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Written by: Edmund de Waal
Read by: Michael Maloney

Michael Maloney has a gentle, wry voice, and this fits the tone of the novel exceedingly well, providing the light touches of humour De Waal's occasional sideways-quips should spark. The gentility also serves to counterpoint the harshness. When Maloney's voice becomes hard, becomes dark, you feel the shift in emotion, from the warmth of the pleasure-in-things that so characterises the Ephrussi, to the ugliness of the hate that others bore them for being Jews.

This is perhaps the first time where I felt sick at the hatred of others. It was not during the Nazi takeover that I felt this, nor even in the midst of accounts of the anti-semitism of Austria. Perhaps these were too expected. It was the rising anti-semitism of France in the late 1800s, with the Dreyfuss Affair and how pervasive it was. Perhaps it was because the anti-semitism of France in the late 1800s feels so much more like the hatred of today. The hatred in Austria, the hatred used and fed by the Nazis, is open. It is violence. The scene of the invasion of the Ephrussi home in Vienna sounds like a rape. It makes clear that the Ephrussi are not safe at home, do not get to have an inviolate space. It is horrifying. The anti-semitism in France though is sickening, and I feel that the difference is the lack of an attached political project. In Austria anti-semitism is still emotional, of course, but it is an emotion that manifests in rules, in institutions, in plans for a world without Jews. In France anti-semitism is just hatred. It's planless. And it's expressed by people on the street, in unofficial pamphlets, and after this year just gone, a year full of hatred of women and African Americans, hatred that is planless and yet so pressing in so many people that they must take to the pamphlet-presses of the modern internet and vomit out bile the episode in France started to feel familiar. And so I felt sick.

Yet I also felt sick because it was in France, when the netsuke were assembled by Charles Ephrussi, that I took the most delight in The Hare with Amber Eyes.


Written by: Nnedi Okorafor
Read by: Adjoa Andoh and Ben Onwukwe

The thing that delighted me most about Lagoon was the sound of Nigerian speech. It has music in it. The sentences of readers Adjoa Andoh and Ben Onwukwe sound as if they patter up and down the scale, as if they could be written as easily on a bar as on a blank page. The accent is rich and emphatic, and brings with it new punctuation: the drawn-out ‘oooh’ of a mournful sentence, the tooth-sucking ‘tch’ of frustration. And this is just the characters speaking English. For all characters where it is appropriate, Nnedi Okorafor switches to Pidgin English, a staccato language that raced past the ears of this listener, impatient with unfamiliarity and urging me to keep the fuck up (tch). I read a lot of books and listen to a lot of books. The music of this reading makes me so glad I chose to listen to Lagoon, but there is also something more vital than my own pleasure about listening to this book in the words of Nigerians. This book is, after all, a love letter to Lagos and to Nigeria. Like any good lover it is honest about faults, but always champions what is best about the country it loves and believes that it can be better. And I think it better I heard that love speak with its own voice, than with any facsimile I might make up in my head.


Directed by: Ryan Coogler

It will forever amaze me when an actor shifts the whole mood of a scene with a twist of feature. The way the bonhomie falls from Michael B. Jordan's face, as his character Oscar Grant walks away from a job he now knows is lost, to reveal eyes that see nothing but walls closing in...why it's like wizardry. Jordan's performance won my heart. There's no other way to put it - he is completely genuine. A lad. A lover. And, despite his youth, truly a father. He made me laugh, he made me worry, he made me envious of his cool. You see the youth Oscar Grant has not yet grown out of, in his anger and his roving eyes, and you see the man he is becoming. This could so easily have been a film about that stage in a man's life, the moment where he hangs between play and duty and begins to slide towards the latter, but this is not just a film about a young man. This is a film about a young black man in America. As such it is not about growth but about potential - not about what would be, but what could have been.


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January 2016


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