Check out these brilliant new cultural books

Check out these brilliant new cultural books

8 Jun 2021

This month our picks include a plundered Veronese, Berlin Typography and two titles that reimagine female histories, recommended by one of our Lecturers

Paolo Veronese, The Wedding Feast at Cana, 1563. Musée du Louvre, Paris, INV 142. Image credit: DeAgostini/Diomedia Images

Napoleon’s Plunder and the Theft of Veronese’s Feast 
by Cynthia Saltzman (Thames & Hudson, £25)

This fascinating tale shines a light on Napoleon’s cultural plundering across Europe and beyond, where the finest paintings, sculptures and decorative objects were seized and placed in what was once called the Musée Napoleon (now the Louvre). Of all the incredible examples of the High Renaissance that were stolen from Rome, Venice, Milan, Vienna and more, Paolo Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana was the jewel in the crown. Author Cynthia Saltzman tells the incredible story of how this vast canvas was torn from the wall of the monastery at San Giorgio Maggiore and transported across the Mediterranean rolled up in a cylinder, before being exhibited in Paris, where it still stands, opposite the Mona Lisa. – Holly Black

Berlin Typography
By Jesse Simon (Prestel, £12.99)

With over 200 photographs taken across the city, this new book examines the distinct signage – and more specifically the type design each one employs – that defines the Berlin aesthetic. From the no-nonsense sans serif of the U-Bahn to the curvaceous, neon-lit script of luxurious retailers, each page paints a portrait of a capital that has overcome horrifying division, with creativity and personal flourishes found throughout the streets, defying any historical East and West divide. – Holly Black

We Wrote in Symbols: Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers 
Edited by Selma Dabbagh (Saqi Books, £14.99)

While some readers might know that the Arabic language has a long tradition of erotic literature, both poetry and prose, that many women writers are among the foremost creators in this field is less well known. Perhaps most startling of all is just how ancient some of the extant literature is, pre-dating Islam by many hundreds of years, to stretch back over two millennium. We Wrote in Symbols brings together 75 women of Arab heritage in this fascinating collection of works on love and lust, the first ever such collection in English. It is an important book, but more importantly it is a very good book, by turns surprising and challenging, but sophisticated, fun and, above all else, a joy to read. – Eamonn Gearon

Midnight in Cairo: The Female Stars of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s
By Raphael Cormack (Saqi Books, £20.00)
Anyone who has ever visited the Middle East or North Africa will have heard the voice of Umm Khalthoum at one time or another. The most famous performer from the Arab world in the twentieth or any other century, Umm Khalthoum was not the only woman involved in the entertainment business in the Arab world’s largest and most exciting city. Midnight in Cairo reveals a host of other women who were involved in the arts scene in 1920s Cairo. In a story as startling and entertaining as the performers themselves, this book shows us the women promotors and others who ran the nightclubs, dance halls, cinemas and record labels, and who provoked delight and scandal in equal measure. – Eamonn Gearon

About the Author

Eamonn Gearon and Holly Black

Eamonn Gearon is an Arts Society Lecturer, author and historian, specialising in the Middle East from the dawn of Islam to the present day. Holly Black is The Arts Society's Digital Editor


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