Reviews

Then We Take Berlin

Norbert Ruebsaat

Stan Persky has been hailed as a great prose stylist. He has also been hailed as a possible pervert (the word wasn't used, but that was the implication) for his interest in young boys. Young men, rather. Male prostitutes. Both statements are true. They may be connected. Then We Take Berlin, Persky's book on the New Europe, is a long reflection on this question. How is desire connected to will? It's a question that has dogged Western philosophers since ancient Greece, and Persky—a philosophy teacher—doesn't shy away from its implications. As he moves through the New Europe, he reflects on language (which, as an agent of both will and desire, is a prime suspect in this crime drama), on the relationship between the state and the body, between "Capitalism" and "Communism," between market transactions and sexuality. I've read few writers willing to take on such a broad field. The fact that Persky doesn't always "succeed" in his project (for example, it's not always clear to me how his erotic adventures connect with his political ones) does not lessen my reading pleasure. I'm excited that someone I know, someone from here, someone who is "like me" (and I don't know at all what I mean by that at the moment) has taken on this large and important challenge: of asking how we know things here, today. Perhaps the book is perverse. Perhaps the question is perverse. The Western Philosophical project has always stuck me as an oxymoron: how can we know something when we are that thing? The fact that Persky takes the question on makes me love to read him.

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Norbert Ruebsaat

Norbert Ruebsaat has written many articles for Geist. He lived in Vancouver and taught at Simon Fraser University.


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