Overshoot: How China Derailed Its Peaceful Rise by Susan L Shirk
Oxford University Press, 320 pages, £19.99
When Xi Jinping After becoming head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2012, many international observers saw him as a pragmatist who would ensure China’s continued economic development. He was a “red prince”, the son of a communist revolutionary who had served alongside Mao Zedong. But his family had suffered terribly during Mao’s tumultuous reign. The conventional wisdom was that Xi’s experience under Mao would prevent him from repeating the same mistakes. “He tricked us,” a Chinese economist told Susan Shirk in her new book, Overreach.
Shirk, a former senior US State Department official and a leading expert on China policy, examines how Xi consolidated his power during his first decade in office and embraced a tougher foreign policy. She traces the origins of this assertive turn to Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, as China’s extraordinary economic growth fueled the CCP’s confidence in its own political system and Western confidence in the country’s trajectory began to crumble. fade. Shirk isn’t optimistic about the way forward. A new cold war is underway, she warns, and it will be far more dangerous than the last.
By Katie Stallard
The Last Days of the Ottoman Empire, 1918-1922 by Ryan Gingeras
Allen Lane, 368 pages, £30
The Ottoman Empire – “the sick man of Europe” – has long been on its deathbed. After more than six centuries as one of the world’s great powers and one of the most feared, it finally expired on November 1, 1922 when the sultanate was abolished. About two weeks later, the last sultan, Mehmed VI, was driven out of Turkey and into exile, and the reign of the House of Osman was over. In his impressive century-old story, Ryan Gingeras recounts not only the agony of the ancient kingdom, but also Turkey’s painful emergence as a nation-state from what remained of the lands of the once empire. that Western powers had cut off the Middle East.
As Gingeras has shown in previous books, Ottoman decline, exacerbated by factionalism, was simply accelerated by entering World War I on the side of Germany. His last acts – the Armenian Genocide, the brutality against Greek separatists and the Assyrian and Christian minorities – meant that Turkey under Kemal Atatürk was born in disorder and blood. It’s a complicated story that still resonates beneath Recep Tayyip Erdoğanand Gingeras tells it with lucid authority.
By Michael Prodger
Strangers to Ourselves: Stories of Unstable Minds by Rachel Aviv
Harvill Secker, 288 pages, £18.99
For some, trying to express what it feels like to experience the symptoms of psychosis is “like trying to explain what barking sounds like to someone who has never heard of it. ‘a dog’, writes the New Yorker journalist Rachel Aviv in her rich and deeply reported first book. This striking image is at the heart of strangers to ourselveswhich considers how the lived experience of people with mental illness is understood by health professionals and society at large.
Unlike many of its award-winning feature articles, Aviv does not report from the outside. At the age of six, she stopped eating. She was later hospitalized and diagnosed with anorexia – a condition she is no longer sure she ever suffered from. Here, she emotionally weaves her memory of that time and the impact it had on her later life, around the profiles of five other people who suffered from chronic mental health issues. In doing so, she reveals the complex biological and environmental factors at play. Her storytelling is vulnerable and, drawing on her own experience, she raises compelling questions about how a person’s diagnosis and treatment can shape their identify.
By Christiana Bishop
Marigold and rose: a fiction by Louise Glück
Carcannet, 64pp, £12.99
marigold and rose, a short work of fiction by Nobel Prize-winning American poet Louise Glück, tells a fabulous story of twins in their first year. They have early inner lives. Marigold is writing a book, which is difficult because she can’t read. She can’t speak either, but considers her basic expression to be like “that wordless time before Greek or Sanskrit”. “Would this be of interest to people who can read?” Marigold asks, what her and Rose’s daily existence means. This is the tension of the story. Glück seems to poke fun at the importance many place on the actions of young children, but also treats the twins’ lives with sincerity. Their experience of time, for example, is both amusing and banal and melancholic: “Outside the park, there was day and night… The rain came, then the snow.
It’s a strange novel. Though brief, Gluck’s prose cannot match the economy of expression of his poetry. Sometimes twins are metaphors (expressing creativity or the struggle to understand each other), sometimes just babies. And it seems slim, coming with the fanfare of a Nobel Prize winner but actually being a single short story presented as an entire book.
By Matthew Gilley
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