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Best of 2018: Books

BY MICHAL BONCZA

 

THOUGH written almost a century ago, Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win by Clara Zetkin (Haymarket Books), her seminal 1923 report and resolution to the Communist International, couldn’t be more timely.

The political discipline of Zetkin’s Marxist analysis strips fascism of its pretences, exposing its manipulative deceptions and political dishonesty. She identifies fascism as “an asylum for all the politically homeless, the socially uprooted, the destitute and disillusioned” and as an international phenomenon requiring a corresponding resistance if it is to be defeated. A must-read.

Magritte – This is not a Biography by Thomas Campi and Vincent Zabus, (SelfMade Hero) is an entertaining and humorous account of nonconformist office worker Charles Singulier's search for the true Rene Magritte, who was close to the Belgian Communist Party all his life.

Whimsically written by Zabus and gloriously illustrated by Thomas Campi, it underlines how, for Magritte, “class consciousness is as necessary as bread” and that, for a “communist painter, the justification of artistic activity is to create pictures that can represent mental luxury.”

In Latin America, time is measured before and after Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America, banned by all the dictatorships of the region after it was first published in 1971.

His final work Hunter of Stories (Constable), completed shortly before his death in 2015, is a collection of literary pearls rarely longer than half a page and, exquisitely translated by Mark Fried, they astonish, inspire reflection, educate and entertain.

Galeano confesses to writing in the “hope of making us all stronger than our fear of failure or of punishment, when choosing between indignation and indignity.” What could be nobler?

SOS Brutalism: A Global Survey, edited by Oliver Elser, Philip Kurz, Peter Cachola Schmal
(Park Books), aims to raise awareness of the cultural heritage inherent in those buildings dubbed “brutalist,”as well as the all-important legacy they articulate of an architecture not for profit but for social purpose.

Almost 100 contributors document 120 key buildings in a dozen regions around the world, with many shown for the first time through often spectacular photography. Brutalist architecture is a witness to a period when making the world into a better place was on the political agenda shared by the many but opposed by the greed of the few.

By protecting it, we protect our future as much as our own humanity against the reductionist vulgarity and degradation of neoliberalism.

 

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