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PopMatters reviews The Verso Book of Dissent

Clara Heyworth 3 November 2010

Reviewing The Verso Book of Dissent for PopMatters, John L. Murphy praises the breadth and depth of this collection spanning 4000 years:

Commemorating four decades of radical publishing at Verso, whose name comes from the "left" side of the page, Andrew Hsiao and Audrea Lim gather hundreds of contrarian voices "from Spartacus to the Shoe-Thrower of Baghdad." The currency of their effort extends their coverage past these two markers. It begins with an anonymous "Tale of the Eloquent Peasant" ca. 1800 BCE. It ends with Swedish mystery writer Henning Mankell's judgment on the flotilla he boarded that challenged Israeli forces to end the Gaza blockade this past May: "I believe so strongly in solidarity as an instrument to change the world, and I believe in dialogue, but it's the action that proves the word."

For Murphy, one particular pleasure that comes from delving into The Verso Book of Dissent is " finding a familiar author in a surprising context." And he takes pleasure too (who wouldn't?) in the entry from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle: "There is no reason goodness cannot triumph over evil, so long as the angels are as organized as the mafia."

On the question of peaceful versus armed struggle, Liu Xiaobho is cited:

"For the problems that come from the barrel of the pen can only be resolved by the barrel of the pen." Liu Xiaobho, new Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chinese prisoner, argues thus; but many others in this anthology take up the barrel of a gun. This tension permeates dissent: can peaceful protest drive out violence and oppression?

The review ends,

Today's fear of speaking out contends with the necessity to speak out ... This edition provides a thoughtful compilation of the reactions to the privileges some possess today, alongside the injustice the dispossessed endure—next to the pyramids of the powerful.

Not only a "thoughtful compilation" but, it is hoped, a rallying cry for 21st-century dissenters ...

Visit PopMatters to read the review in full.

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