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Red in the Rainbow - by Lynn Carneson -  Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Photography and Psychoanalysis - by Stephen J.M. Bray - Reviewer Michael John Eldridge

The British Constitution - A Very Short Introduction by Martin Loughlin - Reviewer Sep Meyer






Red in the Rainbow (The life and times of Fred and Sarah Carneson) by Lynn Carneson, 2010.  Zebra Press, Cape Town.  316 pages.

ISBN: 978 1 77022 085 0

Let me confess immediately: this review will not be unbiased.  I have to admit to partiality where Lynn Carneson  is concerned; a partiality that extends to her entire family, not least of whom are the protagonists of this biography that she has written about her parents.  So let me get this bias aired before I proceed with the moral imperative of producing a fair and honest appraisal of the work. 

Lynn and I have been associates and close friends almost 25 years.  We have travelled together over much of the world, including the U.S.A., Italy, France and much of Britain, as well as South Africa.  A lot of that time was spent with members of her family and I think it is not much of an exaggeration to suggest that they treated me as one of their own. 

In 1996, when Lynn completed her book of South African memories(1), which is a sort of prequel to Red in the Rainbow, I was honoured to have her choose to publish it under my Companys ASPEN imprint.  It was a book she had felt unable to complete while the apartheid regime continued to exist in South Africa.  The moment that regime collapsed, that Mandela was released from Robben Island, and her parents were able to plan their return to their homeland, an emotional block was lifted and she was able to complete the final section and publish the book. 

So it was with this background, these memories, and the further experiences of joining Lynn and her parents subsequently during a visit to Cape Town for my own commercial interests, and long after attending a moving and heart-warming memorial service for Fred Carneson at the Unison Trade Union headquarters in Euston Road following Freds death in his beloved South Africa, that I picked up a copy of Red in the Rainbow with very mixed emotions of my own.




Sarah, Fred and Lynn  in my suite at the Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, 1992


Having completed that confession, how do I now discuss the merits of Red in the Rainbow both dispassionately and objectively? 

The answer is that I cannot.  Indeed, I should not.  This book, unlike revenge, is not to be partaken cold.  It is intended to stir the blood and it does so admirably.



With Sarah in Cape Town, 2009


It would be easy to dismiss it as a simple work of biography or as the story of two ordinary yet in many ways extraordinary people.  But it is more than that.  It is a moving and poignant yet at the same time elevating love story set against the backdrop of a turbulent and shameful episode of social history.  But it is more than that.  It is a personalized account of interwoven lives of despair and hope, of joy and heartbreak, of struggle and fulfillment.  It is all of these things.  And it is more than all of them.  It is the very definition of the word synergy. 

Fred and Sarah Carneson belonged to a small and very uneasy group of people in post World War II South Africa.  They were White, but had little in common with that vast majority of white-skinned South Africans who believed in the privilege that their skin colour conferred on them.  The opposition to apartheid that they maintained despite the tribulations and persecution that they suffered from the civil authorities was the stuff of which biblical heroes were made.  But they certainly did not regard themselves as heroes.   

They were communists long before the term became a dirty word and they maintained their belief in the social justice that that system proclaimed throughout their lives.  They were supporters of the African National Congress despite all the hardship to which they were exposed in so being, including the lacuna of their familys dispersion, harassment by the security police, and, finally, Freds lengthy imprisonment.  And their spirit and belief may have been shaken at times, but were never broken. 

Much of Lynn and her siblings (John her brother and Ruth the baby of the family) lives are dealt with in Lynns earlier book (1), but in Red in the Rainbow  she deals with this at greater length from the viewpoint of the parental interaction, basing much of it on letters, official documents and newspaper articles.  The tension of living in an atmosphere of constant police surveillance is poignantly evoked, as is Freds trial and subsequent imprisonment, and the eventual reuniting of the family in England until, finally in 1991, South Africas doors were reopened to them.   

I make no excuse for quoting at some length part of the report on the speech Lynn Carneson gave at the book launch of Red in the Rainbow in Cape Town, in July 2010: 

Speaking of her fathers month-long interrogation, torture and sleep deprivation . . . he slept in a cell too small to contain a bed, where a very bright light shone 24 hours a day.  Many years later she discovered a bundle of letters, tied together with a piece of string.  These letters had been written while he was in solitary confinement for over 13 months.  The family only ever received two of the letters hed penned.  The rest remained unopened and unread. 

He was allowed a pen and paper, which sometimes he was given, and sometimes he wasnt .  He wrote to me, my mother, to Ruth and to John . . . When I looked at them I was struck by the outpouring of how someone comes to terms with being badly tortured.  He broke down for having signed, even though he never betrayed anybody.  Yet he never forgave himself for breaking under the pressure. . .  

She spoke of cracking the codes contained within the letters.  Metaphors couched in poetic descriptions of planting new sunflowers and caring for the goldfish in the pond were references to spies fishing for information and instructions to seek new recruits. 

. . .There isnt one person here, maintained Lynn Carneson, who wasnt damaged by apartheid.  Nor is there one person who hasnt been healed because we won.

I urge you to read it.  In the words of Don Makatile of Johannesburg: 

 It is the story of a family that was meant to be, torn apart by an evil system, but stood their ground. In the process, they helped birth a nation. (2)


 (1) Homage to Hope, ASPEN London, 1996

(2)  Don Makatile Reviewing the book for the Africa Book Club




Photography and Psychoanalysis - by Stephen J.M. Bray - published by for Kindle,
but also available in Europe via

Stephen Bray weaves a fascinating web of juxtaposition and intrigue, writing of these two powerful disciplines that have so greatly influenced us and entered our group psyche.

His is as much a story of the evolution of our culture during this past century and more, as it is a factual recounting of discovery and experiment in the fields of both Psychology and Photography.

In a sense, too, he poses the question, 'Where would the one be without the other?' He reminds us that, in a way, they tell a story of struggling evolution during in this period, where they have become the eyes and conscience of our civilization, each and together allowing us to shed light on the lighter and darker deeds of humanity.

 He informs us; in addition, that photography is not just photography. It is of the mind, a seventh sense if you will, where  the expression of individual imagery finds itself instantly at home in the Creative Collective, where the medium itself is no longer in question, but where content and meaning is.

He reminds us that photographers are at once dream catchers,  poets, story tellers; sharp of mind and keen eyed as hawks; adventurers charged with reminding humanity about its responsibility to show compassion to fellow beings, and respect for the beautiful planet we inhabit.

For the passionate photographer, this little gem of a book will provide a fascinating historical backdrop. A eulogy, if you will, and an appreciation of the early heroes of this revolutionary medium. It will allow them to sigh in wonder for a second, at the facility by which they can now freeze an instance with such ease, as they halt for a while the tyranny of time in their lives.

For the student of photography it is an invitation to journey more deeply into the historical parallels with the development of psychology over this last century and a half; how the latter has opened our understanding of the relationship and concord of mind and image


Michael John Eldridge
Professor in painting at Siena Art Institute, Tuscany, Italy.
Former Director of Post Graduate Studies in Photography,
The Arts Institute, Bournemouth, U.K.

 The British Constitution by Martin Loughlin.  Published by Oxford University Press in their Very Short Introduction series. 2013.  135 pages.  ISBN 978-0-19-969769-4

When I was studying for my Inter BSc (Econ) examination at Regent Street Polytechnic in the immediate post-World War II period, one of the idiosyncrasies of our British Constitution  teacher ("Tinny" Newman) was to have us all copy the copious class notes on the subject that had been handed down from generation to generation of previous classes.  Presumably he had, in the mists of earlier time, dictated or issued the first set of notes and mysteriously they seem not to have suffered ( la Chinese Whispers) over the intervening decades.  He used the same procedure for Economic Theory and Economic History for which subjects he was also the form teacher.  The notes were brilliant.  They should have been published.  I typed mine up and bound the typewritten sheets. They served me well then and subsequently throughout university. 

I think if Martin Loughlin's short introduction [and in common with most of this series, it is neither as short nor as incomplete a study of its subject as the series title would have us believe] had been available when the first generation of Mr Newman's pupils joined him, he might not have troubled to produce his excellent notes.  Well, of course, I exaggerate, because Mr Loughlin's intention is to enlighten the general public rather than instruct serious students of the subject..  But it is not wildly fanciful, and if the book had been available to me in that  post-war period, it would hardly have replaced Bagehot, but might very well have complemented Greaves and Jennings.

If, therefore, you are a member of that "general public" whose desire is to enhance your knowledge of a subject, without going into too much detail, or to whet your appetite for a subject prior to studying it in greater depth - and if the British Constitution is one of those subjects that grabs your fancy, I thoroughly recommend that you place this small book in your inside breast pocket or your handbag, and enjoy!  Certainly I have enjoyed updating my understanding of how - in particular - cabinet government has changed since my uni days of half a century ago.

Considering that the British Constitution is supposed to be "unwritten" and that Alexi de Tocqueville held in the 19th century that "la constitution britannique n'existe pas", it is amazing just how much has been written about it.  Far more, I would suggest, than has been written about the more formal, codified, constitutions of, e.g. France and the United States.  Yet both of these are based on what Montesquieu, a century earlier,  regarded as the perfect blueprint for a constitution; above all the separation of powers and the rule of law.  Although the rigidity of the US constitution may have something to do with a misinterpretation of the French, since Montesquieu was writing about the distribution of powers rather than the separation of powers.

However Mr Loughlin's aim is really to show just how the Constitution has changed under the various State and political pressures to which it has been subjected and, while he has also described succinctly and well the British Constitution as it was known in the handwritten notes of "Tinny" Newman's pupils, he has gone much further and produced a very interesting "read".  My personal fascination has been to discover the pace of change in the British Constitution in the past half-century after more than 100 years of relatively little disturbance to the situation described by that great English constitutionalist Walter Bagehot in the 19th century.  Much of it, of course, deriving from our closer relationship with Europe through membership of the European Union.  Fascinating, too, is the way in which the role of Prime Minister has changed, from primus inter pares to an almost presidential role, with suitable reference in this book to Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

And here I should stop before this review becomes longer than the Short Introduction on which it is based.  It was good to know that Loughlin is Professor of Public Law at my alma mater, the LSE.  And he deals more than adequately with such historical constitutionalists as Edmund Burke, Albert Venn Dicey, Walter Bagehot, William Blackstone and the Baron de Montesquieu.   Alas there is no mention of "Tinny" Newman.