Book of the week


This week Booksmith recommends an excellent book by Wolfgang Sofsky entitled Privacy: A Manifesto. Translated from the German, it is at once rhetorically sparse and alarming. The argument is polemical, assuming a priori empathy with his position; as such much needless cant is dispensed with, allowing space for a rather idiosyncratic approach to the subject matter.

Flitting between history and novel, the work appeals as much to the emotions as to rationality. Capturing the zeitgeist of modernity with the echoes of fascism and socialism still ringing in our ears, Sofsky gives a stark picture of the world we live in and threats we face.

Avoiding well-trodden ground, Sofsky is original in suffusing the physical abuses that the state perpetrates against the privacy of the individual. This he does by assaulting the senses with descriptions reminiscent of Patrick Süskind’s Das Parfum.

It got Booksmith thinking. A moot point perhaps - given the horrendous abuses that those with the legitimate use of force commit against individuals in the name of security - but catching the state-run transport underground system certainly undermines Booksmith’s privacy, pushed beyond sanity by the inadequacies of the system. Cows travel for free in more comfort, and at least have the relief of slaughter at the end of it.

It would be a cliché to say this is a timely book, but it is. It also timeless: the battle for freedom is ongoing. Reading this, it is clear we need to reclaim privacy. It can be purchased here