Thomas Marks

East of Islington

Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report

By

Hamish Hamilton 480pp £20 order from our bookshop

Until his eviction in 2006, the Mole Man of Hackney had spent forty years burrowing a warren of exploratory tunnels beneath his house. His digging was gradual, improvised, and deeply eccentric. It upset the neighbours. In 2007, two miles further east, the Olympic Development Authority began to plough up Hackney Wick under the mantra ‘Demolish, Dig, Design’. Its digging was rapid, mechanical, and aggressively logical as former brownfield sites were transformed into blank space for development. The Mole Man’s madcap archaeology is an apt metaphor for how Iain Sinclair has answered what he views as the architectural and political arrogance of the Olympic planners and their ‘demolition and ransacking of a mythical past’. He has tunnelled into the life of Hackney in unexpected places and undermined many assumptions about the borough. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,