Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:55 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:55 | SYDNEY

Lowy staff talk about the year in books (part 7)


Fergus Hanson


21 December 2007 09:13

A month or so ago I finished the old classic and very entertaining Our Man in Havana: the foreign service (which I just left) is not as fun as it used to be. To countervail this senseless frivolity, a friend gave me the somewhat more depressing Affluenza (yes, I do question her motives). It makes the case that Sydney-siders (along with Brits and Americans) are a bunch of depressed narcissists. It starts out quite cleverly and ends in a bit of a rant. Collier’s The Bottom Billion, which ‘reveals’ that the world’s poorest billion people are stuck in a (nearly) hopeless poverty trap, brought me right down. 

The books I enjoyed most this year were: John Armstrong’s Love, Life and Goethe, which took a quirky approach to biography, and a great short essay by George Steiner, The Idea of Europe, with a brilliant introduction by the Dutchman Rob Rieman. Orhan Pamuk’s first novel The White Castle is next on my list. Rory Medcalf insists I should read the ‘bleak and Nordic’ Independent People, by Icelandic Nobel Prize winner Haldor Laxness…we’ll see.