In 1975, when political scientist Benedict Anderson reached Wat Phai Rong Wua, a massive temple complex in rural Thailand conceived by Buddhist monk Luang Phor Khom, he felt he had wandered into a demented Disneyland. One of the world’s most bizarre tourist attractions, Wat Phai Rong Wua was designed as a cautionary museum of sorts; its gruesome statues depict violent and torturous scenes that showcase what hell may be like. Over the next few decades, Anderson, who is best known for his work, Imagined Communities, found himself transfixed by this unusual amalgamation of objects, returning several times to see attractions like the largest metal-cast Buddha figure in the world and the Palace of a Hundred Spires. The concrete statuaries and perverse art in Luang Phor’s personal museum of hell included, “side by side, an upright human skeleton in a glass cabinet and a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s gigantic nude David, wearing fashionable red underpants from the top of which poked part of a swollen, un-Florentine penis,” alongside dozens of statues of evildoers being ferociously punished in their afterlife.
In The Fate of Rural Hell, Anderson unravels the intrigue of this strange setting, endeavoring to discover what compels so many Thai visitors to travel to this popular spectacle and what order, if any, inspired its creation. At the same time, he notes in Wat Phai Rong Wua the unexpected effects of the gradual advance of capitalism into the far reaches of rural Asia.
Both a one-of-a-kind travelogue and a penetrating look at the community that sustains it, The Fate of Rural Hell is sure to intrigue and inspire conversation as much as Wat Phai Rong Wua itself.
Fear Reverence Terror
Carlo Ginzburg Seagull Books, 2017 Library of Congress N72.P6G562 2017 | Dewey Decimal 701.03
We are surrounded by images, fairly drowning in them. From our cell phones to our computers, from our televisions at home to the screens that light up while we wait in the grocery store checkout line, images of all kinds are seducing us, commanding us to buy!, scaring us, dazzling us.
Fear, Reverence, Terror invites us to look at images slowly, with the help of a few examples: Picasso’s Guernica, the “Lord Kitchener Wants You” World War I recruitment poster, Jacques-Louis David’s Marat, the frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, a cup of gilded silver with scenes from the conquest of the New World. Are these political images, Carlo Ginzburg asks? Yes, because every image is, in a sense, political—an instrument of power. Tacitus once wrote, unforgettably, that we are enslaved by lies of which we ourselves are the authors. Is it possible to break this bond? Fear, Reverence, Terror will answer this question.
Praise for Ginzburg
“Ginzburg has many claims to be considered the outstanding European historian of the generation which came of age in the late Sixties. Certainly few have equalled him in originality, variety, and audacity.”—London Review of Books
“Ginzburg’s scholarship is dazzling and profound.”—Publisher’s Weekly
Reinhard Jirgl’s strikingly individual novel The Fire Above, the Mountain Below demonstrates that he is not only unorthodox in his approach to language, but also difficult to pin down in terms of any genre. Weaving together elements of crime story, Cold War espionage, family tragedy, and a dystopian future, he creates a tapestry of fragile humanity and menacing inhumanity. The investigation of a series of gruesome killings takes a detective inspector into explorations of a secret intelligence programme in former East Germany and the role of a family with a tragic history. The more is uncovered, the more disorienting it becomes, and the reader is drawn into a complex web of discovery and suppression.
The Flying Mountain
Christoph Ransmayr Seagull Books, 2019 Library of Congress MLCM 2019/50022 (P)
In a publishing world that is all too full of realist novels written in undistinguished prose, discernible only by their covers, The Flying Mountain stands out—if for no other reason than that it consists entirely of blank verse. And that form is most suitable for the epic voyage Christoph Ransmayr relates: The Flying Mountain tells the story of two brothers who leave the southwest coast of Ireland on an expedition to Transhimalaya, the land of Kham, and the mountains of eastern Tibet—looking for an untamed, unnamed mountain that represents perhaps the last blank spot on the map. As they advance toward their goal, the brothers find their past, and their rivalry, inescapable, inflecting every encounter and decision as they are drawn farther and farther from the world they once knew.
Only one of the brothers will return. Transformed by his loss, he starts life anew, attempting to understand the mystery of love, yet another quest that may prove impossible. The Flying Mountain is thrilling, surprising, and lyrical by turns; readers looking for something truly new will be rewarded for joining Ransmayr on this journey.
Friendship as Social Justice Activism brings together academics and activists to have essential conversations about friendship, love, and desire as kinetics for social justice movements. The contributors featured here come from across the globe and are all involved in diverse movements, including LGBTQ rights, intimate-partner violence, addiction recovery, housing, migrant, labor, and environmental activism. Each essay narrates how living and organizing within friendship circles offers new ways of dreaming and struggling for social justice.
Recent scholarship in different disciplinary fields as well as activist literature have brought attention to the political possibilities within friendship. The essays, memoirs, poems, and artwork in Friendship as Social Justice Activism address these political possibilities within the context of gender, sexuality, and economic justice movements.
Max Frisch (1911–91) was a giant of twentieth-century German literature. When Frisch moved into a new apartment in Berlin’s Sarrazinstrasse, he began keeping a journal, which he came to call the Berlin Journal. A few years later, he emphasized in an interview that this was by no means a “scribbling book,” but rather a book “fully composed.” The journal is one of the great treasures of Frisch’s literary estate, but the author imposed a retention period of twenty years from the date of his death because of the “private things” he noted in it. From the Berlin Journal now marks the first publication of excerpts from Frisch’s journal. Here, the unmistakable Frisch is back, full of doubt, with no illusions, and with a playfully sharp eye for the world.
From the Berlin Journal pulls from the years 1946–49 and 1966–71. Observations about the writer’s everyday life stand alongside narrative and essayistic texts, as well as finely-drawn portraits of colleagues like Günter Grass, Uwe Johnson, Wolf Biermann, and Christa Wolf, among others. Its foremost quality, though, is the extraordinary acuity with which Frisch observed political and social conditions in East Germany while living in West Berlin.