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.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood