Book news

  • Brighton Rock review – ingenious staging curtails Greene's Catholicism
    Michael Billington

    York Theatre Royal
    Bryony Lavery’s adaptation underplays the classic novel’s religious theme and focuses on the pleasure-seeking Ida

    By a strange quirk of fate, Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s 80-year-old novel opens in the same week as the revival of her own 20-year-old play, Frozen. Both works deal with murderous criminality but their outlook could hardly be more different. Where Greene believes in pure evil, Lavery suggests that violent cruelty is often the result of cerebral damage. But how, I wondered, could she possibly square her views with those of Greene?

    The short answer, in this co-production between the touring Pilot Theatre and their York hosts, is that she does it by altering the whole balance of the story. The focus in Lavery’s version is on Ida: the pleasure-seeking working-class woman who believes there is something suspicious about the death of a man she briefly meets during a Whitsun weekend in Brighton. “I believe in right and wrong,” Ida tells us many times; and it is this that leads her to try to rescue Rose, a 16-year-old waitress, from the clutches of the juvenile gangster, Pinkie. Both Rose and Pinkie are, of course, Catholics, but you could say that Lavery’s interest in the story is moralistic where Greene’s is theological.

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  • Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro review – debut novel from a short-story writer
    Molly McCloskey

    Few modern authors deal with Christianity. Is it time for a new ‘viable literature of faith’?

    After millennia joined at the hip, art and faith largely parted ways, at least in terms of art as the aesthetic expression of religion. What dialogue the two have had over the past century or so has been – from art’s side, anyway – a bit antagonistic and largely ironic. Intellectual life generally has become secularised.

    How, then, are we to read a novel in which the protagonists – intellectuals, academics, adulterers – are believers, their struggles conveyed not with irony but with earnestness? How, from the writer’s point of view, to convey the weight of sin, the claustrophobia that must result from its commission, when writing about characters who have faith?

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  • Berlin 1936 by Oliver Hilmes review – Hitler’s Olympics
    Nikolaus Wachsmann

    Most visitors were dazzled by the 1936 games. This lightweight study dwells not on the dark side, but on the glitz, glamour and gossip

    On a balmy summer evening on 16 August 1936, dozens of searchlights formed a vast dome of light above the new Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The spectacular effect, originally devised for the Nazi rallies at Nuremberg, marked the end of the 1936 Summer Games. Inside the arena, Hitler basked in the success of the games, just two weeks after he had opened them with an equally eye-catching ceremony, involving 20,000 doves, 3,000 singers and a giant zeppelin. As the historian Oliver Hilmes concludes in his lively book, which spans the 16 days of the Olympics, Hitler had “every reason to be satisfied”.

    Nazi leaders pulled out all the stops to wow visiting foreign notables, journalists and tourists. More than three years had elapsed since Hitler gained power. , and even longer since the IOC awarded the games to Berlin. Now was the moment to show the new Germany to the world. The Third Reich would be presented as powerful yet peaceful, modern yet steeped in tradition. To reinforce the links to ancient times, German organisers invented the torch relay, which carried the flame from Greece to Berlin, past a rally of uniformed Hitler Youth and into the faux-classical stadium.

    One middle‑aged US tourist slipped through security to plant a kiss on Hitler’s cheek. ‘He seemed so friendly,’ she said

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