UKEMI AUDIOBOOKS is a new digital label for the spoken word founded by Nicolas Soames. It presents fiction and non-fiction titles which are either unavailable as downloads or which need fresh, clear and authoritative recordings. They range from C J Jung’s important autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections and Seneca’s The Moral Epistles, to Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks and Samuel Beckett’s Murphy. For details of all releases click on the CATALOGUE tab. All titles can be downloaded from Audible.
And Another Four New Titles
And hardly had the ink dried on the Ukemi announcement in June of eight new titles come another four…and covering an even wider range. Jarošlav Hašek’s great anti-war satire, The Good Soldier Švejk is one of the great novels of the first half of the 20th century, undermining the tragedy of the First World War and the collapse of the established European order with wit and perspicacity. It possesses a particular punch because the conflagration is bounced off the character of a dog salesman, batman and man of the people, one Josef Švejk, one of the most remarkable figures in international literature. He is, in a curious way, an Everyman, though he is embedded in the history and culture of the Czech peoples and set against the background of the collapsing Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this hilarious reading by David Horovitch, this recording will prove to be an unforgettable experience, I guarantee.
The Spirit of the Laws, though less known nowadays, was one of the most influential social documents of the 18th century, having an effect even on the writing of the American Constitution. Through intense activity over two decades, Baron de Montesquieu looked at the way the laws of society have affected life and civilisations of all kinds, from Europe and the Middle East, to China and Japan, from ancient to modern (mid-18th century) times. There is an extraordinary breadth of content here and his observations and conclusions make for fascinating reading even in the 21st century.
Eight New Titles!
There has been a flurry of recordings over the last three months, which is why – I note to my embarrassment – this introduction has not been updated since March!
There have been continuations and new directions as one idea sparks another, and as usual, some interesting suggestions have come from keen listeners! I do welcome suggestions, and where I can I try to convert those into recordings. The Venerable Bede’s landmark 8th century The Ecclesiastical History of the English People was suggested by ‘M’ and it is a fascinating document of England in pre-Alfred times. Someone (please excuse me – I can’t recall who it was) suggested Jeremy Bentham’s An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, another landmark event, those of a different, more measured (!) kind.
It was while looking into Bentham that I came across one of his prescient essays Offences Against Oneself which, however, was never published in his lifetime because of the controversial nature of his argument. Here, Bentham argues boldly (for his time, late 18th century) for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Homosexuality was punished, in many European countries by death – hanging or burning. I have combined it with an equally striking European document on the same theme: An Open Letter by the Hungarian Károly Mária Kertbeny, writing in Berlin in the 19th century. It was Kertbeny, by the way, who coined the words homosexual and heretosexual, adopted later by Kraft-Ebbing.
It is all the more shocking to read these essays when one realises that their call for decriminalisation didn’t succeed in much of Europe until the middle to late 20th century! And there are many parts of the world where the battle still has to be fought and won.
Capital (Volumes 1, 2, 3) by Karl Marx has proved surprisingly popular though it is not light listening. So have Ukemi’s other Marx recordings. And therefore it was only right that Derek Le Page should have the opportunity to round it all off with The Communist Manifesto. This is something that, I feel, everyone should hear or read! It is not long, but its had such a drastic long-term effect on the world that it demands first-hand knowledge from all of us. There are quite a few existing recordings already, but Derek, interestingly, looked at some of the texts and events surrounding this political milestone. Reviewing the Manifesto in its historical context gives provide a richer perspective.
Among other continuations is the third Kropotkin title. The community ideas of the Russian anarchist communist are gaining increasing traction as the excesses of capitalism come under critical scrutiny: The Conquest of Bread went swiftly onto the Ukemi best-seller list. Fields, Factories and Workshops is one of his most important books, a more detailed window into his theories.
Similarly, the Ukemi interest in Nietzsche continues with Nietzsche and Buddhism by Robert G Morrison. Nietzsche’s starting point here was Schopenhauer, but he progressed with further steps, and his particular ideas as the scholarly work on Buddhism, and the deeper understanding of it, expanded, particularly in Germany and France. Morrison is a philosopher and a practising Buddhist, so he is especially suited to this overview.
And finally, Thucydides. A powerful, detailed account of the great confrontation between Athens and Sparta…unfinished because Thucydides died before the end. But The History of the Peloponnesian War remains one of the primary documents from the world of Ancient Greece, widely read even now.
I write these words knowing that in a week or so, more Ukemi recordings will be up on Audible. I think the 100th title will be The Good Soldier Švejk, the first time that this masterly novel – one of the great anti-war satires of all time – has been recorded. Earthy, full of crazy characters starting with the eponymous hero, it is surely one of the funniest classics ever. Jaroslav Hašek was a vagrant, a drunk, a journalist (not that all three words always go together) but what he did in producing Švejk will ensure that his name will live for ever. David Horovitch’s reading is pitch-perfect. What a joy for you all to come!