Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Written several years prior to the genre attributed to Dan Brown , Umberto Eco had already debunked the myth of the conspiracy theory , examining the self-prohesising momentum , not unalike the swings of the Pendulum described by the scientist Foucault ,in which every piece of evidence counter to the conspiracy is simply dismissed as the
insincere machination of an enemy that can only be resolved by the righteous elimination of the evil entity.

The reader is at first led to laugh , in a manner in which the laughing with or laughing at is clearly spelt out , with the almost pathetic attempt of the author to draw one into the semi-hypnotised dogma trying to masquerade as a convincing rational explanation of reality , we even get to a point on page 138 in which a simple glaring arithmetical error is imputed into a bizarre kabbalistic quasi-mathematical formula , yielding to a completely incorrect sequence of numbering leading to a cataclysmic wrong numerical answer from which the whole sum of history past and present is computed to the end game of a number.

If you have the patience to stick with this farce one will be rewarded in the last 20 pages or so by a conclusion in which the reader realises it is the author who has been taking the complete mickey and laughing at the reader all along.

Umberto has the perfect antidote to the conspiracy theory hiding behind faux mathematics as a veneer of legitimate science , it is the simple and crystal clear concept of Occam's Razor , namely the simplest non-complicated explanation is more likely to be true than a vast complicated mushrooming ever-conspiring theory.

An especially illuminating side story is one about two Italians from the same village during world war 2.One is fighting on the side of the partisans , the other is under the employ of the nazi supporting fascists.After hostilities the two meet up , the partisans asks the fascist why he participated in a violent assaults on the village ordered by the nazis , the fascist ( now an ex-fascist in the classic way of the Italians authoritarians post -45) states he was under orders on pain of harsh reprisals from his overseers thus having little choice in the repressed constrained times.The partisan chides the fascist that he should have made a deliberately botched and clumsy attempt to commit the reprisal , thus allowing the villagers ample warning to evacuate themselves from harms way , and allowing the fascist to "fulfill" his mission as far as the masters were concerned whilst also allowing the damage to the villagers on the ground to escape the worst excesses of the atrocity.Contained within this anecdote is the story of Italian bureaucracy and the role it has played for the past centuries in curbing the worst excesses of the competing ruling blocks on the local regional populaces , something which is misconstrued , even today , as an inefficient and blatantly corrupt practice.And with Berlusconi in charge today , with a barely re-constituted Fascist of the old school primed to take over if anything happens to the number one , who is to say that the painfully derided Italian Bureaucracy is not the best ally Italy has at the moment.

Friday, October 2, 2009

IN THE CELLAR by Jan Philipp Reemstma

Heir of a very large Tobacco Fortune and respected Academic was kidnapped on the way across the street from his own Home to the House across the street he used as a research and workspace , the beginning of a 33 day incarceration in which a stable , healthy , comfortable family life was shaken completely.

In this account of the disorientation , fear and deep uncertainty Jan recalls an experience that reminds us all of the tenuous flimsy fragility of homely relations and stability we easily take for granted. .As the acceptance of the situation takes the place of the initial shock , the various "personalities" of the victim based on the inter-relations of his close ones ; work colleagues and professional institutional engagements lend themselves towards a spare solitary interaction between him and his spare deconstructed self.

Throughout the crippling uncertainty and the not-knowing of the ultimate outcome he is drawn inscreasingly to seek to examine and resolve within himself the "incident" which caused this whole life-changing sequence of events " it was important to recognise what caused it , to know one is not insane , that it simply corresponded to the insanity of the situation in which one person was omnipotent and the other helpless."

After the experiences pass the phase of any reasonable expectation of an early release , from the utter helplessness and fever-pitch stress the victim feels it is not surprising a touch of despair clouds over " He was the object of exchange , with no role of protagonist.He was robbed of all spiritual resources from which he otherwise might draw strength." is one passage Jan describes about himself in the third person as he is now dealing with the thoughts of a Man he hardly recognises from the person who innocently crossed the road only a few short weeks ago.He goes on in page 192 " that guilt can declare itself so insistently in tandem with shame...difficulty of coming to terms in ones heart with the sudden irruption of forces."

After a while ones gets the feeling Jan shares the thoughts and feelings that must have gone through the Minds of Anne Frank , the Beirut Hostages , the Missing in Argentina and countless umnamed victims of individual and organised criminal kidnapping , many never to retell their story again.

On page 195 we hear the pain of not only victims of kidnapping the world over , but also the anguish of there Families " absolute being delivered over to other people."

Rather sadly , the kidnapping of innocents is a growth industry since the war on terror , with state-sanctioned kidnapping being the highest riser.The population of Guantanamo is said to be mainly composed of innocents kidnapped for the sake of gaining lucrative bounty payments who were then handed over to the US and still languish in jails without ever being charged or being able to clear themselves or have any contact with their families.

To be fair to him , Jan does seem to have developed his empathy for wrongly incarcerated victims and made this helpful statement about the tortures in Abu Ghraib "The disturbing Abu Ghraib photos remind us: Nothing justifies the use of torture in a democracy. No short-term gain, however urgent the cause, is worth undermining the bedrock democratic guarantee of rule of law and individual autonomy. Criminals and suspects may legitimately be incarcerated, but they may not be enslaved. They may be pressed to confess, but not physically coerced to do so. Whenever people are treated in a way that deprives them of their capacity to dissent, our very civilization is put at risk."

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Jessie had a very harsh and deeply stressful introduction to life when she was born in the North east of Scotland.Born illegitimately , growing up in an under-resourced slum like part of Town , shipped out to an orphanage , then spending a spell in a mental institution having been diagnosed as suffering from neurasthenia ( the so called intellectuals disease that afflicted Virginia Woolf and so many clever people of the post feminist generation ), all before her 18th birthday.

Jessie not only overcame these tremendous hardships , but used the experiences to create a rich and diverse prose that led to many radio plays ; short stories and novels that laid ground for not only Woman writers to follow , but also ones from the regions , both those who managed to make it in London , but also those who were found to produce work in their own regions once local programmers found that local home produced work had a large and captive audience if only they were brave enough to encourage and develop the pool of local available talent.

Jessie ended up in London where she had many ungrateful and uninspiring jobs until she made her mark on Womans Hour , a career making break that gave her wonderful understated dramas a platform in the national arena.The real strength of her work was sticking to her experiences when forming the characters of her works as well as a fond childlike memory for the scenes and natural environments of her earliest recollections of youth.One aspect that gave her work the feel of release , rather than entrapment , of her early life experience is the kind and empathetic treatment of the authority and institutional figures.You always get the feel that all parties in the experience are victims deserving understanding and sympathy , the general effect is of any potential resentment being evaporated by forgiveness , goodwill and understanding.

Isobel Murray has written a gloriously detailed analysis of the role and place of Kessons work in the field of Woman writers in this piece which richly compliments the themes outlined in the Book.

And Linda Cracknell , in her superb blog gives a most illuminating description of the sights;sounds and smells that formed the natural elements of Jessies Human landscapes.

From what you have read so far it would be very wrong to assume Kessons forte was merely in the field of prose , on the contrary she was a very accomplished and highly skilled academic , more than able to research and make deeply penetrating observations on the life of Marie Currie as well as many other interesting and varied personalities.

Two nice quotes are worth recalling from the Book , on page 159 we find the code of honour that made life in the North Eastern farming communities a success or failure " Ask any cotter wife what is her greatest blessing , and she will tell you , " a good neighbour".And her greatest curse , and shell tell you , " a bad one".

And on page 245 we find Kesson describing the situation Marie Currie found herself in , a position that can be equally applied to the one Kesson would fully understand " Marie ( Currie) discovery as a girl is she is a Pole living unfree under Russian Rule...she has infinite determination in a life of much self-sacrifice..." we must believe we are gifted for something.And that this thing , at whatever cost , must be obtained"...." one must never let oneself be beaten down by persons or events."....Humanity needs " dreamers" who will make " tenacious efforts" without regard to material gain."

And that just about sums up the life and attitude of Jessie Kesson.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Chekhov left an extraordinary legacy to the modern understanding of prose as well as modern theatre acting technique.It is very difficult to date a Chekhov short story simply because it has such a spare modern touch which could have been penned only yesterday.

A steady confiding style allied to extracting all heroic tendencies of the character in question gives his writing style a grace textured with a down to earth humane quality that brings such a endearing rapport with the reader.

A reading of any selected story will unearth a rich seam from which the reader can identify the founding heritage and keystone link for what one reads in Hemingway or Woolf or Joyce.All the ingredients , as well as exquisitely sculptured execution of their signature styles are there to see in the spare modest prose of Chekhov.

The website below has a systematic chronological archive of the short stories he wrote , including an indication of which stories to read first for anyone approaching his work for the first time.The stories are in full in you click on the blue indented highlighted links.

In the field of drama , Chekhov took the concepts of the short story to produce plays that capture the spiritual undertones of the characters in seemingly mundane situations that list with no observable directions.From the method acting of Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro to the stage directions of Tennessee Williams and Harold Pintor , the foundations and grounding are there to see in the plays of Chekhov.

Below is a high calibre production of his renowned classic play Cherry Orchard starring a young Judi Dench and classic Shakespearean legend John Gielgud and the great Dame Peggy Ashcroft.

On page 98 we have typical exchange for a Chekhov short story:

" It is false ; indifference is the paralysis of the Soul ; it is premature Death."

Further on we find When you want to understand someone " consider not actions ,in which everything is relative but the desires."
" Tell me what you want , and i will tell what manner of man you are."

The early career of Chekhov was in the field of sharp biting satire , on page 151 we find he has not lost his skillful touch " ...we will have nothing but a head and a moustache..."

By page 310 the later Philosopher sage of Human nature is on display " granted that a Mans peace and contentment lie not outside but inside himself."

And on page 398 we have his humble view on Art and Culture itself in An Artists Story " its true we are not saving Humanity , and perhaps we make a great many mistakes ; but we do what we can , and we are right.The Highest and Holiest task for a Human Being is to serve his neighbours , and we try to serve him the best we can.....but one cant please everyone."

Monday, September 14, 2009


In the field of Biography one sometimes comes across glorified idealised hagiographies , like Spikes Lees overlong droning Film.At other times you come across crass lurid hatchet jobs laden with spite.

Bruce Perry is a solid candidate for the later.Underplaying the tragedies of the life of the younger Malcolm , making out the death of his father was a possible death by misadventure rather than a brutal racist murder which the Little Family believed it to be , to overplaying the the undoubted criminal record of the young Malcolm that went into prison on a raft of petty and more serious crimes.

In Chapter 25 we see a Malcolm , who in his youth aspired to be a lawyer until he was put down by his teacher in a perfunctory dismissive manner and told to have ambition more to the station of his race , developing a " prison philosophy" with the reactivated pursuit of education , resulting in "excellent" poems.By the time we get to page 176 we have Perry using his psychological musings to get to the nub of Malcolms interest in "Roman orator Cicero , emphasised that it is best to sway people by appealing to their emotions , not their intellect.", seventy pages later we find Malcolm has outgrown the parameters Bruce has encased him in by developing a mature " you gotta think to fight...".

On page 248 we discover that in his finest hour that jettisoned a legendary career the young World Champion to be Boxer " Ali couldn't see for all of round 5 during the Liston fight and asked his trainer to stop it.".

It takes until chapter 46 and page 281 to find the only complimentary chapter Perry can furnish on the character of Malcolm.A maturing and wiser Malcolm is developing the leadership skills that would make him the influential Marshall of his generation on page 321 " the best way to encourage people is to make suggestions instead of giving orders.".

Finally on page 348 we have the tacit admission of the role of violence in the civil rights struggle " acknowledged that the civil rights movement had been "sustained" more or less" by the white violence the movements activities had provoked.".Hence the role of Blacks being prepared to answer the violence of repression with the violence of defence of inalienable rights provides a sharper focus on the pincer counterpoint nature of the successful conclusion to the civil rights struggle.

You can get an indication of the type of People and interests that would welcome and lap up the type of treatment Bruce Perry gives in this almost pathological egregious pejorative sustained litany.
What is important is not the criminal who went into prison , but the Person who came out.Bruce Perry uses an array of psychological profiles , of which blatant projection seems to be a prominent thrust , in a manner that gives a grave disservice to the science based foundations which give psychology any form of credibility.The net obscurely weighted result is that if there is any conduct in Malcolm able to be portrayed in a negative light then the assumption is the true self nature is shining brightly , but if there is anything is his post-prison actions that comes across as sincere integrity then Malcolm is being a Charismatic devious charmer that only the best opportunist criminals can allegedly master.Bruce lays the groundwork in which Malcolm is damned in he does not match up to the faux pseudo psychological parameters or is damned if he is apparently mendaciously able to surmount them.

But the real wonder and true victory for Malcolm is despite all this spite , his commitment and integrity rises like a colossal monument to the heritage and empowerment he give to minority rights in his age and ours.The more dirt Perry lays on him the greater the estimation of the struggle and character is marked in the eyes of the reader.

One other factor worth recalling is Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were not mutually exclusive in their fight for equality.Martin achieved because he had the counterweight of Malcolm as the other side of the coin for the majority population to weight and consider , if they wont listen to Martin then they will have to ultimately deal with the Malcolms of this world.The rights won in the late 60s were less to do with the pacifism of Martin and more to do with several hundred thousand Blacks who had served in Vietnam and come back home with many disgruntlement's allied with US Army military training ,as well as proficiency in using guns and armaments, endowed with a radicalism and activism more in sympathy with the ways of Malcolm than the passivised route.

Sometimes it is best to let Malcolm explain himself , as he does in this famous appearance in the Oxford Union debate in 1964:

And in this televised Round table discussion his analysis putting a little kick into pacifism is shown to be spot on.With the "explode" element being the riots that happened in the late 60s.

Ultimately the last word should go to the creator of this excellent website

To Black nationalists, he is a Black nationalist. To the Nation of Islam, he is a great leader (in public), and a dangerous hell-bound hypocrite (in private). To Muslims, he is a Muslim par excellence, a martyr in the cause of Allah. To socialists, he was a socialist with a piercing critique of international capitalism and imperialism. To liberals who want to appropriate him, he was an integrationist and thus appears on a postage stamp. To other liberals (or conservatives) and certain extremists, he was a segregationist, a separatist. To misogynists, he was a misogynist, and to feminists, he was a borderline misogynist. To some psychoanalysts, he was just a troubled child with an unfulfilled oedipal complex.

After reading Perry im tempted to dig out and read the auto-biography written in collaboration with Alex Haley ( the writer of Roots) which was cited by Time Magazine as being one of the best Books of the 20th century.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

GRIEF OF MY HEART by Khassan Baiev

The very first reference i came across referring to the Chechens was in Alexsander Solzhenitsyns Gulag Archipelago in the mid 80s.In it Solzhenitsyn describes his time as a schoolmaster in a Chechen village whilst serving exile as part of his sentence of 3 years imprisonment in a workcamp and 5 years exile two autonomous republics from his home territory.

From the very beginning he realises the Chechens are a complete breed apart and will never accept Russian hegemony.Solzhenitsyns watches helplessly as the Chechens in the village deal with a local miscreant in an age old custom of internecine settling of feuds that even the local Soviet law enforcing agents are powerless to interfere without themselves being targeted by the all-encompassing clamour for revenge.

To his credit he proposes that the Russians must get out of Chechnya and allow them to deal with their own issues independently and without any interference.

A Few years before Solzhenitsyn had made his way to the region Adolf Hitler has taken a shine for external foisting of wills in the area as it was a central plank for Soviet Oil and gas supplies.It is worth bearing in mind that the capital Grozny is a major locus for several gas pipelines converging in the town , hence we have a strategic mineral wealth interest in the area.

The Chechens have had the lovely pleasure of having been ethnically cleansed by the Russians on three separate occasions , hence why the relations between the Chechens and the Russians are somewhat strained.The first time was in the time of Catherine the great when the Russians entered the region as invited guests of a "protectorate" ; the second was in the time of Stalin when , taking advantage of nearly all the male population of fighting age was serving in the Soviet army in eastern Europe , liberating among other places Leningrad , and pushing towards Berlin , where the component of the Soviet army was so ethnically diverse that commissars were obliged to communicate orders in seventeen different languages , the divisions of the NKVD state police moved into the area and deported the whole population to Siberia , where they were to be joined by the very fighting Chechen soldiers once they had been de-mobilised from the front when the real fighting was over.

And the third occasion being the brutal merciless War in which Baiev was the only doctor in Grozny administrating to 80,000 civilians and many Russian soldiers as well.Until the events of 9/11 and the repositioning of the world order in either being for or against the Bush Doctrine US foreign policy , a circumstance in which not a few almost biblical tyrants found themselves being lauded as frontline standard bearers of civilisation and the cultural values of the freedom and Hope , the Chechen war was studiously ignored by Governments and Media alike.

Baiev spurned a life in cultural encouraged and state supported field of sports , where he overcame early physical illnesses to become an award winning expert in the martial arts of judo , he was also to become a World Champion at Sambo.Baievs decision to become a doctor was a lead to many and varied tribulations and privations as he struggled to gain in an academic world riddled with obstacles to students of Caucasians backgrounds.He spent the first six months of his residence in medical college sleeping rough in the local train station.

After many hard experiences he ultimately became a specialist in cosmetic surgery in Moscow.But the forebodings of War in his native land coupled with a profound sense of duty lured him back where he sensed his valuable skills will be required to serve his People.

Strictly observing the Hippocratic oath he assisted not only his fellow Chechens , but also helped many Russian soldiers as well , inviting many charges of treason , as well as death threats from all parties in the War.In very debilitating and harrowing circumstances , without even a semblance of any medications or clean equipment he motivated himself with the childhood pledge " I am not afraid.I an Strong.I must be an example to others.".The most vital help he garnered were brave and courageous nurses at his side " 60% of an operations success depends on the assistant.".

Khassan decided to go on pilgrimage to Mecca , on page 212 he relates a very important undertaking to be made when one leaves " before a pilgrim leaves for must clear up your debts, resolve quarrels , ask for those you harmed forgiveness.".

Ultimately he managed to flee an increasingly dangerous and alarming situation , finally ending up in the US.Having toured the US and Europe explaining his story and the plight of the Chechens to captivated audiences throughout the world , including a visit to Glasgow when i had the honour of hosting him , he went on to make a documentary for the Witness Programme on Al-Jazeera about a visit back to Chechnya.
It is a must see chronicle of suffering ; bravery ; defiance and the Human Will to Survive.

You can keep abreast of the latest developments in Khassan Baievs lifework and the ongoing plight of the Chechens in his remarkable website

Friday, September 11, 2009


Award winning investigative journalist supreme John Pilger turns his sharp attention to his home country Australia in this hard hitting exposure of the secret history of a land that has been given an image of an idyll.
From the initial colonising and near wipeout of the indigenous population , the maltreatment of many penal convicts sent over in transportation trips and the post war treatment of European nationalities who had come over expecting a land of their dreams from a wasted Europe to the overtly whites only emigration policies the de and re-populating of Australia has been a nightmarish trauma for many generations.

A suggestion of just how tortuous the experience could be is the not unusual story of the fate of transport ship convicts arriving at port after many weeks of gruelling hardships at sea being taken directly to " the treadmill ( treadwheel) , a device for torture , was a revolving cylinder in which the prisoner had to keep to keep stepping upwards to keep the cylinder moving and not falling out" , that was only for Woman.

The Press and Media have played a fundamental role in shaping the image of Australia and extracting the History from the record " one has to only read Edwin R. Bayleys "Joe McCarthy and the Press" to appreciate how every lie becomes enshrined as "objective fact".

The shapers of Australias image understood very well Milan Kunderas observance " the struggle of People ( against power) , is the struggle of memory against forgetting." , The Press in Australia have been masterful in denying a history for the victims , and tracing a golden path for the image of the continent.

This brilliant documentary gives a taste of the history of Australia from the point of view of so many People who suffered from the experience , a history not recognised formally by the state to such an extent many indigenous victims still awaiting any meaningful restoration of even the most basic recognition and rights.

On page 49 we find one of the most famous son of modern Australia , Rupert Murdoch , who spent a lot of his time in University in England accompanied by the precious bust of his hero Lenin in his study , not an unusual accessory of many of todays ultra-neocons when they were stormtrooping sharpshooters of a different class of struggle.One could do a Pee-Aitch-Dee on the great about turns from Communist to neo-con and whether the sift involves that much of a shift in ideological perspective.

The symbiosis of the media and government in the grave venture of power was not started in Australia , but under Murdoch it was perfected to an astonishing degree , ultimately being rolled out to the UK and now the US.This model was set in trace because " Murdochs brilliance has been to understand the relationship between Governments and the movement of capital".

According to Pilger the functions of newspapers should be " an inveterate opposer (rather) than a staunch parasite of government.".The days of mass mainstream news media being able to perform such a role has long gone.To such an extent one could argue in the new lobbyotimised democracy we now find ourselves with the Governments have become the staunch parasite of Media interest corporations.

The grand spectacle of this unhealthy fusion of media;capital and political power has been the War on Terror.In this documentary Pilger investigates the many facets , domestic and external , that this war has extracted in the form of lives and rights for all mankind.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

JONATHAN WILD by Henry Fielding

A complete mastery of wit and satire with crisp fresh extraordinarily crystalline observation was a master-art of the golden age of Phampletters.Jonathan Swift enjoys a richly deserved reputation for the piercing razor sharp dismantling of the heirs and graces of the privileged elites by the weapon of the pen allied with penetrating mocking wit.Fielding also proved to be adroit as a practitioner of indefatigable sustained satire.

As Coleridge so correctly identified Henry Fielding deserves no lesser a standing as the humiliater of the leaders of society.In Jonathan Wild Fielding is at his perceptive and mocking best as he synonymously compares the virtues and grand visions of one of the most notorious underground criminals of the age and the Prime Minister Walpole , along with favourable comparisons with Alexander the Great and other ruthless tyrants and cruel rulers of the World.The morals of the great criminal class embodied in the character of Jonathan Wild is also seamlessly interchanged with the principles of the Political Class that run the country.In his exposition of what makes Men Great and Good we find on page 8 " For greatness consists in bringing all manner of mischief on Mankind , and Goodness in removing it from them,".So , according to Fielding, it is the duty of the criminals to steal from society in the form of robbery , and the duty of politicians to take the self-same booty in the form of taxation.Hence the great and the good are joined at the hip in the noble endeavour to relief the citizens of their burden.

Jonathan Wild is a sidesplittingly funny tale in its own single dimensional right , allied with the allegorical tale of the type of People who aspire to run the country it becomes an indispensable reading on the corruption and perpetual cycle of the ultimate abuse of power generation after generation ,with an uncanny resemblance to the country as run under New Labour.

On page 26 we have Fielding pontificating on the fine art of negotiation " First secure what share you can , before you wrangle for the rest." , a sentiment that is no less prevalent today.

Fielding is no revolutionary , not because he necessarily favours the status-quo , but rather that he sees clearly that an elite-change will proffer no change in the cycle of the ruling class extracting full value from the less privileged quarters in the new order.On page 133 we have a characteristic undressing of the virtues of a popular revolution if the net result will be a different veneer of potential criminals.

Fielding originally started as a writer of stageplays.But Walpole put an end to satire in the English Theatre with an act in 1737 , this meant that Fielding had to find an alternative medium for his satire , so we have Walpole to thank for what turned to be a proto-type for the anti-establishment political novel.His view of criminal and politicians as part of the same spectrum is clearly on show when Wild justifies his brand of highway robbery "If the Public should be weak enough to interest themselves in your Quarrels, and to prefer one Pack to the other, while both are aiming at their Purses; it is your Business to laugh at, not imitate their Folly.".

For a longer essay on wit and satire see this article by Fredric V. Bogel

Friday, September 4, 2009


This landmark classic tale of a Family surviving the ravages of outside interests trying to take control and devastate local society by uprooting , destroying and , finally , gouging out the soul from the centre of society using so called progress achieved permanent greatness by the use of the device termed Magic Realism.

The usage is not to be mistaken as having being invented by Marquez or , like the wheel , by any particular individual as such .The device was well used by Mikhail Bulgakov in The Master and Margarita in the late 20s and 30s , though the Book was suppressed under Stalin and only came out just about an year before One Hundred Years of Solitude.These earlier instances here and there in Europe tallied with the great movement in South American Painting at the time , especially in Argentina , of incorporating new techniques using traditional imagery that brought about an invigorating highly flowered inspiration across all expression of art , giving the South American artists the diction and confidence to express their own personality using local and traditional motifs remote from overtly European structures.

To Gabriel there is no particular magic to magic realism , but telling the stories as he heard from his Grandmother as a captivated mesmerised child.And i suppose that is what exceptional and the highest order of the craft of Magic realism and told by masters like Garcia is all about , tell it like your Grandma used to.

Marquez was quick and sharp to perceive the political links with the art moments of Magic realism in South America culminating in recognition to his work when he was warded the Nobel Prize.In the acceptance speech he astutely identified and stated :

Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions? No: the immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted three thousand leagues from our home.

Read the full text of a dynamic and blistering indictment of internal and western attitudes to the social justice and political situation in the region HERE.

The real heroes of the Book are the Woman , they survive with their values and history intact whilst , all around , others are going about the business of losing their heads in various and imaginative guises from the run of the mill being shot in front of a firing squad , to the more identifiable privilege of being massacres in their places of slavery.

On page 205 we learn " the secret of old age is simply an honourable pact with solitude".And on page 370 " she became Human in her Solitude" can be seen as a lament to the plight of South America , now , like the Woman of the Book , turning into a spirit of hope rising from a stoic forbearing solitude and reclaiming the ultimate traditional right , that of being Human.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Noel Browne was a landmark on the politics of Modern Ireland , leaving a legacy which holds greats valuable lessons for minor party members wishing to achieve grand schemes in Scotland especially and Europe in general.

He served as Cabinet Minister for only 3 years from 1948-51 , in that short period of time he initiated and proposed many initiatives that catapulted Ireland into Modern Europe.Kind historians could even say that he was a prime motivating force which helped get a balance between the ancient domination of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the needs of the citizens in the form of social welfare without the catastrophic experience of the other Great Catholic Nations of Spain and Italy.What did not happen in the tense conflict between secular and Church in the terms of bleeding festering wounds in one of Irelands , and to an extent Brownes success stories.

Browne was trying to introduce an Ireland Health Service roughly tracking the developments of the UK establishment of the National Health Service.But the field for Ireland was not that simple , and certainly not level in any way.The reason , according to Brownes observations the UK Health Service worked was the general level of cooperation and bureaucratic backup supplied the the medical as well as civil service " the UK NHS worked because it involved the Doctors in the Committees that managed it".

In Ireland , at the time , the dynamic was very different , the Catholic Church controlled many of the medical institutions and facilities , so much so many operations could only be done with clergy clerical administration and approval.The Doctors themselves were technically tied to Catholic Church institutions and therefore were not an independent impartial body able to participate like their colleagues in the UK NHS unless given consent by the Church.The Church , meanwhile had concerns , rooted in the experiences of Spain and Italy in the 30s and 40s , that the Irish state , if allowed to secularise in a general policy of state nationalisation may , and to Church Hierarchical eyes the jury was still out as to the eventual outcome , enable and ultimately yield to Ireland becoming a part of the Communist block.For these reason there was a tension and quite intense political battle between the Cardinals and Browne , with the general health of the population being at stake over political wrangling.

The other major piece of advice he can give parties today from his experiences in the parliamentary chamber is " any minority party should get out ( of a coalition) when the job ( its core issues had been done".A party should never pass up an opportunity to have a place in cabinet , nor yet be tempted to participate in the cabinet for a full parliamentary term , therefore exposing the party credibility to the electorate at the next election time.

On page 139 Noel observes " Compromises are generally negotiable in politics or anywhere else , providing the wounds are not too deep".In political bodies "Anger....enlivens if it has Room to move , and kills if it hasnt."

The advise Noel has for small parties whose major influence is to aspire to be cabinet participants within a broader coalition is the get the credibility capital right in the minds of the electorate , mainly " consistency and accountability...two key forms of Political Currency within large organisations.".

The Socialist and Left in Italy , as well as those in Scotland and the UK , will do well to take on board the experiences and partial successes in which Noel participated in Ireland as a guide to future conduct as far as the striving of full input in Cabinet circles is concerned.

Friday, August 28, 2009


On page 120 of this biography of the philosophical chronological dictation ( progression would be the wrong word in this case as Nietzsches thinking , by his own self-description flowed , with all the ebb and flow that entails on the psyche , in the form of emotions and passions.Sometimes rising , sometimes cooling , at other times being obscured and latently hidden under other levels of constructive or destructive thoughts.)gets to a very important essential to the attitudes and vast academic archival libraries of critiques that are battlegrounds for well over two centuries.The crux of the matter is this according to Safranski, " opposing sides were able to cite Nietzsche in equal measure.".

Take , for example , the field of Music.Lovers of Music claiming , as did E.M.Forster when he gave up writing Novels to concentrate on Music ( and a lucrative career on radio), that it is "not of this Kingdom" , namely that is it the most transcendent sublime King of arts can quote , verbatim , reams and reams of early Nietzsche to support the supposition.On the other Hand , Nietzsche loyalists who do not hold to the view Music is the supreme of Arts can quote , yes youve guessed it , verbatim , reams and reams of quotes expressing limits and disaffection of Music as a true and honest representation of the Human experience." The Birth of tragedy" claims Safranski can be summed up in one sentence," it is better to approach the enormity of life with art , and best of all with music.".

And amongst lover and haters of Wagner , the Wagnerians can quote Nietzsche unequivocal homage to the master-composer to elevate the Music Dramatist to genius and beyond , whilst Nietzsche is an authoritative and one shop stop to those anti-Wagnerians who wish to condemn him as a charlatan and deceiver in more ways than one.

Even in the field of Atheism or Deism there are many religious philosophers who are as Neitzschian as any fanatic can get when quoting him for his deliberations on the nature of the relationship between good and evil , rather put away from a simple Manichean concept to a versatile and vital conflict between better and best.Hence making the daily battle of the conscious a dynamic winnable struggle as opposed to a grinding outsourcing to dogmatic institutions.

Below is a 6 part documentary , in a highly euro-centric zeal , including a cringeworthy epaulet calling him "a punk rock philosopher with a safety pin in his nose."

Whilst still , disconcertingly , Nietzsche can be called a Nazi or liberator with equal conviction by camps quoting him extensively for prove the former point or the latter.It is no unusual event to see Nietzsche authorities arguing exact opposite points , quoting only Nietzsche , to run themselves into the ground , a standstill verging to intellectual trench warfare.

All in All , Nietzsche can be all things to all thinkers , a superman for all seasons.

So why should this be the case , in the main , says Safranski , making himself clear was not the strongpoint in Nietzsche's way of operating.He was on a journey himself , constantly changing his views and changing whims , sometimes on a month to month basis.Take , for example , his view , expressed on page 220 "" Daybreak , which he was so recently calling an " immortal" work , was no a " poor piecemeal philosophy?" , these two diametrically opposed views were defined in a very umimmortal period of only two months.One other very important consideration , just like the problems Dostoyevsky had when he was trying to tie plot ends up in "The Idiot" without being able to refer to earlier drafts , whose sole copies had been sent to the publishing typesetter, Nietzsche , we are told on page 299 " sometimes forgot what he had written and did not have his previous Books on hand.".This would no doubt apply to his notes as well as he travelled between various centres of his academic workspots.

Another source of much contention is the availability of his unpublished works , in the unpublished 1871 "The Greek State" we have Nietzsche giving forthright views , one must remember this was at the time of the Paris Commune and other struggles across mainland Europe " Every advanced culture needs an exploitable class , a "slave class" , Nietzsche declared without mincing his words.He went on to write: " There is nothing more dreadful than a barbaric slave class that has learned to regard its existence as an injustice and sets about taking revenge not only for itself but for all generations". This extract appears on page 71.

In his work "Ecce Homo" , written in Turin , Nietzsche ask the question "How did i come to be privileged enough to think the way i do , and what kind of person does that make me?", in answering this question he investigated many and diverse topics from Realism to the imagination.To journey to the ultimate renaissance thinker was cut short by fatigue and ultimately madness.

His strengths was not the resolution , but rather the posing of questions in such a manner that engender a wide and vigorous debate before you can even define the question , yet alone attempt to answer them.

On page 108 we have some insight on Realism " The realism in the second half of the century (19th) was to accomplish the trick of thinking little of People while undertaking great things with them , if we should call modern scientific civilisation that has benefited all of us "great"".And on the topic of Modernism " everything extravagant and fantastic was repugnant".This shows on these matters Nietzsche was certainly well ahead of his time in identifying , if not choosing to challenge , the commodification of Humans in the Industrial age in the field of both work and , rather sadly ,art.

As far as History goes we have a circular argument that "History must solve the problem of History" also supported by his theory of recurring eternity " it is something we want to be doing countless times" , and in the forerunner to the advent of Gogh;Pessoa;Picasso and Joyce we have the observation " it is not " delight in themselves" but " disgust in themselves" that draws People to art."

According to Safranski one major hurdle that proved too much for Nietzsche was to resolve satisfactorily Christianity's link to self-enhancement and solidarity , though he clearly spotted the dogma of the Church Hierarchy , the impressive ability of the religions capability to retain the masses was something to behold.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


According to his biographer Ian Thompson , Primo committed suicide after a sustained period of depression by jumping from an upper balcony of his Turin flat , almost 100 years after a forebear done almost the exact thing.

Like his Turin contemporary Carlo Levi , Primo developed a highly sparse , concise , precise economy of style.This made his books about experiences of the Holocaust have a greater impact on the readers mind , as the narrative is related in a non-emotional rationalist style , hence making the irrationality of the grotesque outrages he relates seem to be monstrous.

Below is a 3 part Italian documentary with English subtitles about a poignant and harrowing return to Auschwitz by Levi.

( scroll down the "related videos" side-header on the right hand side for parts 2 and 3.)

In this collection of short vignette essays he reflects on why does one write in one of the pieces.

"1) Because one feels the drive and need to do so
2) To entertain others and oneself
3) To teach something to someone
4) To improve the world
5) To make ones ideas known
6) To free oneself from anguish- i ask him, however , to make an effort to filter his anguish , not to fling it as it is , rough and raw, into the face of the reader : otherwise he risks infecting others without getting rid of it himself".
7) To become famous
8) To become Rich
9) Out of habit"

on page 73 he cautions the writer to be "never dogmatic".

In his essay " The Mark of a Chemist" he tells of a vital life lesson about what to do with knowledge as he " learned how to do something , which , life teaches , is different from having "learned something"".

Number 6) would most closely fit the reason why Primo wrote , and the brevity of style that made his work say so much in that what was left unsaid spoke the loudest in the readers mind.

Rather sadly , todays academe has harnessed the universal warning against the excesses of totalitarian doctrines to their partisan political projects , especially some promotors of the Euston Manifesto.
But one reliable understanding of Levis legacy is this lecture from the Feminist Philosopher Judith Butler.Especially looking at the concept of forgiveness , in which i very much side with Bruno Bettleheim.

Primo was sensitive to the massacres of Shabra and Shatilla , such actions caused him "anguished and shamed" by Israels actions.

( scroll down the "related videos" side-header and you should be able to dig out the 10 part lecture).Part 2 , especially look to Primos disquiet about Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the Lebanon war

Judith is a supporter for Justice for the Palestinians and a patron of a Theatre Project in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Frank Pakenham , more commonly known as Lord Longford , passed away remembered as a fuddyduddy seemingly duped and manipulated by the Moors murderers , particularly Myra Hindley.That was the story according to the tabloids anyway.

This biography balances out this image by recording a fascinating life studied with excellence and valuable contributions to institutions we now take for granted that have enormously bettered the value of our life.
He wrote a highly regarded history of modern Irish history taking in the Independence of 1922 , his close friendship with De Valera granted primary source access few Historians could boast.

Frank was also a primary author of the landmark Beveridge Report , so much so many commentators cede calling the document after Pakenham himself would not have been wholly inaccurate, which ushered in the National Health Service.Arguably the Greatest achievement in Britain to date.

Prison reform was also a major contribution by Longford , landmark observations to Penal and institution culture from Punishment to a Curative approach to incarceration.

He was also an extraordinarily gifted Manager of newly nationalised industry , proving a state bureaucrat can run a massive industry with verve and innovation , whilst sparing the public purse from hemorrhaging insufficient resources to fund inefficient state enterprises.

One other vital and telling contribution was his time served as the chief bureaucrat overseeing the affairs of Germany just after the war , his tenacious abilities were at work convincing the the UK Government and public to adopt a less harsh punitive position and also allow the Germans to work their way back to restoration to a working part of modern Europe.

All that and he was also the father of Antonia Fraser , the historian and partner of Harold Pinter.

This Highly readable biography gives a more rounded appreciation of a life overshadowed by one tabloid fixation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


A major advantage this biography has over others is access to previously unavailable private correspondence between Byron and Murray , the forebear of the publishers of this work.This release of intimate archives matters as it renders previous , albeit meticulously researched , biographies diminished in this vital regard.This is especially so as one of the mysteries of any attempt to capture his real life is the systematic burial of Byrons notes and surviving journals once they were glanced over by his friends.The releasing of this archive is as close one will get to the recovery of these banished documents.

Fiona MacCarthy is well chosen to collate and bring together this material into a compelling , yet distant , retelling of a story where the line between real and legend is ever blurred.

On page 46 is quoted a maxim concerning long lasting relations " i have always laid down as a maxim - and found it justified by experience - that a man and a woman - make for better friendships that can exist between two of the same sex - but then on condition that they never have made - or are to make love with each other." , if you pick nothing up from Byron , then pick this one at least , despite his colourful and rich life , he died an extremely unhappy man because he could not live his on advice.

On page 85 he also reveals a desire " not to prove i can write well , but , if possible, to make others write better."

If one can take these bits of advice on board then you are well on the way to grasping the very best legacy he can leave behind.

Below is a documentary from the History Channel Chronicling some moments from Byrons Life.(This is part 1 of 5).

You can see the other parts by scrolling down the relevant entries in the "Related Videos" segment in the sidebar on the right hand side in the link below:

There is a quite exceptionally powerful rendition by Richard Coyle of a Byron classic in the video below:

It was written about Lady Francis Webster , one of the few Woman who had the temerity to reject Byrons advances , bringing out a very passionate unromantic jealous side out of him.

My particular favourite is She Walks in Beauty , you can get the Poem and a concise discussion on it in this link.

And here a serene rendition:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


In this great Modern Age of ours everything seems to have become disposable and casual.
Is it always a bad sign when relationships and friendships last a lesser time than it takes a packet of Walkers Salt&Vinegar crisps to go out of date on a shelf.

This Book is about a genuine friendship , a higher form of platonic shared soul bonding , not without its tsunamis , but , like the North Star , always there , never wavers.From the off this relationship was never going to get physical , so they had to develop the supreme bonds that last.

Peggy Ramsay was a theatrical agent ,and also responsible for encouraging Jean Rhys to publish Wide Sargasso Sea.

There are also nuggets of wisdom dispensed from the present Callow looking back on the young Man starting out on what turned out to be a highly satisfying career as an Actor and Writer.He released very early the discernment " you can never be better than your play" and gives an insight to the prime motivator of his intense output " a fear of stopping , asking yourself questions".

This Book goes a long way to reclaiming Love from the dirty four letter word we have allowed it to become.

TOM JONES by Henry Fielding

If you have a very modest ambition to get every philosophical thought and cultural current in the 18th century , in a delightful harmonious flowing tale , preperably just the one book , then you have come to the right place.

Tom Jones is quite simply a one stop story of all you need to know about the 18th century , plus many timeless wisdoms to boot.All that and a lot of laughs.
Every paragraph seems to contain a self-enclosed philosophy , replete with pathos and wisdom ,within itself , whilst not interrupting the easy going ebb and cascade of the narrative.This Opus is never ostentatious , though he never misses the chance to pugilist egregious generous helpings of perfidious fastidious critiques to his sparring partner Richardson and various randoms on the age.You can get an inkling of the history behind this in this link

His sparring partners also included a Prime Minister , who subsequently passed an Act banning plays without censorial approval with was only repealed a few decades ago.The upshot of this closing of the stage door was to open the avenue of the novel.

With that in mind you will not find a more clear and concise social history in so few delightfully entertaining pages.

Amongst many many litanies he offers such sagacious advice as this for the Qualities for a Prince ( Leader) in Part 2 page 146....(The prince be) contented with all the power he has, (have) enough wisdom to know his own happiness,(foster) Goodness sufficient to support happiness of others.

He even narrows down to one short sentence the substance of study , " the great use of Philosophy is to learn how to die.".

The values ; lessons and aphorisms come in flurries , so a quick mono-paced reading is not the ideal method to digest the sublime goodness of the worth of the Work.This has to be savoured , chewed over slowly , that way you will get the best out of it , and be nourished for a long time to come.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

THE BOOK OF DISQUIET by Fernando Pessoa

Incidently , if you want to read an experiment of modernism that worked big time , and stood the test of time, get a hold of Fernando Pessoas "Book of Disquiet".

In fact when i read it , it very much reminded me of a word version of Matisse/Picasso work at about the same time (1905-1912ish).

It is as close one will get to post-impressionism painting done by words.A stunning success.Amazingly it was not published until the 1980s , and the English version only came out in the mid-1990s.A definite missing piece in the evolution started by Gogol.

The real relevance of the work is that it was an initial description to the commoditisation of the individual in modern working society , therefore the alienation and misfitness speaks more to the experience of todays reader trying to make his way in the Fake Empire of increasingly empty void of corporate managed freedom.

Though a small book in the form of a dairy , it is so intense , you will feel quite emotionally exhausted ( and exhilarated ) reading it.

It achieves what Joyce almost did.

Talking of Fake Empires here is a Book of Disquiet inspired video: