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Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  182 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Once an Arcadian suburb of grand houses, orchards and conservatories, Hackney declined into a zone of asylums, hospitals and dirty industry. Persistently revived, reinvented, betrayed, it has become a symbol of inner-city chaos, crime and poverty.
Hardcover, 581 pages
Published February 26th 2009 by Hamish Hamilton (first published February 5th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Jonfaith
A bit of a muddle. As with all of Sinclair's work, the images arrest and move, though the interviews obscure his talents in this sprawling work. Orson Welles and Moby Dick keep bubbling to the surface, illustrating some grand unrealized desire. Sinclair's neighborhood Hackney is disappearing, or evolving. The material phantoms of progress is exacting a due. This formless exploration attempts a collage of evidence. The concluding sections featuring Will Self and Astrid Proll are remarkable.
Rob
Apr 03, 2009 Rob rated it really liked it
I embarked upon this book with some trepidation. I'm a Sinclair fan and feel he has been overlooked by prize givers, partly because of the thorniness of his meticulously crafted prose and the no holds barred obsession with the obscurities of London geography, as well as its lesser heralded artists, writers and film makers. A six hundred page book on the subject of just a single London borough promised to try all bar the most attentive of readers and I was ready to be disappointed. Had he gone to ...more
Suzanne
Mar 10, 2009 Suzanne rated it did not like it
I so looked forward to getting this book from the library, having heard excerpts from it on Radio 4. What a disaster. The editors who knocked it into shape for "Book of the Week" must have really been worth their weight in gold: muddling through over 600 pages of self-indulgent slop cannot have been an easy job.

Having lived in the famous borough for two years, and lived near it in Tower Hamlets for two more, I was looking forward to reading about all my old stomping grounds: Stoke Newington, Cla
...more
Rachel Stevenson
Oct 05, 2013 Rachel Stevenson rated it liked it
Iain Sinclair doesn’t like things. He doesn’t like rules and regulations, Hackney Council, HSBC, cycle shops, writers who use researchers, gentrification, Tony Blair, the Olympics, the Royal Mail, or paying his council tax. He’s pretty rude about Stewart Home, amateur film makers,Lit and Phil societies, architects, and oh, yeah, Hackney Council. He doesn’t like change. He likes old stuff, weird stuff. He likes things staying the same. But I’m not interested in reading Iain Sinclair's gripes (alt ...more
Lewis
Mar 18, 2011 Lewis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In the end, I got about two-thirds of the way through this book before giving up. By that point, the author was beginning to repeat himself, and the few nuggets of interesting information about Hackney had become buried beneath increasingly dense layers of waffle and repeated references to a small clique of writers and artists who appear to be the author's friends. Disappointing.
Jennifer
Mar 29, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Loved it, though I think this is the longest it has taken me to finish a book. This is an incredibly dense and wandering study of Hackney at a moment in time when what is was is about to be wiped away. Sinclair is mourning the past, but I think also demonstrating that there is hope - precisely because Hackney has always been submerged under varying layers of obfuscation and in constant motion. It is nearly impossible to get a grip on. The characters in this book seem too eccentric to be true, un ...more
John
Oct 13, 2015 John rated it liked it
As someone who grew up in Hackney in the 1980s this hits many sweet spots. I suspect that for a lot of readers it will veer between whimsy, over-detailed introspection and even self-indulgence. It is certainly not an easy read - it requires both concentration and imagination just to handle the language - and at 600 pages it is best tackled in 60 page bites.

Sinclair continues his fascination with how the geography and myths of location affect our lives, but this is an intensely intimate portrait,
...more
David Hallard
Sep 02, 2014 David Hallard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the tradition of the Situationists, and as an unrepentant Conradian, Iain Sinclair invites us to read this book using 'Heart of Darkness' as a key.

Lying prone in his Hackney cot, reeling from the ravages of the colonialist nightmare, Conrad cast off the twin phantoms of his fever, the imprint of the madness of a "soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear", and its dogged pursuant sent out from home. Hanging in the air, this binary of horror awaits earth born carriers through which th
...more
Nick
Jul 12, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it
Iain Sinclair gives us a pure form of "Psychogeography", a kind of ecstatic writing and memoir invented by situationist leader Guy Debord. Here, Sinclair doesn't just recount the history of the East End borough of Hackney, but his personal history living there, emotional memories of starting a family and being an experimental writer and filmmaker. He finds that to do so, he must investigate connections and the connections to those connections which delve further into the world of art and the exp ...more
Ross Mcelwain
Oct 13, 2015 Ross Mcelwain rated it really liked it
I just wish he'd go a little easier on the Iain Sinclair-worship.
Peter Haslehurst
Aug 24, 2015 Peter Haslehurst rated it it was ok
I have to admit it's taken me a couple f years to finish this. At one point I laid it aside in exasperation with the rambling stream of reminiscences about people I've never heard of. But I recently picked it up again and found it strangely captivating. He's an angry man – very angry with the destructive corruption of Hackney council and the Olympics Authority (or whatever they're called).
Wreade1872
Hard one to describe, seems to be a book about trying to write a book. Lots of interviews, rumors, opinions. Mostly regarding the history of hackney in terms of the artists who have moved through it over the years.
Despite it being completely outside of my areas of interest or knowledge i still found it quite good even with its length.
Peter Macinnis
Aug 22, 2012 Peter Macinnis rated it really liked it
I bought this book in Florence two years ago, and it has been on my to-read file for some time. As I prepare to invade Tasmania for ten days, I need a Good Book to read on the plane, when snowed in, when fogbound, to ease the pain of frostbite. This will be a good choice. I am up to page 12 and kicking myself for not getting to it sooner.
Clare
Nov 07, 2014 Clare rated it it was amazing
Love letter Hackney deserves.
Steve
Mar 28, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it
Typical Sinclair - characters appear and connect, locations and events resonate and resurface though the narrative. I found the overall tone dark and a little depressing, as dystopia seems to slowly be seeping through the inner city.
Jason Meininger
Jun 10, 2015 Jason Meininger rated it it was ok
Shelves: i-give-up
I realised I hadn't touched this in a year or more so moved to "read" and "I give up." I remember there being some good characters but i also remember it seeming very scattered, and it just didn't grab me enough to keep going.
Natalie
Jan 18, 2015 Natalie rated it liked it
FINALLY.

After starting it twice, and an extended reading period of 2 years (no joke), I have finished this book. I feel proud (it's not an easy read), and also know a lot about the history of Hackney.
Peter
Apr 26, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Great trawl through Hackney characters and history, discovered stuff I should've known but didn't and an array of other stories, need to go and have a wwalk around the borough for a day next week.
Joe
May 16, 2011 Joe rated it it was amazing
took awhile to get started, but soon racing through. Highly enjoyable ramble through Hackney landscape filtered through Iain Sinclair's mindset.
Maximus Gallicus
May 11, 2012 Maximus Gallicus rated it really liked it
Sinclair is quite brilliant, though idiosyncratic. There is really nothing to compare to his portraiture of London places and people.
Graeme
Nov 29, 2012 Graeme rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition


Sometimes enjoyable, Inconsistently compelling. Thus took forever to read. Do it goes.
Andrew Johnson
Aug 13, 2010 Andrew Johnson rated it liked it
Iain Sinclair is clearly disgruntled with the way his life turned out.
Ralph
Oct 27, 2012 Ralph rated it did not like it


The unreadable ramblings of an old cynical man. Unbearable.
Gareth James
Engaging collage of Hackney's past, present and Olympic-sized future.
Gulnaz
Apr 23, 2013 Gulnaz rated it it was ok
Not easy to read, and not as informative/interesting as I'd hoped.
Lauren G
Dec 18, 2010 Lauren G rated it it was amazing
a love letter to one of london's most fascinating neighborhoods.
Michele
Feb 03, 2012 Michele rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london, nonfiction
I chipped away at this for way too long
Susan
Jul 12, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
Dense but brilliant.
Aradhya Kapoor
Aradhya Kapoor rated it liked it
May 03, 2016
Ck
Ck rated it liked it
May 01, 2016
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Iain Sinclair is a British writer and film maker. Much of his work is rooted in London, most recently within the influences of psychogeography.

Sinclair's education includes studies at Trinity College, Dublin, where he edited Icarus, the Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London), and the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School).

His early work was mostly poetry, much of i
...more
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