Ansell, Pascal

Ansell, Pascal

Pascal Ansell

1 October 2022Review

Zed, 2019; 208pp; £9.99 

None of us will ever travel to North Korea. We read about the regime and its atrocities, but far away from our information-saturated lives, what could it mean to exist on the other side? Poetry is literature's most condensed form, and in such concentrated doses we begin to get a taste of daily life under Kim Jong-il's regime, one of a permanent, colourless winter. 

These 51 poems find themselves melting onto our desks, each one desperate to be read. They are written by Bandi, the…

1 February 2022Review

Zed Books, 2021; 288pp; £12.99

An island nation cowering below its gargantuan big brother China, the Taiwanese have been 'robbed of a fundamental part of their identity'. Its fascinating paradox lies in the fact many Taiwanese consider themselves more Chinese than China itself.

Taiwan was never even meant to be its own independent entity. During the Chinese Civil War (1927 - 1949), Mao's opponent Chiang Kai-Shek was exiled to the South Sea island formerly known as Formosa – the name given to it by the Portuguese.…

1 August 2021Review

Verso 2020; 528pp; £20

In its earliest form, the manifesto acted as a loudspeaker for sovereign power. Since the 16th century, however, the manifesto has travelled from the quills of monarchs and church leaders to find shiny new forms as a game-changing catalyst.

Manifestos are always at odds with society, and society is always ill-at-ease with them. They are intended to provoke action, and are frequently distant from mild-mannered argumentation.

A decent manifesto grabs you. The original meaning of…

19 November 2020Review

Verso, 2019; 272pp; £16.99

‘The B Word’. On a recent trip back to the UK from my adopted home of Portugal I was warned-off from using it. For Brexit has become a site of psychic trauma that forces its sufferers into what James Meek terms ‘a horribly demoralising reconfiguration of their sense of themselves.’

It has revealed a side to England that was always there - and that left liberals didn’t listen hard enough to detect. Something that was allowed to happen, more as a failure of the left than a victory of…

1 December 2019Review

Pluto, 2017; 256pp; £16.99

The term ‘austerity’ reminds me of comedian Stewart Lee’s quip that: ‘if political correctness has achieved anything, it’s forced the Conservatives to cloak their inherent racism in more creative language’.

This collection of essays brilliantly and engagingly covers everything from food and fuel poverty to welfare reforms and environmental degradation, reminding us that all spheres of life are affected by austerity measures.

Infant mortality rates have risen for the last four…

1 August 2019Review

Pluto Press, 2017; 224pp; £12.99

Music resonates in all corners of our lives. ‘It walks us down the aisle and marches us off to war.’ Dave Randall manages to sing music’s political praises while keeping his feet on the ground, siphoning the best of what has been thought about music into a book that is straightforward, intimate and downright delightful.

As a performer himself, Randall is no armchair theorist. We are with him as he plays with the band Faithless; and later pogo past him in a rave. Here in the club, we…

1 August 2019Review

Pluto Press, 2019; 352pp; £19.99

 ‘Never have so many people decided so much in Portugal as between 1974 and 1975’. The peaceful revolution which kicked off this period, on April 25th 1974, is extraordinary. Not a single shot was fired by the revolutionaries, who risked everything to oust the country’s fascist regime and push the backwards state into the future. Raquel Varela is right to celebrate what followed, not just the day of the revolution. Workers took control of the factories, strikers won long sought-after rights…

1 June 2019Review

Pluto Press: 2017; 294pp; £13.50

Academics join novelists, a judge and a curator in sharing emotive explorations of home and belonging in this rich collection of essays about the complexities of place and identity-making. Do I Belong? encourages the reader to think hard about what the European project actually means.

Ambivalence about the European Union pervades the essays, as does concern for home-grown terrorism resulting from Europe’s colonial history – a history now coming back to haunt the present. Many…

1 June 2017Review

Verso, 2017; 320pp; £10.99

The idea that we have entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene – an era characterised by humanity’s impact on the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and wildlife – involves a drastic re-evaluation of humankind’s relationship with the natural world.However, the authors of this book insist that we have not just woken up to this fact in the last few decades. Indeed, far from being ignorant of the human imprint on the earth’s ‘living tissue’ – including the other species that occupy it – we have…

1 April 2017Review

Pluto, 2016; 288pp; £16

‘Most humans are neither rich nor famous, but working people. Their story needs to be told.’ This book is a loudspeaker for those forgotten voices, the majority whose lives are determined by those with blue blood or laden pockets.

Even from the commoner’s perspective, dealing with history always involves interpretation. Depending on which political wing you stand on, the French Revolution was either an appalling display of mob fury or a victory giving birth to modern democracy.…

1 April 2016Review

Pluto Press, 2015; 175pp; £11.50

In 1951, Frantz Fanon qualified as a psychiatrist in France. Shocked at being treated as a second-class citizen after moving to France from his native Martinique, his first book, Black Skin, White Masks developed a theory of identity in the face of racism. He came to believe that Algeria could acts as the touch paper for igniting the liberation of Africa, and it was there that he became a committed activist.

Before his early death from leukemia, he worked with both the…

1 December 2015Review

Verso, 2015; 320pp; £17.99

A huge and diverse amount of vernacular music was recorded in the late 1920s, a wave of world music consumption which saw its peak before the Wall Street Crash swept this immense body of activity aside.

'Gramophone and phonograph companies fought with each other to capture the world’s vernacular musics through the new electrical microphones and to play them back through the new electrical loudspeakers'. Indonesian kroncong, Trinidadian calypso, Egyptian tarab and…

1 October 2015Review

Pluto Press, 2015; 144pp; £8

How can we create a sustainable art world, where artists can live by their labour and the public can have a healthy engagement with them? Curating is, or should be, a public service akin to a friend introducing you to new music. But in a world of power lists, billionaire superdealers and sickening Miami conventions, we have travelled very far from the idea of curating as a social duty.

David Balzer’s writing is admirably clear and anti-theoretical, providing a lively history of the…

1 August 2015Review

Pluto, 2015; 224pp; £16

Capitalism is often thought of as driven by elites bent on attacking the lower classes. The enemy is clearly defined, the targets obvious. All we need to do is redistribute wealth and minimise their control.

In this lively if unhelpful book, Peter Fleming subscribes to this view wholesale, discussing ‘the palpable hatred that the neoliberal state apparatus has for most working people’, treating them ‘as if they are an “enemy within” requiring constant harassment and purging’.…

1 June 2015Review

Pluto Press, 2015; 192pp; £12.99

It’s easy to forget, but art galleries are ‘our’ galleries: they are supposed to belong to us. You might even like to think of them as having taken the place of (now defunct) churches. So how did oil money seep through their walls?

Mel Evans begins by charting the journey of arts funding in the UK. The Arts Council of Attlee’s postwar Britain was deliberately at arm’s length from the state. Thatcher and Tebbit increased government involvement, which enabled New Labour to follow…