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.