PositiveThe New Statesman (UK)This book has clarity in abundance, but it also asks us to bear with complexity when it is required. Srinivasan refuses quick solutions ... Although the book makes a strong intervention in the field of feminist philosophy, it does not moralise. Indeed, one of its chief strengths is to show how moral philosophical reflection takes place in the midst of ordinary situations: in the classroom, on social media, in both public and intimate spheres. Imbued with the breath of fresher air, The Right to Sex demonstrates how moral reflection can be distinguished from moralising, why we must learn to pause, collect many perspectives on a topic, turn them over, and resist the lure of panicked and premature judgement ... but I missed a more sustained discussion of the rights of LGBTQI people, and women, to find sex where and how they want without discrimination and fear. That said, I appreciated her slow demolition of bad popular arguments ... Srinivasan offers a capacious and careful consideration of arguments about censoring pornography ... The Right to Sex examines different and conflicting versions of freedom through a wide range of cultural examples, and it does this extremely well: freedom as masculine entitlement, as white supremacist power, market freedoms, including the freedom to accumulate, and to treat sex as both commodity and property. Srinivasan further develops a Marxist-feminist critical reflection on how capitalism and patriarchy continue to inform some of our most basic debates on sexual ethics and policy.
Franz Kafka, tr. Michael Hoffman
MixedJewish Currents... superbly rendered in English by the poet and translator Michael Hofmann. Given its exciting title, one opens the book expecting to find texts that had previously been missing. Yet, as Stach admits in the epilogue, all of the so-called \'lost writings\' found within have long been readily available in German ... the vast majority of texts on offer in this short book—really a compilation of drafts or segments of stories—had already appeared in English and other languages, even if in out-of-print collections ... Perhaps I should be generous: Translation of a text into a second language can surely lead to a sense of discovery for readers with no access to the original. But the fact remains that these texts can be construed as lost only if popular Anglophone publishing markets control the terms of reality; that is, writings come to exist only once they become readily accessible to the English-speaking general reader ... Admittedly, my frustration with the framing of The Lost Writings is compounded by the reality that serious readers of Kafka have in fact been waiting for the release of material long kept from us ... The Lost Writings gives us fragments wrenched from context and presented without any explanation of their place in his notebooks, diaries, or collection of letters. One might defend this procedure as an effort to replicate the sense of disorientation and loss of context that Kafka registers in his work: historical dispossession, dissolution of ground and gravity, forgotten histories and unreadable handbooks, wayward travels with indefinite destinations, communications that falter or fail. But on the contrary, I would argue, the refusal to contextualize Kafka’s writing within its own history simply exploits this disorientation, trivializing the loss of time and place that marks his work ... Despite this mangling, the works in this volume do bring us into contact with provocative forms of dislocation.
PanJewish CurrentsWeiss’s book turned out to be both passionate and disappointing. She repeats her urgent pleas for the reader to wake up and avert a recurrence of a nightmarish history. At the same time, she does not take up the issues that make the matter so vexed for those who oppose both antisemitism and the unjust policies of the Israeli state. To do that, she would have had to provide a history of antisemitism, and account for the relatively recent emergence of the view that to criticize Israel is itself antisemitic. To fight antisemitism we have to know what it is, how best to identify its forms, and how to devise strategies for rooting it out. The book falters precisely because it refuses to do so. Instead, it elides a number of ethical and historical questions, suggesting that we are meant to feel enraged opposition to antisemitism at the expense of understanding it ... It is not only the lack of a broader political approach, but also a lack of historical analysis that afflicts this impassioned book ... Weiss encourages Jews to \'practice a Judaism of affirmation, not a Judaism of defensiveness.\' A fine idea! But if Judaism and Zionism are conflated, then what precisely is to be affirmed? And how are we to judge? Shall we not be permitted to ask all of our questions, so that we may become more wise as we pursue the answers? More courage, Bari Weiss!