Publication Date: 05/01/2023 ISBN: 9781783785025 Category:

Accidental Gods

Anna Della Subin

Publisher: Granta Books
Publication Date: 05/01/2023 ISBN: 9781783785025 Category:
Paperback / Softback




A provocative history of race, empire and myth, told through the stories of men who have been worshipped as gods – from Columbus to Prince Philip.

Spanning the globe and five centuries, Accidental Gods introduces us to a new pantheon: of man-gods, deified politicians and imperialists, militants, mystics and explorers. From the conquistadors setting foot in the New World to Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, elevated by a National Geographic article from emperor to messiah for the Rastafari faith, to the unlikely officers hailed as gods during the British Raj, this endlessly curious and revelatory account chronicles an impulse towards deification that persists even in a secular age, as show of defiance or assertion of power.

In her bravura final part, Subin traces the colonial desire for divinity through to the creation of ‘race’ and the white power movement today, and argues that it is time we rid ourselves of the white gods among us.

Publisher Review

Often colourful and bizarre, Accidental Gods opens new perspectives, shines light on overlooked corners of our global history, and conveys its powerful messages at first quietly, in subtext, and then more and more explicitly... Always enlightening and engrossing -- Lydia Davis, author of Essays One and Two Rich, witty, acerbic and often astonishing, Accidental Gods reveals how terror and divinity are intertwined - in the colonial enterprise, in present-day strong leader cults and nationalist statecraft. A highly original, revelatory study, entertaining and sobering at once as it identifies a persistent danger: the mythopolitics that fails to distinguish between men and gods. -- Dame Marina Warner, author of Stranger Magic and Fellow of All Souls', Oxford Accidental Gods relates, with tremendous intellectual ingenuity and resourcefulness, a new history of the modern world: how the quest for divine sanction and spiritual transcendence remain at the center of our ostensibly rational and secular political and economic struggles. -- Pankaj Mishra Why do some people become gods? This is the question that Subin asks in an impressive study that travels from the Caribbean to the British Raj and back to the New World. This is no summary analysis, but rather a provocative and innovative study of imperialism, race, and decolonisation. -- Ruth Harris A bravura performance... a searching study of the relation between the political and the divine written with great panache. Subin returns us to fundamental questions about human beings, their capacity for tyranny and violence, and their desire for transcendence... A book to relish and to argue with, and a writer to watch. -- Alison Light, author of Mrs Woolf and the Servants The best new non-fiction book I read this year... A stylish, playfully rigorous intellectual performance worthy of Marina Warner or Roberto Calasso -- Mark O'Connell, Books of the year * Irish Times * Anna Della Subin has lit upon a startling strand in the history of the sacred... The book's strength lies in the sensitivity of her analysis, which homes in on the inter-relations of power and powerlessness, colonialism and nationalism: worship as a response to terror, and a desire to propitiate -- Books of the year * TLS * Phenomenal - erudite, provocative, scandalous, and comic and tragic by turns * Sunday Times * A fascinating slice of history * The Times * Accidental Gods is a playful, ironic and ambiguous book about religion, at a time when religion - outside of Dealey Plaza - has grown as solemn as an owl ... [it] leaves us hankering, like QAnon's unlovely faithful, for a wider, wilder pantheon * Telegraph * A fascinating tour through the endless diversity of the divine... * Spectator * Engaging * The Times * A beautifully written, subtly crafted history... [An] inspiring book * TLS * Fascinating... thoughtful and subtle * The Irish Times * A subversive history * Guardian * Remarkable... exceptional... -- James Hamilton-Paterson * Literary Review * [Subin writes] with a poise and lucidity that allow full play to the comic aspects of her subject, while considering the frequently disastrous consequences... -- Rosemary Hill * London Review of Books * Inventive... Subinexpertly brings out the nuance and ambivalence of deification -- Lola Seaton * New Statesman * So eloquently portrayed... With her sense of the uncanny, the ironic, the profane and the weird, Subin is a charming guide... What Subin helps us to see is that at the very core of modernity lies the white god, sweating in his pith helmet -- James Robins * New Humanist *

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