William Heinemann

Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Shaun Whiteside

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December 2019, no. 417

Serotonin is Michel Houellebecq’s eighth novel and appears four years after the scandalous and critically successful Submission (2015), a dystopian novel that depicts France under sharia law. In Serotonin, we are again presented with the standard Houellebecquian narrator: white, middle-aged, and middle class, seemingly in the throes of some mid-life crisis of a predominantly – but not exclusively – sexual nature.

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The link between fundamentalist religion, violence, and madness is well established. The conviction of absolute truth becomes especially toxic when believers are convinced that the end of the world is nigh. This is exacerbated in times of major socio-economic change and political instability, such as during the Protestant Reformation ...

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Thinking the Twentieth Century by Tony Judt, with Timothy Snyder

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June 2012, no. 342

This author, this book, and its composition are all extraordinary. Tony Judt, one of the most distinguished historians of his generation, made his name with studies of French intellectual history, then in 2005 he published his masterwork, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. ...

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Australian war historians usually find their theme in the army. Mike Carlton, a well-known journalist, thinks it is time to praise the Australian warship Perth and its men: ‘They were the flower of Australia’s greatest generation. No other has been so tested.’

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Late in November 1916, the German commerce raider Wolf, laden with 100 tonnes of mines, set out on a journey of 100,000 kilometres across three oceans. After the ship reached home, in February 1918, 442 days later, its guns and mines had destroyed more than twenty Allied vessels. Hundreds of their crews and passengers had been held captive. When the voyage of the Wolf began, German U-boats were sinking hundreds of thousands of tonnes of shipping each month. The belated adoption of the convoy system drastically reduced those losses, so that the Germans, rather than the British, suffered the worse privation in the last year of the Great War. In that time, Wolf was the only German surface warship not penned up by the British naval blockade.

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There were no winners in the first round of the Orr Case. Sydney Sparkes Orr lost his job as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tasmania in 1955. Suzanne Kemp, who had accused him of seduction, lost her reputation. Her father, who had supported her accusations, was subjected to all manner of speculation and innuendo. Edwin Tanner, a mature-age student who had complained about Orr’s poor teaching and his requests for professional favours, had his life ruined. Dr Milanov, Orr’s colleague who had protested that Orr was harassing him professionally, found himself subjected to just the kind of persecution he had fled in his native Serbia.

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Nights with Grace by Rosie Scott & Strange Objects by Gary Crew

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December 1990–January 1991, no. 127

My acid test of a good novel is how long the characters reverberate in the consciousness after the book has been put down. After I read both these books, I carried Grace Starr and Steven Messenger around in my head for weeks – both of them dangerous and mysterious persons, but in very different ways.

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In September 1960, Jill Ker, aged twenty-six, left Australia for good. She was off to study history at Harvard and, as it turned out, to make a career as a high-flying academic administrator in the States. The ties she was breaking were those that bound her to her widowed mother and, above all, to Coorain, the thirty-thousand-acre property her father had acquired in 1929 as a soldier settler and where she had spent the first eleven years of her life. The Road from Coorain is her account – all the more moving for being carefully neutral in tone – of how those ties were formed as she grew up and how she reached her decision to break them.

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