In the Critics this week

Žižek on Shakespeare, Barghouti on Palestine and Gray on the money.

In the Critics section of this week's New Statesman, Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek discusses Ralph Fienne's film adaptation of Shakespeare's Coriolanus and explains why the play is better than Hamlet. He writes that Fiennes "has done the impossible... He has fully broken out of the closed circle of interpretative options and presented Coriolanus not as a fanatical anti-democrat but as a figure of the radical left." Žižek writes: "Without changing a word in Shakespeare's play, the film looks squarely at us, at our predicament today, offering us the figure of the radical freedom fighter."

In this week's lead book review, John Gray praises Philip Coggan's new book Paper Promises: Money, Debt and the New World Order, calling it "the most illuminating account of the financial crisis to appear to date". Gray examines Coggan's exploration of the origins of money up to the present financial crisis and surmises that "little has been learned since the crash and, as a consequence, a crisis that our leaders have never properly understood is now entering an even more dangerous phase".

In the Books Interview, Jonathan Derbyshire talks to Mourid Barghouti about his new book, I Was Born There, I Was Born Here, which is about his return to Palestine from his current home in Cairo. "It's painful to restore the past, to try to relive it," says Barghouti. "Nobody ever returns completely and nothing is ever restored completely... What you crave is the moment, the time you spent in those places."

Also in Critics: Yo Zushi reviews Kathy Peiss's Zoot Suit: the Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style and Rosie Goldsmith says that this year's Best European Fiction anthology falls short of its predecessor. Ryan Gilbey praises Chilean director Raúl Ruiz's latest film Mysteries of Lisbon and Rachel Cooke has a nauseous reaction to The National Anthem on Channel 4. Plus: a break down of this year's finest cultural events, Will Self's Madness of Crowds, Antonia Quirke on Radio 4's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and a poem by Matthew Hollis.

GETTY
Show Hide image

Hillary and the Viking: dramatising life with the Clintons

August radio should be like a corkboard, with a few gems pinned here and there. Heck, Don’t Vote for Him is one.

Now is the season of repeats and stand-in presenters. Nobody minds. August radio ought to be like a corkboard – things seemingly long pinned and faded (an Angela Lansbury doc on Radio 2; an adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor on Radio 4 Extra) and then the occasional bright fragment. Like Martha Argerich playing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No 1 at the Albert Hall (Prom 43, 17 August).

But on Radio 4, two new things really stand out. An edition of In the Criminologist’s Chair (16 August, 4pm) in which the former bank robber (and diagnosed psychopath) Noel “Razor” Smith recalls, among other memorable moments, sitting inside a getaway car watching one of his fellows “kissing his bullets” before loading. And three new dramas imagining key episodes in the Clintons’ personal and political lives.

In the first (Heck, Don’t Vote for Him, 6 August, 2.30pm), Hillary battles with all the “long-rumoured allegations of marital infidelity” during the 1992 Democratic primaries. Fenella Woolgar’s (brilliant, unburlesqued) Hillary sounds like a woman very often wearing a fantastically unhappy grin, watching her own political ambitions slip through her fingers. “I deserve something,” she appeals to her husband, insisting on the position of attorney general should he make it to the top – but “the Viking” (his nickname at college, due to his great head of hair) is off, gladhanding the room. You can hear Woolgar’s silent flinch, and picture Hillary’s face as it has been these past, disquieting months, very clearly.

I once saw Bill Clinton speak at a community college in New Jersey during the 2008 Obama campaign. Although disposed not to like him, I found his wattage, without question, staggering. Sweeping through the doors of the canteen, he amusedly removed the microphone from the hands of the MC (a local baseball star), switched it off, and projected for 25 fluent minutes (no notes). Before leaving he turned and considered the smallest member of the audience – a cross-legged child clutching a picture book of presidents. In one gesture, Clinton flipped it out of the boy’s hands, signed the cover – a picture of Lincoln – and was gone.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue