John Berger was one of the most influential thinkers & writers of postwar Europe. As a novelist, he won the Booker Prize in 1972, donating half his prize money to the Black Panthers; as a TV presenter he changed the way we looked at art in Ways of Seeing; as a storyteller & political activist he defended the rights & dignity of workers, migrants & the oppressed around the world. In 1953 he wrote: “Far from dragging politics into art, art has dragged me into politics.” He remained a revolutionary up to his death in January, 2017.

In A Writer of Our Time, Joshua Sperling places Berger’s life and works within the historical narrative of postwar Britain … More

Born OTD in 1918, South African lawyer and politician, Nelson Mandela. Freedom fighter, fugitive, celebrated prisoner, president: the hero of a nation. Mandela was called a terrorist, forced into hiding, captured, threatened with the death penalty and eventually thrown into prison for 27 years, but nothing could stop him from fighting to liberate his country from the infamous sytem of apartheid, which for so many years sought to separate people by race in South Africa. A hero in the struggle, he never gave up.

Even when he was a prisoner, he worked secretly with his comrades to undermine South Africa’s oppressive government. This is … More

Born OTD in 1869, Lithuanian anarchist political activist & writer, Emma Goldman. Goldman was well known during her life, described as, among other things, “the most dangerous woman in America”. In essays like “The Hypocrisy of Puritanism” & a speech entitled “The Failure of Christianity”, Goldman made more than a few enemies among religious communities by attacking their moralistic attitudes & efforts to control human behavior. She blamed Christianity for “the perpetuation of a slave society”, arguing that it dictated individuals’ actions on Earth & offered poor people a false promise of a plentiful future in heaven. She was also critical of Zionism, which she saw as another failed experiment in state control.

A wonderful retelling of the famous anarchist and radical icon Emma Goldman’s extraordinary life, this graphic biography embodies the richness … More

Happy #Bloomsday2020 Edna O’Brien depicts James Joyce as a man hammered by Church, State and family, yet from such adversities he wrote works ‘to bestir the hearts of men and angels’. The journey begins with Joyce the arrogant youth, his lofty courtship of Nora Barnacle, their hectic sexuality, children, wanderings, debt and profligacy, and Joyce’s obsession with the city of Dublin, which he would re-render through his words…

..Nor does Edna O’Brien spare us the anger and isolation of Joyce’s later years, when he felt that the world … More

Born OTD in 1868, James Connolly. From Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, to conservative Irish nationalists and the Church, many groups have claimed Connolly as their own, his ideas and strategies used and distorted to justify particular political positions. Kieran Allen breaks this mould, assessing the founder of the Irish Marxist movement ideas from a revolutionary socialist perspective.

Allen considers the strengths and weaknesses of Connolly’s revolutionary strategy, the effect of his commitment to international socialism on his … More

Soren Kierkegaard, one of the most passionate and challenging of modern philosophers, is now celebrated as the father of existentialism – yet his contemporaries described him as a philosopher of the heart. Over about a decade in the 1840s and 1850s, writings poured from his pen analysing love and suffering, courage and anxiety, religious longing and defiance, and forging a new philosophical style rooted in the inward drama of being human. As Christianity seemed to sleepwalk through a changing world, Kierkegaard dazzlingly revealed its spiritual power while exposing the poverty of official religion.

His restless creativity was spurred on by his own failures: his relationship with the young woman whom he promised to … More

Born OTD in 1922, Trinidadian calypsonian, Aldwyn Roberts, AKA Lord Kitchener. He toured Jamaica for six months in 1947-8 with Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore) and Lord Woodbine (Harold Philips) before they took passage on the Empire Windrush to England in 1948. Upon his arrival, Kitchener performed the specially-written song “London Is the Place for Me”.

Combining factual biography with the imaginative structure and investment in the language of the novel, Anthony Joseph fully engages with … More

David Lynch – co-creator of Twin Peaks and writer and director of groundbreaking films such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive – opens up about a lifetime of extraordinary creativity, the friendships he has made along the way and the struggles he has faced to bring his projects to fruition.

Room to Dream is both an astonishing memoir told in Lynch’s own words and a landmark biography based on hundreds … More

In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco that would be her home for the next twenty-five years. There, she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. That violence weighed on her as she faced the task of having a voice in a society that preferred women to shut up or go away. Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture & West Coast activism, during the latter years of second wave feminism, Recollections of My Non-Existence is the foundational story of an emerging artist struggling against patriarchal violence & scorn.

Recalling the experience of living with fear, which Solnit contends is the normal state of women, she considers how oppression … More