From one of the world’s most admired war correspondents, Christina Lamb, comes a searing indictment of the West’s involvement in wars against fundamentalist Islam, Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World. The pointless loss of American, British and Australian lives, has achieved nothing; despite the efforts to eliminate the Taliban from the country, their presence has continued to grow. Insurgent attacks have also increased, and the region still struggles against poverty, an unstable infrastructure and a huge number of land mines. Initially billed as the West’s success story by both Bush and Blair, Afghanistan remains a lawless, violent land. The promises made to its people in 2001 have not been fulfilled. Foreign correspondent for one of the world’s leading newspapers, The Sunday Times, educated at Oxford, a Fellow at Harvard University, a member of the National Geographic Society, former British Foreign Correspondent of the year and a multi award winner, Lamb has been reporting on the region of “pomegranates and war” since the age of 21, when she crossed the Hindu Kush into Afghanistan with mujaheddin fighting the Russians and fell unequivocally in love with this fierce country, a relationship which has dominated her adult life. Lamb has fought with the mujahadeen dressed as an Afghan boy, experienced a near-fatal ambush and head-on encounter with Taliban forces and successfully established links with American, British, Afghan government, Taliban and tribal fighters. Her unparalleled access to troops and civilians on the ground, as well as to top military officials has ensured that Farewell Kabul is the definitive book on the region, exposing the realities of Afghanistan unlike anyone before, compelling, moving and impossible to put down.
Timothy Mo, who as the son of wealthy Hong Kong Chinese attended Oxford, is a superbly gifted writer but a difficult man who has long fought with his publishers. Once a favourite of the English literary set, he fell out of favour. In later life he has produced a masterwork, Pure. Mo had always wondered why a dynamic art form such as fiction had failed to confront the single most pressing issue of the age, the minds and motivations of Muslim fundamentalists. With a tide of jihad sweeping the world, the question became ever more pressing. In Pure Timothy Mo uses the device of character. He pits an ice addicted yaba addled Bangkok lady boy, a freelance entertainment journalist called Snooky, “Snooky was lonely because she was smart”, into the world of mujaheddin training camps in southern Thailand. Co-opted as a spy, there she grows a beard, participates in forays into the world of jihad in Indonesia, and reports to her minder, caught between the hidden, complex worlds of intelligence operatives and Muslim jihadists. Thanks to fights with his publishers, this book has never received the attention it deserves. Simply put: Pure is a must read, a neglected masterpiece.
By Tim Flynn, Illustrated by Michael Fitzjames The End the Lockdown Australia group on Facebook was formed in early April, mainly because of the fundamental belief of the founder Tim Flynn that “he had to do something”. In a time… Continue Reading →
Julian Assange continues to demonstrate why he is one of the most significant journalistic, publishing and whistle blowing figures of the 21st Century, with the latest bout of revelations about the conduct of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton foundation, linking them to the same sources of Saudi Arabian funding as for Islamic State. WikiLeaks came to prominence in 2010 with the release of 251,287 top-secret State Department cables, which revealed to the world what the US government really thinks about national leaders, friendly dictators, and supposed allies. It brought to the surface the dark truths of crimes committed in our name: human rights violations, covert operations, and cover-ups. The WikiLeaks Files exposes the machinations of the United States as it imposes a new form of imperialism on the world, one founded on tactics from torture to military action, to trade deals and “soft power,” in the perpetual pursuit of expanding influence. The book also includes an introduction by Julian Assange examining the ongoing debates about freedom of information, international surveillance, and justice.
The Terrible Legacy of Malcolm Turnbull The First Harpoon Strikes the Flank In the petri dish of Australian politics, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thrashes in a blood soaked sea. The first leadership spill, on Tuesday 21st August, 2018, precipitated by the… Continue Reading →
The Places in Between by Scottish author Rory Stewart is one of the most beautiful travel books ever written. He walked across Afghanistan-surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. By day he passed through mountains covered in nine feet of snow, hamlets burned and emptied by the Taliban, and communities thriving amid the remains of medieval civilizations. By night he slept on villagers’ floors, shared their meals, and listened to their stories of the recent and ancient past. Along the way Stewart met heroes and rogues, tribal elders and teenage soldiers, Taliban commanders and foreign-aid workers. He was also adopted by an unexpected companion-a retired fighting mastiff he named Babur in honor of Afghanistan’s first Mughal emperor, in whose footsteps the pair was following.
“Emotions are not just the fuel that powers the psychological mechanism of a reasoning creature, they are parts, highly complex and messy parts, of this creature’s reasoning itself,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote in her incisive treatise on the intelligence of emotions, titled after Proust’s powerful poetic image depicting the emotions as “geologic upheavals of thought.” But much of the messiness of our emotions comes from the inverse: Our thoughts, in a sense, are geologic upheavals of feeling — an immensity of our reasoning is devoted to making sense of, or rationalizing, the emotional patterns that underpin our intuitive responses to the world and therefore shape our very reality. Our interior lives unfold across landscapes that seem to belong to an alien world whose terrain is as difficult to map as it is to navigate — a world against which the young Dostoyevsky roiled in a frustrated letter on reason and emotion, and one which Antoine de Saint-Exupéry embraced so lyrically in one of the most memorable lines from The Little Prince: “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”
The world is turning into one vast Disneyland. Authentic travel experiences are becoming increasingly hard to come across. “Let’s go blah blah blah the tourists”, is the cry of touts from once isolated mountain kingdoms to once scarcely visited tropical islands. Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism by journalist Elizabeth Becker is the most significant book to be written on the industry this decade. Tourism, fast becoming the largest global business, employing one out of twelve persons and produces $6.5 trillion of the world’s economy. Tourism is the top single revenue source in countries as diverse as France and Thailand.
“I struggle awake and there she is, Russia. A silver-haired grandmother in a flowered nightgown.” After two and a half years as Moscow bureau chief for National Public Radio and co-host of the Morning Edition, America’s most widely heard radio news program, author David Greene journeys thousands of kilometres by rail from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok to find out how Russians’ lives have changed in the post-Soviet years. He meets a group of singing babushkas from Buranovo, a teenager hawking ‘space rocks’ from a meteor shower in Chelyabinsk, and activists battling for environmental regulation in the pollution-choked town of Baikalsk.
Highly controversial, Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia has a troubled history. Leading Australian publisher Allen & Unwin ditched the book in November, 2017, citing fear of legal action from the Chinese government or its proxies. The book was originally subtitled: How China Is Turning Australia into a Puppet State.
Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, author Clive Hamilton said: “I’m not aware of any other instance in Australian history where a foreign power has stopped publication of a book that criticises it. The reason they’ve decided not to publish this book is the very reason the book needs to be published.”
The book was only published after it was tendered as part of an Australian government inquiry into foreign interference. The SMH recorded: While such activity is carried out by other states, elements of Beijing’s influence campaign are clandestine or highly opaque. According to media investigations and warnings from spy agency ASIO, these efforts are targeted at Australian politicians and academics.
Hotel Kerobokan, or Hotel K, is Bali’s most notorious jail. With the murderous Widoto regime of Indonesian executing another group of foreigners for alleged trafficking, while the Indonesians who sold them the drugs are not so much as charged, the rank corruption of Indonesia’s notoriously dishonest justice system has been exposed for all to see. Widoto’s decision to ignore international outcry over the executions has plummeted his country’s reputation to new lows. Billions of dollars in foreign aid flow to Indonesia each to prop up this appalling regime. It is a clear abuse of international taxpayers resources and should be stopped. In Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Most Notorious Jail, acclaimed Australian journalist Kathryn Bonella exposes the inside of hell, Indonesia’s barbaric penal system.
ASIO: The Enemy Within, largely ignored by Australia’s mainstream media, is a must read book for anyone wanting to understand the conundrum that is Australia today. Critics describe the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation as a secret police force which has done enormous harm to the country’s once flourishing democracy. The country’s politicians have remained silent, either out of their own personal fears or because it suits them. This is an important book which is long overdue. With the Australian government gifting extraordinary powers, protecting it from journalistic scrutiny with some of the most totalitarian legislation imaginable, and increasing its funding in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars in the so-called war on terror, this book is more relevant than ever. Author of ASIO: The Enemy Within, Michael Tubbs, a barrister who took the fight to one of the countries most secretive organisations, is a credible and powerful critic, all the more so because he is not a professional writer but a concerned citizen who has seen at first hand, as a representative of aggrieved parties, too many lives and careers pointlessly destroyed. If you want to know what ASIO has been doing in and to Australian society, this is the book for you. Other books have been written about ASIO, but this book is unique in many ways. No one is better qualified to deal with Australia’s premier domestic nosey parker than Michael Tubbs, one of the few barristers who took the fight up to ASIO by appearing for clients who had fallen foul of its powers. No punches are pulled as Tubbs tries to deliver the Knock-out blow to ASIO and put it out of business. If you want to know how ASIO’s national network of political spies have surreptitiously and manipulatively affected Australia’s free society and changed its political landscape, you need to read this book.
As the blurbs go: a fascinating insight into the white underclass who voted for Donald Trump en masse, ensuring a Presidency like no other. The book The Deplorables may yet to be written. But Hillbilly Elegy comes mighty close.
It is one of those books which is most striking not for what it says, not for its lyricism or poetic insights, but simply because it exists. Because it tells a simple tale of life as it is lived.
Here is an extract from the Introduction:
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. All the Light We Cannot See has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The judging panel called Doerr’s book “an imaginative and intricate novel”, which is “written in short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradictory power of technology”. The Guardian described it as “a piece of luck for anyone with a long plane journey or beach holiday ahead. It is such a page-turner, entirely absorbing.”
Pre-orders are now available for Tim Winton’s Island Home: A Landscape Memoir, the latest from one of Australia’s most loved writers.
Winton writes: “I grew up on the world’s largest island. I’m increasingly mindful of the degree to which geography, distance and weather have moulded my sensory palate, my imagination and expectations. The island continent has not been mere background. Landscape has exerted a kind of force upon me that is every bit as geological as family.
“To be a writer preoccupied with landscape is to accept a weird and constant tension between the indoors and the outdoors. I am so thin-skinned about weather and so eager for physical sensation I seem to spend a shameful amount of energy fretting and plotting escape, like a schoolboy. Sat near a window as a pupil, I was a dead loss. And I’m not much different now. I can’t even hang a painting in my workroom, for what else is a painting but a window? My thoughts are drawn outward; I’m entranced. This country leans in on you. It weighs down hard. Like family. To my way of thinking, it is family.”