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Give Love and Receive the Kingdom: Essential People and Themes of English Spirituality by Benedicta Ward, SLG.
Edward Luce’s The Retreat of Western Liberalism (Little, Brown, £8.99; Tablet price £8.09) adopts a global perspective, exploring the astonishingly rapid fall of something that was touted as the end point of history less than 30 years ago. The rise of China and India, Islamic extremism, the financial crash and recession, seemingly endless migration crises: all have combined to create a more angry, divided and, above all, insecure, West.
Mark Lilla is a fully-paid-up liberal (in the US sense of the word), and begins his short The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics (Hurst, £12.99; Tablet price £11.69) with the shell-shocked phrase, “Donald J. Trump is President of the United States”. What follows is not, however, 140 pages of self-righteous Trumpophobia, but a balanced criticism of both the “anti-politics” of the conservative Right and the “pseudo-politics” of the liberal Left that combined to put Trump in the White House. Lilla’s critique of the liberal Left’s self-defeating obsessions with identity politics is especially penetrating, not least as it comes from a fellow traveller.
Patrick J. Deneen completed Why Liberalism Failed (Yale UP, £20; Tablet price £18) three weeks before Trump’s election, although his book is the least topical of the three. He argues – damningly – that liberalism has failed because it has succeeded, its misplaced anthropology resulting in real, humanising communities being crushed in a pincer movement of state and market. The most hostile to liberalism of the three authors, he also goes deepest into the roots of our current malaise.
John Henry Newman and the Imagination/Bernard Dive/T&T Clark, £140; Tablet Bookshop Price, £126
July 7, 2018: Our summer reading list is now live! See discounted links to all the books with short reviews by Tablet writers including Catherine Pepinster, Penelope Lively, AN Wilson and Piers Paul Read
Mojca Kumerdej’s The Harvest of Chronos (Istros Books, £10.99; Tablet price £9.89) carries us to sixteenth-century Slovenia in an epic novel laced with subtle humour. After years of uneasy compromise, the Catholic Habsburg monarchy has cracked down on the region’s Protestant liberal élite comprising the nobility and burgher class. Protestant books are banned and recalcitrant officials are being expelled from their posts. Meanwhile ancient folk traditions survive. Rawley Grau, the book’s translator from the original Slovene, contributes an introduction.
William Heinesen (1900-1991), who set his novels in the Faroe Islands off the Danish coast, was one of Scandinavia’s leading twentieth-century writers. The Black Cauldron (Dedalus Books, £9.99; Tablet price £9), translated by W. Glyn Jones, first appeared in the original Danish in 1949, and is set in the Second World War when the Faroes were occupied by the British. Questions of life and death, good and evil, religion and sex, are ever in the background.
Grigory Kanovich’s Shtetl Love Song (Noir, £14; Tablet price £12.60), translated from the Russian by Yisrael Elliot Cohen, is set in a Jewish village in a remote part of rural Lithuania on the eve of the Second World War, an event which the town failed to survive. Lilting and melancholy as a Leonard Cohen song, the story is a tender portrait of the narrator’s family, his mother in particular, and of his lost village, rich, the author writes, in “teachers of religion and atheists, amateur philosophers who predicted the end of the world and melancholic madmen”.
Going to the Mountain. Ndaba Mandela. Hutchinson, £14.99; Tablet bookshop price £13.49. Lessons for life from Nelson Mandela to his grandson.
Sacred Britannia: The Gods and Rituals of Roman Britain
Two thousand years ago, the Romans sought to absorb into their empire what they regarded as a remote, almost mythical island on the very edge of the known world—Britain. The expeditions of Julius Caesar and the Claudian invasion of 43 CE, up to the traditional end of Roman Britain in the fifth century CE, brought fundamental and lasting changes to the island. Not least among these was a pantheon of new classical deities and religious systems, along with a clutch of exotic eastern cults, including Christianity. But what homegrown deities, cults, and cosmologies did the Romans encounter in Britain, and how did the British react to the changes? Under Roman rule, the old gods and their adherents were challenged, adopted, adapted, absorbed, and reconfigured.
Miranda Aldhouse-Green balances literary, archaeological, and iconographic evidence (and scrutinises the shortcomings of each) to illuminate the complexity of religion and belief in Roman Britain. She examines the two-way traffic of cultural exchange and the interplay between imported and indigenous factions to reveal how this period on the cusp between prehistory and history knew many of the same tensions, ideologies, and issues of identity still relevant today. Miranda Aldhouse-Green is Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University. She has published widely on the Celts, including for Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend, Exploring the World of the Druids, and The Celtic Myths.
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