Brecht considered War Primer part of “a satisfactory literary report on my years in exile,” as he wrote in a 1944 journal entry. Since this first English language reception of War Primer on the centenary of Brecht’s birth in 1998, what are we now to make of his poignant modernist epic of four-liner lyrics and scrapbook photos? Today, in our post-crash era, with its renewal of Marxism, Brecht the formalist can be freed from a series of postmodern qualifications. War Primer’s historical intervention can be seen in a new way today. With the far right politically relevant again, Brecht’s image-by-image analysis of social democracy, America, and fascism, which is the veritable heart of War Primer, possesses fresh relevance.
40% off all our Brecht reading until June 11
"I am a city still, but soon I shan’t be –
Where generations used to live and die
Before those deadly birds flew in to haunt me:
One thousand years to build. A fortnight to destroy."
Bertolt Brecht's War Primer is a terrifying series of short poems by one of the world’s leading playwrights, set to images of World War II.
Published in 2000, Without Guarantees — edited by Paul Gilroy, Lawrence Grossberg, and Angela McRobbie — brings together more than 30 essays inspired by, or written in honor of, the great cultural theorist Stuart Hall, who died three years ago this week. "It is appropriate," the editors write in their preface:
given the spirit of Stuart's own commitments that this volume has a second, subsidiary purpose. Cultural studies have been subjected to much abuse lately and the fragile institutional initiatives with which those words are entangled are now under great and growing pressure. In these circumstances it seemed right to try to make this public gift a modest interventionist act in its own right. Here then are some implicit and explicit reflections on what cultural studies can be and what it might become.
Below, we present one of the essays collected in the volume: Wendy Brown's now classic reflection on Hall and the condition that Walter Benjamin termed "left melancholia." First published in boundary 2 in 1999, Brown's essay spurred a debate that has continued through the present day.
via Stuart Hall Foundation
“In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. ... only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins.”1 Walter Benjamin
It has become commonplace to lament the current beleaguered and disoriented condition of the Left. Stuart Hall is among the few who have tried to diagnose the sources and dynamics of this condition. From the earliest days of the rise of the Thatcher-Reagan-Gingrich Right in Europe and North America, Hall insisted that the “crisis of the Left” in the late twentieth century was due neither to internal divisions in the activist or academic Left nor to the clever rhetoric or funding schemes of the Right. Rather, he charged, this ascendency was consequent to the Left's own failure to apprehend the character of the age, and to develop a political critique and a moral-political vision appropriate to this character.
Stuart Hall was a truly seminal figure of the left. Below is a list of his (staggering) life's work. Thanks to Jeremy Gilbert for helping us to compile it.
Enter this month’s competition to win a DVD and poster of John Akomfrah’s latest film, The Stuart Hall Project.
The Stuart Hall Project uses an extensive archive of footage and recordings of Hall’s numerous appearances on television and radio, which are set against the soundtrack of Hall’s favourite musician, Miles Davis.
To enter simply answer this question: In his radio appearance on Desert Island Discs, which one Miles Davis record does Hall ultimately pick to take with him to his desert island?
Email your answer with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is 5pm GMT on Monday 5th May, and a winner will be chosen at random from the correct entries.