Read Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report by Iain Sinclair Online


Once an Arcadian suburb of grand houses, orchards and conservatories, Hackney declined into a zone of asylums, hospitals and dirty industry. Persistently revived, reinvented, betrayed, it has become a symbol of inner-city chaos, crime and poverty....

Title : Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780241142165
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 581 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report Reviews

  • Jonfaith
    2018-07-31 21:55

    A bit of a muddle. As with all of Sinclair's work, the images arrest and move, though the interviews obscure his talents in this sprawling work. Orson Welles and Moby Dick keep bubbling to the surface, illustrating some grand unrealized desire. Sinclair's neighborhood Hackney is disappearing, or evolving. The material phantoms of progress is exacting a due. This formless exploration attempts a collage of evidence. The concluding sections featuring Will Self and Astrid Proll are remarkable.

  • Rachel Stevenson
    2018-07-31 17:53

    Iain Sinclair doesn’t like things. He doesn’t like rules and regulations, Hackney Council, HSBC, cycle shops, writers who use researchers, gentrification, Tony Blair, the Olympics, the Royal Mail, or paying his council tax. He’s pretty rude about Stewart Home, amateur film makers, Lit and Phil societies, architects, and oh, yeah, Hackney Council. He doesn’t like change. He likes old stuff, weird stuff. He likes things staying the same. But I’m not interested in reading Iain Sinclair's gripes (although it's a pity that the book was written before Bo Jo won the mayoralty, I'd've liked to read Sinclair’s evisceration job on him); I’m interested in finding out about the people he casually references without footnotes: David Widgery, Derek Raymond, Maksim Litvnoff, Marc Karlin, Jock McFadyen, Chris Petit, George Raft, Paul Tickell, mostly men. Women, like his wife, Anna, are keeping the home fires burning, shopping, cooking, paying bills, occasionally allowed out to do a non-threatening job or a bit of sculpture. The book is most engaging when Sinclair tells, not shows, lets other people speak (he does a number of interviews with Hackneyites telling their local, social history), it's when he decides that he's going to write that the prose becomes too purple, as difficult to wade though as the legendary, underground Hackney Brook, to wit, this para on Jayne Mansfield: “Mansfield, an intelligent woman on a global publicity assault, would travel anywhere with the same camera - caressing, Michelin-lipped smile, the four inch heels, transvestite abundance of hair, sheath dress that made walking, limo to church hall, a legerdemain of slithering juggling bodymass, stretched satin and threatened shoulder straps. Stateside, there would be two ratty chihuahuas, hairless, trembling, clutched over her exposed breasts.” Careful, Iain, you don't want to stain your manuscript.But then again, he writes lovely lines like: “Blue plaques are the Islington equivalent of Hackney's Sky satellite dishes.” and “The sirens, a chorus Hackney dwellers accept as confirmation that they are in the right place, back home.” or “Reality shows like CCTV with sequins.” Some of the people interviewed who moved into Hackney in the last 30 or 40 years, complain about the borough changing – one wonders if they think about the people who might have complained about them moving in in the 60s and 70s and setting up communes rather than living in a more traditional fashion.There's also some downright nonsense in it – “Hackney is poorly served by buses [there's nothing but buses in Hackney] and its railways stations are on a line that links only to the hubs of other twilight zones [like London Liverpool Street?]” and he complains about the new Dalston Junction station, saying it will go precisely nowhere – well, l I find it very useful actually, Iain. He sticks to his Hackney: Mare Street, De Beauvoir Town, London Fields, Hackney Wick, Haggerston, rarely straying into “my” Hackney: Clapton, Stoke Newington, Homerton, even Shoreditch. He doesn't record, for example, the Stoke Newington-based anti-fascist 43 Group or even that Diane Abbott MP lives on the oft-mentioned Middleton Road. Although when a writer claims that anything of any importance in the borough has taken place within 440 yards of his house, you do start to wonder about his solipsism.Penguin classes the book as Travel/Fiction, but it is as sprawling as Hackney itself. It's more pyschodiarising than psychogeography. And although Sinclair acknowledges in the acknowledgements that some of the book is fiction, the join is often too obvious, e.g. an incident when he tries to see his dodgy Dalston Lane accountant, Hari Simbla, about his tax inspection, and the secretary denies ever having made an appointment seems like a scene from one of Sinclair’s favourite novels, Alexander Baron’s The Lowlife, particularly as the lowlife in question is called Harry as well. Again, watching an underground train zoom past in the Mole Man underground tunnels seems very far-fetched and Sinclair even makes up an alter-ego, the researcher (re-search, geddit?) Kaporal, who invents outrageous tales, and whom Sinclair, presumably referencing EA Poe, a Hackney resident in the 1820s, kills off half way through the book.However, I preferred this book to the only other Sinclair travelogue I've read (London Orbital), partly because I recognised so much of it, have done my own urban wanderings to a few of the places discussed), and my road is on the back cover, but I wonder what people who live in Doncaster, Newcastle, Herne Hill care about Amhurst, Graham, Cassland Roads? The book was written seven years ago and published four years ago, so Hackney has already changed, long term residents have moved 12 postcodes away from E5 to E17, the nouveau east is here to stay. As Sinclair says: “We need breathing space somewhere nobody can find any good reason to regenerate.”

  • Rob
    2018-07-16 16:53

    I embarked upon this book with some trepidation. I'm a Sinclair fan and feel he has been overlooked by prize givers, partly because of the thorniness of his meticulously crafted prose and the no holds barred obsession with the obscurities of London geography, as well as its lesser heralded artists, writers and film makers. A six hundred page book on the subject of just a single London borough promised to try all bar the most attentive of readers and I was ready to be disappointed. Had he gone too far this time?Not so. This is a compelling account of a borough on the point of transformation due to the 2012 Olympics. His exploration of diverse neighbourhoods such as de Beauvoir Town, Dalston, Homerton and Hackney Wick really gets under the surface of these places. Interviews pepper the text and provide enjoyable relief from the more literary sentences constructed by Sinclair himself. Among the interviewees are Astrid Proll and Will Self; among the anecdotes are tales involving Orson Welles, the Mole Man of Mortimer Road, Jean Luc Godard and Julie Christie. Sure, the usual cast of Sinclair's characters all make an appearance - Stewart Home, Ian Askead, Chris Petit - and some of them are occasionally shoehorned into the text unnecessarily, but overall, this is a great account of seventies anarchism, renegade GPs, soaring crime and brutal gentrification. Perhaps the best tribute I can pay is the fact that it inspired me, book in hand, to make several expeditions into the borough in order to check out the places referred to at first hand.

  • Suzanne
    2018-08-15 19:40

    I so looked forward to getting this book from the library, having heard excerpts from it on Radio 4. What a disaster. The editors who knocked it into shape for "Book of the Week" must have really been worth their weight in gold: muddling through over 600 pages of self-indulgent slop cannot have been an easy job.Having lived in the famous borough for two years, and lived near it in Tower Hamlets for two more, I was looking forward to reading about all my old stomping grounds: Stoke Newington, Clapton, Hackney Marshes, Mare Street, and Dalston. What I actually found was a book without head or tail, aimlessly wandering throughout Sinclair's 30+ years of obsessive/compulsive information gathering. Many of the places described - Old Ford, Bethnal Green, Victoria Park, are not even in the borough, but are part of Tower Hamlets. Each sentence wanders hither and thither. What were Sinclair's editors doing? What was the publisher thinking? Somewhere, there must be a definitive book about Hackney, but this one isn't it.

  • Lewis
    2018-07-31 15:03

    In the end, I got about two-thirds of the way through this book before giving up. By that point, the author was beginning to repeat himself, and the few nuggets of interesting information about Hackney had become buried beneath increasingly dense layers of waffle and repeated references to a small clique of writers and artists who appear to be the author's friends. Disappointing.

  • Jennifer
    2018-08-16 20:48

    Loved it, though I think this is the longest it has taken me to finish a book. This is an incredibly dense and wandering study of Hackney at a moment in time when what is was is about to be wiped away. Sinclair is mourning the past, but I think also demonstrating that there is hope - precisely because Hackney has always been submerged under varying layers of obfuscation and in constant motion. It is nearly impossible to get a grip on. The characters in this book seem too eccentric to be true, until I remember some of the people I have stumbled across in my own life, especially in Albion. I will return to Hackney, not looking at it in the same way. There is a lot more there than you might imagine.

  • City of London Libraries
    2018-07-26 21:51

    We met to discuss Iain Sinclair's 2009 'documentary fiction', Hackney, that rose-red Empire, his personal local history of the London borough in which he lives. Wherein he mixes accounts of and interviews with characters he deems representative of the area's past, his own domestic history, and an on-going report of his researches for and construction of the book itself. Spiced, at some length, it has to be said, with references to a few famous names whose connection to the place is fleeting, tenuous or simply speculative: Jayne Mansfield and Julie Christie (fleeting); Jean Luc Godard (tenuous); and Orson Welles (speculative). Neither does he stint to give the reader the benefit of his caustic views on a number of social matters: vanity and corruption of local government; vanity and corruption of the London Olympics project; massive petty crime; retrograde modern architecture; vanity and corruption of Tony Blair; ineptitude of the NHS; pernicious motorists and cyclists; bendy buses; etc. - as regular punctuations to his narrative.It was this last aspect which, Malcolm suggested, might qualify him as one of the grumpiest old men in print. Not so, according to Tim. Others quibbled too - clearly, a hotly contested niche, that one. Anyway, isn't he celebrating a not-too-happy past in the face of what he considers an ignorant future? Nostalgie de la boue, if you asked Malcolm. But he shows optimism about his characters, protested Tim, he shows them as interesting. The only problem with the book is that it is such an unedited collection of articles and goes on far too long. As Sinclair is only too well aware! Jenny pointed out. At one point one of his interviewees protests about 'fools who think cobbled together interview transcripts make a proper book'. He may well be having a laugh.What about the crime? Sinclair wades through crime-scenes and squad cars whenever he leaves his house. Jenny had a friend who was mugged in Tudor Road. Sara has one who lives not far away from Sinclair's house whose car had been repeatedly vandalised. But Malcolm had been visiting friends right on Sinclair's street for over 20 years, taking children to the local parks, attending the communal garden fete, and had been blissfully ignorant of the carnage going on around him. No, Sara insisted, Hackney is as Sinclair descibes it, a war-zone, OK? OK, no arguing with that, is there?One topic of interest was how much he'd made up. One character, an unlikely bicycling book-merchant (Driffield) was very real – Sara had experience of him in her previous life as a librarian and produced his Drif's Guide, 'a scabrous collection of insults, jokes, prejudices and abuses about bookshops and their owners.' Another one, Kaporal, a seedy-sounding researcher of scandal who hangs himself, we'd bet was pure invention. Malcolm knew personally Sinclair's 'art-historian' neighbour who is supposed to advise him on the whereabouts of Leon Kossoff's paintings, but drew a complete blank when the trail takes him to an 'influential magazine' a 'former Graham Road hack owned and edited'. William Taylor, 'clergyman-author-chairperson' of the 'Boas Society', certainly exists and was once a guest author at a meeting of this Readers' Group(!), although the society itself is a bit harder to track down. The moral seems to be to take it all with a fairly big pinch of salt – Sinclair himself writes: 'Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire is a documentary fiction; where it needs to be true, it is.' Begging the question whether any requirement at all is placed upon it.For Malcolm and Rory, it was an exuberant exercise in name-dropping, from West Ham and England footballer Martin Peters (related to Jenny, she'd have you know!) to Stalin (now when and where was he in Hackney?) We had a sceptical split: Jenny thought Sinclair implied too much cultural significance to his topic, whereas Sara applauded his genuine enthusiasm for the likes of Godard and Welles. It was a memoir. It was that. Malcolm pointed out we should now have, on completing the text, a full medical history of the author and his family, legs, teeth, births, appendectomies, the works.The style of Sinclair's writing? Tim had it down as observational notes, Jenny as Joycean. Her favourite bit was a celebration of a café near Victoria Park once visited by Julie Christie, ending: 'The old England of fog and noose. Now countered by this vision in khaki, walker of Hackney's parks and graveyards: Julie Christie. Patron of independent bookshops, street markets, cafés. The radiant future we have left behind.' For Malcolm, Sinclair was moved to his finest pitch by the challenge of the disgraced, necrophiliac doctor, Swanny, who catered to the Kray twins: 'That never-extinguished torch burning a hole in bulging, semen-stained corduroys.' Didn't get better than that.On the whole, we appeared to have found the thing interesting enough, but it was a different animal to Sinclair's London Orbital, which the group took on some years ago. That book was a dense local history travelogue with some personal anecdote. This one was more of a collection of personal anecdote with some local history squeezed in. Gonzo stuff

  • Peter Law
    2018-07-16 19:59

    A MUST-read for anyone interested in London. And I now have a whole reading list of forgotten British novels and authors. Sinclair at his best.

  • John
    2018-08-07 14:59

    As someone who grew up in Hackney in the 1980s this hits many sweet spots. I suspect that for a lot of readers it will veer between whimsy, over-detailed introspection and even self-indulgence. It is certainly not an easy read - it requires both concentration and imagination just to handle the language - and at 600 pages it is best tackled in 60 page bites.Sinclair continues his fascination with how the geography and myths of location affect our lives, but this is an intensely intimate portrait, a biography not of place but rather a particular pocket of time and left-wing politics that indelibly stamped Hackney as the place to be in the early Eighties for thinkers and writers. It was a terrible place to live - no-one had any money ever, but it was also living proof that money wasn't needed, and that a good story sufficed.Sinclair manages to capture through multi-layered vignettes some of the chaotic semiotic meaning and meaningless of the place - all those who were there have a special affectionate bond with the place. This book is, one strongly suspects, written with them in mind, and those who weren't there may find the lack of identification hard going.

  • David Hallard
    2018-08-08 22:03

    In the tradition of the Situationists, and as an unrepentant Conradian, Sinclair invites us to read this book with 'Heart of Darkness' as its key.Lying prone in his Hackney cot, reeling from the ravages of colonialism, Conrad cast off the twin phantoms of his fever, the madness of a "soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear", and its dogged pursuer sent out from home. Hanging in the air, this binary of horror awaits earth born carriers to begin the game afresh.In the new millennium, in an inversion of Conrad's journey, we see bodies mangled by violence and corruption on a massive scale; the Olympic project describing a reverse globalisation within the capital city. Sinclair, the descendant of Knights Templar, a meticulous tracer and archivist, a living compendium of London's cultures, is absorbed into Conrad's bequest to the East End. But if he is to strut his stuff as a modern day Marlow, who on earth will we get to play Kurtz?

  • Nick
    2018-08-08 15:56

    Iain Sinclair gives us a pure form of "Psychogeography", a kind of ecstatic writing and memoir invented by situationist leader Guy Debord. Here, Sinclair doesn't just recount the history of the East End borough of Hackney, but his personal history living there, emotional memories of starting a family and being an experimental writer and filmmaker. He finds that to do so, he must investigate connections and the connections to those connections which delve further into the world of art and the experimental, avant-garde world of of London in the Sixties to find out where his roots lie in a place that has never seemed to warrant his full attention.

  • Peter Haslehurst
    2018-07-31 21:38

    I have to admit it's taken me a couple f years to finish this. At one point I laid it aside in exasperation with the rambling stream of reminiscences about people I've never heard of. But I recently picked it up again and found it strangely captivating. He's an angry man – very angry with the destructive corruption of Hackney council and the Olympics Authority (or whatever they're called).

  • Wreade1872
    2018-07-25 17:38

    Hard one to describe, seems to be a book about trying to write a book. Lots of interviews, rumors, opinions. Mostly regarding the history of hackney in terms of the artists who have moved through it over the years.Despite it being completely outside of my areas of interest or knowledge i still found it quite good even with its length.

  • Peter Macinnis
    2018-08-04 21:44

    I bought this book in Florence two years ago, and it has been on my to-read file for some time. As I prepare to invade Tasmania for ten days, I need a Good Book to read on the plane, when snowed in, when fogbound, to ease the pain of frostbite. This will be a good choice. I am up to page 12 and kicking myself for not getting to it sooner.

  • Natalie
    2018-07-27 21:44

    FINALLY.After starting it twice, and an extended reading period of 2 years (no joke), I have finished this book. I feel proud (it's not an easy read), and also know a lot about the history of Hackney.

  • Jason Meininger
    2018-07-27 21:06

    I realised I hadn't touched this in a year or more so moved to "read" and "I give up." I remember there being some good characters but i also remember it seeming very scattered, and it just didn't grab me enough to keep going.

  • Rosie
    2018-08-14 20:01

    As an east London dweller I found the personal testimony extremely interesting, but the authors poetic prose was a bit too hard to digest at length. I got about half way before I felt like I had read enough.

  • Steve
    2018-07-25 14:53

    Typical Sinclair - characters appear and connect, locations and events resonate and resurface though the narrative. I found the overall tone dark and a little depressing, as dystopia seems to slowly be seeping through the inner city.

  • Graeme
    2018-08-13 20:08

    Sometimes enjoyable, Inconsistently compelling. Thus took forever to read. Do it goes.

  • Susan
    2018-07-23 22:07

    Dense but brilliant.

  • Ross Mcelwain
    2018-07-29 15:51

    I just wish he'd go a little easier on the Iain Sinclair-worship.

  • Gareth James
    2018-07-31 14:00

    Engaging collage of Hackney's past, present and Olympic-sized future.

  • Ralph
    2018-07-30 18:41

    The unreadable ramblings of an old cynical man. Unbearable.

  • Michele
    2018-08-12 16:48

    I chipped away at this for way too long

  • Gulnaz
    2018-07-27 20:06

    Not easy to read, and not as informative/interesting as I'd hoped.

  • Peter
    2018-08-10 13:42

    Great trawl through Hackney characters and history, discovered stuff I should've known but didn't and an array of other stories, need to go and have a wwalk around the borough for a day next week.

  • Joe
    2018-08-16 17:55

    took awhile to get started, but soon racing through. Highly enjoyable ramble through Hackney landscape filtered through Iain Sinclair's mindset.

  • Lauren G
    2018-07-23 19:02

    a love letter to one of london's most fascinating neighborhoods.

  • Maximus Gallicus
    2018-08-10 19:54

    Sinclair is quite brilliant, though idiosyncratic. There is really nothing to compare to his portraiture of London places and people.

  • Andrew Johnson
    2018-07-21 22:01

    Iain Sinclair is clearly disgruntled with the way his life turned out.