What We Are Reading Today: Smack-Bam

Updated 24 October 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Smack-Bam

  • Laboulaye’s deceptively entertaining stories explore the relationships between society and the ruling class

Translated and edited by Jack Zipes

Édouard Laboulaye (1811–1883), one of nineteenth-century France’s most prominent politicians and an instrumental figure in establishing the Statue of Liberty, was also a prolific writer of fairy tales. Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men brings together 16 of Laboulaye’s most artful stories in new translations. Filled with biting social commentary and strong notions of social justice, these rediscovered tales continue to impart lessons today.

Inspired by folktales from such places as Estonia, Germany, Iceland, and Italy, Laboulaye’s deceptively entertaining stories explore the relationships between society and the ruling class. In “Briam the Fool,” the hero refuses the queen’s hand after he kills the king. In “Zerbino the Bumpkin,” the king and prime minister are idiots, while the king’s daughter runs away with a woodcutter to an enchanted island. And in the title story, “Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men,” a superficial prince is schooled by a middle-class woman who smacks him when he won’t engage in his lessons and follows him across Europe until he falls in love with her. 

In these worlds, shallow aristocrats come to value liberty, women are as assertive and intelligent as men, and protagonists experience compassion as they learn of human suffering.

With an introduction by leading fairy-tale scholar Jack Zipes that places Laboulaye’s writing in historical context, Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men presents spirited tales from the past that speak to contemporary life.


What We Are Reading Today: Give and Take by Nitsan Chorev

Updated 13 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Give and Take by Nitsan Chorev

Give and Take looks at local drug manufacturing in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, from the early 1980s to the present, to understand the impact of foreign aid on industrial development. 

While foreign aid has been attacked by critics as wasteful, counterproductive, or exploitative, Nitsan Chorev makes a clear case for the effectiveness of what she terms “developmental foreign aid.”

Against the backdrop of Africa’s pursuit of economic self-sufficiency, the battle against AIDS and malaria, and bitter negotiations over affordable drugs, Chorev offers an important corrective to popular views on foreign aid and development, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

She shows that when foreign aid has provided markets, monitoring, and mentoring, it has supported the emergence and upgrading of local production. 

Without losing sight of domestic political-economic conditions, historical legacies, and foreign aid’s own internal contradictions, Give and Take presents groundbreaking insights into the conditions under which foreign aid can be effective.