Lately, it seems as if we wake up to a new atrocity each day. Every morning is now a ritual of scrolling through our Twitter feeds or scanning our newspapers for the latest updates on fresh horrors around the globe. Despite the countless protests we attend, the phone calls we make, or the streets we march, it sometimes feels like no matter how hard we fight, the relentless crush of injustice will never abate.
David Shulman knows intimately what it takes to live your beliefs, to return, day after day, to the struggle, despite knowing you are often more likely to lose than win. Interweaving powerful stories and deep meditations, Freedom and Despair offers vivid firsthand reports from the occupied West Bank in Palestine as seen through the eyes of an experienced Israeli peace activist who has seen the Israeli occupation close up as it impacts on the lives of all Palestinian civilians.
Alongside a handful of beautifully written and often shocking tales from the field, Shulman meditates deeply on how to understand the evils around him, what it means to persevere as an activist decade after decade, and what it truly means to be free. The violent realities of the occupation are on full display. We get to know and understand the Palestinian shepherds and farmers and Israeli volunteers who face this situation head-on with nonviolent resistance. Shulman does not hold back on acknowledging the daily struggles that often leave him and his fellow activists full of despair. Inspired by these committed individuals who are not prepared to be silent or passive, Shulman suggests a model for ordinary people everywhere. Anyone prepared to take a risk and fight their oppressive political systems, he argues, can make a difference—if they strive to act with compassion and to keep hope alive.
This is the moving story of a man who continues to fight for good in the midst of despair. An indispensable book in our era of reactionary politics and refugee crises, political violence and ecological devastation, Freedom and Despair is a gripping memoir of struggle, activism, and hope for peace.
Harvest of Despair
Karel C. Berkhoff Harvard University Press, 2004 Library of Congress DK508.833.B47 2004 | Dewey Decimal 940.53477
Berkhoff provides a searing portrait of life in the Third Reich's largest colony. Under the Nazis, a blend of German nationalism, anti-Semitism, and racist notions about the Slavs produced a reign of terror and genocide. Berkhoff also shows how a pervasive Soviet mentality worked against solidarity, which helps explain why the vast majority of the population did not resist the Germans.
In Hope and Despair, Gerald Grant compares two cities - his hometown of Syracuse, New York, and Raleigh, North Carolina - in order to examine the consequences of the nation's ongoing educational inequities. The result is an ambitious portrait - sometimes disturbing, often inspiring - of two cities that exemplify our nation's greatest educational challenges, as well as a passionate exploration of the potential for school reform that exists for our urban schools today.
Kafka's Ethics of Interpretation refutes the oft-repeated claim, made by Kafka's greatest interpreters, including Walter Benjamin and Harold Bloom, that Kafka sought to evade interpretation of his writings. Jennifer L. Geddes shows that this claim about Kafka's deliberate uninterpretability is not only wrong, it also misconstrues a central concern of his work. Kafka was not trying to avoid or prevent interpretation; rather, his works are centrally concerned with it.
Geddes explores the interpretation that takes place within, and in response to, Kafka's writings, and pairs Kafka's works with readings of Sigmund Freud, Pierre Bourdieu, Tzvetan Todorov, Emmanuel Levinas, and others. She argues that Kafka explores interpretation as a mode of power and violence, but also as a mode of engagement with the world and others. Kafka, she argues, challenges us to rethink the ways we read texts, engage others, and navigate the world through our interpretations of them.
On the Heights of Despair
E. M. Cioran University of Chicago Press, 1992 Library of Congress B99.R652C5613 1990 | Dewey Decimal 194
Born of a terrible insomnia—"a dizzying lucidity which would turn even paradise into hell"—this book presents the youthful Cioran, a self-described "Nietzsche still complete with his Zarathustra, his poses, his mystical clown's tricks, a whole circus of the heights."
On the Heights of Despair shows Cioran's first grappling with themes he would return to in his mature works: despair and decay, absurdity and alienation, futility and the irrationality of existence. It also presents Cioran as a connoisseur of apocalypse, a theoretician of despair, for whom writing and philosophy both share the "lyrical virtues" that alone lead to a metaphysical revelation.
"No modern writer twists the knife with Cioran's dexterity. . . . His writing . . . is informed with the bitterness of genuine compassion."—Bill Marx, Boston Phoenix
"The dark, existential despair of Romanian philosopher Cioran's short meditations is paradoxically bracing and life-affirming. . . . Puts him in the company of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"This is self-pity as epigram, the sort of dyspeptic pronouncement that gets most people kicked out of bed but that has kept Mr. Cioran going for the rest of his life."—Judith Shulevitz, New York Times BookReview
The siege of Paris by Prussians in the fall and winter of 1870 and 1871 turned the city upside down, radically altering its appearance, social structure, and mood. As Hollis Clayson demonstrates in Paris in Despair, the siege took an especially heavy toll on the city's artists, forcing them out of the spaces and routines of their insular prewar lives and thrusting them onto the ramparts (as many became soldiers).
But the crisis did not halt artistic production, as some have suggested. In fact, Clayson argues that the siege actually encouraged innovation, fostering changed attitudes and new approaches to representation among a wide variety of artists as they made art out of their individual experiences of adversity and change—art that has not previously been considered within the context of the siege. Clayson focuses especially on Rosa Bonheur, Edgar Degas, Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière, Edouard Manet, and Henri Regnault, but she also covers a host of other artists, including Ernest Barrias, Gustave Courbet, Edouard Detaille, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Albert Robida, and James Tissot. Paris in Despair includes more than two hundred color and black-and-white images of works by these artists and others, many never before published.
Using the visual arts as an interpretive lens, Clayson illuminates the wide range of issues at play during the siege and thereafter, including questions of political and cultural identity, artistic masculinity and femininity, public versus private space, everyday life and modernity, and gender and class roles in military and civilian society. For anyone concerned with these issues, or with nineteenth-century French art in general, Paris in Despair will be a landmark work.
The struggle for freedom in South Africa goes back a long way. In 1909, a remarkable interracial delegation of South Africans traveled to London to lobby for a non-racialized constitution and franchise for all. Among their allies was Mahatma Gandhi, who later encapsulated lessons from the experience in his most important book, Hind Swaraj. Though the mission failed, the London debates were critical to the formation of the African National Congress in 1912.
With impeccable storytelling and rich character depictions, Martin Plaut describes the early quest for black franchise and the seeds it planted for a new South Africa. While most people believe that black South Africans obtained the vote in 1994, men of all races voted in the Cape Colony for almost a century, sometimes deciding election outcomes. The London mission was part of a long history of nonwhite political agency.
Taking as its centerpiece the 1909 delegation, Promise and Despair covers the twelve years between the South African War and the First World War, during which the major forces that would shape twentieth-century South Africa were forged. Plaut reveals new details of the close collaboration between Gandhi and the ANC leadership during the Indian-South African community’s struggle for their rights, the influence of the American South on South African racial practices, and the workings of the Imperial system.
The Temptation of Despair
Werner Sollors Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress D829.G3S56 2014 | Dewey Decimal 940.554
In Germany the end of World War II calls forth images of obliterated cities, hungry refugees, and ghostly monuments to Nazi crimes. Drawing on diaries, photographs, essays, reports, fiction and film, Werner Sollors makes visceral the sorrow and anger, guilt and pride, despondency and resilience of a defeated people--and the paradoxes of occupation.