Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Just quickly. I went book shopping today (unintentionally, of course) and picked up two books - one of which was a super-cheap and very attractive (nay, cute) copy of Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents - part of the Penguin "Great Ideas" series. Now, this series is, as many have pointed out, hugely parochial and full of hyperbole: though it includes some quite-nice works (some Seneca, Montaigne, The Communist Manifesto, the Freud...), it's not only very Western in the worst Capital-W, self-aggrandising and self-reflexive kind of way, but also so horribly English in its selection of titles (not looking at anyone in particular, George Orwell...). It's got the feeling of one of those "Greatest Hits of the 90s" CDs that includes at least 2 forgettables but no Madonna. Even so, these books are very well-designed (and cute! did I mention cute, in a minimalist kind of fashion?) so I'll probably purchase a few more when they arrive at Readings. (This is undoubtably a clever piece of marketing on Penguin's behalf.)

In relation to the above, then, I include the following links. Firstly, this article - "Written Out of History", by Ziauddin Sardar - is a rather apt criticism/critique of the series and its bias of selection: when it gets to the bit about how the west has shaped its identity "by appropriating eastern achievements and then writing them out of history", you can almost hear those solemn words of Walter Benjamin: "there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism." The second link should give you a taste of the wiffle-waffle publicity that has gone along with this series: it's an interview on the Penguin website with Simon Winder, the editor of the series, entitled - Read the Revolution. (Yikes!) To make matters worse, it peddles more of that cliched and misguided rubbish about the arguments in The Communist Manifesto being "discredited" - suggesting, perhaps, that Winder has never either a) heard of globalisation, or b) read the work in question. Not that you'd expect anything more from the promotional material on the series' website.

Toorah - I meet tomorrow for a meeting with my Honours co-ordinator, regarding the possibility of my taking 6 months off. You'll pray for me, won't you? Of course you will.



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