/ EDINBURGH BOOK FESTIVAL
CHARLOTTE SQUARE GARDENS 8-23 AUGUST 1987
FULL PROGRAMME FOR BRITAIN’S BIGGEST BOOK EVENT NOW AVAILABLE FROM
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Cumbria with an overwhelming urge for a Manx Kipper? Well here’s the book to solve all these pressing problems. a directory of local produce throughout Britain. complete with effusive descriptions and mail order addresses — an invaluable Bible for those amongst us who recognise the above symptoms. or who own upmarket delicatessens. But not for me. (Marina O‘Loughlin)
0 An Insular Possession Timothy Mo (Picador £3.95) A hotbed of profit and dissention. China in the 1830s was an uneasy playground for foreign traders — particularly the British. who grew sleek on a flourishing opium trade. Over the years. Chinese resistance to drug dealing strengthened. but while retaliation remained ineffective against the amassed powers of British navy and troops. a tolerant. if not blind. eye was cast on the smugglers from most quarters.
Sickened by such hypocrisy. two razor-witted Americans. Walter Eastman and Gideon Chase. abandon the merchant fraternity to set up an acid and incisive newspaper. the Lin Tin Bulletin and River Bee. An open. often aggressive. challenge to the established British paper. which they claim is opium funded. they hope to extirpate the ‘poisonnous traffic.‘
With high moral standards and a judgemental line in editorials. they relentlessly pursue their goal over seven uncompromising years which culminate in the British occupation of Hong Kong. and Chase‘s admission that‘we have failed in everything we had set out to achieve.‘
Short-listed for the 1986 Booker prize. when it was variously described as massive. monumental. leisurely and large. this isn‘t the choice ifyou‘re in a hurry. Revealing an encyclopaedic knowledge and deceptively easy grasp of period. Mo captures events with true 19th century eloquence — often verbosity. daubing his canvas with as much colour as possible. as though revelling in the faintest nuance ofthe times. There's an intriguing oriental expansiveness about his work; a sharp current ofwit that pulls you
‘ Lill- through the denser thickets of digression: and the infectious sense ofa writer thoroughly enjoying himself. (Rosemary Goring)
O Pasolini Enzo Siciliano (Bloomsbury £9.95). On these shores Pier Paolo Pasolini is primarily known as the film-maker responsible for the sometimes scandalous ‘Trilogy Of Life‘ (The Canterbury Tales. The Decameron, and The Arabian Nights) and the banned adaptation of De Sade set in 1945 Italy. Salt); works which embraced a depiction of human sexuality at its most cinematically physical. However. in Italy Pasolini was a major cultural figure. an acclaimed poet. novelist. critic and essayist whose strident homosexuality upset the left. and whose unorthodox Marxism did little to endear him to the Christian Democrat ruling centre party. The notorious writer/director throughout his career sought sexual and ideological purity in the ragged peasant boys of his provincial home and dangerous street urchins of his adopted Rome. with the result that he faced a stream ofcourt cases either on charges of indecency or answering to questions of obscenity when this sort of material filtered its way into his work. Enzo Siciliano's painstaking and lucid biography suggests that his violent battering to death by a male prostitute on some waste ground in 1976 could have been a set-up by the Establishment to rid themselves of the moral and artistic terrorist who had been plaguing their cosy set ofvalues for too long. for there seems evidence of more than one assailant involved in the horrible incident. Having diligently guided the reader through the considerable Pasolini canon (John Shepley‘s fine translation seems to cope well even with the difficult poetry) and its relation to the social and political currents of post-war Italian life. it‘s a premise which holds some credibility and one which makes this highly-recommended study less an accomplished study ofone man's tortured creativity than a wide-ranging portrayal ofa culture in a state ofchaos. (Trevor Johnston)
40 The List 10— 23 July