Recent Non-Fiction Reviews
There have been some excellent reviews over the last weekend for two MacLehose non-fiction titles — we will never publish a great deal of non-fiction, here, but you count on our titles always being distinctive. And perhaps none more so than Jean-Paul Kauffmann’s A Journey to Nowhere, which was pounced on by Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times:
In common with Claudio Magris and, particularly, the late WG Sebald, Kauffmann has an imagination that thrives on history, literary references, anecdote, lives retrieved and footsteps retraced; he is a natural investigator possessed of equal amounts of patience and tenacity.
Physically this is a beautiful book: it draws the reader towards it and rewards on many levels. Kauffmann is informed and sophisticated but always kindly, never knowing, and his polite engagement is brilliantly rendered by Euan Cameron’s graceful translation. Jean-Paul Kauffman is a thinker and a marvellous companion. This singular little odyssey of a book is both profound meditation and erudite joy.
Kauffmann gazes into the heart of times past; he is also a terrific storyteller.
Meanwhile, Stieg Larsson’s non-fiction, collected in The Expo Files, was picked up in the Guardian on Saturday, and, not surprising, was roundly lauded:
With the rise of populist parties across Europe, and one gaining traction in Hungary, Stieg Larsson’s anxieties as a journalist seem more pressing than ever. This is no cynical exercise, a gathering of Larsson’s journalism in order to milk the cash cow of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the other two books in the Millienium trilogy. Rather, the selection is both a memorial to a dead friend and colleague’s passions, and a political opportunity, its aim being to inform readers and, to quote Tariq Ali’s introduction, “even push them in the direction of political activism”. Certainly Larsson’s admirers will find much of the ardour that animates his crime novels – in particular, in a long piece on “Swedish and Un-Swedish Violence Towards Women”, which makes clear his disgust at sexist oppression.
Inevitably perhaps I found myself comparing him with George Orwell, and quickly realising that the comparison was unfair. Even Orwell’s most ephemeral pieces summon up an authorial presence and possess a literary subtlety that Larsson was not even attempting to emulate. Rather these are practical, lucid, well-researched articles intended to educate the reader, and little more. And they are valuable pieces that merit attention. The book’s title evokes Mulder and Scully and “the truth that’s out there”, but mercifully Larsson shows little interest in conspiracy theories – in fact, belief in them appears part of the anti-democratic, rightwing culture that he loathes. Instead there is admirably clear journalism, the patient accumulation of devastating facts.