(K. Brent Tomer),
This Is London: Life and Death in the World City. By Ben Judah. Picador; 426 pages; £18.99.
LONDON, a city famous for Hyde Park, Harrods and giddy house prices, has undergone a quiet revolution. So says Ben Judah, a young foreign correspondent now turning his eyes towards his home town. He begins his new book with a confession: “I was born in London but I no longer recognise this city…I don’t know if I love the new London or if it frightens me: a city where at least 55% of people are not white British, nearly 40% were born abroad and 5% are living illegally in the shadows.” “This Is London” is Mr Judah’s journey to rediscover his city.
The author throws himself in at the deep end, spending anxious nights huddled in an underpass not far from the unimaginable wealth of Mayfair, in the company of homeless Roma beggars. Many of these men, and they are almost all men, are indentured slaves. Having lost their jobs at home, they borrowed money to travel to London and are now forced to beg to pay off their debts.
From here, Mr Judah grabs hold of London and shakes out its secrets. He has a gift for ingratiating himself into very foreign surroundings and teasing out stories. He meets a bored Middle Eastern princess, who passes her days in a haze of skunk, an Afghan shopkeeper who entered Britain hidden in a lorry, and…Continue reading