Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Books
23 February 2022

Reviewed in short: New books by Aaron Perzanowski, Amy Liptrot, Marina Jarre and Tom de Freston

The Right to Repair by Perzanowski, The Instant by Liptrot, Distant Fathers by Jarre, and Wreck by De Freston.

By Will Dunn, India Bourke, Christiana Bishop and Michael Prodger

The Right to Repair: Reclaiming the Things We Own by Aaron Perzanowski
Cambridge University Press, 364pp, £14.99

My last phone, an iPhone 7, was bought second-hand for less than a third of its original RRP. I replaced the screen six times for less than £20 a go (plus a one-off £10 on some very specific screwdrivers) before the button gave out. I work on an eight-year-old iMac that I’ve also repaired and upgraded under the direction of the tech repair website iFixit. My thrifty approach hasn’t exactly held Apple back – in January it became the first company to be worth more than $3trn – but it has nevertheless gone to some lengths to thwart me.

As the law professor Aaron Perzanowski points out in this comprehensive overview of the war on repair, Apple has introduced unusual screws, software locks and warnings that appear designed to prevent people from fixing its products. Its own “repair” service simply replaces AirPod headphones, which are effectively impossible to fix. Apple is far from the only company to do this: as Perzanowski explains, repair prevention is now built into consumer gadgets, tractors, military equipment and medical devices. Where The Right to Repair is strongest, however, is on the intellectual property law that doesn’t just discourage repair but makes it, in some cases, a criminal offence.

By Will Dunn

The Instant by Amy Liptrot
Canongate, 192pp, £14.99

The romantic associations of moving abroad often pose a tension. Do we cast off old anchors so we might attach ourselves to something new? Or to test the durability of our sense of self? Both impulses shaped Amy Liptrot’s decision to leave her native Orkney Islands to begin a new life in Berlin – with enthralling and instinct-sharpening effect.

While a return home, aged 30, was the subject of The Outrun, her acclaimed first memoir, The Instant reckons with the call of the elsewhere. The book combines the usual challenges of job hunting and dating with searching for raccoons and traffic island mapping – a warning of intense loneliness is beautifully merged with the rewards of discovery. And with the actor Saoirse Ronan cast in an upcoming film adaption of the earlier book, I cannot help wondering if Liptrot’s work updates for the existentially anxious 2020s what Helen Fielding’s (very different) Bridget Jones books gave to the image-obsessed millennial generation. Namely, showing us how to breathe deeper in our own skin.

Content from our partners
The shrinking road to net zero
The tree-planting misconception
Is your business ready for corporate climate reporting?

By India Bourke

Distant Fathers: A Memoir by Marina Jarre, translated by Ann Goldstein
Head of Zeus, 240pp, £16.99

As the Italian novelist Marina Jarre contemplates separating from her husband, her resentment is not directed towards the man who made her feel like an “unmarried mother” while she raised their children, but towards her friends for “not perceiving the distance between my appearance and my frenzied inner world”. It is this tension that lies at the heart of Jarre’s moving memoir, the first of her books to be translated into English – by Ann Goldstein, who is known for her translations of Elena Ferrante.

Jarre’s prose is rich and lyrical but not straightforward; memories are mixed with dreams, chronologies are twisted and vivid streams of consciousness are jarringly interrupted with historical fact. She divides her story into three parts: her childhood in Latvia, where Jarre observed the breakdown of her parents’ marriage; her adolescence living with her Protestant maternal grandparents in Italy during the Second World War, when her Latvian-Jewish father was killed in the Holocaust and her mother was absent; and her adulthood in Turin, where feelings of displacement and detachment continued to haunt her. Jarre’s life is fascinating, yet she maintains her distance, even from the readers that she has invited in.

By Christiana Bishop

Wreck: Géricault’s Raft and the Art of Being Lost at Sea by Tom de Freston
Granta, 352pp, £16.99

When Théodore Géricault’s huge painting The Raft of the Medusa was exhibited in 1819, it was seen as an indictment of France’s corrupt Restoration government. The frigate Medusa, under the command of a hapless royalist officer, foundered off the coast of West Africa in 1816: of the 147 crew and passengers who committed themselves to a raft, only 15 survived an ordeal that included mutiny and cannibalism. As he worked on the picture, Géricault was deranged: reeling from an incestuous affair with his aunt, he prepared for the painting by depicting the severed heads and limbs of executed criminals.

In Wreck, a mix of art, identification and memoir, the artist Tom de Freston explores his fixation with Géricault’s painting while weaving in his own collaboration with Ali, a Syrian writer blinded by a bomb, and a personal catastrophe too. It is a strange hybrid but he finds the right tone, and it becomes clear that what De Freston is examining is not so much one painting as the relationship between art and suffering.

By Michael Prodger

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

This article appears in the 23 Feb 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Darkness Falls