents. Beautiful, inspiring and fascinating.




Biografie van ‘n Bende: Die Storie van Fokofpolisiekar by Annie Klopper


Afrikaans band Fokofpolisiekar not only re-invented Afrikaans rock music, but almost single-handedly created a completely new Afrikaans counter-culture around them. Academic, journalist and fan Annie Klopper has been following and studying the band from their inception, and this beautifully-designed book tells their story in a very unconventional way. Klopper’s initial draft was an “unauthorised biography” – but she then took the unusual step of passing the manuscript around their band, and the finished result retains their marginal comments, doodles and strike-outs in their own handwriting. It is richly-illustrated and multi-faceted, and is not just the story of a great band, but also set to be one of the defining documents of a unique cultural moment.






Deadlands by Lily Hearne 


A juicy, blood-thirsty fun read set in a futuristic Cape Town, where nothing is as we used to know it. Dystopian novels are the next big thing in young adult reading and this local author combines it well with her love of the walking dead. The heroine is the feisty, 17-year old Lele de la Fontein, who starts to question the set-up whereby everyone who survived the first zombie war is kept in the City Bowl by the Guardians, who use the sinister Resurrectionist cult to run day-to-day life with a tight rein. The world around the City is the Deadlands where zombies rule and no one really dares to go, but then Lele’s future gets decided for her when she gets picked for the Lottery. Her determination to survive sets her life on a new course where she meets the Underground movement called the Mall Rats (enter the beautiful young man with a dark past!). Deadlands is a light 1984 with zombies and Table Mountain and a bit of romance just to keep it all going… a book all should be dying to read (pun intended).



Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black

In the world of young adult fiction we are often bombarded with big questions about love and life, but here is a new question: which is better – Zombies or Unicorns? The answers come in a great collection of short stories from various authors such as Cassandra Clare, Garth Nix, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld and others debating the idea with great characters from either side of the coin. The stories will have you stuck between old school magic and fantasy and the beauty of new horror. The collection started as an on-line debate years ago between two of the authors about which makes for better fiction and now you get to have the final say. Which world would you choose? What happened to flesh-eating unicorns?

Annie Holmes – Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives

Tuesday, March 29th 2011 at 5:30 PM

The situation in Zimbabwe represents one of the worst humanitarian emergencies today. This book asks the question: How did a country with so much promise – a stellar education system, a growing middle class, a sophisticated economic infrastructure, a liberal constitution, an independent judiciary, and many of the trappings of western democracy – go so wrong? We ask the people who know this complicated story best – the Zimbabwean people who have endured (and hoped) across the decades to tell their side of this story. In their own words, they recount their experiences of losing their homes, land, livelihoods, and families as a direct result of political violence. They describe being tortured in detention, firebombed at work, or beaten up or raped to “punish” votes for the opposition. Those forced to flee to neighboring countries recount their escapes: cutting through fences, swimming across crocodile-infested rivers, and entrusting themselves to human smugglers. This book includes Zimbabweans of every age, class and political conviction, from farm laborers to academics, doctors to artists, opposition leaders to ordinary Zimbabweans; men and women simply trying to survive as a once-thriving nation heads for collapse.

The fifth volume in the Voice of Witness series presents the personal stories of Zimbabweans whose lives have been most affected by the country’s political and economic crises.

Annie Holmes is a Zimbabwean documentary filmmaker and author of Good Red. She works for JASS, an international women’s rights organization based in  Washington, D.C.

Annie will be in discussion with Brian Wafawarowa, Executive Director of PASA – the Publishers’ Association of South Africa.


Food Auction for Ikamvayouth

Thursday, March 24th 2011 at 6:00 PM

An auction of exuberant, exceptional and highly erudite taste with one goal in mind: raising awareness and funds for IKAMVAYOUTH.

The Food Auction

24th March
Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street
18.00 for 18.30

An auction of exuberant, exceptional and highly erudite taste.
Devised, developed and dedicated with one goal in mind: raising awareness and funds for IKAMVAYOUTH.

IKAMVAYOUTH is a non-profit organisation that enables disadvantaged learners to lift themselves out of poverty into
university and employment. Through supplementary tutoring and mentoring IKAMVAYOUTH learners have achieved between
an 87 and 100% matric pass rate since 2005. Less than 5% of township learners go onto higher learning.

More than 70% of the last two IKAMVAYOUTH matric groups have gained access to tertiary education.

Join us for a fun evening with a lot of bidding and winnings to feel good about!
Test Kitchen, Chef’s Warehouse, Leopard’s Leap, Societi Bistro, Le Creuset, Yuppie Chef and more will be there –
and so should you.


Edge of the Table: Fourteen Cape Flats Youths tell their life stories

Tuesday, March 22nd 2011 at 5:30 PM

Join us for the launch of Edge of the Table, a book produced by the Human Rights Media Centre to highlight the plight of young people on the Cape Flats.

Originally eight non-governmental organisations (NGO) working with vulnerable youth in Cape Town were identified as recipients of project funds. Over the three-year period this number was reduced to six. They include Workers World Media Productions (WWMP), Molo Songololo, the Young Women’s Chapter of the New Women’s Movement (NWM), Hands On, Youth4Change (Y4C) and Human Rights Media Centre (HRMC).

The HRMC’s project is called Our stories – by us and for us all and it involved the training of young people to play a role in the production of a book of life stories of youth living on the Cape Flats. The exhibition component of the project would be drawn from these narratives and would provide and additional medium to reach audiences.

The result is an important book, which will be launched at the Book Lounge. Co-editors Cara-Lee Arendse and Shirley Gunn of the Human Rights Media Centre will be speaking, as well as some of the life storytellers from the book.

“From where I come from, everyone has a story and everyone comes from heartache”. Mario’s words powerfully prefigure the contents of these fourteen life narratives by young people on the Cape Flats. Behind the beauty of the Mother City lies the harsh reality of poverty and young people’s struggles to hold to their ideals in contexts that undercut them. Children learn young about violence, death, addiction and the failures of social institutions to care. Their encounters with life’s rawness force them constantly to refashion relationships that matter.

This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how we are failing our youth, and how they understand that failure.”

Fiona Ross, Associate Professor in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town

An exhibition to accompany the book will also take place at the District Six Museum. The exhibition launch will be on March 21st, with Keynote Speaker Judge Siraj Desai, and will continue for a month.

“This is the most authentic account of young South Africans’ life experience I have ever read. Fourteen extremely courageous young men and women let you under their skin. They tell their stories about growing up on the Cape Flats with wit, feeling and huge integrity. Because the stories are recorded by their own peers, the voices remain fresh and free of sentimentality. If you want a glimpse into the world of South African youth, then read this book.”

Jette Kristiansen, journalist


Support for Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo

Sunday, March 20th 2011 at 2:30 PM

On 20 March at 14h30, a number of South African poets will gather to read in protest of the ongoing detention of Chinese poet and Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiaobo. Held locally under the auspices of SA PEN’s Writers in the Prison committee and Poetry International South Africa, this reading is one of over 70 similar events taking place world-wide on the day in a statement of support for Xiaobo.

Writers with first hand experience of prison will be joined by poets who will read Xiaobo’s “Charter 08” and his poem, “You Wait for me with Dust”. This statement of support is an initiative of the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin.

Please join James Matthews, Margie Orford, Lynn Carneson, Ruth Carneson, Keith Gottschalk, Ken Barris, Kelwyn Sole and Liesl Jobson. A message of support from Denis Goldberg will be read at the event. Enjoy a glass of wine afterwards.


Magema Fuze: The Making of a Kholwa Intellectual by Hlonipha Mokoena

Thursday, March 17th 2011 at 5:30 PM

As the author of Abantu Abamnyama Lapa Bavela Ngakona [1922] (trans. The Black People and Whence They Came [1979]), Magema Fuze was a classic South African example of how first-generation converts made the transition from oral to literate cultures, from the homestead to the mission, and from being ‘native informants’ to being kholwa intellectuals. The kholwa had no secure cultural or political identity, caught as they were in the ‘Natal-Zululand divide,’ between the promise of full and equal incorporation into colonial society and the ties that bound them to traditional society and culture. This book examines the life of Magema Fuze and suggests that kholwa identity was fashioned through the practice of bricolage: the cobbling together, in indeterminate and sometimes contradictory ways, of elements from both colonial and indigenous cultures. The amakholwa used the instruments of cultural imperialism – namely petitions, letters, books, and newspapers – to create a signature resistance to subjugation and conquest. Magema Fuze’s literary life represents a black intellectual tradition whose potential was not realized. Beyond his work as a printer and scribe, it is worth adding another role, namely that Fuze was a popular South African historian who attempted to write histories with intimate resonances that would appeal to his readers and rouse their nationalistic sentiments.

Hlonipha will be in discussion with Deborah Posel, Director of the Institue for Humanities in Africa (HUMA)


Trailer for Mike Nicol’s latest Cape Town thriller

Thursday, March 17th 2011 at 3:57 PM

Cover for "Black Heart" by Mike NicolIf you’ve enjoyed Mike Nicol’s previous two crime novels set in Cape Town, Payback and Killer Country, you’ll be excited to see the Trailer for Black Heart, the new thriller by Mike Nicol.

It looks dazzling – enjoy!

The book will be released in late April – please contact us to reserve a copy, and be notified when it arrives!


Brent Meersman: Reports before Daybreak

Tuesday, March 15th 2011 at 5:30 PM

1980s South Africa – the Republic is ablaze. Zukiswa Nonkosi’s half-brother returns as a freedom fighter. Fifteen kilometres away but a world apart, François de Koninck leaves to fight on the border, while his brother musters dreams of becoming an artist. In a mansion on the other side of town, Bertie Diepenaar is reading Marx.
Across all barriers, fate will link their destinies as all hell breaks loose.
Framing their story with newspaper headlines, biographies and eyewitness accounts, Reports Before Daybreak is a portrait of the country in its darkest decade, but with the promise of a new beginning with Mandela’s release. It is the story of a generation’s coming of age and the breaking of a new dawn.

Brent Meersman is a theatre critic, restaurant reviewer and travel writer. His first novel, Primary Coloured, was published in 2007. He lives and works in Cape Town.

Praise for Primary Coloured:

a racy, gripping read” – Barry Ronge, Sunday Times

astute, informed and at times highly entertaining … an important addition to South African political writing” – Anél Powell, Cape Times

Meersman has included enough subterfuge and intrigue to make one’s head spin. He does so, however, never losing control of his material or a sense of his characters’ humanity … It’s a must read for those who enjoy intelligent suspense fiction” – Marianne Thamm, Mail & Guardian

Brent will be in conversation with acclaimed journalist Marianne Thamm, author of I Have Life