In the Critics this week

Barack Obama's rise to power, Central Europe's literary legacy and the life of Syd Barrett.

This week, Adam Thirlwell discusses the abiding legacy of central Europe's literature, while Alec MacGillis peruses New Yorker editor David Remnick's biography of Barack Obama.

Elsewhere, Peter Watts reports from the British Library's new exhibition "Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art", while Jude Rogers is impressed by Rob Chapman's balanced biography of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett. Ryan Gilbey salutes Lebanon, an innovative new war film from the Middle East and Fisun Guner visits the Victoria and Albert museum for the latest installation from visual art collective Artangel.

Plus, we have columns from our usual award-winning critics: Rachel Cooke on television, Antonia Quirke on Radio and Will Self on food.

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"The Anatolian Fertility Goddess": a poem by Fiona Pitt-Kethley

Across the Golden Horn in Karakoy. . . 

Across the Golden Horn in Karakoy,
a maze of ancient, crooked, cobbled streets
contains the brothels of old Istanbul.
A vendor at the bottom of the hill
sells macho-hot green chilli sandwiches.
A cudgel-wielding policeman guards the gate.
 
One year, dressed as a man, I went inside
(women and drunks are not allowed in there).
I mingled with the mass of customers,
in shirt, grey trousers, heavy walking boots.
A thick tweed jacket flattened out my breasts.
A khaki forage cap concealed my hair.
 
The night was young, the queues at doors were short.
Far down the street a crowd of men stood round
and watched a woman dancing in a house.
Her sixty, sixty, sixty figure poured inside
a flesh-tone, skin-tight, Lycra leotard,
quivered like milk-jelly on a shaken plate.
 
I’ve seen her type before in small museums –
primeval blobs of roughly sculpted stone –
the earliest form of goddess known to man.


Fiona Pitt-Kethley is a British poet, novelist and journalist living in Spain. Her Selected Poems was published in 2008 by Salt.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad