The Conquest of Water by Jean-Pierre Goubert - review by Will Self

Will Self

Muddy Waters

The Conquest of Water


Polity Press 300pp £29.95 order from our bookshop

It is a typically French idea that the relation between society and one element of its evolution – in this case water – provides the clue to understanding the whole of social progress.

This is the ideal time for the British to read a book which places water at the centre of things and Gaubert’s theory is, on the surface, intriguing, given the current revolution overtaking our own water industry. Maybe the author can teach us something about the possible effects of privatisation on the relationship between what we are and what we drink.

However half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive colonic irrigation. My limbs were heavy and I was nauseous, I longed for the Empty Quarter and the harsh ways of the Bedu.

Perhaps Goubert should be accorded some respect

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