No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow

no way but this

A fascinating study of the life of one of the iconic figures of the 20th century, who is now forgotten by many. Paul Robeson was the son of a former slave, who rose above his origins to become a talented athlete, and a Shakespearean actor but who is best remembered for possessing one of the finest voices of his generation. People who know nothing of Robeson will probably have heard his sublime rendition of “Old Man River” from the musical “Showboat”.

Robeson enjoyed unparalleled success but he paid a huge price for adhering to his principles during the McCarthy era in the USA. Sparrow tells his story in an unconventional way and it is all the better for that. Robeson was a man with a social conscience and this put him at the heart of many of the significant moments in the history of the twentieth century. From the struggle against oppression of African Americans, to the Spanish Civil war and from the rise of Soviet Russia to the cause of  Welsh miners, Robeson never shirked his responsibility to do his bit to make the world a better place.

Sparrow tells the story through the places of significance in Robeson’s life and by this he links the events of the past with the here and now reality of these locations. In doing this he produces , not only a very complete portrait of a man of towering presence, in all his flawed glory, but he has much to say about the world as it is now.  This is not just the story of a man but the story of a century, not only that, it lays bare the lingering effects that that century had on our current one. I finished this book feeling challenged to take up the fight for justice and full of admiration for a man who paid a huge price for living by his principles. Read it!

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

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