Night Haunts: A Journey through the London NIght by Sukhdev Sandhu; On Brick Lane by Rachel Lichtenstein - review by Tristan Quinn

Tristan Quinn

Shadows Boxing

Night Haunts: A Journey through the London NIght


Verso 144pp £10.99

On Brick Lane


Hamish Hamilton 352pp £20

A cultural brawl is being slugged out in the back alleys of London between these two writers of superficially similar books about the city’s secret lives. At issue – the capital’s soul, where it resides and how best to give it voice. In Night Haunts, the film critic Sukhdev Sandhu investigates what has happened to the London night, worried it has been ‘decommissioned’ by New Labour, its ‘fissile, threatening energies’ lost in a ‘live-forever, things-can-only-get-better fantasia’ of property moguls and Brit flick directors. On his midnight traipses with London’s African cleaners, exorcists, Thames bargers and urban fox hunters he is guided by H V Morton, a Daily Express hack who wrote up his own nocturnal forays as The Nights of London, in 1926. Sukhdev is inspired by Morton’s method, his interest in ordinary Londoners: ‘Not for him the self-obsessed maunderings of psychogeographic writing.’ 

The artist and author Rachel Lichtenstein is a fan of psychogeography, the hip urbanist literary genre whose name was first coined by Guy Debord (who used the term to describe the study of the ‘effects of the geographical environment … on the emotions and behaviour of individuals’) and is most

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