On Brick Lane
(Hamish Hamilton, 2007)
On Brick Lane, the first in the London street series was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize. This unique book takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the vanished past, the disappearing present and the emerging future of one of Britain’s most mythologized and misunderstood streets. Home to successive waves of immigrants, from eighteenth century Huguenot weavers to the Jewish refugees of the 1880s to the late twentieth-century Bangladeshi community, Brick Lane is now one of the most fashionable areas. The street is a place of extremes that is constantly reinventing itself – at once a multicultural melting pot and sacred site, bounded by Hawksmoor churches, abandoned synagogues and newly developed mosques, with the Old Truman Brewery at its heart.
Interspersed within this text are a collection of archival and contemporary photographs, along with quotes from literature and poetry. Together they combine to create an endlessly intriguing portrait of Brick Lane, which is as alive and fascinating as the neighbourhood it so movingly celebrates. This beautiful book is a work of retrieval, an archaeology of memory, that provides testament to a disappearing world. Tales of market traders, anarchist priests, Jewish tailors, Bengali teenagers, gangsters, brewery workers and celebrities interweave with Lichtenstein’s own account of over a decade of living and working in the area as an artist, archivist and writer.
- ‘On Brick Lane is a collage of beady-eyed topographical study, family history and oral testimony illustrated with numerous photographs and extracts from a wide variety of texts written by people in whose footsteps Lichtenstein is following. Her Brick Lane, like that of countless others, is no more. Still, she has created an intriguing, vivid memorial to it.’The New Statesman
- ‘Lichtenstein is part of an inspired literary and historical reinvention of the neighbourhood – along with Iain Sinclair, Patrick Wright and Ackroyd – which has recast the streets with a resonant symbolism.’First Post
- ‘Lichtenstein’s book is a mixture of memoir, interviews, written history and photographs that seek to capture the never-still nature of the road’.Socialist Worker
- ‘Lichtenstein has written a fascinating book – half memoir, half social history – that retrieves the street’s past and connects it to its present as the center of London’s Bangladeshi community. On Brick Lane is well worth reading for anyone interested in London’s radical history and its resonances today.’The Telegraph
- ‘Like Sinclair, Lichtenstein is a cultural archaeologist, digging up forgotten stories from the metropolis.’The Observer
- ‘Lichtenstein’s useful and instructive book catches time’s riptide once more on the turn.’The Guardian