Irving, Sarah

Irving, Sarah

Sarah Irving

1 September 2006Review

Lajee Centre 2005; available / 0161 273 1970; £9.99; 24pp.

It's rare that I cry over any book, except possibly the closing chapters of my favourite novel, Ahdaf Soueif's the Map of Love. I get angry, depressed or inspired, but only very occasionally cry. But that's what I found myself doing on reading the children's tale that is The Boy and the Wall, not because of its powerful telling of the effects of occupation on a child's life, but for the moving simplicity of this beautiful tale of a boy and his mother.

Written by Amahl…

1 June 2006Review

Zed Books, 2005; ISBN 1 8427 7623 1; 288pp; £18.95

Amidst the horrors visited on the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, the fate of the “Palestinian citizens of Israel” is often forgotten, by those who see Israel solely as the Jewish state it aspires to be, and by those working to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians. Even organisations such as Sindyanna, a fair trade co-operative of Palestinian and Jewish Israeli women in the Galilee, have appeared on the boycott lists of less enlightened solidarity organisations.

1 February 2006Review

Quaker Books 2005; ISBN 0 852453 66 3; 128pp; £9

Katharine von Schubert's book tells the story of a period of a year and half, when this young woman joined Quaker Peace and Social Witness's human rights observation programme in the West Bank. As such, I approached it with some trepidation. In the last few years, a number of volumes have emerged recounting the experiences of international activists in Palestine, from the International Solidarity Movement, Christian Peacemaker Teams and a range of other groups. Some have been very good, and…

1 March 2005Review

Africa Refugee Publishing Collective, 1994; ISBN 1 8980 8800 4

The British literary scene is pretty infatuated with English language writing by Indians and the Asian diaspora. Figures such as Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie are established icons, and newer names like Monica Ali have massive sales. Black British writers of Afro-Caribbean descent are also widely known, despite the discrimination they still face in getting published.

With one or two prominent exceptions, such as Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka, African writers are much less widely…

1 September 2004Review

MIT Press, 2004. ISBN 0 262 08325 6; 400pp; price US$35

Most PN readers would, I hope, be at least aware of the issue of the “missing women” of India and China and the growing problem of gender imbalance in the populations of these two huge countries. The increasing use of sex-selective abortion as an apparently more socially acceptable option than female infanticide is the latest twist to this tale, the chilling use of modern medical technologies to eliminate socially and economically undesirable girl children.

As a woman and a feminist…

1 June 2004Review

Zed Books, 2004; ISBN 1 84277 243 0; £15.95

As the blurb to this sometimes excellent book goes, “by 2025 nearly two billion people will live in regions experiencing absolute water scarcity”.

Water, as some prescient reports from the UN and NGOs are starting to point out, will be the resource over which our future wars will break out. As the key to life, we've seen glimpses of a world in which water is seriously scarce, in African famines and Asian and American dust bowls; if the fight for oil is vicious, what might happen if…

1 June 2004Review

Pluto Press, 2003. ISBN 0 7453 2201 8

Tired of the tedious and pitifully one-dimensional debates on the Iraq war that dominate the mainstream media? Got a sneaking suspicion that Tony Bliar may not be being entirely honest with us over WMD? Or simply want your convictions backed up with a wide range of well-researched and diverse articles? Buy this book. Despite the admission at the start that it was “produced at some speed”, it really is a quality little number.

It kicks off (after a typically sarky foreword from…

1 April 2004Review

Counterpunch/AK Press 2003; ISBN 1 90259377 4

One of the stickiest problems for individuals and organisations trying to engage with the horror that is the conflict between Israel and Palestine is the issue of antiSemitism. It lurks as a spectre of guilt for those coming to the topic without a “legitimate” interest, ie being Jewish or Palestinian. And it is hurled at anyone who dares to criticise the state of Israel by those who support any of that state's actions, however bloody.

This little book - hardly more than a pamphlet -…

1 April 2004Review

Pluto 2003; ISBN 0 7453 2043 0

The blurb on the back of this book augurs well. “In the aftermath of 9/11, America has been haunted by one question: Why do they hate us?” Perhaps, one thinks, some intelligent discussion by a leading US commentator (Pintak is a veteran journalist who has reported on the Middle East for many of the big names of the international English-language media) of why the USA has become such a symbol of oppression for so many. Progression to the next few sentences reveals that such hopes may be…

1 September 2003Review

Arcadia 2002, ISBN: 1 900850 70 2

Tatamkhulu Afrika, 83 this year, had his first novel obliterated by the Blitz. Of Middle Eastern origin, he fought the Nazis in World War Two and apartheid in South Africa. In German prison camps he performed with Denholm Elliott. And in South Africa he is a renowned poet.


Now, finally, his prose is available in print. It's powerful stuff, based on his experiences as a PoW in North Africa and Occupied Europe. In content and style, though, the book is less a standard WWII…

1 September 2003Review

Nonviolence International 2002, ISBN 9 29500602 X. See

As its subtitle suggests, this ain't exactly bedtime reading.

But if you've ever wanted a clear, concise guide to how exactly peace processes work, this is it. Who gets to be involved? What do they talk about, and how is that agenda set? How are these decisions translated into practice? And how are transparency and ethical process observed?

Illustrated by examples from Tajikistan to Guatemala via Burma and Mozambique, the book looks at the common themes of success and failure…

1 September 2003Review

Verso 2002, ISBN 1 85984 682 3, 320pp, £19

At first sight, this book looks exciting and compelling. The blurb focuses on its relevance to debates about warfare and world security post-S11. And the title, to my mind, conjures up images of nuclear tests, Agent Orange, dirty bombs and the spraying of dangerous fungicides over Colombian hillsides. Inside, however, one finds a lost opportunity - or perhaps a cynical attempt to grab a marketing opportunity by the judicious addition of current buzzwords to a historical study of fairly…

1 December 2002Review

New Internationalist Publications 2002. ISBN 0 9540 4993 4

Ever find yourself losing your edge? Descending into woolly liberalism? Perhaps even thinking (No!) that those corporations might just, possibly, be reformable?

If there is any mental brake to that slippery slope, this book of cartoons is it. Polyp applies his cruelly sharp wit to globalisation, militarism, corporate power and hypocritical greenwash, exposing the intellectual and moral inconsistencies of so many official statements and positions that we have become so used to that…

1 September 2002Review

Kinofilm & Les Films d'ici, France/Palestine 2002. Video: PAL format. Running time 74 mins

Palestine, Palestine is an unusual creature, a film about this beautiful and terrible land which shows something of everyday life in the West Bank.

It is not a documentary as such, although it deals with real people and their day-to-day existence. It has more life and lyricism than that. But it is also grounded in reality and makes inescapable the way that the Israeli presence is not just a matter of the brutal incursions which hit the Western news but a daily challenge to the…

1 September 2002Review

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, summer 2001; available in print as Les Blancs; the collected last plays. Vintage, 1994

This powerful play received its first British production at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester last year. It tells, through the experiences of a small group of characters, of the pivotal events in the liberation struggle of an unnamed African state.

The beginnings of armed struggle are met by the British authorities not with dialogue but violent oppression, including the arrest of moderate leaders. These tensions are played out through the characters of Tshembe Matoseh, an…