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historyHe claimed to be sexually active as a 5 year-old. «He has visited all the most famous homes in London. Once» Oscar Wilde stated. Frank Harris was one of the most controversial characters of the Victorian era. A self-proclaimed sex-guru, hypochondriac and editor with upper class access, he was a colorful addition to the revolt against late Victorian morality. Ireland, at the middle of the nineteenth century, was on the brink of trouble. Hunger had just arrived and gangs of smugglers ravaged the coastlines. Thomas James Harris was named after his father, Thomas Harris, who worked for the British Coastguard. His father spent a lot of time at sea and the two were never close. His mother was a distant figure, even if he never disliked her. It was the violent and aggressive father he hated, and later he changed his name to Frank Harris. The young Harris left for England to attend a boarding school. There is something confined about his childhood memories, something unpleasant about his description of the masculine boarding schools. He left a dysfunctional home for a school system in which the teachers turned a blind eye to abuse. In this unfriendly environment, he learnt to fight back. He taught himself boxing and achieved the respect of his peers. He grew emotionally and made his sexual debut. Across the Atlantic At the age of 16, he sets out on a journey to America, without any goal and almost without money. He makes acquaintances on the ocean liner and on embarking in New York. He finds a girl and works full-time on the construction of Brooklyn bridge. At this time he came to a painful realization: He was ugly. This was, according to his autobiography, a sinister moment in his life, «but it only motivated me to greater achievements in the bedroom» From New York Harris headed west toward Kansas where his older brother was already settled. In Kansas he became a cowboy on the great trek north. He was also a witness to the great fire that struck Chicago at this time. He believed that vaporized water added air to the flames, and consequently he did his utmost to prevent anyone from throwing water on the flames. Student After a short business career, Harris attended the University of Kansas. After finishing his law degree he works his way via San Francisco back to Europe to continue his studies in Germany. His social skills were modest, and he is expelled from the University of Heidelberg for beating up a student that bumped into him on the street. He finishes his studies at Gottingen and then returns to Ireland. There he finds a deaf and whitebearded father and his mother’s grave. A year later Harris is in London. The center of the empire was alive with activity. Socialists were beginning to organize, unions were formed and the proletariat were challenging the aristocracy and the nouveau rich. Harris is transformed politically and becomes a member of Henry Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation. However, due to disagreements, he leaves the organization. According to Hyndman, Harris was an eloquent speaker who passed through almost every political affiliation. London contained many of them, and was the center of the imperialist economic system. Harris was not only caught up in the political turbulence of the capital city, later, as a publisher, he was forced into an alliance with the new commercial interests. Editor and society The lawyer Frank Harris arrived in London with a recommendation from his old professor Byron Smith. He met Thomas Carlyle, who after half an hour, became so intimate that he confided his own impotence. Through Carlyle, Harris met Richard Sutton, the editor of The Spectator. Harris gained experience from The Spectator and The Fortnightly Review and became editor of the conservative newspaper London Evening News. The circulation plummeted and the paper was desperate. Harris cut the staff and promoted sensational celebrity gossip. He seduced the masses and the circulation exploded. Frank Harris, the tabloid journalist, was born out of gossip and innuendo. A power struggle forced Harris to leave the editorship of the London Evening News, but now he had proven himself. From the 1880s he worked as editor of two of the most famous contemporary publications: The Fortnightly Review and the Saturday Review. He met all the celebrities, such as Karl Marx. «While Herbert Spencer was contemptuously angry when he was opposed, Marx was politely inattentive», Harris commented. Harris built a career on gossip. In Contemporary Portraits, a series of 5 volumes, Harris continues his description of contemporary greats. He describes how famous personalities breaks wind at the dinner table, why Thomas Carlyle never had sex with his wife (according to Harris he was gay) and how a man like Randolph Churchill drifted into madness. On request, he passed his dirty stories on to the prince of Wales and he had a close relationship to princess Alice of Monaco. He ran for office for the Tories, but lost because he defended Charles Parnell who had been unfaithful to his wife. Blackmail Because of his tabloid journalism, Harris was often in trouble with the authorities. He bragged of the fact that he had blackmailed celebrities for money and that he had participated in orgies with 13 year olds. One of his siblings had died of consumption and Harris was convinced that such afflictions were hereditary. He thought that stomach aches were due to too little movement of the relevant muscles, and he developed a routine of daily exercises. When he over ate, he resorted to a stomach pump. At the end of the century; Harris left journalism to become a writer. «Like mothers , we writers tend to judge our offspring by the pain the cause us,» he remarked, « and we worship them to compensate for a cruel world.» Even if he had made money on the private lives of others, Harris developed an ambiguous relationship with public life. When Oscar Wilde was jailed for “sodomy”, Harris advised him to leave the country. After 2 years Wilde was released from prison, and Harris was one of very few to still acknowledge him. War and Exile At the outbreak of WWI Harris fled his sanctuary in France. England had betrayed both him and Wilde, and America was the only option. In New York, he sided with Germany against England, and was labeled a German agent. Depressed and isolated life became a struggle for existence. «The truth is, I assume, that my vanity is as abnormal as my ambition». He failed as a novelist, but he was hungry for recognition. For a short period, he reaches his former glory as editor of Pearson’s Magazine. He begins a crusade against poverty and bourgeoisie hypocrisy. When Theodore Dreiser had one of his novels cut by the censors, Harris, who sees a similarity between Wilde, Jesus and himself, rushes to his defense. Society had forced Harris into a corner. The postal service refused to distribute his publications, and he faced the threat of legal sanction. He was on the verge of financial ruin, and he wanted to return to Europe. Death and the moral France was hardly an improvement. In the absence of publishers, he was forced to publish his own works. He begins his autobiography, a monstrous volume which he finishes over a period of several years. My Life and Loves had the subtitle «the most candid biography ever written». Everybody got what was coming to them. Harris opened the closet to expose skeletons and intimate details. He was declared persona non-grata in America. Bookshops in France, America and England were rushed and copies of his biography confiscated. Once he was even stopped in customs because his autobiography was considered pornography. Tired and abused he died in the arms of a nurse in 1931. A few years after the publication of his autobiography, a reply was published in the form of the book The Lies and Libels of Frank Harris, penned by some injured parties from his dubious past. His ability to emphasise himself at the expense of others made him many enemies. The bourgeoisie choked on his many shameless descriptions of sexuality. At dinner with the social elite he produced witticisms in the style of «new cunt, new hope» George Bernard Shaw’s wife would not have anything to do with him and even faithful friends turned their backs to him. In 5 volumes Harris portrayed himself as a hero who mastered life and conquered women. But the truth was obvious to everyone. Despite his photographic memory, Harris carefully selected his facts. He lied about his own past a cowboy, he exaggerated his own role as war correspondent in the Russian- Turkish war, he lied about how popular he was and how good he was in the sack. There was a vulnerability behind this total lack of irony. The roles he took on where as feigned as his new name, Frank Harris. The pauper, Thomas James from Galway, had turned his own life into a gossip column. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby Michael Henrik Wynn Before king Harald began the unification of Norway, the country consisted of many smaller kingdoms, often fighting among themselves. Bands of violent thugs roamed the countryside demanding protection money from peasants, blacksmiths, carpenters and traders. And many made a claim to divinity. In one such kingdom, located in a long and narrow valley, there was a hamlet in which there lived an ugly and childless woman in her mid fourties. Her loneliness was such that she frequented neighbors at all hours making a nuisance of herself. But she was intelligent, and read the minds of her hosts with just one glance. Therefore, she never stayed long out of fear of outwearing her welcome, and eventually became known as “wandering Hilde”. It was with a certain sadness that locals observed her walking down solitary paths in the evenings, her lamp was visible from great distance in clear weather. They would see it climb the side of the valley to her farm. At least, it was a comfort that her piece of land even though it was small, was the most fertile in the valley. So, she was never short of food, only a person with whom to share it. One winter there came news from afar that a great battle was brewing. The local king was in a bitter struggle for his life with the neighboring kingdom. Men and boys gathered what weapons they possessed, kissed their wives and mothers before they rode or walked off, and were never heard of again. It was said that the neighboring king was an extremely evil man, who enjoyed seeing his enemies suffer. He would engage in the most grotesque torture with a crooked smile upon his face. It was his right as king to hold lives in the palm of his hand, and to do with them as he pleased. At one point the cruel ruler came riding down the valley with his hord of savages, his long hair streaming like some torn grey banner in the wind as he rushed forward with his lifted, blood-soaked sword. They saw the fires spread from house to house. Screams echoed far through the valley unto the plains below. Who had died? What had happened to the children? But the fate of a king is never certain. He eventually miscalculated, underestimated the hatred he had stirred up, and in a flash a crowd had ambushed him, torn him from his proud black stallion, and stabbed him hundreds of times, before placing his decapitated head on a pole. The mob then did to their enemies what they had experienced themselves. New flames flickered under the starry sky, and many young died needlessly for the wrongs of their parents. It so happened that wandering Hilde stood at the top of the enemy’s valley one morning as dawn revealed columns of drifting thick smoke, and fields of golden wheat. She observed the sacking with the distance of an outsider. What did it matter what people did, their petty arguments, she was not part of their world. She knew that the law demanded revenge and that the Gods craved it. But she did not understand it. One of these murdered children could have warmed her heart, stoked her homely fires until her ship eventually sailed for the halls of Hell. She turned with her usual melancholy, and began on her solitary trek home. She crossed the creek, navigated the rutted tracks to the mountain pass. As she was passing the treeline, she heard the neighing of a horse. She stopped, looked in all directions, but could not, at first, understand where the noise was coming from. She heard it again, and walked towards a mighty pine with thick green branches that overhung a path. Underneath it she found a small mare, and by its feet a tiny red-haired child, a girl, five winters or so that seemed to have fallen off. The child did not cry, perhaps because she had been cushioned by the soft ground, or because she was still confused from her ordeal. For a moment wandering Hilde did not know what to do. If there was a child, there was most certainly a mother. But where? “Hello, little one, where is your mother?” The girl did not speak, but pointed towards a column of smoke that rose from treetops four hundred meters away. The child then drew her hand over her throat, as if to indicate that something had been cut. Hilde did not have time to reflect on the macrabre display, for in the very next instant male shouts were not far away, and hooves trampled. Instinctively, she drew the child towards her bossom, slapped the horse on its back, sending it off riderless. She then placed herself and the child as close to the trunk as she could. They were hidden by the low branches, invisible to the panting horses that moments laters raged by. She then realized that she had forgotten to place her hand over the child’s mouth. But, as she looked down she saw that she had no need to worry. The child had buried her face against her thigh, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. So it was that wandering Hilde’s heart melted, and that she brought home an enemy offspring to her own house, fed it and treated it as if it were flesh off her own flesh. But a child can never be invisible to any neighbor. Even if she managed to hide the secret for six moons, the seventh the game was up, and the whole village debated intensly who the child might be, what linage it might have, and whether it was right to feed the blood of an enemy. The average villager, of course, would never get beyond speculation, but there was a traveling merchant, who sometimes also collected taxes. He was by no means rich, but maintained halfway houses, where the earls and their men sometimes made stops. He was obliged to wait on these, and present them with such food and drink as they demanded. But he was handsomely rewarded, even if he almost never raised his voice, or offered any comments beyond those required by his function. He was a man of fifty winters, and the locals thought him wise, and often sought his councel on matters relating to the wider world. The child and her clothes were brought before him. Grey-bearded, bushy-browed and weathered, he sat quietly on a stone in front of a flickering fire, and examined the items in silence. He could find no mark on the child’s limbs that would give any clue. But he noticed that she was well fed, and that all her skins were of fine quality and had regular stitching. Still many men with large farms had daughters, but they were seldom lavished with jewels at that age. Finally, he found a little pouch, and in it a small medallion with an emblem. If anyone had seen his grey eyes at that moment, they would have noticed his schock. But the others had grown impatient, and were looking at the landscape and walking about. They had concluded that nothing out of the ordinary would be uncovered. He slipped the pouch into his pocket without anyone noticing, smiled and schook his head. “As far as I can tell, she is of wealthy kin, but I can say nothing more.” The others sighed, and they all rode to the house of wandering Hilde the very next morning. Four horses with the elders of the village climbed the paths to her farm. They found fires burning, food cooked, clothes hanging out to dry. When they saw the child stumble towards a smiling Hilde, they all sighed and shook their heads in dismay. A few evenings later Thor’s wagon thundered above the mountain, his lighetning split the sky over the valley below. Then there was heavy rain, which dripped from leaves and made stones and paths slippery. But then there was quiet, total silence as a slow fog drifted in from all sides. In that fog there was suddenly the sound of a horse, and solitary cloaked rider made his was to the merchant’s house over the mountain pass. In Norway, sea gulls – the white emissaries – drift in from the endless ocean on summer breezes. As the autumn chill and darkness descend from the mountains, however, they vannish. In their place murders of crows settle upon moist fences and thatched roof tops, greeting visitors with black blinking eyes. When the rider reached the merchant’s house, the gates and shutters were therefore secured and only distant caws were heard. The traveler dismounted, knocked on the door, which creaked open releasing a slit of light. The old merchant then appeared, and bid the stranger enter. Having dispatched the child’s pouch with a messenger some days earlier, the merchant was expecting somone to come. But when he saw the rider remove his clothes his heart froze and his eyes filled with tears. Before him stood Frey, the king’s beautiful sister – and his most feared assassin. “Your highness!” he exclaimed, and immediately went to fetch his best food and drink. Frey, although fourty winters, was a rank darkhaired woman with gleaming eyes. His hands shook as he served her. The story of Frey was well known among those who travel. She had been married three times, and each time she had failed to produce offspring – and blamed her husband. Every time she had sought the help of her brother the king, who each time lured the men to their deaths so that she might marry again. The third time, however, the king had told his sister: “Frey, three good men have met their end because you are barren. Three old mothers have wept not knowing why their son had perished. Honor now demands that you pay me back.” So it was the Frey, in the service of her brother, wielded her charm, exploited her good looks and made men lower their guards, only to plunge her long dagger in their hearts while they were sleeping. “You have guessed why I have come?” she said looking at the merchant. He lowered his gaze and sighed. “Yes” “Now, tell me the story of how the pouch was found” “There is a local woman called wandering Hilde who now mothers the child…” “Wandering Hilde? Does this name have any significance? Is she not a local woman?” A sudden thought came upon the old merchant, a weak glimmer of hope. He excused himself, complained about a bad back and took a seat on the other side of the table. “It is important, Your Highness, that you know all that there is to know” “Yes, naturally” The old merchant then told the legend of wandering Hilde, and in as many strong words as he could elaborated on her character. He described her lantern climbing the hillside in the evening, and how her shadow moved from door to door after dusk. But, he had no hope that anything would make any sort of difference. The woman before him, gorgeous and black-haired as he was, was known as the coldest and most calculating creature ever seen. So, he finished his story, got up and pointed out the window. “The light you see up there, Your Highness, marks the house where wandering Hilde now lives.” He felt Frey approaching him from behind, her cold breath streamed over his shoulder as her gaze followed the direction of his finger. She then whispered: “Thanks for the story, old man” And then she opened the door and melted into the night. Frey was not in a hurry. She walked her horse slowly along the path under the light of a bleak crescent. She made sure that not many people saw her. But it would have made no difference if they did. At foot of the hillside, she dismounted and then climbed on foot untill she stood hidden behind trees at the edge of wandering Hilde’s farm. There she stood for a while, and saw a fire flicker through an open window. A young girl giggled. A long silvery dagger was then unsheathed, and human form slipped quietly to the outside wall. One of the oak shutters had been closed, and in it there was a hole. Frey then placed her eye to the opening and peered inside. Wandering Hilde, an unusually plain woman, was standing in front of a bucket of water cleaning some cloth. In the background there was a loom, and in the corner of the cramped room stood a straw padded bed. That is where the child sat smiling, and dangling her feet. Wandering Hilde was very preoccupied. At one point she realized that she she needed more water, and reached for her bucket. She made her way towards the door, which slowly swung open releasing a warm and damp stream of light into the night. Wandering Hilde did not see Frey in the shadows behind her, with her dagger raised. Frey was about to enter the room, and kill the child when something unexpected happened. Hilde sang. A very slow lullaby to calm the child. She did not look back, but the sudden voice caught Frey by surprise and she withdrew back into the dark. There she stood for a moment, sweating and shivering, not knowing why. Moments later Hilde returned, closed and locked the door, and Frey felt the tremendous solitude of the universe suddenly fall upon her shoulders as it slammed shut. She felt dizzy, and looking up at the stars, that enormous multitude of distant lights were all staring at her. The icemaid fled. First to the trees, then to her black stallion and finally to the merchant’s house. There she demanded a room and left orders not to be disturbed. A volva had once told Frey that when a woman of a certain age climbs to a high mountain pond, and looks down upon her reflection in the water under the northern light, she can see herself the way she could have been. That night, as many other nights, the Arora Borealis twisted and turned like a celestial serpent above. Frey saw this from her window, and immediately asked the merchant whether there was a mountain pond nearby as she needed to brew a magical potion. The old man then told her that four hundred meters up the road, just above the treeline, not far from the mountain pass, there was such a pond. Frey then proceeded in the direction she was given. After walking quietly through the night, her lantern swinging back and forth, her thick cloak sometimes pulled by sudden gusts, she arrived at her destination. It was dark, and the opposite bank of the pond lay shrouded in mist. But on her side, the water shimmered quietly by the moss. This was indeed mirror enough to consult the Gods! As she peered into the water she was at first releaved. There was nothing there, only her own familiar face. She smiled, shook her head. She had been needlessly worried. But then she heard a rustle in the trees. She grabbed her dagger fearing an ambush. Then she spotted a black bird against the night sky, and heard the omnious cry of a raven. Her heart froze, the dizziness returned. She noticed that her feet were soaked, and as she again looked into the water her vision seemed blurred. Who was the shadow in her reflection? For a brief moment she thought she made out wandering Hilde in the ripples. It was just a brief sensation, a palpitation in the surface, but it was overwhelming enough to make her walk back to the old merchant.There she asked for provisions, saddled up her horse and returned to her brother, the king. Ten moons later, ten riders crossed the mountain pass. A herald preceded them summoning the villagers to the hall. Eight strong and grim warriors, all wearing long swords and crossbows, then surrounded the building, and two cloaked nobles entered to consult with the elders. There was murmur inside, the men looked at each other with questioning eyes and there was much speculation about what was about to happen. As the two visitors emerged into the light falling from a shaft into the center of the room, they saw that Frey and her brother, the king, stood before them. Then the brother raised his hand, ordered silence and spoke thus: “Villagers, I am your lawfull king, and I have come among you tell you that I have heard the story of wandering Hilde from my sister. I thought long and hard about it, but did not know what to do. I then fell asleep, and in my dream I saw the many mothers who have cried during our long war. A voice then came upon me saying “Enough!”. I woke from my delirium in a pool of sweat, and walked over to my window for air. I then found a raven purching on my sill.” At this news of this omen, there was much alarm. The villagers were anxious. “It is therefore my decision as king that no harm should ever befall the child while wandering Hilde lives, and that this outsider be treated as one of your own for that period. I have come to you in person to ask you to pay allegiance and swear this to me upon one-eyed Odin himself.” The men of village were obliged to do as any lord demanded. But they needed little persuasion because the king before them was missing an eye himself. The villagers gave their oaths and made their promises, and the king then told them of the orphan’s true linage and what had become of her family. Then the king and his sister left, and they never saw either of them again. Some years later, news reached the village that he had perished when his horse fell through the ice one winter when he was crossing the fjord. His son, Harold the fair-haired, was also a just man. But the son’s mind and ambition were always focused elsewhere, and the little cluster of houses in the remote valley was forgotten. There is moss on the old gathering hall in the village. It has been there throughout living memory. The cracked log walls, slimy in rain, were dry, brown and crisp in summer evenings. On such days, the smell of pine, the crackling of fires and the clanking of a hammer on anvils sounded from the nearby houses. Children laughed – as much as children then were allowed to laugh. Wandering Hilde was not a strict woman, and when she commanded Gudrun, as she had named her adopted daughter, she made sure that her voice was always accompanied by a twinkling eye and a smile. The elders of the village sometimes arrived at the hall robed in sheepskin, looking grey and solumn. It was clear that whatever they were up to, it merrited the raising of voices and the shutting of doors. Only rarely was there an envoy from afar. Then, of course, there was music, mead and minstrels reciting long poems. Occasionally, young Gudrun tried to peer through a crack when the door was open. But she was short of height and never saw much. The heavy wooden door always creaked on its rusty hinges and closed that world from her. Eventually, she gave up, and started doing what other young girls did, learning her womanly chores, preparing herself for that day when a man might arrive to take her away. When she had experienced six winters with her new mother, one of the men appeared in the doorway of the great hall one humid afternoon in autumn and invited her in. She could hardly believe it. As she entered, she saw walls draped with red and blue cloth, and small divinities of carved oak, and barrels of drink. At the summit of the room sat a stern elderly man, and around him children gathered. He told stories of a horrific king, who had murdered his three sons. The stories were full of drama, and all the boys smiled. She realized that the man often looked at her as he recounted his tales. And somehow she did not get a friendly impression of him. His pupils were cold. The stories, however, involved many things she did not know about the village, about the kingdom, and the world beyond the crest of the great mountain. It was not her place to ask impertinent questions. Like all the other children her imagination was captivated by sea voyages, armies and battles in far flung places. This seance became a monthly feature in the calender of the village young. And on all occasions, it would end the same way. “Do you see the golden amulet on that wall?” the man would say and point at what seemed like a holy relic on a shelf. “Who does that belong to?” he would ask. “The Beast King!” the children would shout in unison. And then they would all get up, and return to their chores. Gudrun would be full of excitement, and run her mother’s side to share her new stories. But mother would always ignore her, and declared that those lies were unfit for women, and suited only for boys, and that the best thing she could do was to avoid the evil geezer and his yarns alltogether. Her mother was so in earnest about this that eventually Gudrun stopped sharing her fantasies. In stead, she would sit quietly on a mossy stone, and look down upon the valley below, her thoughts soaring over the landscape like a seagull yearning for an ocean. Stories would always stir her soul, and she began dreaming of a life of her own – the great adventure that would come with independence. But no suitors appeared on Gudrun’s doorstep, and no local boy ever showed an interest in her, and the seasons passed as she flourished into a tall and rank red-haired woman – strong, intelligent and soft-hearted. Often she would bring food for the elderly, and she would clean and do things, as if she were a servant. And she would share of her food with passing strangers, and she would try to follow the example of her mother who had saved her all those years ago. In fact, so many years had passed that whatever preceded the life she now had – whatever it might have been – had vanished into a haze. And there was no way to get it back once it had gone. Old Hilde herself had found the company that was missing from her former years, her evening fires were indeed continously stoked, but age and new worries quickly colored her brows white, and the faint sun and the northern breeze left lines on her forehead. And her steps slowed with each winter, until she moved about like a wise hag with a cane. “Dear Gudrun”, Hilde stammered from her bed one day. The shifting lights from the fire made her dying eyes shine almost magically. “Come to my side, daughter!” Gudrun got up and moved next to her mother. She lifted a skin and placed it over her mothers feet. “Gudrun, I am soon departing this world”. “No, mother, do not give up” “I am old, I feel it coming. The winters weigh heavily on my bones, I cannot carry water. That is when my own mother died.” “Yes, mother.” “I am worried about what will become of you.” “Do not worry about me, mother. I have friends, and I have work at our neighbor’s farm.” “No, child. You do not have friends. When my body is cold, you must leave me unburied, and sneak out of the valley before anyone notices” “What do you mean?” At that very moment, there was a knock on the door, and her mother waved the daughter to the side. Gudrun immediately understood that private matters would be discussed, and went for a stroll along the valley in which she had grown up. She strolled by the clear river, and climbed to the shimmering pond. She even made her way to a crest above the pass, and studied her village from a high vantage point. And she spied passed distant white peaks, and imagined an endless expanse of water. She returned in the evening mist, and noticed a throng of neighbors by the well outside her house. Her brows dropped and eyes teared up as she approached. What she had dreaded had now come to pass. The men seemed to block her, and she found it difficult to penetrate the crowd. Eventually, she fought her way in, and saw her mother lifeless in her bed, her grey gleaming eyes open, staring skywards. Gudrun looked away, and placed her face in her palms. When she glanced up, she noticed the familiar face of wise Astrid. At first she was relieved. But then she saw that wise Astrid’s wrinkles seemed petrified. Her wool-covered figure, normally so crooked, seemed strangely erect, and there was an uncompromising determination in her narrow chin. “Be gone, spawn of Loke!”, wise Astrid whispered and spat before Gudrun’s feet. Gudrun ran out the door, only to feel a man’s fist in her face. She tumbled to ground and got up, and fled into the stable to Alas, her white mare. She mounted as quickly as she could and gallopped down the road in a cloud of dust. After a few minutes she glanced back and saw her childhood home vanish behind the pines. She pulled her reigns, and her horse neighed as she halted. She then dismounted and sat down in the grass to cry. But no tears came. There was simply too much at the same time, and she had no idea what had come over her old friends. But, a life may change with the snap of fingers, only a cold stone will move with the ages. Whether this was fear, sorrow or confusion did not matter, for soon there was trampling of hooves and angry male voices. She decided to mount her horse in a futile dash for the mountain pass. Even in a that humid evening, dark-green branches drooped over her path, casting distinct shadows. And she thought she heard the distant cries of many ravens, one over the other, until they combined into a primordial laughter. And thus it was that Gudrun was ambushed by a crowd of former friends at the mountain pass, torn from her old white mare, stabbed hundreds of times, and her decapitated head placed on a pole. This was done because she was the youngest daughter of the worst man that had ever lived – even if her lineage had been kept from her until the day of her death. In olden times, the word of a king was all that prevented a smiling neighbor from ending your life. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureIn Nepal every school boy knows the name Laxmi Devkota (1909-59), author of the short Napelese epic Muna Madan. All over Himalaya his works are revered as classics, yet in Europe and the West his folk inspired narrative poems remain largely unknown. In a special interview one of his two surviving sons, Padma Devkota, explains the continuing attraction of his father’s stories, and why a tale like Muna Madan still fascinates today, almost 100 years after it was written. Historyradio.org: Why has Muna Madan become such a central work in Nepalese literature? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan remains a central work in Nepali literature for several reasons. Briefly, it is the first major Romantic work in Nepali literature which revolts against the age-long Sanskrit classical tradition and seeks to tell the story, as Professor Shreedhar Lohani observes in “Life, Love, and Death in Muna Madan,” of real people through lives of fictional characters, and to fictionalize real geographical space. This is the first work in Nepali literature which elevates the jhyaure song, an otherwise neglected cultural space, to a significant literary height. Next, it tells a story of the common Nepali people which remains realistically contemporary in the context of the international labor market which still attracts many indigent Nepali workers. It is a heart-rending tragedy written in a simple diction which even the illiterate people of Nepal easily understood. They found their own lives written all over the pages of this book. Even then, Poet Devkota himself was criticized by elitist writers as having done something that would mar his literary career. Historyradio.org: Muna Madan deals with issues like poverty and caste, to what extent are these issues in present day Nepal? Professor Padma Devkota: The caste system is not a central theme of Muna-Madan. It is mentioned only once in the course of the story when Madan’s overwhelming gratitude to the Good Samaritan figure, the Bhote, causes Madan to mention his own caste. Furthermore, the caste system itself was efficient at the time it was created. Later practices cast a slur on its original intent, which was simply a division of labor within a small, ancient community. Quite obviously it has outlasted its use in contemporary societies and the Government of Nepal has taken efficient action against all caste discriminations. However, even as poets and thinkers point up the correct path, human habits die hard. We now fear the rise of economic castes such as those that encrust capitalistic societies. I believe Nepal, especially after its secularization, has been more successful fighting the discriminatory caste system than it has succeeded in fighting poverty. Historyradio.org: Tell us a little about your father, Laxmi Prasad Devkota. What sort of man was he? Professor Padma Devkota: Laxmi Devkota is popular as Mahakavi (Great Poet/Epicist). The public was quick to recognize the exceptional qualities of a poet whose fifty-ninth book, The Witch Doctor and Other Essays, a collection of thirty essays written originally in English, appeared on November 11, 2017. There are several other documents waiting to be published. He wrote in practically all the genres of literature and excelled in poetry and essay. Initially, he wrote under the influence of his Sanskrit background and English education. He started out as a Romantic poet in the Nepali tradition but continually grew as a poet to a literary modernity which the bulk of his writings have shaped. As an intellectual, he participated in the socio-political life of the nation, which he loved with all his heart. As a writer, he had vision, imagination and mastery over the medium. He also raised his voice against colonialism, imperialism, discriminations and injustice. As a thinker, he asserted the necessity of scientific and logical thinking to counteract blind faith and orthodoxy which hindered progress. As a human being, he had the gift of compassion and empathy. Legends continue growing around the life of the poet. Historyradio.org: What kind of reception did Muna Mudan receive when it was published? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan is a long narrative poem written in the lyrical form called jhyaure in which learned people of the time found, as Devkota himself explains, “a low standard of rural taste, an inkling of distancing from civilization or of showiness or trace of ill-manners of the hills.” He tells us how the pundits “started wrinkling their nose” at the mention of jhyaure. For them, the merits of literature were with Kalidas and Bhavabhuti, the classical Sanskrit poets. For Devkota, they were not national poets and their literary output was not the Nepali national literature. So, he compares his situation to that of his predecessor, Bhanubhakta Acharya, the Adi Kavi or the First Poet of Nepal. During Bhanubhakta’s time, the elitists asked if it was possible to write poetry in Nepali. But Bhanubhakta used the Sanskrit classical meter and produced wonderful poetry in Nepali. Similarly, in Devkota’s time, the elitists asked if it was possible to write poetry in jhyaure. Devkota elevated the status of jhyaure by writing serious literature in this rhythm of the common heart. Quickly, Muna-Madan gained popularity and it still remains the best-seller even to this day. Historyradio.org:  There is a movie version of the novel, is this film faithful to the original text? Professor Padma Devkota: I would have to look at the movie again to tell you just how faithful it is. When I watched it for the first time years ago, I thought it was sufficiently faithful to the original text, but that is just a passing claim. Gaps, additions and interpretations of the movie need a more serious revisiting. Watch the movie trailer  Historyradio.org:  Could you describe the literary style of that your father uses in his narrative? Is he a realist writer, a naturalist? A modernist? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan is a long narrative poem written with the ballad in mind. It uses a lyrical form called the jhyaure which was popular among people at work, especially in the paddy fields where young boys and girls teased each other with songs and fell in love. Although Devkota’s poem is tragic in essence in keeping with the eastern view of life, he insists on the importance of action, which alone can give significance to life. Throughout the poem, there are reversals of the imaginary and the real, of gender roles, of situations, and so on. The poem is romantic in vision, emotionally well-balanced and under full control of the writer. It uses fresh metaphors and images that have a lasting impression upon the mind of the reader. The work is popularly acclaimed as being simple, but simplicity of diction is counteracted by the poet’s imaginative flights that trail the syntax behind them. It is as if my father wanted to apply William Wordsworth’s famous poetic declaration in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads to Nepali literature: to write about real people in their own tongues. In trying to select a “language really used by men,” Devkota strikes gold and achieves a simplicity which stands in great contrast to the complexity he was later able to achieve in the epic language of Nepali Shakuntala, for instance. In terms of its revolt against the classical tradition and its attempt to speak in the simple language of the common people, Muna-Madan is modernist too. It does make a very powerful statement against discriminatory caste practices. Historyradio.org:  In which way does his novel fall into the narrative of Nepalese literary history? Professor Padma Devkota: Nepali derives from Pali, which derives from Sanskrit. Very early Nepali writers wrote devotional poetry in Sanskrit; but Bhanubhakta Acharya decided to freely translate Ramanyan into Nepali using the classical Sanskrit meters. He also wrote a few poems about the political and social issues of his time. Then came Motiram Bhatta and introduced the Urdu gazal and wrote many love poems. Lekhanath Poudyal stuck to the Sanskrit tradition but wrote a Nepali that gleamed with polished language. Balakrishna Sama, a playwright and a poet, looked westward and to science and philosophy. Laxmi Prasad Devkota introduced Romanticism and Modernity to Nepali literature. Briefly again, my father’s poetry is spontaneous, deeply felt, sincere and honest, and has a touch of spirituality in it. He loves his nation, but goes glocal. He finds his inspiration in the histories and mythologies of India, Greater India (Bharatvarsha), Greece, Rome and Nepal. For him, mythology offers a proper window into the hearts of the peoples of the world. For the human being must stand at the center of the universe. The human being is the only significantly worthy object of worship. And the poet remains a liberal humanist. Historyradio.org:  Why do you think Muna Madan is so little known in Europe? Professor Padma Devkota: No serious attempt has been made by the Nepalese Government to introduce its culture and literature to the Europeans, who don’t read Nepali anyway. And why should they? Nepal is not an economic or military giant. So, its richest cultural mine awaits discovery by individuals who wander in search of the best in world literature. Some such as Dom Moreas who met Devkota at his death-bed and reminisced him in Gone Away: An Indian Journal or David Rubin whose translations of Devkota’s poems appear under the title Nepali Visions, Nepali Dreams or Michael Hutt of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, who translated Muna-Madan are examples of Western scholars who have discovered him. More recently, international scholarship has grown around Devkota’s work. One such study, though peripheral to Muna-Madan, is that of Anna Stirr’s on “Sounding and Writing a Nepali Public Sphere: The Music and Language of Jhyaure” (Asian Music 46, 2015). Although Devkota himself started the tradition of translating his own works and those of his colleagues’ into English, and although he also started the tradition of writing serious literature originally in English, we have not been able to publicize it beyond the frontiers of our immediate neighbors. Historyradio.org:  Are there many foreign translations of the story? Professor Padma Devkota: Not as many as or as good as we would like to see. Some Nepali translators have attempted rendering Muna-Madan into English. Among them are my father’s brother, Madhusudhan Devkota, and Tirtha Man Tuladhar both of whom attempted a translation of this work in 1970. Ananda Shrestha’s rendering into English appeared in 1995. Foreigners, too, have tried to translate this work in their own ways. A. M. Syangden and Ganga Singh Rai form India attempted translating Muna-Madan in 1994 and 1996, respectively. Their major problem is with the language itself. Michael J. Hutt’s translation appeared in 1996. It remains the most noted version to this day. Liu Xian translated it into Chinese in 2011. Portions of the text have been translated into Russian, Korean, French, German and other European languages, too. All of them have translated from the original text of Muna-Madan, which is shorter by 399 lines from the text revised by the poet in 1958. This one remains to be translated by someone.     Click to buy an English translation “Muna Madan follows the life of Madan who leaves his wife , Muna,  and goes to Lhasa to make money, and while returning he becomes sick on the way. His friends leave him on the road and come back home saying he has died. The story also shows the life of a poor woman who suffered much without her husband and later dies because of grief. Finally he is rescued by a man who is considered to be of lower caste in Nepal. That is why it is said that a man is said to be great not by caste or race but by a heart full of love and humanity. When Madan returns to Kathmandu after regaining his health, he discovers that his wife is dead and becomes grief-stricken. Madan comes to realize that money is of no value at that point. In this poem, Devkota has written about the biggest problems in Nepalese society at the time.” (Wiki) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
creative writing / literatureMaking it as a script writer in Hollywood is not easy. There is a whole support industry for creating stories, classes on almost every corner in Tinseltown. One of the more dedicated teachers of the craft is professor Ken Dancyger of New York University. We spoke to him about his work as a teacher of writing, and about the realities of the business. Historyradio.org: When did this notion of a “script guru” become common? What sets such a person apart from, let’s say, a professor of literature? Professor Dancyger: The “script guru ” for me started with Syd Field. I remember going to see him in Toronto along with 400 others and being outraged by his ideas about scripts. He made me define where I stand on the vital issues about how to write a strong script. At that point I myself had written, alone or with partners, 10 scripts. The first secured me a Hollywood agent, the second sold to Canadian television. I seemed on my way. A script guru is very different from a Professor of Literature. A Professor of Literature is well-read and has an area of interest. He or she may or may not be a novelist. Script guru is much closer to the popular arts i.e. the media. Certainly the guru may borrow ideas from literary critics such as Northrop Frye but his or her knowledge base is strongly rooted in the hundred plus history of Film. The earliest writers about script were often playwrights and so ideas about plays, their structure, was much more likely to influence Script gurus than Academic Professors of Literature. Historyradio.org: They must get their ideas from somewhere? Do you read a lot of academic literature, and then translate this into practical advice? Or have you done the empirical work yourself? Professor Dancyger: I read a lot of history as well as literature and see many plays and of course I see every film I can, always with an eye to what makes the work compelling. The scripts I’ve written, the writers I’ve worked with, the classes I’ve taught are all laboratories where I define and refine my ideas about storytelling and what constitutes a strong screenplay. Historyradio.org: If you were to give a little praise to one of your colleagues or competitors, who would that be, and why? Professor Dancyger: I like David Howard from USC and Judith Weston who teaches acting for Film and Television. David is very good on character-driven stories and Judith is excellent on character arcs and their importance. Both have written strong books. Historyradio.org: The late Syd Field was famous for his 3 act-theory. Robert McKee also presents a lot of rules about what constitutes a good script. What is your main dictum on how movie scripts should be constructed? Professor Dancyger: My approach is as follows: In a feature length screenplay a character changes. What is the issue (crisis) when we meet the main character? How does the character change by the resolution or end of the screenplay? Who/what changes him (relationships and plot)? Next what will the dramatic arc (plot) be? Every genre has a different dramatic arc. What genre is your story? Genre is pliable in terms of how it is used. What tone will you use? (light, realistic,dark). Will you alter any genre expectations? (How you begin or end, the nature of relationships). Screenplay that succeed often surprise is in our expectations. Will your screenplay defy our expectations? Historyradio.org: Can you really create a norm for what a good script is? If you look at prose, some writers excel on plot construction, like Agatha Christie, others on their poetic qualities? Wouldn’t the same thing be true for a movie script? Professor Dancyger: There is a norm for expectations of what a script will be. This is based on how particular story forms have been used over time. Writers differ, some are strong on plot, others on character, yet others on dialogue. Robert Towne is very good on dialogue, David Rayfiel is very good at story construction, Francis Coppola is very good at tone. Each is unusually gifted in their area but few writers are good at every thing. Historyradio.org: What is the best way of breaking into the hollywood script business? Do you just email your script to someone? Or do you need to know a lot of people in order to make it? Professor Dancyger:  Working in the business at all levels is the way into a career. Schools help as you can make a good short film that will get you attention. At that point the door may well open for you. Have a well written feature film script written. That too will help. At the moment CONTENT is king in Film and Television. The opportunities are abundant. It remains tough but this is a good time for writers. I have seen European writers and directors go from a nominated foreign film to a Hollywood opportunity. This is the competition students who graduate from Film Schools face. Historyradio.org: When your script has been bought, it may be reworked by someone else, might it not? So the end result doesn’t really have to look anything like you originally intended? Isn’t this frustrating? Professor Dancyger: The realities of the industry is that many voices will impact your script, in both Film and Television. It might be frustrating but my advice is get over it. Its the way of this world.. Historyradio.org: When I was a student, my professor told me a story about the Irish Nobel laureate, Samuel Beckett, and how he was rejected many times, only to become famous as a mature man. At what point should one give up, and simply accept the fact that perhaps one’s talent isn’t sufficient for a career in Hollywood? Professor Dancyger:  Persistence is more valuable a trait for a writer than in many fields. There is no one path. Everyone has talent, not everyone is persistent. Historyradio.org: You must have read thousands of scripts, what would you say is the most common mistake that young or novice writers make? Professor Dancyger: The most common mistakes early writers make are, in order: Excessive reliance on dialogue.  Not understanding how much change in the main character has to take place in the Feature film and how many barriers to the main character’s goal need to be overcome in the course of the screen story. That plot an external pressure on the main character, needs to be deployed and that it should have surprising twists and turns. Tone is how your unique voice underlies the story. Genre or story form matters and given its plasticity it can make your story seem fresher. Historyradio.org: What is the best movie script of all time, and why? Professor Dancyger:  The best movie script of all time is a tough nut. I have many favorites: Casey Robinson’ NOW VOYAGER for story construction Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD for character and dialogue Samuel Raphelson’s SHOP AROUND THE CORNER for sheer pleasure Federico Fellini’s 8/1/2 for creativity Elem Klimov’s COME AND SEE for daring and passion I could go on but will stop… Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history  Long before Bob Dylan, the 18’th century Scottish poet and song-writer Robert Burns published an anti-war anthem. Surprisingly modern sounding (video below), the song rejects contemporary war mongering and focuses on the human suffering caused by conflict. However, in order to understand the historical context of the song, we do need an expert. We asked George Mcclellan, a director of the Robert Burns Association of North America, to set the scene. Historyradio.org: Why was “Ye Jacobites by Name” written”? Originally to condemn the Jacobite cause. It’s necessary to understand the period following the Reformation when Great Britain became firmly anti-Catholic after years of conflict. There were two periods of Catholic rebellion, The Jacobite risings, or the Jacobite rebellions or the War of the British Succession, 1688 thru 1748, the intent of which was to return Catholic, James Stuart II and VII, to the British throne and, their last attempt with “Bonnie Prince Charlie’s (Charles Edward Stuart) ending with his loss at Culloden in 1746. Jacobite is Latin for “James.” Historyradio.org: Do we know who wrote it? I believe the original tune was written by Hector Macneill titled: My Love’s in Germany. He was probably referring to the German House of Hanover who became the sovereigns of Great Britain following the reign of William and Mary. Historyradio.org: Robert Burns re-wrote the song as an anti-war anthem? What sort of changes did he make? Actually, Burns borrowed extensively from other authors, as well as fill in fragments long lost of many old songs. He did not plagiarize but rewrote or reframed ideas expressed by others to fit tunes from traditional Scottish folk songs, before they became lost forever. Burns borrowed only the first verse from the original version of Ye Jacobites By Name that attacked Catholics from the political point of view of the conservative (and Protestant) British government, aka: the Whigs. Burns rewrote his version in 1791 with an anti-war outlook. His is the version that most people know today. The tune for the lyrics was from a song titled Captain Kid (one ‘d’) and may have been a version of Put in All in ‘Pills’ written after The Battle of Falkirk Garland in 1746. Before Burns was born. Many tunes were written and published comforting the failed Catholic efforts and most were published in Ewan MacColl’s collection titled Personal Choice. Burns wrote for two publishers, Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum and James Hogg. Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum, with Burn’s version was published in 1793. Historyradio.org: How was the song received when it was published by Burns, with the tune added? Little remark has been recorded as to the songs first appearance. Enough Catholics still existed as neighbors to have been offended when publicly sang. The pro-monarchy pub crowd probably liked it, as they did most things Burns did. Historyradio.org: The song has a pretty strong political message, at what sort of events would it be performed? Except it be in a pub or ale house, it would not be performed like we understand performers do today. In your face songs would have been punished not glorified. Politics of the time could be deadly if one stood against the Crown. So, public demonstrations of the tune, outside of pubs, etc. ,simply didn’t occur. Burns wrote it. It was published in Johnson’s Scots Museum and received little notoriety except to confirm Britain’s religious conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism. In Scotland in Burns time, it was the Calvinism of the people vs. Anglicanism (Church of Scotland) of the Govt. Historyradio.org: Would you say the song has had any influence on Scottish history? The song, No! Culloden (Protestant government forces vs Catholic pretender) had the greater influence on Scottish History by killing all pretense that a Catholic Stuart would return to the throne of Great Britain. It also killed the Highland Clan system, mostly Catholic, forever. Clarifying why such a song should be important is to understand the Jacobite cause. Charles Stuart’s Jacobite army, largely composed of Catholics and Episcopalians, but mostly Highland Clans, with a small detachment of Catholic Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment, plus some Irish, represented a return to old feudalism. Charlie’s effort was supported by France, with some Irish and Catholic Scots military units in French service, to support the Stuart claim. The British Governments Hanoverian forces were Protestants, English with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and some non-Catholic Highlanders. The results of that complete and disastrous rout are well known, but it ended the Clan system and took Scotland out of the past and pointed it into the future. But deeper economic motives however, lie hidden as causal effects. England and the Scottish Lowlanders were moving into an industrial age of unprecedented prosperity and growth. A return of the Stuarts would mean a return to feudalism and they weren’t having any of that. Advances in agricultural production and world trade was enriching even the crofters in the Lowlands and the Industrial Revolution was just around the corner. No, a return to feudalism would have ended all that. Culloden’s aftermath did arouse strong feelings for a long time and the original song contributed to that so Burns rewrote the lyrics to temper down ill feelings because he recognized all Scots as kinsmen, “Brothers be for a’ that,” not enemies because of religion. Remember too, Burns had his own private religious war (with words) against the Scottish Kirk too. Too, Burns was more than emphatic to the lost Jacobite cause as revealed in several pieces he wrote on his first tour to the Highlands. Burns understood his own family’s history in the religious conflicts that preceded him, and was proud that his ancestors sided with the persecuted rebels of the Covenanters on his mum’s side and the Jacobites on his fathers side. Burns was particularly aware that the final results of the Scottish religious wars, and the collapse of Catholicism, rendered his fathers family near the poverty level. Burns referred to it as Jacobite “Ruin”and, it did adversely affect his fathers course through life. Burns was also proud that his father recovered, gained an occupation (Gardner) and survived. It was an awful period of time for the people of Scotland. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureMary Shelley was born the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, the influential enlightenment philosopher. Her mother died only 10 days after giving birth to her, and the two seemed separated forever. However, the daughter then took it upon herself to become an expert on her mother’s writing, and to live as much as she could in accordance with the wishes of her dead mother. It was a mother-daughter relationship that defied death. In the following text from 1831, Mary Shelley herself tells the story of how the book was conceived: “I shall give a general answer to the question, so very frequently asked me—”How I, when a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?” It is true that I am very averse to bringing myself forward in print; but as my account will only appear as an appendage to a former production, and as it will be confined to such topics as have connection with my authorship alone, I can scarcely accuse myself of a personal intrusion. It is not singular that, as the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity, I should very early in life have thought of writing. As a child I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to “write stories.” Still I had a dearer pleasure than this, which was the formation of castles in the air—the indulging in waking dreams—the following up trains of thought, which had for their subject the formation of a succession of imaginary incidents. My dreams were at once more fantastic and agreeable than my writings. In the latter I was a close imitator—rather doing as others had done, than putting down the suggestions of my own mind. What I wrote was intended at least for one other eye—my childhood’s companion and friend; but my dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed—my dearest pleasure when free. I lived principally in the country as a girl, and passed a considerable time in Scotland. I made occasional visits to the more picturesque parts; but my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy. I wrote then—but in a most common-place style. It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered. I did not make myself the heroine of my tales. Life appeared to me too common-place an affair as regarded myself. I could not figure to myself that romantic woes or wonderful events would ever be my lot; but I was not confined to my own identity, and I could people the hours with creations far more interesting to me at that age, than my own sensations. After this my life became busier, and reality stood in place of fiction. My husband, however, was from the first, very anxious that I should prove myself worthy of my parentage, and enrol myself on the page of fame. He was for ever inciting me to obtain literary reputation, which even on my own part I cared for then, though since I have become infinitely indifferent to it. At this time he desired that I should write, not so much with the idea that I could produce any thing worthy of notice, but that he might himself judge how far I possessed the promise of better things hereafter. Still I did nothing. Travelling, and the cares of a family, occupied my time; and study, in the way of reading, or improving my ideas in communication with his far more cultivated mind, was all of literary employment that engaged my attention. In the summer of 1816, we visited Switzerland, and became the neighbours of Lord Byron. At first we spent our pleasant hours on the lake, or wandering on its shores; and Lord Byron, who was writing the third canto of Childe Harold, was the only one among us who put his thoughts upon paper. These, as he brought them successively to us, clothed in all the light and harmony of poetry, seemed to stamp as divine the glories of heaven and earth, whose influences we partook with him. But it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house. Some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German into French, fell into our hands. There was the History of the Inconstant Lover, who, when he thought to clasp the bride to whom he had pledged his vows, found himself in the arms of the pale ghost of her whom he had deserted. There was the tale of the sinful founder of his race, whose miserable doom it was to bestow the kiss of death on all the younger sons of his fated house, just when they reached the age of promise. His gigantic, shadowy form, clothed like the ghost in Hamlet, in complete armour, but with the beaver up, was seen at midnight, by the moon’s fitful beams, to advance slowly along the gloomy avenue. The shape was lost beneath the shadow of the castle walls; but soon a gate swung back, a step was heard, the door of the chamber opened, and he advanced to the couch of the blooming youths, cradled in healthy sleep. Eternal sorrow sat upon his face as he bent down and kissed the forehead of the boys, who from that hour withered like flowers snapt upon the stalk. I have not seen these stories since then; but their incidents are as fresh in my mind as if I had read them yesterday. “We will each write a ghost story,” said Lord Byron; and his proposition was acceded to. There were four of us. The noble author began a tale, a fragment of which he printed at the end of his poem of Mazeppa. Shelley, more apt to embody ideas and sentiments in the radiance of brilliant imagery, and in the music of the most melodious verse that adorns our language, than to invent the machinery of a story, commenced one founded on the experiences of his early life. Poor Polidori had some terrible idea about a skull-headed lady, who was so punished for peeping through a key-hole—what to see I forget—something very shocking and wrong of course; but when she was reduced to a worse condition than the renowned Tom of Coventry, he did not know what to do with her, and was obliged to despatch her to the tomb of the Capulets, the only place for which she was fitted. The illustrious poets also, annoyed by the platitude of prose, speedily relinquished their uncongenial task. I busied myself to think of a story,—a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name. I thought and pondered—vainly. I felt that blank incapability of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. Have you thought of a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative. Every thing must have a beginning, to speak in Sanchean phrase; and that beginning must be linked to something that went before. The Hindoos give the world an elephant to support it, but they make the elephant stand upon a tortoise. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself. In all matters of discovery and invention, even of those that appertain to the imagination, we are continually reminded of the story of Columbus and his egg. Invention consists in the capacity of seizing on the capabilities of a subject, and in the power of moulding and fashioning ideas suggested to it. Many and long were the conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley, to which I was a devout but nearly silent listener. During one of these, various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and among others the nature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated. They talked of the experiments of Dr. Darwin, (I speak not of what the Doctor really did, or said that he did, but, as more to my purpose, of what was then spoken of as having been done by him,) who preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case, till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion. Not thus, after all, would life be given. Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth. Night waned upon this talk, and even the witching hour had gone by, before we retired to rest. When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision,—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away from his odious handywork, horror-stricken. He would hope that, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade; that this thing, which had received such imperfect animation, would subside into dead matter; and he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench for ever the transient existence of the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradle of life. He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes. I opened mine in terror. The idea so possessed my mind, that a thrill of fear ran through me, and I wished to exchange the ghastly image of my fancy for the realities around. I see them still; the very room, the dark parquet, the closed shutters, with the moonlight struggling through, and the sense I had that the glassy lake and white high Alps were beyond. I could not so easily get rid of my hideous phantom; still it haunted me. I must try to think of something else. I recurred to my ghost story,—my tiresome unlucky ghost story! O! if I could only contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night! Swift as light and as cheering was the idea that broke in upon me. “I have found it! What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow.” On the morrow I announced that I had thought of a story. I began that day with the words, It was on a dreary night of November, making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream. At first I thought but of a few pages—of a short tale; but Shelley urged me to develope the idea at greater length. I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband, and yet but for his incitement, it would never have taken the form in which it was presented to the world. From this declaration I must except the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him. And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have an affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart. Its several pages speak of many a walk, many a drive, and many a conversation, when I was not alone; and my companion was one who, in this world, I shall never see more. But this is for myself; my readers have nothing to do with these associations. London, October 15, 1831” Listen  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyThere lived an old retired major in the hills of central Europe. No one knew in which armies he had fought, or which battles that had disfigured his wrinkled face. Some took for granted that he had supported the Nazis during the war. They barely knew his name, and only referred to him with contempt as “the grumpy old major”. His home was a log cabin, overlooking a valley that was often covered in mist. And when the rains and the wind darkened the evenings, the light from his window was a solitary gleam – like the eye of the mountains themselves – peering down on the village below. The major was thoroughly disliked because of his ferocious temper. He arrived in the afternoons, unshaven, stinking of sweat and alcohol, and then he would be very rude and cold – if he indeed he said something at all. The only creature on this earth that seemed to be good enough for the old major was his dog. No one knew the age of the creature, or even of the of the major himself. The dog walked with a proud skip in its steps, and he showered it with luxury and food. In the evenings the major would silently ponder the landscape from his vantage point. What his thoughts were, not even the dog could tell. There was never a visitor to the old cabin, but the major sometimes sobered up and cleared the path. He worked into the afternoons with a pick ax and shuffle. When he was done he would take a seat in a chair outside, and drink whiskey and smoke until he fell asleep where he sat. The evening chill would wake him and then he would withdraw to his bed. Sometimes when the major slept he would kick and scream, as he was struggling for his life. Then the dog would jump down from the bed, and lie down in a corner until he quieted down. When the major woke, he would be sweaty and confused, and then he would drink coffee, and then read a book til dawn penetrated the morning mist. The landscape around the village was vast and wild, and the major would limp up and down those isolated paths followed by his mute companion. In winter, blizzards would descend upon his outpost with terrifying violence. A lighted fireplace and piles of wood kept him warm. He stored canned food of various kinds, beans, spam, fish, and he salted meats to comfort himself. When the water froze he opened the door and collected snow in a bucket which he melted by the fire for his coffee. Sometimes, when he was in the mood, he dug deep into a wooden chest and found an old battery powered radio, and he would sit quietly, intensely concentrated, trying to move the antenna back and forth in order to make out those almost imperceptible voices that penetrated into his dominion from the world outside. But sometimes this proved impossible, and therefore he did not receive advance warning of the horrific storm of 1973. On 21 of October that year the heavens gave birth to the worst winds and heaviest snow fall seen in those parts. The other villagers never talked to the old major because they did not like him, and by the time storm had arrived, and he entered their thoughts, it was too late. They thought that the cabin on the hill has stood there for hundreds of years. Like the major himself it seemed carved out of the hillside. If he just sat quiet where he was, no harm could befall him. And they were right, and the old major knew it. He did what he normally did during winter storms, lighted his fire. The flames flickered, and when the shutters were secured, they filled the room with comfort, light and heat, while the Day of Judgment brewed outside. The old major was used to this, it had been his life, in every sense. He got up a bottle of whiskey, and sipped from a glass. His dog, however, was utterly terrified. It crawled under the table, and whined. The old major tried to reassure the creature, calm it with offers of treats, but the howl of the winds, the creaking walls and what seemed like an inexplicable drone from the heavens above frightened it, and it would take no food. The old major then got down on his knees under the table and sat next to the dog with his glass of whiskey. He looked at the dog, and for a while dog was calm. But then suddenly a tremendous gust blew the door open, filling the room with swirls of snow. The old major rushed to his feet, and struggled against the wind to shut it. When that was done, he noticed that the dog had fled into the night to seek refuge among the trees. First, he was overwhelmed with grief when the room was quiet. He looked at the empty space where the dog used to lie. Then his eyes were suddenly filled with defiance, an old soldier was returning to battle. He put on his thickest coat, and hat and scarf, grabbed an oil lamp and unlocked the door. So it was that the old major decided to take on the very spirits of the mountain to fight for his dog. He waded to his ankles in snow for a few hundred meters up the hill. He shouted, but his voice was inaudible. As he became removed from his cabin, he saw its light extinguish in the storm. And not soon after, the old major was overcome with fatigue and sat down under a tree. That is where the men from the village found his frozen body two days later. They did not have much sympathy for him because he had always been mean and yelled at them. The dog, however, was found alive in the shed outside. Everyone thought that this was the most faithful creature on earth which stayed so loyal to such a terrible person. It was brought down from the mountain, and given to a breeder, who made sure that it produced many litters, whose offspring still run around on the meadows in those parts. They say old majors die, but their dogs live on forever. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... 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literature / moviesIt is 1956, the height of the Cold War, only a few years after the alleged UFO incident at Roswell. Don Siegel’s movie adaptation of an obscure serialized novel about an alien invasion shows a raving doctor running down a dark highway shouting “They’re already here! YOU’RE NEXT” . The warning stabs into the paranoia of the age. But what does it really mean? What did the writer, Jack Finney, want it to mean? I contacted Jack Seabrook, one of the few specialists on Finney in order to find out more. Historyradio.org:  Was Jack Finney making some sort of personal statement in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, either politically or psychologically? Jack Seabrook: I can answer this two ways: by telling you what Finney said and by telling you what I think. Finney’s novel was called The Body Snatchers—they added “Invasion of” for the movie, surely because there was a boom in science fiction movies at that time. In Danse Macabre, Stephen King quoted Finney as saying: “I have read explanations of the ‘meaning’ of this story, which amuse me, because there is no meaning at all; it was just a story meant to entertain, and with no more meaning than that . . .” Having studied all of Finney’s writing, from his earliest short stories in the 1940s to his last novel in the 1990s, I think that The Body Snatchers fits neatly into a theme that he explored over and over, and that is the belief that something has gone wrong in small-town America and the present is not as good as the past. The fact that readers on both sides of the political spectrum have seen aspects of the novel that support their points of view suggests to me that it is simply a well-written book, one that allows readers to see in it what they want to see. Historyradio.org:  When and how did he come up with the idea for the novel? Jack Seabrook: I don’t know how he came up with the idea for the novel, but it was most likely written in 1954, since it was serialized in three issues of Collier’s magazine in November and December 1954. The novel, which has some important differences from the serial, was published in 1955. Historyradio.org:  I know he was born in Wisconsin, and then moved to California. What sort of life did he live on the west coast? Did he become part of any literary movement? Jack Seabrook: Finney was a very private man who rarely gave interviews and who shunned publicity. He moved to Mill Valley, California, in the late 1940s and lived there for the rest of his life with his second wife, Marguerite. They had a daughter around 1951 and a son, who was born around the time The Body Snatchers was serialized. Historyradio.org:  He had some sort of background in advertisement. Did that influence his writing or his career in any way? Jack Seabrook: Finney worked as a copywriter for advertising agencies in the 1930s and 1940s, first in Chicago and then in New York City. As of 1946, he was 35 years old, working in New York City, and had been an ad copywriter for 12 years, so it was probably his first job out of college. His time in the advertising business was a major influence on his writing. Many of his stories and novels satirize the world of advertising; for example, Good Neighbor Sam (1963) is the story of a man who works for an ad agency and is caught up in a hilarious mix-up involving his wife and the beautiful woman who lives next door. One of his most famous and suspenseful short stories, “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket” (1956), tells of a young man whose obsession with his work nearly costs him his life. Historyradio.org:  Did he experience any financial success in the aftermath of the first film version? Jack Seabrook: Finney had been financially successful as a writer by the time the film came out, but the film certainly made him more famous and wealthy. The rights to the serial, on which the film was based, were sold for $7500, so I don’t think that was much of a windfall for Finney, but the film made him more well-known than he was before it opened in theaters. In a 2000 article on Finney, J. Sydney Jones wrote that Invasion of the Body Snatchers “changed everything for the forty-three-year-old writer and . . . allowed him to support his family solely on his writing.” Historyradio.org:  Do we know anything about the relationship between Finney and Don Siegel? When did they meet? Jack Seabrook: In early January 1955, producer Walter Wanger, screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring, and director Don Siegel went to visit Jack Finney at his home in Mill Valley, California, to talk about the story and to scout filming locations. However, Finney was not involved in writing the screenplay. Historyradio.org:  There are differences between Finney’s novel and Siegel’s movie. Finney actually communicates hope at the end of his work, while the movie ends in a nightmare. Are there other differences? Jack Seabrook: There are differences between the two, yet the film is faithful to the novel. The famous framing sequence is not in the book. A major character, Jack Belicec, is taken over by aliens in the film but this does not happen in the novel. Most important is the transformation of Becky into a pod-person near the end of the film; this is also absent from the book. As you note, the book ends happily while the film concludes with a much more ominous message, though it does leave open the possibility of salvation. Historyradio.org:  There isn’t much information about Finney online. What sort of man was he? He seems to have lived an uneventful life. Tell us something interesting about him? Jack Seabrook: Finney was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1911 and named John Finney. He was nicknamed Jack as a baby and the nickname stuck. His father died when Jack was just two years old and the boy was renamed Walter Braden Finney, in memory of his father, but always went by Jack. In the 1920s, as a child, he visited Galesburg, Illinois, in the summers, and many years later he wrote a famous story called “I Love Galesburg in the Springtime” (1960). He also attended Knox College in Galesburg. In the late 1940s, he and his first wife were divorced in Reno, Nevada, and he met his second wife while he was there. He later wrote stories set in that town, such as “Stopover in Reno” (1952). He died in 1995, less than a year after the publication of his last novel, From Time to Time, a sequel to his classic novel, Time and Again (1970). Historyradio.org:  The Invasion of The Body Snatchers was by some condescendingly regarded as a mere «serialized novel». However, numerous masterpieces have emerged from the pens of «pulp writers». Why do you think that is? Jack Seabrook: Finney never wrote for the pulp magazines, which paid much less than the so-called “slick” magazines, where most of his short stories were published. Both the pulps and the slicks were home for writers of popular fiction, such as Finney, and I think that the middle part of the twentieth century in America saw an explosion of talent among American writers. There were so many markets, so many places to sell one’s fiction, that it was not surprising to see some excellent work come out of non-literary publications. The more literary writers of the time, at least in America, were increasingly writing fiction that did not appeal to the common reader, so a gulf between popular and serious fiction began to grow. Still, many writers whom we today consider literary, such as William Faulkner or John Steinbeck, were looked down upon for years as writers of popular fiction. I think that sometimes a period of time is necessary to be able to see what is really quality fiction. Historyradio.org:  A lot of famous stories have been serialized. Oliver Twist and Conan the Barbarian come to mind. The Body Snatchers was originally a serial in Collier’s Magazine. What was Finney relationship with that magazine? Did he write for other magazines? Jack Seabrook: Collier’s was one of the slick magazines that published many of Jack Finney’s short stories. Collier’s was founded in 1888 and, by World War Two, it had a weekly circulation of 2,500,000! Imagine that! One of Finney’s first short stories was published in Collier’s in 1947 and he had twenty-nine stories published in that magazine between 1947 and 1956, when it ceased publication. He also had stories published in other magazines, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post, and Playboy. From 1947 to 1965, he was a prolific short story writer; after 1965, his fiction was confined to novels. Historyradio.org:  When the pod people take over, they copy everything about the original person, except for their feelings. The world slowly becomes populated by emotionless clones? Why is this so frightening, do you think? Jack Seabrook: Your adjective “emotionless” sums up the problem. Without love for each other, what is the point of living? When people have no emotion, when they don’t care about themselves or others, they began to lose interest in everything around them. I think this was Finney’s point in the novel—the decline in small town living in America in the post-World War Two period seemed, to him, to be a symptom of a greater problem in society. People did not take care of themselves or their homes and towns began to get run down. This led to more crime, juvenile delinquency, etc. I think that a life without emotion, without feelings, is no life at all.   Jack Seabrook is the author of Stealing Through Time: On the Writings of Jack Finney (2006), published by McFarland & Co. He is an independent scholar residing in New Jersey. Read a tribute to The Invasion of the Body Snatchers below, courtesy of author Mike San Giacomo, artist Mike Williams,  inker Tom Scholendorn and Tyrone McCarthy. The full graphic novel is called Tales of the Starlight Drive-In (Image Comics), and includes many other stories. You can buy it here   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureWhy did president Bush quote Graham Greene, an author who was labelled a “communist sympathizer” by the US government and kept under surveillance for decades? The 22 of August 2007, president George W. Bush enters the podium in a convention center in Kansas City. He faced the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a weathered crowd of old soldiers. «I stand before you as a wartime President» he declares before he begins talking about the Vietnam War. «In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called The Quiet American. It was set in Saigon, and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. Another character describes Alden this way: ‘I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.’» Bush’s reference caused much confusion around the United States because the author, Graham Greene, had been kept under surveillance by the CIA because of the publication of the novel. Conservatives in the 1950s disapproved of his analysis of the situation in Vietnam. The protagonist is the British journalist Thomas Fowler who is drawn into a triangular love story battling for the favors of a young Vietnamese girl. His competition is Alden Pyle, a young man with visions for the future of Vietnam, who later turns out to be an intelligence agent directly implicated in a horrible bombing massacre. According to The New York Times, The Quiet American became a bible for journalists covering the Vietnam war because it predicted and exposed American policies in the country several years before they became generally known. But the Republican right loathed the fact that the hero was an aging British upper class reporter and the villain a young manipulative and naive American. The villain becomes good Oddly enough, only a few years passed before the controversial novel was filmed by Hollywood director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz was himself a part of the right wing, dubiously connected to the McCarthy movement, which at this period in history was engaged in their communist witch-hunts. During the work with the manuscripts Mankiewicz contacted none other than Edward Lansdale, a CIA operative who now was in charge of American operations in Vietnam. Soon the perception spread that Lansdale was the real life model for the villain in The Quiet American. In the 1958 movie, the Alden character was thus fittingly played by America’s proudest son, Audie Murhpy, the most decorated soldier in American history at this time. Murphy had made a career in Hollywood. In this heavily altered adaptation, the villain becomes good, a victim of a communist conspiracy. Alden Pyle is in fact no intelligence agent at all in Mankiewicz’s version, but a toy manufacturer who happens to be in Vietnam for humanitarian reasons. Assaulting the author When Graham Greene discovered what was about to happen to his novel, he was dumbfounded, but he was unable to stop the project for contractual reasons. “One could almost believe.” Greene stated, “that the film was made deliberately to attack the book and the author.” Later it has become obvious to everyone that the US was present in Vietnam at this time, and that Graham Greene was correct in his portrayal of the situation. Norman Sherry, who has written an extensive biography on Greene, points out that Greene had left Vietnam before Lansdale arrived in the country. Consequently he cannot be the real life model for the Pyle character. Many years would pass before Hollywood again focused on The Quiet American. The war in Vietnam ended, and slowly but surely the wounds of a bitter period started to heal. A new acceptance of the sufferings of Vietnam veterans was on display in movies such as The Deer Hunter, Rambo and Platoon. A more truthful adaptation The Australian Philip Noyce therefore decided to make a new adaptation of the controversial novel. He felt that the time now was ripe for a more accurate adaptation of Greene’s old classic. He cast the veteran actor Michael Caine as the British protagonist, a role for which Caine would become Oscar nominated. The new movie was produced Miramax and was completed in 2001. Then, in 2001, it happened: the United States experiences a horrible terror attack in New York costing 1000s of lives. Again patriotism was rife, and yet again the desire to defeat your enemies on foreign soil became public policy. Americans now had to form a united front. Miramax panicked. They feared that the film would resurrect the memories of the Vietnam era. “The film can never be released”, Harvey Weinstein, a Miramax executive declared. “My staff says it is unpatriotic.” Michael Caine and Phillip Noyce feverishly lobbied for the release of the movie, but told the press that the film was “as good as dead”. After much persuasion, The Quiet American was released even so, perhaps as a result of the attention that Michael Caine’s excellent performance attracted. Oddly enough the film proved a financial success in the US. This ill-timed success showed that American attitudes towards the Vietnam war have changed, and that it was possible to release a considered reflection of foreign policy issues in the wake of 9/11. In his speech to the veterans of foreign wars in 2007, Bush demonstrated a newly found detachment from the Vietnam era, and he probably attempted to bring an old matter to rest. He may also have tried to undermine that comparison between Vietnam and Iraq that some claim is obvious. But Bush’s reference to Graham Greene still has a false ring to it because most of all the story of The Quiet American, is a story about misuse of art for propaganda purposes and denial of foreign policy objectives. Michael Wynn (blog editor) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyThe actors were all on stage in front of an excited audience. Listeners everywhere, from soldiers in war zones to grandma in her rocking chair, were glued to their radio sets. The attraction of a media reality gone by is apparent in classic comedies such as Abbot and Costello’s Who Done It? (1942) and The Radioland Murders (1994). Historian Neil Verma joins us to reflect upon an art form, which, he says, will never go away. Historyradio.org: When were the first radio dramas broadcast? What are the oldest ones that survive? Professor Verma: This is hard to answer because you’d have to decide what counts as a “play” exactly. There’s a long tradition in the 1920s and 1930s of reading aloud from works of fiction, and there’s also a number of newspaper records we have of local theaters and dramatic societies playing scenes from ongoing stage productions for radio shows on stations such as New York’s WJZ and Chicago’s WGN in the early 1920s. And what about opera broadcasts? Aren’t they drama? When it comes to written-for-radio dramatic pieces, tradition says that the earliest radio drama in the US was a show called The Wolf, an adaptation of a stage play by Eugene Walter Based on a play by Charles Somerville that aired out of WGY Schenechtedy in 1924. In the UK, many point to Richard Hughes’ The Comedy of Danger, which aired on the newly commissioned BBC around the same time. Throughout the 1920s there are many accounts of dramas written or adapted for the radio ranging from Shakespeare to children’s programming, but it’s important to remember that this also took place against a backdrop of debates about how radio was undercutting theater ticket sales, and there was a tension between the two industries. Radio drama became a mainstay of programming formats with the coming of networks in the mid-late 1920s. By 1930, my colleague Shawn VanCour has established, the radio drama was about 14 percent of network programming. Many of the shows of this period that have survived are skit-like serialized shows that have a similar structure to vaudeville and racist minstrel shows (Amos & Andie) or comic strips (Clara, Lu and Em). Historyradio.org: What sort of recording devices did they use at the time and how was the radio show edited? Professor Verma: Most dramas were live shows, sometimes with a studio audience. Therefore recording devices were not required. Recording typically entered into the process for one of four reasons (1) rehearsals – many shows would record a rehearsal on a transcription disc of some kind prior to doing a live version (2) as a component of the broadcast itself – many shows used records of sound effects spun manually during the broadcast (3) as part of a transcription distribution system – local stations would very often “time shift” programs by buying recorded-to-disc shows that they would air to fill gaps in their programming or (4) as part of a record for the ad firm or sponsor who paid for the program. The kind of microphones they used were not dissimilar to the ones we use today in terms of design and pickup pattern. Initially much radio drama used carbon-based microphones but by the 1940s many used condenser type microphones, others used ribbon microphones, which were sometimes called velocity microphones. Historyradio.org: There are many old time radio enthusiasts in the US, why do you think that is?  Professor Verma: I don’t know. There is more and more audio drama being produced all the time, so it can’t just be nostalgia.  Historyradio.org: Why was Orson Welles’ 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast  a turning point in radio history? Professor Verma: Welles made the most famous radio play of all time, it’s hard to pinpoint that for many other media. That said, much of the so-called panic of the broadcast is a production of the yellow press – virtually none of the mass hysteria that people think happened can be verified by any evidence. There’s a huge irony here – the “lesson” of the War of the worlds “panic” is supposed to be that you can’t trust what you hear on the radio, but it turns out you can’t believe what you read in the paper. For me, it’s a shame that the panic about the broadcast has occluded the play itself. There are hundreds of books and articles about the reception of the thing, but very little about what it sounded like, and how Welles, Howard Koch and the rest of the team evolved their art through it. For example, WOTW is one of the slowest radio plays I’ve ever heard. In a medium best known for loudness and action, it’s rather quiet and lethargic. That’s a really exciting mode of radiophonic art, an unusual one, and it can tell us a lot about the aesthetics of suspense in the mid-20th century. Historyradio.org: The legacy of Howard Koch, Bernard Hermann and Orson Welles is apparent in later productions, such as the historical drama series CBS is There (You are There) and even a local production, such as the 1970s zombie drama The Peoria Plague. Do you think an updated War of the Worlds would be as effective as a 1938 version?  Professor Verma: My feeling is that the whole War of the Worlds hoax is itself a hoax. So, what should we take from that? I think it’s a fascinating allegory for anxieties we have about the modern media, anxieties that persist today. Historyradio.org: At some point larger producers, such as NBC and CBS, turned away from radio drama, and began focusing on TV.  Have people in the US stopped listening to radio altogether? Professor Verma: No. The most recent report of the AC Nielsen company I’ve seen says that radio reaches 93 % of adults each week in the United States. That’s compared to 89% for TV, 83% for smartphones. Historyradio.org: Today there are many independent radio drama producers in the US. On this site we have featured, among others Blue Hour Productions, Atlanta Radio Theater and 19NocturneBoulevard. When did this subculture emerge? Professor Verma: Radio drama production has never really ended from the Golden Age. That said, I think the contemporary period can trace its roots to the Firesign Theater records, ZBS productions by Tom Lopez and Yuri Rasovsky’s works, along with the BBC’s Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy programs, which are still a gold standard for many of the audio dramas I listen to today. Historyradio.org: The quality of The Mercury Theater, The NBC University Theater and CBS Studio One, is still unmatched in modern radio. Why do you think that is? Professor Verma: I’m not sure I’d agree with that. These were shows that made sense for their audiences at the time, and created a kind of radio that was energetic about exploration and innovation. There are other traditions out there just as worthy. That said, I think it’s important that many of the authors and directors in the shows you mention could draw liberally on contemporaneous fiction for scripts, invent new vocabularies for sound effects, and work with actors who spent whole careers as voice artists. Being a radio drama professional – working at it day in and day out for decades – was a peculiar affordance of the classical period, at least in the United States. Historyradio.org: Advertising played an important role in the development of radio drama in the US. Every radio listener in the 1950s US would know the phrase “Lux Presents Hollywood” , the opening for the Lux Radio Theater. Tell us a little about the history of advertising in radio drama. Professor Verma: There are whole shelves of books on this subject. In general, advertising firms would bankroll programs and match them with sponsors, and a few firms (BBDO, Young & Rubicam, J Walter Thompson come to mind) had a particularly effective business model based on this. In general, many of the products that sponsored these shows were national brands. Think of the kinds of products we are talking about – soap, coal, boot black, soup, tea, yeast, cigarettes. These are not “niche” products exactly, and that suggests that these are plays that expected to be heard not by a particularly narrow segment of Americans, but by a very broad group. You should reach out to Cynthia Meyers from the College of Mt St. Vincent for more on this, she knows the ad firm history the best. Historyradio.org: Today everything is “on demand”. Netflix lets you chose what to watch and when. Sites like archive.org and the BBC let you select radio shows to listen at your convenience. Is there a future for linear broadcasts? Professor Verma: When people ask me for a prediction about the future of audio narrative, what historian Michele Hilmes calls “sound work,” I tell them that there will be more of everything. More linear radio drama broadcasts, more podcasts, more of things made in between. In the past few years I’ve heard incredible work from all sides of the industry, from Gimlet Media’s Homecoming podcast to Westdeuscher Rundfunk’s adaptation of The Neverending Story. In 2014 they used serialized radio dramas to promote awareness about Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The radio art world is also booming, with major conferences and installations at Radio Revolten in Halle, Germany and the Radiophrenia broadcasts in Glasgow. In the last year the BBC experimented with a nonlinear radio drama that you can listen to in different sequences, and it recently teamed up with Amazon to create an interactive audio drama on Amazon’s Alexa. Radio technology has always changed and will continue to change. Drama, I suspect, will always be a part of that change.   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literature / travelWhen Somalis appear in western media it is often as victims or perpetrators. “It is to be expected. They come from a country in anarchy”, we’re told. Yet, even among the ruins of Somalia, books are being read and written, and problems are being discussed in fictional form.  Ali Jimale Ahmed is a professor of comparative African literature, and he draws a nuanced picture of the cultural life of his native country. Historyradio.org: Somalia has long been considered a failed state, but are there still significant authors who write about daily life in the country? Professor Ahmed: By all accounts Somalia is a failed state–governmental structures and the ideologies that sustained them have collapsed. But that does not mean that a semblance of pseudo-state organizations are absent. The international community–the U.N., the EU, the AU, and a host of other organizations are in the country to shore up the internationally recognized government. That said, when we speak about Somali writing and writers, it is much better to differentiate between two forms of discourses, namely, discourses of the state and discourses of the nation. Seen from that perspective, there are significant authors who write about daily life–the trials and tribulations, as well as the accomplishments of people trying to eke out a living under difficult circumstances–in all parts of Somalia. These writers publish articles and books inside the country. One need only read the many books published in the “country.” Historyradio.org: What sort of education do the normal citizen of Somalia get these days? Professor Ahmed: Education is one of the sectors severally impacted by the collapse of the state. There is no uniform or harmonized curriculum. The various state entities do not have a coherent educational policy in place. Private institutions and civil society groups run the educational sector. Depending on their affiliation or from where they get their financial or moral/intellectual support from these institutions replicate the kind of curriculum found in Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan, and the UK, and so on. That said, graduates from those schools and universities are found to be well prepared to undertake undergraduate and graduate studies in European and North American universities.  Some such students are now studying at Princeton, for example. Historyradio.org: Like many African countries Somalia has a proud and ancient history, to what extent do Somali today writers revive this tradition of stories in their work? Professor Ahmed: This is one of the reasons that Somali society has still a viable and resilient culture. Since the collapse of the state, there has been a concerted effort on the part of intellectuals to publish on Somali history and literature. There are Somali websites like Hoyga Suugaanta and Laashin that specialize in literature, and Somali presses, such as Scansom, Laashin and Iftiinka Aqoonta in Sweden, Looh press in England, Redsea-online publishing Group in Italy/UK/Somaliland, that publish the findings and collections of both aspiring and established authors. Literature, in all its forms, is held in high esteem. Indeed, the etymology of suugaan, Somali word for literature, means the sap or fluid of certain plants like the geesariyood. These plants are evergreen, and are associated with life and the sustaining of life under precarious situations or conditions. When all else is gone as a result of a drought, for example, the sap from this plant will sustain a modicum of existence, of life. Thus for the Somali, literature is sustenance that nourishes both the body and mind. Historyradio.org: When we hear news from Somalia, they often involve Al Shabab and Islamic extremism. What sort of attitude do the major Somali writers take to religion? Professor Ahmed: With the exception of Nuruddin Farah, whose novels have internationalized the Somali case, other major writers rarely discuss religious issues in their fiction. In Maps and Secrets, for example, Farah is at times critical of what he perceives to be excesses and transgressions by those who claim to be religious. In his Past Imperfect Trilogy (2004-2011), In Links, the narrative limns the contours of the post-Siad Barre Somalia–warlords, U.s. intervention, the successes of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), and the eventual arrival on the scene by the better equipped Ethiopian soldiers that denied the ICU what seemed to be a total victory against the warlords. In Crossbones, farah’s narrative reveals a misreading of Somali pirates who were perceived to be Al Shabab members or surrogates. Historyradio.org: The diaspora is central to the Somali experience, and thus also the racism and prejudices that its citizens face abroad. Are there novels in the Somali language which tell the story of refugees? A recent novel that touches on this topic is Ismaaciil C. Ubax’s Gaax (“Deferment or Postponement”), . It is a novel that describes or trails the lives of three main characters who, even though they live in different climes and times, share certain uncanny characteristics. Equally important are books written for Somali children who are born in the Diaspora. Musa M. Isse’s bilingual tales written in Somali and Swedish help kids born in the Diaspora to develop strong identities. Isse is also the Editor-in-Chief of the first Somali Children’s Magazine in the Europe. The subject of racism is discussed in Igiaba Scego’s Italian-language short stories, and Yasmeen Mohamed’s novel Nomad Diaries, written in English. The topic is also taken up in the novels of two seasoned and award-winning novelists in the Diaspora: Nadifa Mohamed who writes in English and Abdourahman Waberi who writes in French. Historyradio.org: Somali is a non-european language. Do writers leave their native tongue in favor of English, French or some other European language? To what extent is the Somali language under threat? Professor Ahmed: Somali writers who write in European languages are small compared to those who write in Somali. I do not perceive any threat per se. Rather, the absence of a strong state to nurture and promote the language is perhaps more of a threat to the flourishing of Somali language. Historyradio.org: Are there big differences between the literary schools of Europe and Somali literature? Is there a Somali modernist school, for instance? Will the intellectual thoughts of urban Europe even make sense in a Somali context? Professor Ahmed: We live in a globalizing/globalized world. The kind of Somalis who could read novels in Somali are, more often than not, the ones who are able to traverse borders. The hundreds of thousands of Somalis who live in Europe travel constantly between Somalia and Europe. That said, we must distinguish between modernization (the process) and modernity (the consciousness). Historyradio.org: Some parts of Somalia have experienced peace for some time. What sort of literature have been produced in these areas? Professor Ahmed: There are several writers who have written books on their experiences (or those of others) as refugees. But a great deal of literature is coming out of the parts of Somalia that have experienced peace. One need only catalog the plethora of novels published in the country and exhibited at the Hargeysa International Book Fair in Somaliland. The last few years have witnessed the growth of Book Fairs in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, and Garoowe in Puntland. Historyradio.org: We hear a lot about “the great American novel”. Is there such a thing as “the great Somali novel”? Is there a book or a novel that all Somalis love? Professor Ahmed: The novel has not been fully domesticated in Somalia. Of course, the novel genre is such that it is in its protean form; it has yet to crystallize and assume a definite form. That said, two novels would contend or vie for the distinction. Maxamed Daahir Afrax’s (Mohamed Dahir Afrah) Maana Faay (1981;1993) ushers in a new form of storytelling, as it exhibits ingenious and conscious ways of using language to reflect the quotidian life of its characters. With Maana Faay the novel genre in the Somali language comes of age, both in terms of content and structure. The other novel is Yuusuf Axmed Ibraahin-Hawd’s Aanadii Negeeye, a riveting story that recounts the gory details of murder and revenge. The narrative unfolds as the eponymous protagonist, Negeeye, whose father was murdered shortly after Negeeye’s birth, remembers his mother’s account of the brutal killing of his father. Negeeye, then, plots to avenge his father’s death. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyAt an undisclosed time in British history, there lived a 14 year old boy with undiagnosed, but mild autism who was fond of school debates. His mind was such that he could challenge most normal people simply by overwhelming them with masses of facts from his prodigious memory. As he grew older, he realised that he could use this in a court of law, and make good money as a barrister. Passing a degree in pedantic quotation and logics posed no problems for a high riser of his particular talents. He got top marks, and was immediately hired by a large London law firm to argue a very important case before a senior and very respected judge. When the new barrister entered the court, however, he immediately turned many heads because of the elevated sound volume with which the fresh legal representative presented his arguments, this being the method he had applied to win school debates. The old judge – first frowning, then staring in disbelief – observed the performance in silence, and then – out of sheer curiosity – got the solicitor into a short discussion. I say short, for five minutes later the fresh barrister was arrested in contempt of court on the grounds that “shouting and screaming like a madman does not improve a flawed line of reasoning”. The barrister remained in his cold cell a few days, until the judge took pity on him, and paid a him a visit. He sat down next to the man, and assumed the role of a well-meaning grandfather. “I am going to order your release tomorrow”, he said. “But in my 40 years as a judge, I have never seen something similar in my court as what you perpetrated a few days ago.” “I understand” “There is a condition to my release, so do not rejoice until you hear it: I want you to promise me that you will NEVER work as a barrister, but in stead find a profession more suited to this kind of rudeness, these constant interruptions with tedious facts and details. This inability to allow a full line of reasoning to reach a natural conclusion. This sort of circus will halt all progress in my cases, and assure that nothing gets done, you see. Will you promise me this?” The young barrister sighed. He was not a bad person, in fact he was kind. He just did not understand. Nor was he a person who would knowingly disrespect authority.“I will heed your advice, Your Honour.” The door slammed shut behind the judge as he left, and the very next morning the barrister was released. He quit the law firm, and for while drifted aimlessly through various business ventures. Even with moderate success in these, he felt that he had been robbed of a setting in which his natural talents for debating would blossom. However, this story has a very happy ending, for the historical records indicate that he – 20 years after the said events – became the most admired Speaker in the history of the British House of Commons. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby Michael Henrik Wynn I have suspected my neighbor of using my garden hose without my permission for many years, perhaps even 20. Of course, I have never asked him about it, even if he sometimes comes to dinner in my own home. In stead, I have begun watching him. I sit by my window in the evening observing him as he goes about his business. My thought was that if I could catch him in the act then I would rush out and finally have my theories proven. I am retired, and I don’t have much else to do. After having been at my post every morning some years, I discovered that someone else, the neighbor one house up, was in fact using my neighbor’s garden hose in his absence, most certainly without his permission. Clearly, this was extremely immoral, and I would not stand for it. So, I got the idea that if I informed my long hated Nemesis about the fact that his neighbor was taking liberties, the two of them would bring about each other’s downfall. So, one morning I casually walked up to my dishonest neighbor and mentioned, almost in passing, that I had seen the neighbor one house down entering his house that morning. My neighbor did not say anything, but his eyes revealed a total shock. I was very pleased, and returned to my lookout post. The next day, I could see my Nemesis peering through his curtains, obviously trying to verify my gossip. He also began walking down the road, looking up at his neighbor’s house in disbelief. The two passed even each other in the street, and my Nemesis gave the neighbor a very nasty look. I almost had to smile. But what happened then was not what I expected. My Nemesis told me over dinner that he had discovered that the matter was related to a use of a garden hose, and that he had talked with his neighbor one house down, and that the garden hose would be placed in the shed, where they both could get to it with ease. The matter was settled, he said. This was not what I wanted, so I had to come up with something else in the spur of the moment. “And what about your car?” I asked. “My car?” said my neighbor. “Yes, I have seen your neighbor driving your car while you are away? I thought you had an agreement?” My neighbor was wonderfully shocked, threw down his dinner napkin and ran out the door. The next morning the two of them were shouting it out on the front lawn. I was hidden behind a semitransparent curtain in front of an open window. I could not see their faces, but I saw the distinct silhouettes of their waving arms and heard their mutual accusations and insults. I almost laughed when my long held Nemesis struck his neighbor in the face. Now it would be a matter for the police, and the courts would be involved. And I was quite right. I wandered down the road to the neighbor one house down. I have never known him very well. Still, I feel some connection to him because his sister is the ex-wife of my own brother. She is a very nice person, but I have kept my distance out of respect for my brother. They quarreled, you see. I found him frantically dialing something on his mobile phone. He had a black eye, and was very agitated. “Hello”, I said. “Have you been in an accident?” I pointed to my own eye to indicate what I meant. “No! I most certainly have not,” he said. “My neighbor has gone absolutely insane and has started to accuse me of using his car. It all started with me using his garden hose without his permission. I thought it would be no big deal.”“No big deal!!” I exclaimed. “Taking liberties with others is a huge breach of trust. And now he has struck you in the face! You must take legal action!”“I was planning to, but then I thought my credibility would be ruined by the fact that I had used his garden hose. I have admitted this in front of witnesses. But using a garden hose is not the same as using his car. Which is what he is now claiming.”“Well”, I said. “Your neighbor might not be as morally upright as he is pretending to be. In fact, I may be willing to testify in court to this fact. And as you know, I may be retired. But I have impeccable credentials after spending almost 40 years as a clerk in the legal department of the town property registry. No one will doubt my word”.“Really? You would do such a thing for me? But we hardly know each other?”“We do in a way. Many years ago, your sister was married to my younger brother. I have never mentioned it because they argued so terribly, and I kept my distance out of respect for my brother. But I have always liked your sister much better than my own brother.”“I see,” he said and thoughtfully scratched his ear. “Will you give me a week to think about this. I will do as you say. But I must find a good lawyer. Some are very expensive?”“Of course”, I said and smiled confidently. “I understand completely”.I then returned to my home, and had a full bottle of wine to celebrate. Finally, I would be given a chance to confront my best friend about his illegitimate use of my garden hose. The whole world would be able to read the court transcripts a hundred years from now. If there is one thing a legal clerk knows, it is that history does not remember things that are not written in black and white.A week later, I was informed that a date for a trial was set. Of course, the case was not given priority, so we all had to wait half a year. But it was worth the wait because matters of principle cannot go unsettled.The two of them appeared in court on opposite sides with each their own suited lawyers. I was seated at the back, and would appear as a witness later. They both knew this, but I had not been too specific about what I was going to say. I had mentioned the hose, but I thought I would air some other flaws in my Nemesis’ character that had annoyed me over the years.First, there was some legal mambo-jumbo, but then finally the man was on the stand telling the horrific story of the unmotivated violence to which he had been so unfairly subjected. I smiled as he recounted the unsubstantiated car story to the court. “But of course, this is nothing compared to the man who is about to appear as a witness. He always uses this man’s lawnmower when he is gone. And he also sometimes steals his mail.”“WHAT!!” I shouted from the back.“Yes, I can confirm this” my Nemesis said. “I have seen this many times. He is always taking liberties. He is not honest. I am very sorry for having struck you. Will you forgive me?”Then the two of them met in front of the judge, and hugged. The judge sighed. Then, he lifted his gavel and, almost in dismay, struck at the table as he said: “case dismissed”. My two neighbors and their lawyers then left, almost without looking at me.I sat alone at the back utterly confused. But then I got up and shouted at the judge: “I have NEVER EVER used someone else’s lawnmower without their permission. These are all lies, I tell you!”.   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literature  Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass, was, in private life, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He latinized Lutwidge to Ludovicus or Lewis and Charles to Carolus or Carroll, and, under this name, produced the first Alice book in 1865 and the second in 1872. He produced other books as well – mostly on difficult mathematical subjects. Queen Victoria, enchanted by the Alice books, asked for all of Mr Carroll’s publications and was bewildered by the delivery of treatises on trigonometry and the binomial theory. Lewis Carroll was also the first of the great photographers, and his studies of children – especially of little Alice Liddell, who was both the heroine and the first reader of the two great books – have a charm and a mastery of technique envied by the snappers of today. He never married, he was deeply and innocently religious, he liked to be cut off from the dangerous outside world. He was happy to be enclosed by the walls of an Oxford college and to tell stories to the little daughter of Dr Liddell, the great Greek scholar. But the publication of the two Alice books brought him fame. There was something in the adult imagination and yet it pleased, and continues to please, children. Carroll was a greater man than he knew. Listen to an imaginative dramatization about how Alice in Wonderland was written, from 1937. Both the Alice books are fantasies, aspects of the love of nonsense which was prevalent in England in the Victorian age. There was no nonsense in the rest of the world. When, in the early years of the twentieth century, France began to discover the delights of nonsense, this was called surrealism, and it was regretted that the British were too old-fashioned to produce surrealists in the staid age of Victoria, and of these perhaps Lewis Carroll was the greatest. Surrealism consists in destroying the logic of ordinary life and substituting a kind of logic of the unconscious mind. Alice’s adventures take the form of dreams in which bizarre things happen, but these things are based on a more serious approach to language than we can permit ourselves in waking life. By language I mean, of course, the English language in which Carroll wrote; many of his dream-jokes are impossible to render into other tongues. If there is an insect called a butterfly, it seems dreamily logical to have a bread-and-butterfly, and Carroll’s illustrator, Tenniel, draws us one of these. The flower known as a dandelion is a dandy lion, hence it can roar. There is a school in which the lessons get shorter every day: the lessons “lessen”. If your watch stops, the dreamworld says that time has stopped. The watch of the Mad Hatter and his friends the March Hare and the Dormouse has stopped at teatime, so they must go on taking tea forever. One of the characters who appears in the looking-glass world is Humpty Dumpty, who is a talking egg. His name not merely describes him: it is him (or he). An egg has a hump above and a dump below. He is the most dangerous, and yet the most persuasive, philosopher of language imaginable. He says “There’s glory for you”, and he explains that “glory” means “a fine knockdown argument”. Alice protests, but Humpty Dumpty says “It’s a question of who is to be master, you or the word.” Words, in other words, can mean what we want them to mean or else what the logic of dreams wants them to mean. Their normal everyday meaning doesn’t apply when we pass through the looking-glass. Alice’s world is a world full of eccentric English Victorians disguised mostly as animals. Like real grown-ups they can be very rude or pompous to a child like Alice, but in her dreams Alice can answer back without being punished for her effrontery. She is temporarily living in a kind of Garden of Eden, in which total liberty seems to be possible – in Wonderland, Alice can change her shape and size merely by drinking from a bottle that says DRINK ME – but liberty is circumscribed not by notions of right and wrong but by mad logic. In the songs she hears or sings herself this mad logic seems to disappear, but there is substituted for it the spirit of parody, which implies an existing logic in the waking world. Alice knows very well a song that goes: Twinkle twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are, Up above the world so high Like a diamond in the sky. This becomes: Twinkle twinkle little bat, How I wonder what you’re at, Up above the world so high, Like a teatray in the sky. Why bat? Why teatray? For that matter, why is a raven like a writing-desk? We feel that if we dig deeply enough we shall find our answers, but there is no time for digging, except for apples. If, in French, potatoes are pommes de terre, they are apples in the earth, and digging is quite in order. It is the very English eccentricity of the denizens of Wonderland and the Looking-Glass world that endears them to us. The White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the White Knight, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, marvellously drawn by Tenniel, are also very fully characterized by Carroll. They speak as we would expect them to speak, and they are full of an appalling self-will and vigour. But the men are less vigorous than the women. It is a child’s world of petticoat government in which the women – mothers, sisters, governesses – are near and magisterial, as well as wantonly cruel, while fathers are more distant, nicer, and busied with their own eccentric affairs. But finally the appeal of the Alice books is to the creative imagination, by which space and time can become plastic and language itself diverted from the everyday course of straightforward communication. There is a strong poem, which Humpty Dumpty kindly explains to Alice, that sums up the possibilities of the dreaming world. It is called “Jabberwocky” and it begins: Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. “Slithy” is both slimy and lithe, to gyre is to gyrate, to gimble is both to gambol like a lamb and to turn like a gimlet or corkscrew. Humpty Dumpty calls these “portmanteau words”, because, like portmanteaux, several things can be crammed into them. James Joyce saw the possibilities of this Jabberwocky language and, in his great novel Finnegans Wake, which presents an adult, not a child’s dream, he used the technique. What, with Carroll, began as a joke ends, in Joyce, as the most serious attempt ever made to show how the dreaming mind operates. But we leave it to the psychologists and literary critics to find in the Alice books great profundities and profound ambiguities. The Freudians have seen sexual symbols in them, which Carroll’s innocent conscious mind could not be aware of, and the Marxists have seen images of social tyranny and revolt. We are wisest if we become children again and use the books to recapture a lost innocence. We must learn to identify ourselves with a girl in a Victorian frock whose hair is long and golden and whose manner has the self-assurance of a product of the Victorian ruling class. To be honest, Alice is not a very nice little girl. She is far too sharp and bossy and proud. She lacks humility, but – and this is an aspect of the British imperialist spirit – she also lacks fear. It requires great courage, at the trial of the Knave of Hearts, with the Queen shouting “Off with her head!”, for her to cry: “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” and to see the chaos of the mass pasteboard that, a minute ago, was an imperialist society whirling about her head. She is transported to mad colonial territories and retains something of her sanity. She is very British and very Victorian, but she is also admirably and universally human. Listen to The NBC University Theater version of Alice in Wonderland, from 1948. This abridged version of the article by the British novelist Anthony Burgess in the Unesco Courier (June 1982) was published online at the UNESCO website under a creative commons license: CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyBy Margie Harris, Mobs magazine 1930(Courtesy of John Locke. His collection of her stories is available from Amazon) A mystery night club queen, with a look of death in her eyes and a little black book filled with names . . . a steadily shorter list! eattle, Queen City of the Northwest, gleaming like a great, white jewel on rising ground overlooking Elliott Bay, is a city beautiful. There roses bloom the year around. There men and women live and love and die, far from the tenements and slums of the great Eastern cities.But in Seattle lies hidden one canker spot. It is the district below Yesler Way, which is the sole blot on the city’s fair escutcheon. There is to be found the last remaining trace of those other days when lumberjacks from the woods and miners from Alaska came whooping forth with gold-filled hands, demanding of Life those things of which they had been deprived.“Below Yesler” is evil, and of all the evil things within its purlieus, none is more depraved, more terrible in the minds of the decent and law-abiding than the underworld cabaret and speakeasy operated for nearly two decades by “Scar” Argyle. There gathered waterfront thugs, gangsters, racketeers, gunmen.Most fearsome of all, to the uninitiated, was its proprietor. His face was thoroughly repulsive. A great red seam led from the stiff hair above his left temple and down across the bridge of his nose. It ended at the right jawbone after creasing the cheek deeply. In healing it had drawn the flesh so that the mouth seemed cast in a permanent sneer. The right eye was so affected that half of the lower eyelid turned down, gleaming redly.That was Scar’s reminder that he once had double-crossed “Nigger George,” a piano player. True, Scar had seen to it that there was an early funeral in George’s personal social circle, but the razor slash had put a permanent end to whatever was delightful, either in countenance or disposition, of Argyle. Now he was a leering, gross mountain of fat. For hours he would sit, seemingly without movement, his piggish black eyes searching, always searching for new methods of vile profit. On a bright afternoon in March, Scar sat cursing his luck, his failing patronage and most of all the police of his precinct. Their increasing demands for graft and favors bade fair to turn his once prosperous business into a losing venture.Only that day he had received a shipment of liquor and had paid his “delivery charge” to the policeman on the beat without demur. Later he had sent to the precinct captain the usual weekly payment for protection. Now, within the last four hours, four sergeants had slipped in to see him.One had compelled him to buy four tickets for a police ball. The next had asked for two quarts of prime liquor “for the lieutenant.” Number Three asked for a couple of drinks and then borrowed five dollars.The fourth brought the crowning blow. With him came a stranger—a supposed friend. Scar had been bullied into cashing a twenty dollar check for this man. He tore it up after they left. Too many such had bounced back from his bank. Truly the lot of an underworld cabaret owner was trouble filled.The side door bell rang as Scar cogitated on his woes, and the doorman turned to say:“Lady to see youse, Scar. Good looker!”“Hell, let her in!” Scar almost spat the words. “Probably a hen cop with another touch; they’re all that have overlooked me this week.”His eyes brightened, however, as a modishly gowned, athletic appearing girl stepped through the door and looked unconcernedly about her. Few such had been there since the days of the gold rush. When her eyes encountered his, Scar beckoned. She walked to the table and took a place opposite him.“Pat Jennings told me to see you,” she said confidentially. “My name is Kate Dever. I’m on the lam from New York—witness in a gang killing, which means a year in the sticks for me. Jennings says you need a hostess to pep up your game; I need a job. Also I know my stuff, Big Boy, and the jack I can make for you will be nobody’s business. I’ll have to do it in my own way, though; no buttinskys.”As Argyle stared suspiciously at her, the girl dropped her coat from her shoulders and removed a close-fitting hat. Scar’s eyes lighted as a throat and shoulders a Diana might have envied, were revealed. He grunted in renewed admiration as the dim lights outlined a beautiful, resolute face and a frame of dark-red hair, well kept and bobbed in the latest mode.“Hell, kid,” Scar burst forth breathlessly. “Sure! You’re fixed fer life.”The tone, the gleam in his eyes, made his meaning all too clear. Kate Dever did not seek to evade his burning glance.“Yes?” she queried coldly. “You wouldn’t kid a little girl, would you, Scar? You think you want me? Then come and take me.”The man lurched to his feet with a speed surprising in one of his bulk and clawed at her in an awkward attempt to draw her into his arms. One hand fixed itself on her shoulder. Before he could do more, she sprang up, thrusting with both hands against his chest.Scar stumbled backward a step and the girl slipped out from behind the table. In her hand, seemingly juggled out of thin air, was a gleaming Spanish dagger, needle-pointed and with a blade almost paper thin. Scar eyed the knife; noted that it was held in the thrusting position—and that the point was aimed directly at his stomach. His arms dropped to his side in token of surrender.“What th’ hell do you think—?” he began thickly.Kate, smiling now, resumed her seat.“Oh, sit down, stupid,” she said quietly. “Sit down and buy me a drink. You had to learn it some time—and right at first is the best time. Remember this hereafter. I’m no man’s woman. Any man who puts his hands on me gets hurt. I know how to take care of myself morning, noon and night—also vacations. Now how about the job?”Scar had signaled for a waiter, who brought whiskey. Scar gulped down a huge portion. Kate poured a few drops in a glass with ginger ale and tossed it off.“My first and last drink in your place,” she said. “If I work here I’m served tea for whiskey, distilled water for gin and sparkling cider instead of what you call champagne. And Lord help the waiter who brings me anything else!” Here was a new type to Scar. A beautiful woman who dared to come to his own joint and flout him when the odds were all his way, would be an asset. He visioned the returning trade when the word went out through the underworld that the Argyle Club had a new hostess who could not be “made.”“You’ve got the job,” he said decisively. “Seventy-five a week and a piece of the profits over the first thousand. That’s about what I’m doin’ now.”“Big-hearted Scar!” Kate mocked him. “Hundred a week, five per cent of the gross—and I start tonight.”About to protest, Scar thought better of it and extended his hand for the underworld shake of acceptance. Instead, Kate turned sidewise, circled his arm with her left, caught the knuckles of his fist with her right and bent the member downward. Scar grinned. It was the gangster method of making the sucker loosen up from whatever he held.“Know your grapes, don’t you?” he chuckled. “Well, I’ve loosened for a yard and five per cent a week, so be here at eight. Wanna little advance?”Kate opened her purse and smiled. A wad of yellow-backed bills had been thrust in there loosely.“No, thanks,” she replied sweetly. “A nice old gentleman on the train attended to that for you. Somehow he got off at the next station; the conductor put him off. He tried to get into my berth.”“Onto all the games, hey?” Scar queried. “Now, what’s your deal?”“What are you using?” she countered, looking about at the small stage and the orchestra stand.“Pretty fair nigger string band, six dancin’ girls who double as drink grafters and cigarette girls, an’ a good boy hoofer. You sing, kid?”“Nor dance,” Kate replied. “I work from the floor; out where the money jingles and the saps need encouraging. Leave it to me, Big Fellow, and don’t mind later on if I make some changes.”Scar nodded perplexedly.“It’s O.K. by me, girlie,” he replied, “but leave Little Laura on th’ job if you can. She’s a good little guy—kinda fond of me. And by the way, kid, what’s your moniker? Got one?”Kate looked him squarely in the eye and said:“They call me ‘Cougar Kitty’—better let that spread around a little.”“She mountain lion, huh?” Scar mused. “Damn if they ain’t right.” Midnight in Scar’s cabaret was merely breakfast time in Gangland.Kate, resplendent in a gold sequin gown which cast forth points of light in every direction as she moved, sat chatting with Scar at a table near the orchestra. With them, snuggled close against the proprietor’s bulk, was the cigarette girl, Little Laura. She was a big-eyed, wistful child woman of the clinging type, but except when she looked at Scar, there was a hard little glitter in her eyes.Scar had said she was “kinda fond” of him. Strangely enough, Kate reflected, there seemed reason for the statement. Between the big-eyed girl and the gross flesh-mountain of villainy there existed some bond. When he spoke to the girl, Scar’s tone was gentle and as nearly affable as it could be. Laura was serious in her talk with him and actually seemed to enjoy his elephantine pawings.The grapevine telegraph of the underworld had carried the news of Scar’s new attraction. Already the tables had filled with a swaggering crew of gangsters, sleek haired, gorgeously dressed young gunmen, and here and there older men—cold of eye, and each seemingly determined to sit so as to face the door.Many brought their molls and, because a thug’s standing is measured by the appearance of his woman, they made a brave showing of costly garments and gleaming jewels. Only those older men, the square jawed poachers in the Land of Rackets, were alone. They hunted among the ranks of the hostesses and entertainers.Presently Kate caught Scar’s eye and nodded. He had his orders and when he lumbered to his feet and stopped the music, everyone became quiet.Scar was about to make a speech! Usually he contented himself with howling, profane comments from his chair by the orchestra.“Listen, guys and molls,” he rumbled. “Seattle ain’t so big as Noo York, but she’s just as lively, and when it comes to givin’ you the best in ent’tainment, Scar Argyle’s the boy to do it. From now on, the Argyle Club’s the live spot here. And I now takes pleasure in int’ducin’ to you Miss Kate Dever—knowed mostly as ‘Cougar Kitty,’ our new hostess.”Kate, self-possessed as her namesake in the home nest, walked to a place beside him and smiled brightly. Prolonged hand-clapping and a few cheers greeted her.“I am glad to be here,” she said, “and I want one and all of you for my best pals. Scar Argyle has given me the right to do what I please for your entertainment. The word hereafter is ‘Go as far as you like, as fast as you like, so long as you keep fairly quiet—and so long as you don’t get fresh with the new hostess.’ ”New applause burst forth and Kate nodded to the orchestra. Instantly a mad, jazzing dance number flared forth. Some derisive laughs had greeted Kate’s reference to herself and some of the bolder of the young cannons left their tables to gather around her.Scar was watching, fascinated. Kate dismissed the pleas of dance partners one by one, until Speedball Kane, a leader among the gunmen and handsome in a wild, boyish fashion, clasped her about the waist. He fell into a dance step and tugged. The smile never left her face. Suddenly her hands came up apparently to hold him off, but instead they caught both of his shoulders firmly. At the same moment she stepped forward with the speed of a striking reptile. She thrust her toe back of his left heel, then pushed him backward with all her surprising strength.Though he was a rough-and-tumble fighter trained on the docks, Speedball had not expected the reverse back-heel from a handsomely gowned night hostess. The backward thrust was too powerful, the fulcrum supplied by her foot too far below his center of balance to be resisted.The gangster crashed to the floor on his shoulders. A split-second later his head collided with the maple with a resounding thump. A roar of laughter followed. It stilled a few seconds later when the young tough failed to rise. Two of his friends moved toward him.“Leave him there,” Kate commanded coldly. “I want him to come to there so he’ll realize that he’s to keep his hands off me in future. I’m no better than he is—but I’m as good—and when I want a man’s hands on me, I’ll ask him to put them there.”Speedball stirred, blinked, dragged himself to his knees. Then his glance swept upward and encountered the gleeful eyes of Cougar Kitty. He shook his head and looked about. On every hand he saw the awe-stricken eyes of his friends. Instantly a dull red suffused his face. He gathered his muscles for a leap at the mocking girl before him.“Damn you—” he began. Then the words choked in his throat and his eyes went wide with surprise.Kate’s right hand was extended toward him. A dull ring of blued steel peeped out between her second and third fingers; the whole hand was tightening on something within her palm. Too well Speed knew what that meant.For Cougar Kitty was holding in her plump, beringed hand one of the dwarfed, vicious little plunger guns of Gangland. It was a mere ring of metal extending out of a firing chamber, back of which was a trip plunger which released the pin against a solitary bullet of heavy caliber.Speed could be forgiven for pausing. The one-inch barrel was trained directly on his forehead. A child could not miss at that distance. The crook teetered on his feet uncertainly. Then a girl’s voice cut the silence:“Slap the broad down, Speed,” it said. “Don’t spoil a good notion.”Kate smiled bleakly and waved Speed back to his place. Then came a muffled roar and gray smoke curled from between her fingers.She had fired the weapon into the floor as the best means of squaring Speedball against later accusations of cowardice. Everyone leaped up; all had some question to ask.Kate held the still smoking weapon above her head.“Sorry, boys and girls,” she said. “I hate to pull off rough stuff on our first evening together—but I had him covered—plenty. I had to let you know I meant it when I said: ‘Don’t get fresh with the new hostess.’ All right? Well, let’s play again.”She motioned to the goggling bandsmen to continue playing. Then, under cover of the opening notes, she walked straight to where Speedball was struggling into his light overcoat. He felt alone, disgraced in the eyes of the other gangsters and their molls. The red of shame colored his face, but about his mouth was the deadly white line which marks the killing rage in man. Everyone was watching openly. Kate moved as one who has decided on a definite course. Speed jerked his coat into place and clapped his hat down over his eyes. She was at his side now, hand extended.“Sit down, Speed,” she said in a tone intended for his ears alone. “If you go out now, you’ll leave these others laughing. Be nice and I’ll make it all jake for us both. Now shake hands like a sport and tell me it’s all right—even if you did start it.”Speed took her hand, shook it heartily and grinned. Too well he knew it was his only course. Unless there was more to add to the story, Gangland would be yelping taunts at him for months to come. Maybe, he reflected, he could turn the tables on this wise broad from New York if he was crafty.“I’m game; speak your piece,” he half whispered. “But don’t figure to start nothin’ more.”“Be your age,” she replied. “Now, listen, Speed, I’m starting a new racket here and I need at least one friend on whom I can depend. You made me tangle with you before your friends, but I didn’t ask you to. Now, we can be the best of friends, and at the same time I’ll show you how to get yourself some good out of it.“I’ve heard about you. They call you ‘Speedball’ because you drive the stickups and hijackers away so far and so fast, they have to wait ten minutes before they start to make an alibi. What?”Such tribute to his unerring efficiency at the wheel of a getaway car caused the young gangster to flush happily. Maybe here was a woman worth hanging about after.“No,” Kate went on as though reading his thoughts, “you don’t mean any more to me than any other man, but if you wish, I’ll let you be my Number One Pal. We’ll play around together and sometimes you can take me home—as far as the door.“What I want of you is to keep them off my back if things get rough—nothing more. If the others see us palling around together we’ll be accused of having fallen for one another. Now, say it. Want to play, or will you put on the funny hat and coat and go out and get yourself laughed at? First and last chance, boy.”“Sure, Kitty, I’ll play,” he answered, “just to square myself.”“Speedball and I are all made up ‘n’ everything,” Kate announced to the watching crowd. “And now I want you all to walk past here in line and shake hands with us both. Then we’ll all be the best kind of pals. Scar will buy a drink for the house, and I’ll show you the latest New York racket.”She was exerting herself now, putting into her simple little speech and almost childish plan of personal contact with each, all of the hard won personality she possessed. She let her eyes flicker toward Scar. He sat there, a contented mountain of evil, literally drooling over the manner in which she was earning the attention of his patrons. The idea struck the gangsters and their molls favorably. There was an instant rush to get into line. Speed fell into place beside Kate as the orchestra struck up a slow drag march. The head of the line moved forward. Kate had a bright smile, a word, a nod for each. One plump patron found himself being prodded in the ribs. Another laughed when Kate flicked his tie from under his vest. One pretty girl simpered when Kate whispered: “Gosh, kid! I’m jealous of you—you’re so darn lovely.”Scar came to his feet as the last of the line passed and bellowed for the drinks. Kate held up her hand for silence.“Wait, please,” she said. “Will the tall gentleman in dinner clothes, the one at the last table—you, handsome—; the girl with the black hair and the red dress; the man who left his hair at home but wore a horseshoe pin in his tie—and you, Mister Red Necktie—all please come forward?”The four responded somewhat sheepishly.“I want you to search my new pal, Speedball,” Kate said smilingly. “I think he’s turned dip. Look in his left, outside pocket.”Speedball did not wait to be searched. He felt in the pocket himself and gaspingly brought forth a watch, attached to which was a fine chain and gold key; a gold mesh coin purse wrapped in a handkerchief, a diamond stickpin and a thin, but costly, cigarette case.The crowd roared with laughter at Speed’s consternation. No other group could appreciate better what had happened. None had even a remote suspicion of the youth. He was a known gunman and gangster, and as such, he looked down on the dip as dips in turn look down on doormat thieves.Kate waited until there was a measure of silence.“That’s one of the New York night club tricks,” Kate laughed as she restored the property to its owners. They get you all hot and bothered over something that’s happening and then the waiters and house dips put the vacuum to you. One man swore somebody’d stolen his underwear while he waited to kiss a toe dancer whose number he’d drawn in a lottery!”“What a dame,” someone croaked admiringly. “She’s oke for me,” another chimed in. For minutes the place buzzed with admiration for Kate’s deftness. Scar bought for the house. The two losers of property would not be outdone in generosity and the girl in red, whose coin purse was restored, argued her boy friend into loosening up as well.It was daylight when the last patron left. That was Speedball, who had waited for Kate. She dismissed him with a shake of her head.“See you tonight, pal,” she said. “And wear your rod.”When Scar counted up, he found a take for the night of $900.Cougar Kitty was an established institution in Seattle’s underworld.As she walked to the corner of First Avenue to catch a cab, Kate noticed one of the waiters slipping from door to door behind her. As she entered the taxi, she saw him sprint forward and flag down another.“Drive around for half an hour,” she told the driver. He nodded joyously at such luck at the beginning of his day’s work. Kate, sitting in the center of the rear seat, used her compact mirror to watch the street behind her. She was not mistaken, the other car was dawdling along half a block behind her.“Keep ahead and when you get a chance pretend to try to lose a cab that’s following us,” Kate told the driver, putting a folded bill into his hand. “Then when you get a chance, make him pass you and cut him off at the curb. I want to talk to his passenger.”The driver looked at the bill and smiled knowingly. “I’ll have him in two blocks,” he said.At the next corner he slipped along the right hand curb until traffic changed for east-and-west travel. Then he meshed his gears and swung right up the hill to Second Avenue, going at a furious pace in low gear.At First Avenue he turned south again and stopped with a shrieking of brakes just past the building line. In a few moments the other cab charged up the hill and turned right also.“Get him!” Kate commanded. Her driver swung wide from the curb, ran even with the other cab and forced it slowly but surely against the curbing despite the other driver’s shrill curses and the sounds of his horn.A policeman ran up. “Here!” he demanded. “What’s goin’ on?”Kate opened the cab door and smiled at the officer.“The man in the other cab has been following me all over town,” she said, “and I wish to prefer a charge against him, if you please, officer.”The policeman dragged the luckless waiter from the cab by his collar.“Tell me about it,” he demanded of Kate.“He works at Scar Argyle’s,” she replied. “I was there for awhile and when I left this fellow got in another cab and followed me.”But great was the power of Scar in policedom.“I wouldn’t do that, lady,” the officer replied. “You go on about your business and I’ll keep this baby here. If you have him pinched, you got to go to court.”“All right, officer—and thanks,” Kate said as her cab moved off. It was late afternoon when Kate emerged from her tiny apartment in a huge building on the shores of Lake Union to go abroad again in a taxicab.Her first stop was at the office of The Hour, greatest of the city’s newspapers. Largess properly distributed to a reception clerk and office boy bought her way into the paper’s morgue of photographs and clippings.A chubby, partly deaf statistician was in charge. His sole desire seemed to be to prevent any intrusion into his domain. A five dollar bill again wrought wonders and soon Kate was deep in a huge envelope of clippings out of the “H” file.When she departed, the attendant also dumped out the clippings and studied them.“Humph!” he grunted. “Now I wonder?”From the newspaper office she drove to a tall building given over to plastic surgeons, beauticians and hair dressers. One of the latter “touched up” the roots of her dark-red hair. A dermatologist on the floor above injected a white liquid under her skin at the temple, massaged it, and said:“Lay a good cold-cream base under the powder. When you are ready I will radium-peel your face and we’ll hide that scar entirely.”“Thanks, doctor,” she replied. “But I’m a busy girl now.”Dinner at one of the better cafés, a picture show afterward and then Kate took a cab to the Argyle Club where she found a deferential corps of barmen and waiters ready to extend her a grinning welcome. Also she found the place well filled. Her name and fame had spread rapidly among the cannons and molls of South of Yesler.Scar too waved a warm welcome. She walked to his side in response to a beckoning finger.“Where you livin’, kid?” he demanded. “It’s a police regulation, you know.” He produced a soiled memorandum book and a stub of pencil expectantly.“Find out like you tried to this morning,” Kate jeered, but she softened the taunt with an amused smile.“That’s a bet!” Scar replied. “Think I can’t, huh?” He was in nowise disconcerted.“Not by using a waiter for a gumshoe, anyway,” Kate replied, seating herself at his table. “What did it cost you to get him loose?”“Crook of me finger,” Scar jeered in turn. “The bulls don’t want none of my boys.”“Right, Scar. Now tell me, how did you like my stuff last night? Shall I keep it up?”“That’s what I hired you for.” Scar was becoming wary now.“Then we’ll have a novelty night once each week, beginning tonight. You know what I mean? Funny light flashes, contests with everybody doing goofy things like they do at highbrow parties? Get everybody into it and the losers have to buy. Get the idea?”“The dump’s yours from now to closin’ time. Take it apart if you want to.”Kate rose, smoothed down her skirt, and said casually.“By the way, I ordered a regular stage electrician to be here at 11 o’clock to handle the lights. He’s bringing a dimmer; the rest we’ll do with the master switch.”“Bring two,” said Scar grandly, “or three—if he’s triplets. Keep on getting in the jack and you can hire the devil himself.”“No need, Scar old thing,” Kate laughed. “He’s here already—and wearing your union suit.”Scar grunted happily, the nearest to a laugh of which he was capable.“Wrong,” he said. “Mine’s two-piece.” Meanwhile Kate was going from table to table, welcoming the friends of the night before and newcomers, attracted by the news of the tiger-girl hostess at the Argyle Club.The bleak-faced victim of the pocket-picking episode of the previous night was back at his usual table in a corner across from the orchestra and not more than three feet distant from Scar’s customary seat. As Kate stopped before him, he stared at her searchingly.“Did I ever see you before?” he asked suddenly.“Surely you did,” she laughed. “I’m King Tut’s daughter. Remember how you used to hold my hand under the purple Egyptian skies—or what have you?”“Can the jokes,” the man snapped. “I’m serious.”“Oh-h-h!” Kate said derisively, “so, Mister Kinney, racketeer-in-chief and Big Fixer mustn’t be kidded by a night club hostess.”“Drop it!” the man snarled. “Forget that name here. It’s ‘Hanson’ now. What the— Say, did you know me in Detroit?” With the question he snatched at her wrist, his fingers pinching deep into her flesh.The girl did not reply, nor did she wince. Instead she leaned slightly forward, bringing her sneering, ice hard glance on a level with his own.“All right, Kinney-Hanson,” she said, and there was a deadly chill in her tones. “Don’t move that other hand. I can get you before you ever could touch your gun—and believe me, it’ll be one big pleasure to do it.”Hanson’s hard eyes searched hers angrily. The smile clung to her lips but he recognized the basilisk expression of the natural killer seeking the slightest excuse to slay. Yet he held to her wrist, trying to probe her mind—to find some reason for such bitter hatred from the mere touch of his hand.“Let go!” Kate rapped the words out venomously. “I said last night that nobody is permitted to touch me. If I let you get away with it, then I’m sunk here.” Then, in a louder tone for the benefit of those nearby, she said airily:“Unhand me, vill-yun—and when are you going to buy a drink?”Hanson’s steely fingers relaxed. He gestured to a seat across the table.“You’re a nice, pleasant little thing,” he said sarcastically, “but tell me what you want to drink—and all about Detroit.”“Champagne,” Kate replied with a disarming smile. “Detroit? No, I don’t know much about things there. A girl friend of mine was married to a boy named Wilbur Bealey—‘Wib the Gun,’ they called him. He was mixed up in a booze running gang, and soon after I left there he was killed. Someone said his own gang finished him.”“Know him pretty well?” Hanson demanded.“Oh, in a way,” Kate replied nonchalantly. “Daisy, his wife, was an old sidekick of mine, but Wib was away most of the time when I was visiting her.”“Who else did you know there?” Hanson continued.“Let me see—why, you were there! I saw you out at a Grosse Pointe roadhouse the night Merrill Orrum, the criminal lawyer, was killed.”Hanson’s eyes were pinpoint lights of green now, but his poker face did not change. Quietly he produced a cigarette and lighted it. Kate noted that the hand which held the ornate gold lighter did not tremble.He let a thin cloud of smoke drift from his mouth and Kate felt his eyes studying her critically. Her expression was bored, a trifle uninterested.“Ah yes, Merrill Orrum,” he said musingly. “I’d forgotten his name. And by the way”—he almost hissed the words—“how does it happen that you, a stranger, remember it? That was a whole year ago.”“Oh, I don’t know,” she shrugged her shoulders as though tired of the subject. “Probably it was because it was an unusual name and the papers said they—the other mobsmen—called him ‘Mary Lorum’ for a nickname, sort of a pun name. Things like that stick in one’s mind, don’t you think so?”“Not so you’d notice it,” Hanson replied quickly. “You haven’t told me all of it. Damn it, you remind me of someone—”“Some dizzy blonde from over the river in Windsor probably,” Kate suggested teasingly. Hanson’s eyes narrowed to mere slits.“Blonde!” he said explosively. “What do you know about a blonde in Detroit?”Kate laughed merrily.“Listen, Big Boy,” she replied, “What I know about all Detroit blondes is plenty. Did poor, little Hansy-Hanson get all mixed up with a fuzzy yellow-head?”Hanson flared up again at the derisive note in her voice.“Hell with her!” he growled. “I fixed her up good and plenty; don’t worry. But it’s you I’m wondering about. What’re you holding out on me?”“What would you give to know?”“Nothing or a lot; I don’t know which. I’ve got a hunch about you, Miss Cougar Kitty whatsyourname, and the first thing you know I’ll be calling the turn on you. Don’t figure me for a dumbbell.”“Do your prettiest, Big Boy,” she replied as she rose. “And if you guess right—you’ll have something coming to you. I said—‘you’ll have something coming to you’!”She accented each of the drawled words. Hanson caught a note of menace in her voice; frowned as he watched her retreating form and sought for the answer to the riddle.He motioned to Scar to come over.“Where’d you get that damned twist?” he said in a low tone. “She just called the turn on me in Detroit—cracked about ‘Wib the Gun,’ and that lousy mouthpiece, Orrum.”Scar grinned knowingly.“She’s a wise head,” he husked. “Doin’ all right here and maybe’ll stand a little watchin’. If she gets flossy she’ll go for a ride—but I ain’t worryin’ none about her. Don’t you, neither.”Further conversation ended with the entrance of Speedball Kane.“Whoopee!” Kate sang out. “Solomon in all his glory! Lookit the boy friend!”Speed was attired in his first dinner clothes. His broad shoulders filled the pinch waisted coat perfectly. He had been shaved, pomaded and massaged into the condition of pink shininess which in Gangland is accepted as perfection.It is true that he hitched once at the harness of his shoulder holster, but in Argyle Club circles that meant no more than button-fiddling meant in the higher walks of life.“Everybody give the dressed-up boy friend a hand!” Kate demanded. The guests obliged. “Boy friend and I will buy a drink now.” She continued. There was more applause. Kate drew Speed to a place near the orchestra.“Speed is to be associate master of ceremonies tonight,” she continued. “So I told him to bring his rod. His job is to see that everybody does just what I tell them to. We’re going to raise hell tonight and put a chunk under it, but we can’t do it unless everybody helps. The first number will be a button busting contest, with Scar Argyle leading off.”“Huh?” Scar grunted in amazement. “Run your own damn show.”“Burn him down, Speed, if he don’t mind,” Kate laughed. “Oh come on, chief, it’s easy. Draw a big breath, lean against the inside of the old vest and see what happens. Snap into it, dearie, take a big breath and do your stuff.” Scar’s mind dealt largely in cash-register terms. Kate had said the loser would buy the drinks. Very well, then, the idea was for him not to lose.Slowly he inflated his huge chest. His cheeks began to purple as he set his muscles and began to expand. Quickly the vast mountain of fat and muscle pressed outward. An audible “pop” followed and a button tinkled on a glass table top across the room.“One!” cheered Kate. As she spoke there were three other “pops.” “Two, three, four!” she counted. “Don’t anybody wisecrack. If Scar laughs now he’ll undress himself.” The final button held but tore its way through the buttonhole.“Fine!” Kate exclaimed. “Four buttons and one buttonhole. Now, who’s next?”Several of the gunmen patrons went into a huddle. Presently ‘Shanty’ Boles turned and said:“Us four’s buyin’ for th’ house, Kitty. Name it an’ we pays. Dat’s cheaper’n buyin’ new vests!”“Lovely!” Kate responded. “Did someone tell me Shanty wasn’t bright?”As the round of drinks was being served, the electrician touched Kate’s arm and told her the dimmer was connected.“Don’t test it,” she ordered, “just follow up the orders I gave you. Everybody out now,” she demanded, turning to the patrons. “There’s another surprise for you. We start off with a march around the room. When the lights go out, drop your partner and take the girl ahead of you for a partner. That leaves an extra man and he goes to the end of the line.“When the orchestra stops playing, everybody buys a drink for the girl with him. Remember now—no cheating or hitting in the clinches.”The orchestra struck up a jazz march and the patrons, hard-boiled thieves and killers playing a “kid” game for the first time in their lives, began to parade about the room. Kate nodded and the electrician pulled the main switch. Stygian darkness followed.“One, two, three, four, five, six!” Kate counted slowly. “Lights on!”As they flared forth everyone went into shrieks of laughter. From a recess back of the stage where Kate had concealed her, an immense negro girl had emerged, taking a place silently beside Scar. She had been well coached for, as the light came on, she leaned confidingly toward the proprietor and snuggled her head against his shoulder.Scar leaped up, glaring ferociously at Kate while the patrons vented jeers and catcalls. Kate raised her hand and said:“The house buys on that one, gang—and Scar ought to be thankful that we didn’t see her coming in with him.”The negress, grinning happily, waddled out. Kate patted Scar’s shoulder and whispered:“We’ve got to give ‘em stunts, Scar—and we can’t kid the money customers all of the time.”The evening was off to an auspicious start. Stunt followed stunt in rapid succession. The lights, on dimmers now, went up and down the range of their power; again they flashed like lightning’s play. They would go out and come on again, occasionally disclosing grim gunmen and their molls engaged in the softer process of “necking.” This brought jeers and another round of drinks.Kate kept it going at fever heat. Between dances she had the girls balancing on beer barrels laid on their sides, or trying to step through the “U” made by their arms and a broom handle. It was a real novelty to the socially starved tough boys and girls and through it all Scar sat and listened happily to the tinkle of the cash registers.Here and there heads not hard enough to resist the kick of Scar’s raw liquor, had succumbed. Shanty Boles and his moll slept side by side, their heads pillowed on the table before them. Someone had taken a lipstick and painted Shanty’s nose a violent crimson.Through it all, Hanson sat sipping his liquor, smoking innumerable cigarettes—but always watching Kate narrowly. He seemed to enjoy chatting with one of the chorus girls—Gladys King—whom he had chosen for his companion of the evening.Once, as the lights came back on, Kate saw him slip a heavy automatic back under his arm. He was taking no chances of an attack in the dark. She slipped to Speed’s side and asked:“What’s the matter with Hanson? He’s out with the gat every time the lights go down.”“He’d better,” Speed whispered. “He’s a wholesale junkie. There’s a gang back east gunnin’ for him, and some of the big boys here figure to spot him if they can get him right. He’s nudgin’ in on their racket.” As they talked, a clock outside chimed the hour of four. Thereafter, Kate kept a close check on the face of her watch.Fifteen minutes later she snapped into action. First she nodded to the orchestra with a signal for a mad jazz number, calling to the electrician, “Use your own judgment, Johnny.”With this she stepped over beside Scar and Little Laura. It seemed to Scar that her fingers, pressing on his shoulder, were unduly heavy. Thus she stood while the electrician ran the gamut of his light changes. Scar still could feel the weight of her fingers on his shoulder when the lights went completely out.There followed a moment of silence, punctuated by minor squeals of fright and laughter. Suddenly someone grunted as though in pain.A gun roared heavily in the blackness. A girl’s screaming moan sounded as a body struck the floor. The music had been silenced with the sound of the shot.Out of the babel of sound came Kate’s clear voice: “Lights—quick,” she commanded.As they came on the horrified merrymakers saw Gladys King squirming on the floor, blood flowing from a wound high up on her right shoulder. Scar leaped up and barked angrily:“Shut up your damn noise—want the bulls in here?”Kate knelt beside the injured girl. A cool-headed waiter brought water and Kate began bathing the girl’s forehead.“What was it, dear?” she asked tenderly. “What happened?”“He—he—shot me!” Gladys replied. She pointed weakly at Hanson.From the others there came a growl of anger. Gladys was a favorite. Then followed a concerted rush to the table where Hanson sat, apparently unperturbed. His eyes were half closed. But as the foremost of the gang reached him his body seemed to sag. Then he toppled and his chin struck the table with a thud.The color had drained from the flesh in his neck. Right at the edge of the hair a single drop of blood stood for a second. It rolled down inside the dead man’s collar and another welled slowly in its place.Hanson unquestionably was dead. Too many present knew the marks of the coming of the Dread One. An unerring hand had struck once at the base of the brain, severing the spinal cord.Scar glared around the room ferociously. A mighty anger shook his frame. Hanson, as an individual, meant nothing to him. As a racketeer, head of a junk-running organization of no mean proportions, his murder spelled trouble.“Who done this?” Scar roared. “Get up on your damned hind legs and have the guts to say so—” A stream of horrible profanity welled and bubbled from his lips.Kate whispered something to Speed under cover of the noise. The gangster moved quickly to Scar’s side. He talked rapidly in an undertone. At first the proprietor shook his head impatiently. Speed continued talking until silenced with a gesture.“Listen, guns and molls,” Scar said after a moment of thought. “This here thing ain’t goin’ to do us any good. Now, we’re all-right guys here tonight; there ain’t a rat or snitch in the joint. Hanson’s croaked. Nobody knows who done it, but me and Speedy figgers it will be a good idee for him to be found somewhere else. What say?”“Take the blankety-blank out and dump him in the bay,” someone growled. “That’s the ticket—out in the streets some’rs,” another said. Scar and Shanty Boles turned to the gruesome task of dressing the corpse in overcoat, gloves and soft gray hat.“Whose car are you going to use?” Kate asked quietly. Then before anyone answered, she suggested: “Better steal one, Speed, and leave him in it out in the residence district. And while we’re about it, poke a gun in his ribs hard. The blood will settle there and the dicks will think his kidnappers did it.”“Damn smart,” Scar applauded. “Go ahead, Speed. Find a likely lookin’ bus and shoot her in the alley. I’ll have a lookout waitin’.”Thus it was arranged. Hanson’s body, with a gangster on each side of it, was loaded into a stolen limousine, Speed at the wheel. Larry Michaels, his buddy, followed in another car. Within thirty minutes all were back at the Argyle Club.Scar closed soon afterward. Kitty, en route home, made certain she was not being followed. When she had disrobed and made her night toilet, she unfastened a secret compartment in a suitcase and brought to light a small memorandum book.Then she drew a heavy black line through the first of three names inscribed on its fly-leaf.The name was “Lester Kinney.” Seattle morning newspapers had good reason for first-page streamer lines that morning.Henry Wilson, a milkman, discovered Hanson’s body, rigid behind the steering wheel and with the gloved hands in driving posture. It was in a shining limousine, standing before one of the beautiful homes in the exclusive Queen Anne Hill district.Wilson notified the police and detectives made several startling discoveries. The first was a footprint in the mud of the gutter where apparently someone had stood beside the car. Plaster casts were made, but later the sleuths were chagrined to find it matched perfectly to the milkman’s brogans.Next came the news that the limousine had been stolen from a patron of the Elk’s Club. Atop of this came the medical examiner’s announcement that Hanson’s death had been brought about by someone thoroughly skilled in surgery.Then the discoloration on the side of the body was discovered. As Kate had predicted, the detectives seized on this as proof that someone had jammed a gun against the victim’s side, had kidnapped him and taken him for a ride.“Gawd, kid!” Scar said to Kate when she entered the club that night, “you sure saved ol’ Scar’s bacon with quick thinkin’ last night. Hereafter they’s another five per cent in the cut fer you.”“Thanks, Scar,” Kate said listlessly. “Who do you think did it?”Scar ruminated for a time, then said in a low voice:“If you hadn’t stood with your hand on my shoulder all the time the lights was out, I’d have said, ‘Mebbe you!’ I seen you and Hanson glarin’ at one another, an’ I copped you two watchin’ each other all evenin’. But I ain’t answerin’ any questions—nor askin’ any. I know where you was every second.”“Who was against him in the dope game here?” Kate asked after a brief pause, during which she studied Scar’s face attentively.“Mugs Dietrich,” Scar replied. “He was the big junkie until Hanson showed up nine-ten months ago. Hanson nudged in on the alky racket, but as soon as he’d built up a gang, he hijacked a trunkful of dope, coming from Kansas City to Mugs.“They was better’n fifty thousand dollars worth in it. Hanson sent for Mugs, covered him with a rod and they talked turkey. When Mugs left, he had half the dope and Hanson had half the town. That’s how Hanson worked. Since then, he’s been edgin’ in on Mugs and four-five boys on both sides has been croaked. Mugs got sore last week and cracked that Hanson better come smokin’ next time they met. That’s why the dicks is figgerin’ last night’s job as a gang-spottin’.”“Who is Hanson’s Man Friday—his next in command?” Kate asked.“A guy twicet as hard as Hanson ever wanted to be. They call him Sugarface Mallon. He’s the reason I didn’t want anybody to know Hanson was croaked here. This pritty boy came from the East with Hanson, and after the first week none of our gunnies wanted any of Sugarface’s game. He throws hot lead faster ‘n easier than anybody I ever did see—and some of the best of ‘em has come through that door there.” Thrill-seeking and curiosity brought back all of the crowd of the night before and yet others who had heard of the live-wire Cougar Kitty. It was by that title she was known in Gangland now; few could have told her last name.But it was an apathetic crowd. Even Kate’s flaming personality could not evoke a real response, except from the newcomers. The shadow of tragedy still lingered over the place.The bar patronage was holding up well, however. Some of the patrons seemed anxious to drink themselves insensible in the shortest possible space of time. These were succeeding admirably. Such failed to witness the new situation which unfolded itself suddenly.During an interval when the orchestra was silent, the doorbell pealed shrilly. When the doorman swung the steel-faced portal open, two well-dressed men stepped into the room. Both stood looking the crowd over coldly.One, the taller, might have posed for magazine collar advertisements. Nature had given him a trig slenderness, height, a handsome face and a certain air of real gentility. His companion was shorter, dark and glowering, seemingly dissipated and he had a hangdog air. As he turned it was apparent that one of his ears was badly cauliflowered. Both had one thing in common. Their air was purposeful and either could be depended on to do what was needful, no matter what the circumstances.Scar started to struggle to his feet, but sank back at a signal from Kate. Straight to the pair she went, eyes shining, teeth flashing in a smile of welcome.“Greetings, Mr. Sugarface Mallon,” she called from the middle of the floor. “Come on in, both of you. The water’s wet—and we haven’t any.”Mallon eyed her with evident admiration, yet curiously. His companion scowled darkly and whispered something. Sugarface stepped forward and took Kate’s outstretched hand.“A stranger in town, yet she calls my name,” he said suavely. “Who am I—to be so honored?”“Tell you later,” Kate said in a low tone. “Play up now.”Now Scar came lumbering forward. Mallon gave him a cold nod; his companion struck the owner’s outstretched hand aside. Scar turned and waddled back to his chair.Two of the waiters removed a somnolent drunk from one of the tables, brought a third chair and Kate, Mallon and the other man sat down. Kate and Mallon faced each other across the table; the other’s back was to the dance floor.“This is Kid Sharkey,” Mallon said, pointing to his companion. “He’s with me always—now that Hanson’s dead.”“Oh yes,” Kate said nonchalantly, “I read of it in the papers. You were his associate, weren’t you—both here and in the East?”Mallon’s eyes probed hers ominously, curiously, for a moment.“See here,” he said as though in sudden decision. “They tell me you’re a wise head; anyway you look it, and I’m going to lay ‘em right out before you. There is a whisper that Hanson was done in right in this room. It is a whisper that hasn’t reached the police, however. One of my boys heard a girl stew talking about it and came to me with the story.“Now get me right; I’m not caring one half-witted damn about Hanson being rubbed out. Probably it saved me the trouble. He was a bad one and would knock me off in a minute, but he knew I could let him draw and then kill him. For the last six months when we talked he sat with his hands folded over his most recent meal. I’d warned him to.“But I’m head of the gang now. I’m taking over where he left off. If it was one of Muggsy’s gang that croaked him, then I know where to watch. If it was done here, then there’s a new enemy for me to go gunning after.“What would you do in my place?”He fairly hissed the last words.“I’d buy a drink!” Kate said nonchalantly. “Waiter!”A red surge of color leaped to Mallon’s pale face.“Damn it!” he snarled. “Answer me, you rotten—”Kate’s hand—the right one—slipped over the edge of the table. With the index finger of the left Kate pointed casually toward it. Mallon’s eyes dropped; visioned the deadly steel muzzle of the little plunger-gun between her fingers. Kid Sharkey gasped. For the fraction of a second the weapon turned on him, then flashed back to Sugarface.“Rotten—what—?” she demanded. “Say anything that’s in your system—and if I don’t like it, then it’s my turn to say or do something—you fool. Say it!” she demanded coldly. Now she was Cougar Kitty indeed. Speedball Kane, who had lost no item of the byplay from a distance, came slipping to the table. His body was poised on the balls of his feet. The right hand was under his left lapel.Kate sensed, rather than saw him.“My affair,” she said over her shoulder. “Don’t interfere unless things get hot—and if they do, then burn Kid Sharkey down and burn him fast.”“Baby,” Speed said with deep conviction. “He’s afire now.”“What a broad!” It was Kid Sharkey’s unwilling tribute as he realized just how hot things had become.Mallon it was who broke the tension.“Stand off all around,” he said putting his hands before him on the table. “I’m apologizing—not because of the palm-gun, but because they taught me as a kid not to call girls bad names.”The deadly muzzle slipped out of sight beneath the table. Mallon had a dubious impression that it still covered his stomach.“Right,” Kate snapped. “Now what do you want to know?”“Was Hanson fixed up here? That’s all.”“He was not,” she replied steadily. “He left here about two.”“Alone?”“Alone. I think he had a telephone call.” Then, before Mallon could stop her, she called over her shoulder, “Oh, Scar!” When he lumbered over, she asked:“Hanson left last night about two, didn’t he—alone?”“Uh-huh, about then,” Scar said easily. “I got th’ idee somebody was waitin’ for him—or did he get a ‘phone call?”“Thanks!” Mallon said carelessly after a moment’s close scrutiny of the scarred, evil countenance before him.“S’all right,” Scar rumbled. “Let’s us have a drink.”“Why not?” the younger man replied lightly. “Kid, you go along and see about the trucks. I’ll be at the hangout later.”Sharkey started to protest, then rose and lurched from the place. His last glance at Kate was one of reverent worship. Kid Sharkey had seen his first real gun-moll.Mallon rose as Kate did and accompanied her to the table adjoining Scar’s lookout chair, unwittingly dropping into the seat where his chief’s body had been but a few hours before.Suddenly Kate felt his eyes on her and turned about to surprise the same searching, calculating expression she had encountered in Hanson’s eyes. She smiled, blandly, seated herself across from him and said:“Want to tell an inquisitive girl something, Mr. Mallon?”“What?” he demanded. She paused before replying, holding his glance by sheer willpower for a moment.“How is it that a man of your class, who could be anything he set out to be, is in the booze and dope game?” she said at last.“Just naturally bad, I guess,” he replied, but Kate saw she had scored her first victory in her fight to draw his interest to her personally.From then until the moment later when Mallon, now warmed by a number of drinks, began paying her elaborate compliments, Kate used her every art to let glances and half spoken sentences show him that she was not indifferent to him. At last, while the electrician had dimmed the lights to almost out, he leaned across the table and whispered:“I’m waiting for you tonight, baby—and every other night, if you say so.”Kate did not answer, contenting herself with letting her hand touch his for a moment in a quick, firm pressure. Then she excused herself and turned to the other patrons. The crowd was thinning out now. Several of the more intoxicated still slumbered in their chairs. Not more than fifteen couples were on the dance floor when Kate stopped the music with a wave of her hand and said:“Not enough pep, gang. We’re closing soon now, and let’s make it all hot ‘n everything in the meantime. Make it snappy now, for Speed and I have a surprise for you pretty soon.”The orchestra swung into a mad jazz number, quickening the cadence until the dancers’ feet literally were flying. Kate called Little Laura to her away from Scar’s side, and whispered something. The girl laughed and took a chair at a vacant table.Kate caught the electrician’s eye and nodded, holding up a silver chime whistle as a signal. He nodded and began a furious succession of light changes. They flickered up, then dimmed down to mere red-brown shapes within the globes. On again—and the electrician snapped the main switch off and on rapidly, giving the effect of lightning flashes. Once Kate caught Mallon’s eyes and tossed him an airy kiss from her fingertips. Scar, sitting three feet distant from him, scowled wonderingly.Occasionally couples would barge together on the dance floor, the girls screaming curses or ribald commands. Kate’s eyes narrowed calculatingly watching the unconscious distribution of the couples about the floor.Suddenly she sounded a musical trill from the whistle. The music rose to a shrill crescendo of noise as the electrician pulled the main switch and threw the entire club into darkness.But over the music, the shouts of laughter and the scrape of feet, there sounded ten clearly spaced blasts of Kate’s whistle as though she was marking time for the next stunt.Three sharp blasts followed one another in rapid succession. The lights flared on and the music ceased in the middle of a bar.For an instant there was a grave-like silence; then gasps of surprise—here and there a nervous titter from one of the molls.There was reason. Midway down the room, clear of the dancers and at a point where every person in the room was under her eye stood Cougar Kitty, in each hand a thirty-eight automatic. Flanking her, four at each side, stood the club’s eight waiters. Now they were masked with handkerchiefs tied across their noses to conceal mouths and chins. Each carried two snub-nose, small caliber automatics! These were trained on the dancing group and the orchestra.Kitty’s guns covered Mallon and Scar.“Up with them,” she demanded dramatically. “Drag me down a star and let me look at it. This is a stick-up and I don’t mean perhaps.”Mallon and Scar laughed happily, admiringly.“Some twist, that one,” Scar said out of the corner of his twisted mouth. “Who else’d think of a stunt like that?”With the words the tension broke. The waiters snapped the handkerchiefs from their faces, broke the seeming automatics and disclosed that they were cigarette guns, made in the shape of pistols. These were distributed to the dancers as they crowded about the smiling hostess.Kate, meanwhile, stood toying with the weapons hanging loosely at her side. She looked anxiously about for Speedball. He was at one of the tables, retying a shoelace. He looked up at her and grinned.It was Scar, master of the double-cross and personification of vileness, who was the first to sense the tenseness which had descended on the room. As he dropped his hands to the chair arms, ready to derrick his great body to a standing position, Kate whirled and leveled both guns.“Down!” she snapped savagely. “Up with them—both of you—you’re in on this too, Mallon. “Quick—fingers together behind your heads.”The muzzles of both guns jumped in unison. With the roar came a splintering crash as the missiles flew past the heads of the two men and buried themselves in the wall behind them.There was no question now of obedience. Mallon, white, silent but watchful as a snake, cradled the back of his head in his hands. Scar was slower and his gross face was splotched and purple as he too withdrew his hands from his holster.The girl’s tense figure, alone in the center of the floor as she held two redoubtable gunmen helpless, appealed to their sense of the dramatic. They were breathless with suspense when at last she broke silence to say in a lifeless monotone:“Listen everybody—I’m going to tell you about a couple of damned, lousy skunks—the two sitting there, and another I got last night—Hanson.“In a little while, I’m going out of here. It is up to you—you boys and girls who, like me, have had to fight for yourselves—it’s up to you whether I go out of here—or whether I don’t! But I’m going to take Skunk Mallon and Skunk Argyle with me! It’ll be the hot seat for them! And I’ve nothing on you!“I’m a slum kid from Brooklyn. My dad was a drunk; mother was a decent woman. I had two brothers, Wilbur and Merrill. Our family name was Orrum. Merrill, the older brother, was a good kid. He made me go to school just as he did. The other was weak, a sneak thief at twelve and an ex-con at twenty. They called him ‘Wib the Gun.’ ”Scar’s arms jerked at the words and the girl’s finger tightened for an instant on the trigger of the weapon in her right hand.“Means something to you, doesn’t it, Skunk Argyle?” she taunted. “Wib was the lad you and Hanson and Mallon, jobbed into killing his own brother that night in Detroit—the lad Mallon and Hanson killed later to stop his mouth.”Someone in the crowd grated out a curse. She continued her story.“Merrill had worked his way through law school and had taken up criminal practice. In a few years he was known as the best crook mouthpiece in Detroit. I was his helper—his private investigator.“But Merrill fell out with Hanson and Mallon, and also with Scar who was the big money back of their booze and dope running. They got poor Wib drunk one night and planted him out to kill a Federal dick near a roadhouse. They decoyed Merrill to the spot and let Wib kill his own brother.“When he found out what he’d done, he went into hiding. It took me days to find him and when I got there he was croaking. He had just enough strength to tell me the story and to let me know that Mallon had run him down and shot him to silence him.“I went crazy then. When I found where Hanson was planted out I went there one night and got into the house. I hoped to get him as he slept. But Sugarface Mallon was on the prowl and got me before I could shoot.“He tied me up. He didn’t call Hanson. He just gagged me—and for that night I was his prisoner. Figure that for yourselves.“The next morning he threw me down the front steps. He’d finished wrecking the Orrum family. Nice boy—Skunk Mallon—isn’t he?”“Hanson and Mallon disappeared,” she continued, and now she was tumbling the words forth with machine-gun speed. “But I found they were here, working with Scar Argyle on a new dope underground.“My hair was gold-yellow. I dyed it red. My figure was slight. I ate sweets, drank heavy cream, stuffed like a Strasbourg goose until I had gained twenty pounds. I went to Chicago and then New York to establish a new identity, but always I kept track of the three skunks.“You know most of the rest of it. I came here and tricked Scar into giving me work. Last night I stood beside Scar, pressing my fingers into his fat shoulder until the lights went out. Then I got Hanson in the neck with a thin, knife. I was back beside Scar when the lights went on again. He thought he had felt my hand on his shoulder all of the time.”She paused for a quick glance about the tables, flashed her eyes toward the doorway where waiters and barmen were grouped.But even that brief second of respite was enough for Sugarface. As she turned back his right hand was flitting under his coat lapel, fingers clawing for the gun butt nestling there.Cougar Kitty’s left gun jerked twice and a horrible oath spat from Scar’s lips as two black holes appeared, one above the other, in Mallon’s smooth, white forehead. He teetered for a moment in his chair, then fell sideways across Scar’s feet.The death threat in the girl’s eyes as they flickered to Scar nerved the gross man to action. He threw himself, wedged as he was in his great chair, sideways to the floor. His hand flashed with incredible speed to the butt of his gun.Cougar Kitty, her eyes pinpoints of blazing hate, waited as the thick fingers grasped the weapon, started to raise it.Crash! Crash! Crash!Her gun spoke thrice in rapid succession. A jet of blood leaped from Scar’s lips as the first bullet smashed against his set teeth.The second smashed through the center of the scar under the victim’s right eye and ploughed into the brain.The third struck squarely between the eyes—a small, purple edged perforation which wrote the final period on the life-tale of Scar Argyle.For a moment Cougar Kitty stood silent, staring at the two unmoving bodies on the floor. “Killing was too good for them!”Then with a gesture of finality she let the guns crash to the floor. Turning, her hands outstretched toward the silent group of grim-faced onlookers, she whispered:“And now—the verdict. Getaway—or?”Tense eyes stared back into hers. Still no word was spoken.Suddenly, as though an invisible wedge was driving into the group, they began to fall back.White lipped, staring unseeingly before her, Kitty passed the grimly watchful cannons and molls who lined her pathway. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyThe earth is my homeland and humanity is my family. Gibran Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883- 1931) left Lebanon for the United States in 1895 when he was twelve years old, but three years later he returned to Beirut to study Arabic. Thus 1903, the year in which he went back to Boston, may be regarded as the date when he began nearly a lifetime’s residence in North America, where he divided his time between his studio in New York and his sister’s house in Boston. Gibran thus spent the first three decades of the twentieth century in one of the world’s major centres of “modern culture”, far away from his native land, itself a major world centre of “traditional culture”. Gibran’s emigration to the west was not due to personal or family reasons. It was part of a larger, more general movement in which Syrians and Lebanese migrated to Egypt and to the Americas, fleeing from the appalling conditions resulting from the decline of the Ottoman Empire around the end of the last century. The origins of this wave of migration lay in the suppression of freedom of expression and belief and in the series of famines, epidemics, wars and earthquakes that ravaged the Levant at the turn of the century. In earlier days successive waves of migration had been motivated by trade and the other maritime activities for which the people of Phoenicia had been famous since ancient times. The novel feature of the migration at the turn of the century was that the migrants associated trading interests with cultural aims. These Lebanese and Syrian émigrés laid the foundations of culture, journalism and the arts in Egypt, establishing publishing houses, theatres, cinemas and newspapers. The same phenomenon occurred, to vary ing degrees, in North and South America. Gibran himself tried his hand at business, alternately making and losing money, while Mikhayil N’aimi, as he confesses in his book on Gibran, worked as a commercial representative. Thus it was the quest for freedom of intellectual expression and economic opportunity that drove the intelligentsia of the Arab East to migrate in successive waves either to Egypt or to South and North America. All these men and women combined the trade of journalist, writer or artist with that of dealer in stocks and bonds. Trade, art and politics almost always went together in their lives and only in rare cases did one take precedence over the others. Gibran Khalil Gibran was one of those rare cases. Gibran’s life and works present a number of distinctive geatures. First of all, he was fully a child of his times. The first three decades of the twentieth century set the tone for the new age which Gibran did not live to see. It was a time of wholesale destruction that was also marked by an upsurge of activity in culture, art and science and by an attempt to experiment with visionary ideas that had risen from the ruins. These were the decades of the First World War, the first socialist revolution, the birth of Nietzscheanism and the spread of Freudianism. All these unprecedented occurrences had a strong influence on sculpture, poetry, painting, the novel and the theatre, shattering old forms and dictating new subject-matter. Gibran was immersed in his epoch, an actor not a spectator. His migration from Mount Lebanon to Boston may be seen as the journey of a prophet. When the Ottomans began their slaughtering in the Levant, all the intelligentsia of Syria (which then included the whole of the Fertile Crescent region) fled. For Gibran and a few others, the goal was a spiritual one. For them migration was a stage which would necessarily be followed by a return to the homeland. They did not go in search of refuge, exile, trade or money, but in search of a vision, following a circular path that necessarily ended where it began. The second feature that epitomizes the life and works of Gibran is that while he lived at a geographical distance from his native land, he maintained close links with it and with its history. Although distant from Lebanon, he was always strongly influenced by émigré Arab culture and the Arabic press, and remained in constant communication with his homeland. Geographical distance gave him a broader and deeper insight into Gibran’s “modernity” was the reverse side of his deep-rooted cultural identity; his migration was at once an inward and an outward journey. Gibran’s greatest creative achievement was, then, his own life within whose short span he was only fortyeight years old when he died the public and private dimensions were indistinguishable. His views on women, marriage and the clergy were not simply theoretical standpoints expressed in his writings and drawings but represented his practical views on life, love and religion. More than half a century after the death of Gibran we are beginning to understand the major importance of his book The Prophet (1923); we should not, however, fail to recognize the equal importance of his work Jesus, the Son of Man. In fact, the key to Gibran’s works lies in his attitude towards authority, whether represented by established tradition, prevailing convention, religious institution, social structure, economic system or foreign occupying power. The “movement” that grew out of Gibran’s life and art (drawing, painting and writing) was clearly founded by a man possessed of prophetic vision. And his founding of the “Pen League”, his defence of his country against the Ottomans, his long dedication to art in his New York studio and to literature in a secluded house in Boston were for him indissociable activities. His metrical verse and his free verse, his narrative prose and dialogues, plays and novels, all served that one vision. The forms these writings took grew naturally out of I am a traveller and a navigator, and each day I discover a new country in my soul. My friend, you and I will live as strangers to this life, strangers to one another and to ourselves, until the day when you will speak and I will listen to you believing that your voice is mine, until the day when Ishall stand before you, thinking that I am before a mirror. Gibran their subject-matter, for Gibran did not set out deliberately to modernize poetry and language. His constant concern, once he had discovered his life’s mission, was to express his “vision”. Was Gibran a Romantic when he wrote A Tear and a Smile? Did he become a symbolist with The Madman, The Forerunner and The Wanderer? Was he a philosopher in The Prophet, The Garden of the Prophet and The Earth Gods and a novelist in Spirits Rebellious and Broken Wings? Gibran’s life and death, his writings and works of visual art defy such classification to which, moreover, he was opposed throughout his life. He fought against all forms of pigeonholing, against all that would straitjacket thoughts and feelings. Throughout his spiritual journey, Gibran Khalil Gibran remained true to his vision and through his art and writings in the first three decades of this century he proclaimed his prophetic message. Ghali Shukri (1935-1998) was a renowned Arab literary critic educated at the Sorbonne. From The Unesco Courier, and published online at the UNESCO website under a creative commons license: CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO Like this:Like Loading... [...]
creative writing / literatureThere is no longer any need to argue that the communications satellite is ultimately going to have a profound effect upon society; the events of the last ten years have established this beyond question. Nevertheless, it is possible that even now we have only the faintest understanding of its ultimate impact upon our world. There are those who have argued that communications satellites (hereafter referred to as “comsats”) represent only an extension of existing communications devices, and that society can therefore absorb them without too great an upheaval. I am reminded rather strongly of the frequent assertions by elderly generals immediately after August 1945 that nothing had really changed in warfare because the device which destroyed Hiroshima was “just another bomb”. Some inventions represent a kind of technological quantum jump which causes a major restructuring of society. In our century, the automobile is perhaps the most notable example of this. It is characteristic of such inventions that even when they are already in existence, it is a considerable time before anyone appreciates the changes they will bring. To demonstrate this, I would like to quote two examples, one genuine, one slightly fictitious. For the first I am indebted to the Honorable Anthony Wedgewood Benn, now UK Minister of Technology, who passed it on to me when he was Postmaster General. Soon after Mr. Edison had invented the electric light, there was an alarming decline in the Stock Exchange quotations for the gas companies. A Parliamentary Commission was therefore called in England, which heard expert witnesses on the subject; I feel confident that many of these assured the gas manufacturers that nothing further would be heard of this impractical device. One of the witnesses called was the chief engineer of the Post Office, Sir William Preece – an able man who in later years was to back Marconi in his early wireless experiments. Somebody asked Sir William if he had any comments to make on the latest American invention – the telephone. To this, the chief engineer of the Post Office made the remarkable reply: “No Sir. The Americans have need of the telephone but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” The second example is due to my friend, Jean d’Arcy, Director of Radio and Visual Information Services Division of the United Nations. He has reported to me the deliberations of a slightly earlier scientific committee, set up in the Middle Ages to discuss whether it was worth developing Mr. Gutenberg’s printing press. After lengthy deliberations, this committee decided not to allocate further funds. The printing press, it was agreed, was a clever idea, but it could have no large-scale application. There would never be any big demand for books for the simple reason that only a microscopic fraction of the population could read. If anyone thinks that I am labouring the obvious, I would like him to ask himself, in all honesty, whether he would have dared to predict the ultimate impact of the printing press and the telephone when they were invented. I believe that in the long run the impact of the communication satellite will be even more spectacular. Moreover, the run may not be as long as we think. The human mind tends to extrapolate in a linear manner, whereas progress is exponential. The exponential curve rises slowly at first and then climbs rapidly, until eventually it cuts across the straight-line slope and goes soaring beyond it. Unfortunately, it is never possible to predict whether the crossover point will be five, ten or twenty years ahead. However, I believe that everything I am about to discuss will be technically possible well before the end of this century. The rate of progress will be limited by economic and political factors, not technological ones. When a new invention has a sufficiently great public appeal, the world insists on having it. Look at the speed with which the “transistor revolution” occurred. Yet what we now see on the technological horizon are devices with far greater potential, and human appeal, even than the ubiquitous transistor radio. It must also be remembered that our ideas concerning the future of space technology are still limited by the present primitive state of the art. All of today’s launch vehicles are expendable, single-shot devices which can perform only one mission and are then discarded. It has been “recognized for many years that space exploration, and space exploitation, will be practical only when the same launch vehicle can be flown over and over again, like conventional aircraft. The development of the reusable launch vehicle, the so-called “space shuttle” will be the most urgent problem of the space engineers in the 1970s. It is confidently believed that such vehicles will be operating by the end of the decade, the end of the 1970s. When they do, their impact upon astronautics will be comparable to that of the famous DC-3 upon aeronautics. The cost of putting payloads and men into space will decrease from thousands, to hundreds, and then to tens of dollars per pound. This will make possible the development of multipurpose manned space stations, as well as the deployment of very large and complex unmanned satellites which it would be quite impractical to launch (from Earth) in a single vehicle. It must also be remembered that comsats are only one of a very large range of applications satellites; they may not even be the most important. The Earth Resources satellites will enormously advance our knowledge of this planet’s capabilities, and the ways in which we may exploit them. The time is going to come when farmers, fishermen, public utility companies, departments of agriculture and forestry, etc. will find it impossible to imagine how they ever operated in the days before they had space-borne sensors continually scanning the planet. The economic value of meteorological satellites and their potential for the saving of life has already been demonstrated. Another most important use of satellites, which has not yet begun, but which will have an economic value of thousands of millions of dollars a year, is their use for air-traffic control. It appears possible that the only real solution to the problem of air congestion, and the mounting risk of collisions, may be through navigational satellites which can track every aircraft in the sky. Arthur C. Clarke predicts the internet, creative commons video from ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company): In dealing with telecommunications problems it is convenient and often indeed essential to divide the subject according to the type of transmission and equipment used. Thus we talk about radios, telephones, television sets, data networks, facsimile systems, etc. as though they were all quite separate things. But this of course is a completely artificial distinction; to the communications satellite, which simply handles trains of electric impulses, they are all the same. For the purposes of this discussion I am therefore looking at the subject from a different point of view, which may give a better overall picture. I am lumping all telecommunications devices together and am considering their total impact upon four basic units in turn. Those units are the Home, the City, the State, and the World. Note that I start with the home, not the family, as the basic human unit. Many people do not live in family groups, but everybody lives in a home. Indeed, in certain societies today the family itself is becoming somewhat nebulous around the edges, and among some younger groups is being replaced by the tribe – of which more anon. But the home will always be with us. There was once a time when homes did not have windows. It is difficult for those of us who do not live in caves or tents to imagine such a state of affairs. Yet within a single generation the home in the more developed countries has acquired a new window of incredible magical power – the TV set. What once seemed one of the most expensive luxuries became, in what is historically a twinkling of an eye, one of the basic necessities of life. The television antenna swaying precariously above the slum dweller’s shack is a true sign of our times. What the book was to a tiny minority in earlier ages, the television set has now come to be for all the world. It is true that, all too often, it is no more than a drug like its poorer relative, the transistor radio seen pressed to the ears of the blank-faced noiseaddicts one sees walking entranced through the city streets. But, of course, it is infinitely more than this, as was so well-expressed by Professor Buckminster Fuller when he remarked that ours is the first generation to be reared by three parents. All future generations will be reared by three parents. As René Maheu, Director-General of UNESCO, remarked recently, this may be one of the real reasons for the generation gap. We now have a discontinuity in human history. For the first time there is a generation that knows more than its parents, and television is at least partly responsible for this state of affairs. Anything we can imagine in the way of educational TV and radio can be done. As I have already remarked, the limitations are not technical, but economic and political. As for economic limitations, the cost of a truly global satellite educational system, broadcasting into all countries, would be quite trivial compared with the long-term benefits it could bring. Let me indulge in a little fantasy. Some of the studies of educational comsat broadcasts — let us call them EDSATS — to developing countries indicate that the cost of the hardware may be of the order of $1 per pupil per year. I suppose there are about a thousand million children of school age on this planet, but the number of people who require education must be much higher than this, perhaps two thousand million. As I am only concerned with establishing orders of magnitude, the precise figures don’t matter. But the point is that, for the cost of a few thousand million dollars a year, a few per cent of the monies spent on armaments could provide a global EDSAT system which could drag this whole planet out of ignorance. Such a project would seem ideally suited for UNESCO supervision, because there are great areas of basic education in which there are no serious disagreements. The beauty of television, of course, is that to a considerable extent it transcends the language problem. I would like to see the development, by the Walt Disney studios or some similar organization, of visual educational programmes which do not depend on language, but only upon sight, plus sound effects. I feel certain that a great deal can be done in this direction, and it is essential that such research be initiated as soon as possible, because it may take much longer to develop appropriate programmes than the equipment to transmit and receive them. Even the addition of language, of course, does not pose too great a problem since this requires only a fraction of the band-width of the vision signal. And sooner or later we must achieve a world in which every human being can communicate directly with every other, because everyone will speak, or at least understand, a handful of basic languages. The children of the future are going to learn several languages from that third parent in the corner of the living room. Perhaps looking further ahead, a time is going to come when any student or scholar anywhere on Earth will be able to tune in to a course in any subject that interests them, at any level of difficulty they desire. Thousands of educational programmes will be broadcast simultaneously on different frequencies, so that any individual will be able to proceed at his own rate, and at his own convenience, through the subject of his choice. This could result in an enormous increase in the efficiency of the educational process. Today, every student is geared to a relatively inflexible curriculum. He has to attend classes at fixed times, which very often may not be convenient. The opening up of the electromagnetic spectrum made possible by comsats will represent as great a boon to scholars and students as did the advent of the printing press itself. The great challenge of the decade to come is freedom from hunger. Yet starvation of the mind will one day be regarded as an evil no less great than starvation of the body. All men deserve to be educated to the limit of their capabilities. If this opportunity is denied them, basic human rights are violated. This is why the forthcoming experimental use of direct broadcast EDSATS in India in 1972 is of such interest and importance. We should wish it every success, for even if it is only a primitive prototype, it may herald the global educational system of the future. It is obvious that one of the results of the developments we have been discussing will be a breakdown of the barrier between home and school, or home and university, for in a sense the whole world may become one academy of learning. But this is only one aspect of an even wider revolution because results of the new communications devices will also break down the barrier between home and place of work. During the next decade we will see coming into the home a general purpose communications console comprising TV screen, camera, microphone, computer keyboard and hardcopy readout device. Through this, anyone will be able to be in touch with any other person similarly equipped. As a result, for an ever increasing number of people in fact, virtually everyone of the executive level and above, almost all travel for business will become unnecessary. Recently, a limited number of the executives of the Westinghouse Corporation in the United States who were provided with primitive forerunners of this device, promptly found that their travelling decreased by 20 per cent. This, I am convinced, is how we are going to solve the traffic problem and thus, indirectly, the problem of air pollution. More and more, the slogan of the future will be, “Don’t Commute – Communicate”. Moreover, this development will make possible and even accelerate another fundamental trend of the future. It usually takes a genius to see the obvious, and once again I am indebted to Professor Buckminster Fuller for the following ideas. One of the most important consequences of today’s space research will be the development of life-support, and above all, food regeneration systems for long duration voyages and for the establishment of bases on the moon and planets. It is going to cost thousands of millions of dollars to develop these techniques, but when they are perfected they will be available to everyone. This means that we will be able to establish self-contained communities quite independent of agriculture, anywhere on this planet that we wish; perhaps one day even individual homes may become autonomous closed ecological systems producing all their food and other basic requirements indefinitely. This development, coupled with the communications explosion, means a total change in the structure of society. But because of the inertia of human institutions, and the gigantic capital investments involved, it may take a century or more for the trend to come to its inevitable conclusion. That conclusion is the death of the city. We all know that our cities are obsolete, and much effort is now going into patching them up so that they work after some fashion, like thirtyyear-old automobiles held together with string and wire. But we must recognize that in the age that is coming. The city – except for certain limited applications – is no longer necessary. The nightmare of overcrowding and traffic jams which we now endure is going to get worse, perhaps for our lifetimes. But beyond that is a vision of a world in which man is once again what he should be, a fairly rare animal, though in instant communication with all other members of his species. Marshall McLuhan has coined the evocative phrase “the global village” to describe the coming society. I hope “the global village” does not really mean a global suburb, covering the planet from pole to pole. Luckily, there will be far more space in the world of the future, because the land liberated at the end of the agricultural age now coming to a close after ten thousand years will become available for living purposes. I trust that much of it will be allowed to revert to wilderness, and that through this new wilderness will wander the electronic nomads of the centuries ahead. It is perfectly obvious that the communications revolution will have the most profound influence upon that fairly recent invention, the nation-state. I am fond of reminding American audiences that their country was created only a century ago by two inventions. Before those inventions existed it was impossible to have a United States of America. Afterwards, it was impossible not to have it. Those inventions, of course, were the railroad and the electric telegraph. USSR, China – in fact all modern states could not possibly exist without them. Whether we like it or not, and certainly many people won’t like it, we are seeing the next step in this process. History is repeating itself one turn higher on the spiral. What the railroad and the telegraph did to continental areas a hundred years ago, the jet plane and the communications satellite will soon be doing to the whole world. Despite the rise of nationalism and the surprising resurgence of minority, political and linguistic groups, this process may already have gone further than is generally imagined. We see particularly among the young, cults and movements which transcend all geographical borders. The so-called “jet set” is perhaps the most obvious example of this transnational culture, but that involves only a small minority. In Europe at least, the Volkswagen and Vespa sets are far more numerous and perhaps far more significant. The young Germans, French, and Italians are already linked together by a common communications network, and are impatient with the naive and simple-minded nationalism of their parents which has brought so much misery to the world. What we are now doing – whether we like it or not – indeed whether we wish to or not – is laying the foundation of the first global society. Whether the final planetary authority will be an analogue of the federal systems now existing in the US or the USSR I do not know. I suspect that, without any deliberate planning, such organizations as the world meteorological and earth resources satellite system, and the world communications satellite system (of which INTELSAT is the precursor) will eventually transcend their individual components. At some time during the next century they will discover, to their great surprise, that they are really running the world. There are many who will regard these possibilities with alarm or distaste, and may even attempt to prevent their fulfilment. I would remind them of the story of the wise English king, Canute, who had his throne set upon the sea-shore so he could demonstrate to his foolish courtiers that even the king could not command the incoming tide. The wave of the future is now rising before us. Let us not attempt to hold it back. Wisdom lies in recognizing the inevitable – and cooperating with it. In the world that is coming, the great powers are not great enough. Let us look at our whole world – as we have already done through the eyes of our moonbound cameras. I have made it obvious that it will be essentially one world – though I am not foolish or optimistic enough to imagine that it will be free from violence and even war. But more and more it will be recognized that all terrestrial violence is the concern of the police – and of no one else. And there is another factor which will accelerate the unification of the world. Within another lifetime, this will not be the only world, and that fact will have profound psychological impact upon all humanity. We have seen in the annus mirabilis of 1969 the imprint of man’s first footstep on the moon. Before the end of this century, we will experience the only other event of comparable significance in the foreseeable future. Before I tell you what it is, ask yourselves what you would have thought of the moon landing, thirty years ago. Well, before another thirty have passed, we will see its inevitable successor – the birth of the first human child on another world, and the beginning of the real colonization of space. When there are men who do not look on Earth as home, then the men of Earth will find themselves drawing closer together. In countless ways this process has already begun. The vast outpouring of pride, transcending all frontiers, during the flight of Apollo 11 was an outstanding indication of this process. Whether or not one takes it literally, the myth of the Tower of Babel has an extraordinary relevance for our age. Before that time, according to the book of Genesis (and indeed according to some anthropologists) the human race spoke with a single tongue. That time may never come again, but the time will come, and through the impact of comsats, when there will be two or three world languages which everyone will share. Far higher than the misguided architects of the Tower of Babel ever could have imagined – 36,000 kilometres above the equator – the rocket and communications engineers are about to undo the curse that was then inflicted upon our ancestors. So let me end by quoting the relevant passage from the 11th chapter of Genesis, which I think could be a motto for our hopes of the future: And the Lord said: “Behold they are one people and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and nothing that they propose to do now will be impossible for them.” A 1970 text by Arthur C. Clarke from The UNESCO Courier, originally published online at the UNESCO website under a creative commons license: CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby J.-H. Rosny published in The Chickasha Daily Express, December 21, 1900 e were strolling along the shore of the bellowing sea. The waves were magnificent. They advanced in caravans, crested with foam, singing crystal songs, they came with great cries and falling upon the rocks left long trails of snow. Rapid, irritable, angry, numberless, they assailed the cliffs, sometimes like a gorgeous garden of white and green flowers, sometimes roaring like ferocious troops of bears, elephants and lions. “Look,” exclaimed Landa. “There goes Lavalle.” All turned. In a little carriage, they saw a man still young by whose side was a woman of the Iberian type; one of those ravishing beauties who arouse desire, hate and jealousy in every man’s breast. “He’s in luck that fellow,” murmured the banker Langrume when the carriage had passed. “By a single stroke be became owner of 90,000,000 francs, and the prettiest woman to be found from pole to pole. And I have worked thirty years to get my beggarly half dozen millions.” “You are envious,” answered Landa. “Don’t you know that Lavalle owes his fortune and his wife to a good speculation. It all came from an investment of exactly 1,000 francs.” Fifteen years ago our friend Pierre Lavalle was a lucky young fellow of 20 years. He was rich, robust in health, and of a nature to avail himself of his advantages. His father sent him around the world. In Chile he had as a guide a most intelligent man of excellent family and between them a friendship arose. The guide pretended to have discovered rich veins of silver in the mountains, but he feared to be forestalled and dared trust no one. At the moment of their separation Pierre offered him a thousand francs. Jose Alvarado thanked him with a dignified air and said: “In ten years I shall be rich and you are my partner.” Then he wrote in the young man’s journal this memorandum: “In ten years I promise to share my property with my partner, Pierre Lavalle. Jose Alvarado Santiago, Nov. 20, 1885.” Ten years later Pierre Lavalle was completely ruined. His father died of despair after unlucky speculations and left the son only a heritage of debt. The poor boy was forced to accept clerkship in a government office. None the less he still went about in society. As he did not try to borrow money from anybody, as he talked well and looked well the best hostesses asked him to their houses. One evening he attended a ball given by a rich Argentinian, Don Estevan Zuloaga. The affair was dazzling. All the South Americans in Paris were there, including many ravishing beauties. Pierre admired Spanish beauties with the enthusiasm of the old romancers. Those eyes where voluptuousness distilled their magic, those delicious curves of the figure, those little feet light and trembling, those magnificent mouths created for kissing aroused in Pierre an ecstatic drunkenness. Don Estevan had sought to bring together the richest human flowers of the Plata, Peru, Chile, and Mexico. The scene nearly turned the head of Pierre when he entered. But the grace and beauty of all the other women was dimmed in his eyes when he perceived a young Chilean on the arm of a young and handsome Spaniard. With a skin as clear as blonde’s out of a wonderful smoothness, with eyes that absorbed the light and emitted it again in dazzling electric rays; with a divine mouth as innocent as voluptuous; with graceful rhythmic walk, and the sweep of her undulating curves she seemed to possess the quintessence of, the charms and seductions of twenty exquisite women. Pierre was overcome with the despair that follows too violent admiration. The love of such a creature seemed to him something unattainable, a thing to which a man could aspire only by genius heroism or some other great quality. During the entire evening each time she passed near the place where he sat watching her dancing or walking, a wave of passionate adoration and sadness surged through his being. He saw her again. He was introduced to her and in time to her mother. During the winter he loved her silently and without the least hope. What right had he to covet such a love, hundred men, the elite of Paris, would have killed themselves for her. And she was fabulously rich. So he loved her as one loves inaccessible things, the clouds, the stars or the sun. She welcomed him as she did others and her mother seemed to like him. What did that signify? Pierre was an impossibility. In debt up to his neck he passed through the most humiliating period of his life. The chief of his bureau warned him that he must either settle, with his creditors or the bureau would be compelled to dispense with his services. One evening the poor boy sat with his head is his hands reflecting upon his situation. The thought of suicide entered his brain. A tiny fire burned in his stove; the lamp with little oil flickered. He was cold and hungry, and he felt himself alone and without a sympathetic friend like an animal dying in a cave. In the midst of of the distress there came a vision of the Chilean belle and knowing that his clothes were no longer presentable, that his patent leather boots were cracked and that no tailor would give him credit, his desire for death became greater as he realized that he could not again meet his goddess. Mechanically he raised himself and went to the box where he kept his souvenirs in the hope that he might find some jewel that be could sell. Some portraits, yellowing letters, locks of hair, notes, and leaves and dry flowers were crushed under his hand. He encountered the journal of travels and turned over the pages. The notes on Chile awakened his interest. ‘I was twenty years old then,” he sighed, “How could I have known or the misery in store for me?” He read the lines written by Alvarado: “In ten years I promise to share my property with partner Pierre Lavalle.” He smiled sadly. “This very evening the ten years. If the good Alvarado wishes to keep his promise he has not much time left.” Two knocks were heard on the door. Pierre said to himself ironically: “There he is now.” He opened the door. He saw before him a man of large stature, white hair and beard with the mien of a cowboy and the color of cinnamon. The visitor addressed him in Spanish: Excuse me,” he said. “I am late. You are Mr. Lavalle?” “Yes,” replied Pierre astonished. “I am Alvarado.” The young man nearly dropped the the lamp. Alvarado continued: “I have come to pay my debt.” “Good,” thought Pierre, “It will enable me to buy some clothes so I can see her again.” Alvarado continued: “I have made my fortune, I bring you our accounts as we are partners. Aside from my personal property which I deduct, we possess between 90,000,000 and 100,000,000 francs. The half of these have been realized and 25,000,000 francs are at your disposal.” The the lamp fell. “Good,” continued Alvarado, “you are content. It is natural. That encourages me to demand something of you. I prefer that the money remain in my family and my family is composed of my sister and my niece.” Disappointment. Pierre had a vision of his magnificent Chilean and remained silent. “I wish that you marry my niece. You know her already. She is named Anita Fena.” Pierre threw himself upon the cowboy and covered his white head with kisses, while he sobbed for happiness. “And this,” concluded Landa, “is what it is to give 1,000 francs to a Chilean who seeks his fortune.” “I wish I could find one like him to stake,” groaned Langrume. A beggar passed and asked alms in a piteous voice. Langrume turned away. “Why do not the police arrest these vagabonds?” he growled. “It will bring you good luck to give him money.” said Landa. The banker took a franc from his pocket. “Make him write a memorandum in your Journal,” said Songeres.   translated by Mrs. Moses P. Handy (she died in 1933) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyBy Aleister Crowley atricia Fleming threw the reins to a groom, and ran up the steps into the great house, her thin lips white with rage. Lord Eyre followed her heavily. ‘I’ll be down in half an hour,’ she laughed merrily, ‘tell Dawson to bring you a drink!’ Then she went straight through the house, her girlish eyes the incarnation of a curse. For the third time she had failed to bring Geoffrey Eyre to her feet. She looked into her hat; there in the lining was the talisman that she had tested—and it had tricked her. What do I need? she thought. Must it be blood? She was a maiden of the pure English strain; brave, gay, honest, shrewd—and there was not one that guessed the inmost fire that burnt her. For she was but a child when the Visitor came. The first of the Visits was in a dream. She woke choking; the air—clear, sweet, and wholesome as it blew through the open window from the Chilterns—was fouled with a musty stench. And she woke her governess with a tale of a tiger. The second Visit was again at night. She had been hunting, was alone at the death, had beaten off the hounds. That night she heard a fox bark in her room. She spent a sleepless night of terror; in the morning she found the red hairs of a fox upon her pillow. The third Visit was nor in sleep nor waking. But she tightened her lips, and would have veiled the hateful gleam in her eyes. It was that day, though, that she struck a servant with her riding-whip. She was so sane that she knew exactly wherein her madness lay; and she set all her strength not to conquer but to conceal it. Two years later, and Patricia Fleming, the orphan heiress of Carthwell Abbey, was the county toast, Diana of the Chilterns. Yet Geoffrey Eyre evaded her. His dog’s fidelity and honesty kept him true to the little north-country girl that three months earlier had seduced his simplicity. He did not even love her; but she had made him think so for an hour; and his pledged word held him. Patricia’s open favour only made him hate her because of its very seduction. It was really his own weakness that he hated. Patricia ran, tense and angry, through the house. The servants noticed it. The mistress has been crossed, they thought, she will go to the chapel and get ease. Praising her.True, to the chapel she went; locked the door, dived behind the altar, struck a secret panel, came suddenly into a priest’s hiding-hole, a room large enough to hold a score of men if need be. At the end of the room was a great scarlet cross, and on it, her face to the wood, her wrists and ankles swollen over the whip lashes that bound her, hung a naked girl, big-boned, voluptuous. Red hair streamed over her back. ‘What, Margaret! so blue?’ laughed Patricia. ‘I am cold,’ said the girl upon the cross, in an indifferent voice. ‘Nonsense, dear!’ answered Patricia, rapidly divesting herself of her riding-habit. ‘There is nohint of frost; we had a splendid run, and a grand kill. You shall be warm yet, for all that.’ This time the girl writhed and moaned a little. Patricia took from an old wardrobe a close-fitting suit of fox fur, and slipped it on her slim white body. ‘Did I make you wait, dear?’ she said, with a curious leer. ‘I am the keener for the sport, be sure!’ She took the faithless talisman from her hat. It was a little square of vellum, written upon in black. She took a hairpin from her head, pierced the talisman, and drove the pin into the girl’s thigh. ‘They must have blood,’ said she. ‘Now see how I will turn the blue to red! Come! don’t wince: you haven’t had it for a month.’ Then her ivory arm slid like a serpent from the furs, and with the cutting whip she struck young Margaret between the shoulders. A shriek rang out: its only echo was Patricia’s laugh, childlike, icy, devilish. She struck again and again. Great weals of purple stood on the girl’s back; froth tinged with blood came from her mouth, for she had bitten her lips and tongue in agony. Patricia grew warm and rosy—exquisitely beautiful. Her bare breasts heaved; her lips parted; her whole body and soul seemed lapped in ecstasy. ‘I wish you were Geoffrey, girlie!’ she panted. Then the skin burst. Raw flesh oozed blood that dribbled down Margaret’s back. Still the fair maid struck and struck in the silence, until the tiny rivulets met and waxed great and touched the talisman. She threw the bloody whalebone into a corner, and went upon her knees. She kissed her friend; she kissed the talisman; and again kissed the girl, the warm blood staining her pure lips. She took the talisman, and hid it in her bosom. Last of all she loosened the cords, and Margaret sank in a heap to the floor. Patricia threw furs over her and rolled her up in them; brought wine, and poured it down her throat. She smiled, kindly, like a sister. ‘Sleep now awhile, sweetheart!’ she whispered, and kissed her forehead. It was a very demure and self-possessed little maiden that made dinner lively for poor Geoffrey, who was thinking over his mistake. Patricia’s old aunt, who kept house for her, smiled on the flirtation. It was not by accident that she left them alone sitting over the great fire. ‘Poor Margaret has her rheumatism again,’ she explained innocently; ‘I must go and see how she is.’ Loyal Margaret! So it happened that Geoffrey lost his head. ‘The ivy is strong enough’ (she had whispered, ere their first kiss had hardly died). ‘Before the moon is up, be sure!’ and glided off just as the aunt returned. Eyre excused himself; half a mile from the house he left his horse to his man to Lead home, and ten minutes later was groping for Patricia in the dark. White as a lily in body and soul, she took him in her arms. Awaking as from death, he suddenly cried out, ‘Oh God! What is it? Oh my God! my God! Patricia! Your body! Your body!’ ‘Yours!’ she cooed. ‘Why, you’re all hairy!’ he cried. ‘And the scent! the scent!’ From without came sharp and resonant the yap of a hound as the moon rose. Patricia put her hands to her body. He was telling the truth. ‘The Visitor!’ she screamed once with fright, and was silent. He switched the light on, and she screamed again. There was a savage lust upon his face. ‘This afternoon,’ he cried, ‘you called me a dog. I looked like a dog and thought like a dog; and, by God! I am a dog. I’ll act like a dog then!’ Obedient to some strange instinct, she dived from the bed for the window. But he was on her; his teeth met in her throat. In the morning they found the dead bodies of both hound and fox—but how did that explain the wonderful elopement of Lord Eyre and Miss Fleming? For neither of them was ever seen again. I think Margaret understands; in the convent which she rules today there hangs beside a blood-stained cutting-whip the silver model of a fox, with the inscription: ‘Patricia Margaritæ vulpis vulpem dedit.’ Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureRecent visitors to the satellite capitals of Eastern Europe have ‘been surprised to find excited crowds Lining up to buy tickets for performances of non-Communist films, plays and musicals. Communist officials, however, have their own reasons for permitting this seemingly paradoxical state of affairs. For one thing, satellite leaders apparently feel that the granting of minor entertainment concessions is a relatively harmless way of allowing the people an escape valve for their pent-up irritation and boredom. Menioérs of the Communist ruling apparatus, despite their insistence that “all is calm and under control,” seem to realize that the boredom which appears to be an unavoidable accompaniment of the party’s dictatorship must be prevented from developing into more serious social unrest. There is boredom with party jargon, boredom with the disparity between word and deed, boredom with the whole heritage of a Communist decade. The satellite regimes appear to be trying to counter this sense of irritation and isolation from the rest of the world partly by economic concessions and partly by a more liberal attitude toward popular entertainment. Communist officials, however, are finding that a solution for their self-created problem is far from simple. An impressive list of facts illustrate the dilemma of entertainment circles in the Communist states. Plays and films which receive official praise and recognition have proved to be flops, while films and theatrical products condemned for their “petty-bourgeois and decadent tendencies” have had popular runs. In Poland, out of a total of 3,400 motion picture theaters, only 96 have been profitable. In Hungary, 300 film theaters were on the verge of closing, until a 30 percent increase in the price of tickets and a system of government subsidies saved them, In Bulgaria, the biggest box-office successes have ‘been the locally produced “Legend of Love,” “Year of Love” and “On A Little Island.” However, these very films were censured by the Party’s Central Committee for “undermining Communist ideology, distorting and wrongly representing the character of the people’s revolutionists.” What, on the other hand, has been the fate of works rich in Communist ideology? Some Hungarian provincial theaters which tried to conform with party guidance and filled their repertoires with Soviet productions and other straight propaganda plays finished their seasons in virtual bankruptcy. The National Theatre of Miskolc, largest provincial town in Hungary, played consistently before houses a quarter or half-filled during the last season. On one occasion only seven theater-goers turned up for a performance of “One Night” by Cerbatov. The Kecskemet Theater finished its season with a 50,000 dollar (one million forints) deficit. The National Theater of Gyor was given high official praise for its “excellent performances of Soviet and Czech plays.” But the box-office results were so appalling that the manager resigned in the middle of ‘the season. This theater went ‘bankrupt despite heavy subsidies. Conversely, those theaters and playhouses in Hungary and Poland whose managers bowed to popular demand have played to full houses. In Poland, 19 modern “western” plays had successful 1958 runs. In Hungary the plays of Tennessee Williams, Thornton Wilder and John Osborne, as well as pre-war operettas and light musical comedies, are unrivaled as ‘box-office hits.  Party spokesmen have repeatedly scolded directors of cultural centers end theaters for saying “we go bankrupt with modern Socialist plays, for works with topical themes can be neither artistic, nor successful, so let’s turn back to bourgeois entertainment.” The University Playhouse in Budapest has tried both ways. A series of shows about revolutionary songs and poets were produced for swell audiences. The next program concentrated on popular folk songs and a recital of Burns’ poems. As the Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag remarked, the directors “avoided with painful cautiousness the modern Soviet and Hungarian Socialist works, assuming that in doing so they could avoid the empty houses.” While the party paper scoffed at the unpolitical schedule, the series drew capacity audiences. Recently a special commission investigated the program of 42 cultural centers and 10 factory clubs in Hungary. It concluded that operettas, folk songs and bourgeois plays are preponderant. When asked why this is so, the managers replied unanimously: “This is what our people want. Coming from work, they want light entertainment. And we need the income in order to finance our other programs,” The same argument is valid in other satellite countries, such as Romania. Currently, a musical comedy has had a popular run in the Tanase Theater in Bucharest, although the director was accused by the party newspaper of having succumbed to bourgeois taste and ideology. Night clubs, such as the Lido, Ambassador and Continental in Bucharest have been reprimanded for playing decadent music – although to full houses. In Romania and Hungary, regime authorities have started a massive campaign of persuasion and coercion to strengthen party guidance over a series of flourishing amateur theater ensembles. More then 4,000 Hungarian artists who tour in small groups, and are not affiliated with large theaters, are being screened by a special commission. Every single performance must be submitted to a Control Board 15 days before the scheduled showing. The cultural departments of the Municipal Councils also exercise control over songs and plays, In Romania, roving inspectors supervise the local ensembles. The manager and director of the Victoria Club in Cluj, for example, were discharged because they permitted presentation of a program “pervaded with petty bourgeois taste.” In general, professional or semi-professional theatrical groups in Hungary, Poland and to some extent in Romania prefer one-act plays or musicals which ere devoid of any propaganda and political angles. While heavily-subsidized regular theaters wrestle with chronic financial troubles, these ensembles, by meeting popular demand are immediately successful. At the same time, however, satellite financial authorities demand box-office results from the theaters and movie houses, while regime cultural spokesmen seem determined to repress any tendencies toward artistic freedom. So the unhappy managers are forced to pay lip-service to the cause of “socialist realism” by advertising Soviet and other Communist plays and then filling their houses with school-children or workers bribed with free tickets. Simultaneously they try to balance their budgets by showing more “western” or non-political Hungarian plays. “We must eliminate the gap between the wishes of the unsophisticated masses and the superior claims of Socialist culture,” the recently issued cultural directives of the Hungarian Communist Party warned. But “the clash between the needs of the box office and those of party doctrine remain as sharp as ever. Meanwhile, satellite theater managers and directors are constantly tormented by the problem of either reaping official praise and going bankrupt or making money and running the risk of being labeled ‘politically unreliable’…” From the 1959 CIA report, “The Creative Artist in A Communist Society” (now in the public domain and free online). Paul Landy (born 1929-) is a former Budapest writer and editor who left Hungary after the country’s unsuccessful 1956 freedom uprising. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureOur new podcast  series, “At the Bottom of the Sea”, starts one rainy afternoon in Tromso, a small town in North Norway some time in the near future. We follow a number of characters as they board a helicopter. There is Frank Hansen, a military diver, Fatima Ali, the cook and several others. The aircraft are heading to a converted oil rig in the middle of the North Sea. There, a diving vessel will take them to the sea floor and a research base, a permanent settlement 2000 m below the surface. However, something goes wrong, and soon events unfold which baffle the imagination and test them all. The Cast Frank Hansen (military diver) Krister Brandser Fatima Ali (cook) Julie Hoverson Peter Edwardsen (base leader) Peter Yearsley Henrik Abelsen (genius mathmatician) George Snow Hans Storm (biologist) mentioned character Egon Gundersen (engineeer) mentioned character  Schultz (chief engineer)  mentioned character Inga & Nils (twins, kitchen help)  mentioned characters The play was written and edited by  Michael Henrik Wynn (historyradio.org editor) Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 1. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 2. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 3. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 4. (conclusion) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyMy name is dr. John Smith, and I am – or rather was – a GP in a mid-sized town. I am about to retire, my own health is failing, and I wish to pass on some memories of a patient that really meant a lot to me. Of course, we had no private friendship, but I did talk to him in consultations and I bumped into him now and again in the street. At the time I had just turned fifty, the desperation and ambition of my midlife crisis had passed. I had packed up my leather jackets and my tight training outfits, and had accepted that I would remain in my small practice for the rest of my life. My wife had long since packed up her things and left, allegedly on the grounds of my ties to the male patriarchy, and my son had a pregnant girlfriend in the capital, far from his patronizing, though always well-meaning father. What remained for me then was my own mother, whom I visited every Sunday in her home, bringing various things that she needed from the shops. I also learnt that my only friend, Peter, my colleague at the practice, had been offered a wonderful job in the pharmaceutical industry with a huge pay, and would be transferring some of his patients who did not want a new GP that required lengthy travels to me. I was very sad that last day I saw him in our clinic, even though I knew he would always be there for me on the phone, and that I could visit him whenever I wanted. Work not be the same. As I went through the list of my new patients, I saw that most of them were old, including old Jacob, the subject of this story. At the time, however, he was one of many, and it is in fact because he was so typical that he has remained in my mind all these years. I first saw him a Wednesday in June, and he was a tall thin man in his mid eighties. His face was wrinkled like sun dried-leather, and his brows were bushy, but he had a modest, almost shy smile, and very intelligent eyes. He seemed surprisingly agile for a man his age. Since this was our first meeting, he told me something about himself. He was not an educated man by any means, he had been a fisherman, and then a truck driver, but he had also been on some ship ages ago. This man is an anachronism, I thought, how many old sailors are left these days? I listened to his chest, made examinations, did blood work, nothing unusual. He then got up and left, and the results were Ok when they arrived, which I told him the next time. It was not until August that year that he started complaining about pain and being short of breath, and I then sent him to the local hospital for further tests, knowing his age. At this time, I was feeling a little lonely privately, and I had decided to scan all my mother’s family photos, and restore them digitally. I had nothing to do when I was alone in my apartment, and this also gave me a subject on which to chat and reminiscence with my mother. She was more than delighted, and often looked at each photo with a nostalgic smile. Everything was tied to a story, and even though she had recounted all of these stories God knows how many times, I enjoyed hearing them again. Somehow, I was reminded about who I was, and where I had come from. And this knowledge was more powerful than my wife’s irrational, but long-anticipated departure or my son’s indifference. When I returned from these meetings, I felt that I had more energy in my work, and I spoke to the likes of old Jacob, and was more dutiful in the performance of my job. Once I asked Jacob whether he had anyone to support him during his old age, knowing that my mother at least had me. “Do you know my age?”, he asked. “Yes, but still…” “Everyone I know has long since left this world, and I have no children. You see as you grow older, you will notice that one by one witnesses leave you, one by one..” “Witnesses……?” “Yes, the people who was the life you once had. Who knew you while you still were a man about town and so on.” “I don’t think I have ever qualified for that description. I have been a nerd all my life. God knows I have tried…” “I was a very smooth operator in my prime”, he said with a very unexpected confidence in his gray eyes. As I looked at his face then, I tried to restore the man in my mind the way he had once been. If you straightened out his wrinkles, if you removed the bushy brows, if you corrected his back, and if you gave him a thick black mane, perhaps oiled, he would be a very handsome man! I shuck my head at the thought. But then I looked at him, and laughed. That was a very nice moment for the two of us. And then he left. That evening I went to the shop to get things for my mother. She was very particular about what she ate. Some people think picky eating is an eccentric and demanding cry for attention, but being a doctor I knew very well that the reason was related to bowel movements and stuff that most people feel uncomfortable discussing with others. So, I got her what she demanded. I arrived at the home around seven. Evening was falling, yet no stars were up. As I entered and walked down the white linoleum corridors towards the counter, I noticed at once something new in the glances from the nurses. As I placed my hands its surface, I knew that something had happened. My mother had a sudden heart attack, and had passed away very suddenly in the evening. It had been very quick, she had not suffered, they told me. But somehow that did not matter. I almost ran home, locked the door to my apartment, drew the curtains and cried. I then sent an email to work, and called in sick. In fact I did not leave my home for three days, when I was forced to get food from the store. I spoke to no-one, and I only called my son four days after my mother’s death. I have always been reluctant to burden my son with my own feelings and problems. I have always felt that parents should remain a rock in their children’s lives, and that part of being a parent is hiding those frustrations that one feels at work or elsewhere, and provide safety and security. After all, that is what remained in my own experience. Being a doctor I have dealt with the practicalities of funerals many times. But this time it was different. Going online and visiting what seems like a brochure of various coffins somehow seems perverse. “Special autumn sale!” “20% discount on our finest model!” And when you enter the store in person, and that slick salesman slides in front you with exaggerated sympathy, accompanied by words like “payment options” and “down payment”, it adds to a certain surrealism. And that surrealism is what remains of the person that you once were. I walked down the shop floor feeling the fabric and texture of coffin interiors, the smoothness of their varnish. Then I was overcome by grief and asked for the bathroom. I sat there for ten minutes, staring at the tiled floors. As I left, I had decided upon a model, and was about to wave to the salesman, when I saw him in what seemed like a very pleasant conversation with an elderly man. I heard laughter, the old man patted the young salesman on the shoulder. When the man turned, I recognized old Jacob. His eyesight was poor, I knew, and he hadn’t seen me at the far end of the shop. I withdrew into the corner, and saw him striding about the room touching the coffins one by one. “I will take this one,” he suddenly said. Then he produced his credit card, paid and brought up what seemed like a shopping list. He had a small pencil, and then then crossed out one item. Then he left. The whole scene had come so suddenly, that I quite forgot about my own purchase. The salesman approached me, but I stood completely stunned for a while. “I will be back tomorrow,” I said and made for the exit. It was late September, and there were leaves on the sidewalk. Old Jacob was three hundred meters down the road moving very slowly. I don’t know what came over me, but I followed him at a distance. 200 meters farther on there was a huge supermarket. He then vanished in a crowd, but I tracked him down in the milk section. There he noticed me and his face lit up with that shy smile of that former smooth operator. “Hello Jacob,” I said nervously, what are you doing here?” “Shopping!” he said, “I needed some things”. Then he lifted a liter of milk and placed it in his shopping cart next to a box of coffee. “That would be it!” he said. And then he brought out his list and his small pencil, and crossed out his items. And then he left. I never saw him again. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literature«He is about as much the English Toltoi as Mr Maeterlinck is the Belgian Shakespeare», raged the English feminist M.G. Fawcett. Grant Allen wrote one of the most controversial books of the nineteenth century, a cheap novel that everybody hated, but which they simply had to read. Wolf Island, the small island where Grant Allen’s father worked as a clergyman, is located at the north-east end of Lake Ontario. His mother was of aristocratic descent. Allen was one of seven siblings in a happy and well respected family. But then his father ran into difficulties with his local bishop, and Allen followed his parents to Massachusetts, and from there to France and England. His father made sure he had a proper education. The travels provided Allen with experience and a unique understanding of language, and in the end he studied Latin and Greek at Oxford while his parents returned to America. He married early to a sick woman who lay paralyzed in her bed for two years, and even if he later found the love of his life, he never forgot her. His most famous book, written two decades later, was dedicated to her. Professor in Jamaica The sun never set on the British Empire in the middle of the 19th century. It was the heyday of Social Darwinism and the ideas of Herbert Spencer. In Jamaica at this time a small college was established to teach the natives to be white, well, at least culturally. Grant Allen left university in 1871. For a time he «took perforce to that refuge of the destitute, the trade of the schoolmaster. To teach Latin and Greek at Brighton College, Cheltenham College, reading Grammar School, successively, was the extremely uncongenial task imposed upon me by the chances of the universe. But in 1873, providence, disguised as the Colonial Office, sent me out in charge of a new Government College At Spanish Town, Jamaica» Suddenly he was offered a position as a professor of Moral and Mental Philosophy in Jamaica. Allen gathered his old chums, and celebrated what was to become a journey of disillusionment. The treatment of the local population shocked him, and he eventually came to despise British upper class morality. It was perhaps not so strange because there circulated rumours in the Jamaican press that he had fathered an illegitimate child. A fan of Herbert Spencer His professorship opened his eyes to philosophy, and Herbert Spencer’s evolutionary thoughts in particular. His father had most certainly introduced him to the ideas of the man who, even if he was a quintessential Brit, had become America’s favorite contemporary philosopher. At Oxford Allen’s interest had grown. At Jamaica his interest began bordering on admiration, and he wrote a poem in honor of Spencer, which he mailed to him. On his return to Britain he decided to pay the philosopher a visit, and this became the beginning of a permanent friendship. Allen wrote a thesis about the effect of evolution on aesthetics and he specialized in the link between perception and different physical characteristics in different species. Allen had a unique ability to explain difficult theories in such a way that they became accessible to everyone, and he was therefore warmly received by contemporary greats, like Darwin, Wallace, Huxley, Hooker and Spencer. Almost a biologist At the end of the 1870s Spencer had already followed his only love interest to the grave, and Darwin had become a private and revered authority that controlled the scientific societies from his Down House just outside London. The struggle for control of the science societies was over, and this seemed promising for young evolutionary biologists. But in order to make a living from science you either needed to come from a wealthy family, like Darwin, or you would have to be awarded an academic position, like Huxley. Even Wallace struggled financially. As a newly converted follower of spiritualism Wallace had lost scientific prestige, and he now survived almost exclusively on Darwin’s limitless generosity. If Allen was to provide for his new-born son, he needed to write something that brought him cold cash. Almost a writer Grant Allen settled in Dorking in Surrey, not far from London. His writings had already resulted in several literary friendships, so it was only natural that he would give it a try himself. But he had no illusions about the extent of his own talent: it paid a great deal better than scientific journalism» he wrote ten years later «I decided me that my rôle in life henceforth must be that of a novelist. And a novelist I now am, good, bad, or indifferent». Allen did create several memorable characters, such as Colonel Clay, a precursor to Sherlock Holmes, and for a decade he surrounded himself with writers like Meredith and Gissing. He was a familiar face at all the contemporary news desks, and established himself as one of the most prolific journalists in the business. The age of queen Victoria was now drawing to a close, and new and more challenging cultural movements were taking hold in the thriving cities. Decadence, for instance, dismissed contemporary moralism and socialism challenged the aristocracy and the upper class. Workers and women marched, and the tabloid press constantly pushed the boundaries of what what could be submitted to the newspapers. Allen was caught up by these new movements. In 1892, Allen moved from Dorking to a larger house at Hindhead. His old student friend Edward Clodd was a frequent visitor, and Allen was popular among the people of the press. Even if he suffered from chronic chest pains, he and his wife, Ellen, seemed like the perfect couple. Every Sunday he went for bicycle rides with his neighbor, Arthur Conan Doyle, and every Tuesday he would lunch with Frank Harris, the infamous tabloid editor. Spencer popped in now and again, but he eventually understood that Allen had outgrown him. There was no love lost between Spencer and the Fabian socialists. There was an unspoken disagreement between Spencer and Allen that would not become known until they were both dead. From a distance Spencer observed the developments that would transform the man who had been his closest ally into the most controversial man in Britain. Scandal It all started when Allen, at the end of the 1880s, began to take an interest in the question of women’s rights. Women’s liberation had created a new kind of female who did not care for traditional values and who was often shunned by the elite. She was often an intellectual, something which, in the eyes of the establishment, reduced her femininity and made her sterile. When Allen wrote an article about «The Woman of the Future» the responses were immediate. Both female socialists and conservative Christians reacted to his many references to biological science. Even an ardent socialist like Wallace thought it was too much, and argued against Allen’s view of women because, as Wallace put it, sensuality was an important cause for the downfall of civilizations. Allen had taken an interest in Darwin’s theory of sexual selection already in the 1870s. In his own articles he tried to show that emotions served an important function in the evolutionary process. This resulted in a deep-seated fear of any tampering with traditional gender roles and anything that might upset the natural order. In 1893, Allen went on one of his many trips to the North of Italy. He spent the spring writing a novel called The Woman Who Did, a short but controversial story about a woman who refuses to marry the man she loves because she sees marriage as an oppressive institution. She is brought down by her own convictions, and sacrifices her own biological needs. In the end, not even her only daughter respects her, and she commits suicide. Financial success On his return to England Allen tried in vain to find publisher. He was about to burn the manuscript when John Lane, who had an eye for controversy, decided to take a chance. There was a huge commotion from the get-go. Was his protagonist realistically portrayed, or perhaps the writer was insane? The novel was a bombshell. Did the writer try to defend women’s rights as he himself claimed, or was he a conservative? Was he defending promiscuity or marriage? Or did he, as one reviewer claimed, try to undermine the very foundations of civilized society? The debate continued as new editions were printed. Booksellers in Ireland wanted nothing to do with the infamous blasphemer. Then the novel was published in America, and Grant Allen became an international celebrity. Also, he became wealthy. Satirical parodies such as The Woman Who Wouldn’t by Lucas Cleeve and The Woman Who Didn’t by Victoria Cross were published. In a very awkward way, Allen made himself a public enemy at the same time as he finally achieved a little prosperity. One of his closest friends, the historian Fredrick York Powell, lost patience with him: «Is Allen still frightened over his book? I tried to reassure him. There is nothing new or startling in it, but he has managed to catch the Philistine’s ear: it is silly to bother about answering his critics and he does not do it well. He is such a good fellow and so earnest, and so deaf to the comic side of things that he always has an open place to be attacked in- and it hurts him» The hardworking Grant Allen was never able to rest on his laurels. The disease that had haunted him throughout his life gradually worsened. After a long illness with chronic pains Grant Allen dies in October 1899. He left behind one of the most talked about and least understood novels in English literature. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureLaura White is a renowned expert on Jane Austen. However, she has chosen a novel approach to this classic British icon. The Nebraska professor is an innovator in the emerging field of digital humanities, and studies literature by means of a computer. The rigid divide between human creativity and the world of binary computer code is quickly being bridged, according to Google.  I had a few words with professor White about this new branch of study, and what it means for writing and literary studies. Historyradio.org: You have studied Jane Austen, have you discovered something new about her, something we couldn’t have discovered without the use of a computer? Professor White: Yes, I think so. What we did was identify (code) each and every word in the six major novels as to speaker. That’s easy to do for the narrator and character speech, but trickier with free indirect diction, when the narrator is “speaking for” a character, using his or her vocabulary and point of view. Such shared speech we coded as such, and weighted to reflect the depth of ventriloquism. The results are not yet fully known, because what we created is a public sandbox in which people can design their own searches about diction to use the coding we created—there is a lot waiting to be discovered. But at the very least we found that Austen’s use of free indirect discourse (and she was the first major novelist to exploit FID fully) was far more complex and varied than we (and all the scholars writing on the subject thus far) had suspected. We also have found some cute nuggets—for instance, the fact that no male character in Austen uses the word “wedding” and no female character uses the word “marriage”! Historyradio.org: When you began your studies of Austen, did you have to create your own methodology? Professor White: We had to create coding that would properly reflect the complexity of Austen’s speakers: was the speech spoken or written? How many levels of speaker are in a given phrase (in one letter, for instance, we have the string of Mrs.Younge-told-Darcy-told-Mr.Gardiner-told-Mrs.Gardiner-told-Elizabeth-told-reader). But the flexible marvel of .xml already existed, and even more importantly, the program TokenX, designed by our team member Brian Pytlik Zillig (Professor at UNL’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities), was at our service. TokenX determines unique frequencies of words and thus provides an easy-to-use interface for text analysis (especially through frequency tables) and visualization. Historyradio.org: I have heard of similar studies on Agatha Christie, and that they were able to create a profile of her style. Is this your goal with Jane Austen? Professor White: You can’t actually get to a full knowledge of Austen’s style, even by understanding her patterns of diction, because verbal irony (and its reverberations) can’t be caught mathematically—and her verbal irony is pervasive. But you can learn a lot about her use of free indirect diction, which is in turn important to understanding her style. One could make a profile about percentages of indirect diction, dialogue, and so on—but that would only be helpful to compare with other writers—or, using big data searches, comparing that data against the profile of such a thing as “the eighteenth-century British novel” or “Henry James” (the latter being an author who took Austen’s innovations with FID and ran with them about as far as they can be run). Our project may indeed do such things in the future—it’s the next obvious step. Historyradio.org: If you had something resembling a profile, not only of her choice of words, but of the larger patterns in her plot construction, do you think a computer could emulate Austen? Could it produce a fake Austen, so to speak? Professor White: You could perhaps create an Austen that could fool some people, but it wouldn’t be a good fake. Unless you can feed in her values (not possible) AND her education, including but not restricted to her reading (difficult) AND the operations of her irony (not possible), you’ll just get a partial simulacrum. Historyradio.org: This new approach could be used to compare authors, and then detect larger patterns in literary and cultural history. Austen is of course a central figure in the development of the English novel. In the past, this has been studied by Ian Watt and others. Do you think we now could have a more empirical history of literature? Professor White: I do think we can have more data that tells us interesting things about patterns of diction and clusters of tropes across large bodies of texts—a lot of people at UNL, such as my colleagues Steve Ramsay and Matt Jockers, do work on just that sort of thing. Matt for instance has very recently uncovered a lot of information about patterns among popular fiction, especially bestsellers. If we can design the right questions, we can find some interesting answers. But as I pointed out before, huge literary elements such as irony can’t be reckoned computationally, so a Theory of All Lit from digital humanities is impossible. Historyradio.org: Gillian Beer, Arthur O. Lovejoy and others have specialized in detecting patterns from the history of ideas in fiction. Can a computer assist us in this type of study? Professor White: This kind of work is my favorite kind of scholarship to read, that which finds the largest patterns in imaginative literature over the centuries. I’d recommend your readers go to Northrop Frye’s The Anatomy of Criticism (1957) for the best of such of work; Eric Auerbach’s Mimesis (1946) is also marvelous. For finding the largest patterns in the Bible, read Frye’s The Great Code (1982) (admittedly very demanding). And, yes, to some degree, computers can help with this kind of work, especially with discerning patterns of diction and plot (though in the latter case obviously the text won’t tell you its own plot—a human being has to schematize what happens and feed that information in). Historyradio.org: Where do you see the field of digital humanities in 20 years or so? Professor White: Moving upward and onwards. By the 90s, humanities had been somewhat exhausted following the usual roads of literary criticism—I don’t generally advise students to focus on Jane Austen, for instance, because it’s very hard to find room for an original thought. One way the humanities are being revitalized is with a much more stringent attention to history, and digital humanities plays a role here too by making it easy to read texts long forgotten, literary and otherwise. For instance, in my recent book on Carroll’s Alice books, I made much use of the texts in Carroll’s library of about 3,000 volumes. They were all auctioned off at his death, but catalogs of the library which have been produced by Jeffrey Stern and Charlie Lovett let one read his library cover to cover through Googlebooks, Hathitrust, and other such digitization initiatives. When read in detail, one finds this virtual library corrects many of the critical and biographical misperceptions about Carroll. And these resources are just a small part of how digital humanities is transforming literary studies: visualization, archives, data-mining all play a part. Historyradio.org: Some people think that creativity is unique to us as humans, and may feel threatened by the fact that our “cultural soul” is gradually dissected by computers. What do you say to them? Professor White: I’d agree that creativity is unique to humans, though some of the higher apes do seem to like to finger-paint. Computers can’t be creative—it isn’t possible. They can be programmed to make wild outputs, and we might think creative thoughts about those generated outputs, but there’s no creativity on the part of the computer involved. We are more threatened by computers in terms of surveillance; we are not at all private when we’re online, and big data (which doesn’t care about us as individuals) can nonetheless potentially be retrofitted to be small data, fingering us one by one. So people are right to worry about this—since human beings are in charge of computers, it is very unlikely that they will always be used for good (no other human invention has been).   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyWhen Mohammad died in 632, most of the Arabian peninsula had converted to his new religion. Soon a rapid expansion of the faith across most of North Africa followed, untill a caliphate was established. During the Middle Ages, Islam became the sworn enemy of Christian Europe. Even so, it is through Islamic custodianship that much of the legacy of classical Antiquity survived.  The animosity between cultures seems to have reached a new peak in the wake of the war on terror following 9/11. Today, there is hardly a more controversial historical figure than the prophet Muhammad, the man who, in 610 A.D., at the age of 40, sought refuge in a mountain cave and was visited by the angel Gabriel. We talked with a well-known moderate, British proponent of interfaith dialogues, Methodist and historian, Martin Forward.  We asked him to introduce Muhammad to those of us unfamiliar with his life. Historyradio.org: You have studied Muhammad and written a short biography of the man, what attracted you to this subject? Muhammad has had a very bad press in the west as a false prophet, an epileptic, a cardinal who went bad and founded another religion out of spite, and a host of other bad things. These criticisms arose in part out of people dissing what they fear. Islam was a threat to Europe’s Christian identity for over 1,000 years: as late as 1683, Ottoman Turks laid siege to the gates of Vienna. But they also arose out of a genuine puzzlement: why, Christians thought, did Muslims need another religious founder after Jesus? Why could they not accept him and his religion? So I found him a fascinating figure and wanted to see what I thought of him. Writing it out helped that process! Historyradio.org: In the West, we often compare Muhammad to Jesus, but how fair is that comparison? Muslims compare Jesus with Muhammad. For Muslims, Jesus is a prophet, Messiah and son of Mary (but not of God). Christians, as I have said, often regard Muhammad as a fraud, though there is no obligation, in their religion, to have a point of view about Muhammad at all, since he post-dates it. Understandably, Muslims are often disappointed that Christians can’t find fine things to say about Muhammad when they themselves hold Jesus in high regard. Equally understandable, Christians are disappointed that Muslims high regard for Jesus misses (from their perspective) the important point about him and his role in salvation. Historyradio.org:  Do all Muslims have the same view of Muhammad? Are there differences within sects or traditions? There are different views but they’ve been submerged by the dominant one. An early view, that of the Mutazilites, didn’t see him as a passive recipient of an inerrant scripture but gave him a much more positive role in its manufacture. There views were quickly abandoned as innovative, though they re-emerge in the writings of Muslim modernists in Egypt and India (e.g. Syed Ameer Ali’s “The Spirit of Islam”) Shiahs tend to emphasize Muhammad as a charismatic leader whose descendants may inherit some of that spiritual power, whereas Sunnis are more cautious about this. But the vast majority have the view that he is the last and greatest prophet, after whom there will be no more prophets. Historyradio.org: What sources do we have about his life, and how reliable are these sources? The Qur’an and the hadith (traditions). Muslims and until recently, western scholars of Islam, have taken a conservative view of these and see them as closely linked to the historical life of the prophet and as reliable guides to it. But radical recent western historians now often regard the Qur’an as a work that wasn’t fixed and finalized until many years after Muhammad’s death. Muslims don’t accept this, but the evidence is quite compelling that, e.g., some of the Qur’an is post-Muhammad. (John Wansbrough and Patricia Crone are famous exponents of this view). Historyradio.org:  What sort of a man was he? Was he an educated man? Many Muslims believe him to have been illiterate and this has the advantage of highlighting the miracle of the Qur’an and its divine provenance. Since he was a member of a distinguished clan, and the husband of a wealthy businesswoman, Khadijah, it’s likely that he was able to read and write (though, as I say, many Muslims don’t believe so,) and to do basic math. Historyradio.org:  We often hear that Muhammad was a military man, and that as such he cannot be worthy of being praised. How should we deal with this issue? How do Muslims deal with it? Islam was the most successful religion of all, in its infancy. Within a few years, it had destroyed the Persian Empire, and vastly reduced the territories of the Byzantine Empire. Within a century Muslims controlled much of the Middle East and North Africa, and had entered Europe as conquerors through the Iberian peninsula. Islam’s success was based on military power. This isn’t a problem for Muslims, God being on the side of the righteous, though it conflicts with views of Jesus as the prince of peace. To Christians, Muhammad seems to be a violent sort of prophet. To many Muslims, Jesus seems to have been an unsuccessful one, dying before he could implement his vision in any concrete ways. Historyradio.org: Describe for us the sort of tribal culture he was born into? He was born into a distinguished clan, the Quraysh. Clan life was originally desert based and gave its members an identity and a loyalty. You could, e.g., raid another clan but not your own. Mecca, the town where he was born, was on the silk route. Many scholars suggest that greedy capitalism was beginning to subvert tribal values at the time of Muhammad, and see this as the background to the Qur’an’s condemnation of those who oppress the poor and needy. Historyradio.org: How did Muhammad regard women? This is a minefield. He had many wives, and had them veiled out of respect, though he didn’t require other women to be veiled. He limited wives to four, for others, and some Muslims claim polygamy was a concession to circumstances, to protect and look after widows of the Muslims who died fighting against pagan Meccans. One of his wives, Ayesha, was very young, and his marriage to her nowadays would be regarded as pedophilia. But it wasn’t a problem then, if you compare it with practices in Greek and other cultures. Historyradio.org:  There is the very difficult topic of Muhammad’s relationship with the Jews. How should we today interpret his military actions against Jews? Muhammad saw them as thorns in his side, preventing him from implementing his vision; fifth-columnists, if you like. He acted as leaders of his day did, removing them in a ruthless fashion. But he wasn’t a modern anti-Semite, regarding Jews as intrinsically sub-human. In the Middle Ages, Jews often did pretty well under Muslim rule, as opposed to Christian rule. Historyradio.org: Why is it so important for some Muslims that we don’t show artistic representations of Muhammad. Like Jews, (but unlike Christians) Muslims believe that God is incomparably beyond our power to depict him artistically or in any other way. Muhammad is the messenger of God. and so should be afforded the same courtesy. Historyradio.org:  What do the sources say about his appearance? Do we know anything about what he actually looked like? I summarize his appearance in my book. There I write: “He was of average height or a little taller. He was strongly built. His complexion was fair. He had a hooked nose, and black eyes flecked with brown. He had a good head of hair, and was bearded. He had a large mouth, which occasionally broke into a warm smile. His was a mobile body: he turned his whole self to look at somebody, spoke rapidly and to the point, and was often in a rush.” Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyOn June 30, 1980, a promising young academic got into his car in Guyana. Minutes later a bomb detonated and he was instantly killed. That man was Walter Rodney, an influential historian whose thinking about Africa and the colonial legacy caused an uproar in the 1960s and 70s. But who was Rodney really and what was his academic legacy? And was his mysterious murder in any way connected to his revolutionary ideas? We asked Dwayne Wong Omowale, author of The Political and Intellectual Legacy of Walter Rodney. Historyradio.org: Why is Walter Rodney such an important character in African intellectual history? Dwayne Wong Omowale: Walter Rodney’s importance to African intellectual history is the work that he was doing was very revolutionary in many ways. He was a historian and political activist who challenged many of the racist ideologies and ideas that were prominent in academia at the time, but more so than challenging the often racist and Eurocentric narratives about Africa’s history, Rodney also spoke out against the injustices that were being inflicted against African people around the world. What is also especially noteworthy about Rodney is that he seemed to have left a profound impact wherever he worked, whether it was in Guyana, Jamaica, Tanzania, or in the United States. Prior to this death, Rodney was also planning to move to Zimbabwe because he was invited to work as a professor there. Very few Pan-African intellectuals left the type of global legacy that Rodney did. Historyradio.org: Tell us a little about his background, his family and education? Dwayne Wong Omowale: Rodney was born in British Guiana in 1942. His father was a member of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which was led by an Indian man named Cheddi Jagan. At the time the PPP was the leading anti-colonial political party in British Guiana. Eventually there was a split between Jagan and Forbes Burnham, who was one of the founders of the PPP. Burnham would go on to create his own political party, the People’s National Congress (PNC). Burnham would go on to lead British Guiana into independence in 1966 and the name of the country was subsequently changed to Guyana after independence. In school Rodney was able to distinguish himself as a very brilliant student and he eventually earned a scholarship to study at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He then completed his doctorate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, England in 1966. Rodney was 24 at the time that he finished his doctorate. The interesting thing about this is that when Rodney began working as a professor in Tanzania some thought that he was one of the students because Rodney was actually younger than many of the students there. Historyradio.org: When did he start developing his theories about colonialism? Dwayne Wong Omowale: As I mentioned, Rodney’s father was involved in the PPP at the time. As a child Rodney was tasked with distributing party manifestos, so Rodney was introduced to politics and the anti-colonial struggle in Guyana at a young age. As an undergraduate at the University of the West Indies, Rodney was involved in campus activities, which included many of the political discussions that were being held at the time. In 1962, Rodney traveled to Cuba and returned with a book by Che Guevara. That same year Rodney also attended a congress that was held in Russia. It was during this period as an undergraduate that Rodney was being exposed to communist literature and this would continue when Rodney went to study in England. There Rodney was in contact with communists. C.L.R. James, who was from Trinidad, was a significant influence for Rodney. James was a Pan-Africanist and a Marxist theoretician. Rodney participated in study groups with James and other Marxists in England. Rodney’s theories regarding colonialism were developed during his years in college as an undergraduate and a graduate student, but Rodney was exposed to the anti-colonial struggle since he was a child. Historyradio.org: According to Rodney the West prevented Africa from developing after liberation. Especially the multinationals were blamed. With the benefit of hindsight, does his theories still hold water? Dwayne Wong Omowale: In hindsight much of what Rodney said regarding multinationals is still very much true. We can look at the blood diamond controversy for example. Civil wars in countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Congo were financed by Western diamond industries. In Botswana the San people took the government to court because the government of Botswana was trying to evict the San people from their land in order to gain access to the diamond deposits there. Aside from blood diamonds, there is also the issue of coltan from the Congo. Coltan is used for electrical devices such as smart phones. The mining of coltan has included forced labor, as well as child labor. These are just two quick examples of how multinational corporations have been exploiting Africa’s resources and hindering Africa’s development since Rodney died. There still is this persistent issue of foreign nations benefiting from Africa’s resources at the expense of the African people. Much of the mineral wealth and resources that is extracted from Africa benefits foreign corporations and foreign nations, but Africa remains underdeveloped and the African masses are still struggling. This relationship has not changed very significantly since Rodney was alive. Historyradio.org: What sort of reception did his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972) get? It was not as scholarly as his dissertation? Dwayne Wong Omowale: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is Rodney’s most well-known book. The reception to it has been very positive largely because Rodney was able to put Africa’s underdevelopment and poverty into its proper historical context. Rodney was not the first person to suggest that there was a relationship between Africa’s underdevelopment and Europe’s exploitation of Africa, but How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was a very extensive study of that relationship. It was also a very important work because it dispelled the idea that colonialism was a benefit for African people. Colonialism was often justified on the basis of bringing civilization or modern advances to Africa, but Rodney demonstrated that the technological gains that Africa made as a result of colonialism were very minimal at best and this was offset by the tremendous suffering that Africans endured as a result of colonialism. Medical care is one area that Rodney specifically addressed. Typically, the best medical care was reserved for Europeans who were living in Africa and Africans were forced to be treated in hospitals that were in very poor condition. In most cases Africans simply did not have access to hospitals at all because the European administrations decided not to build one. Rodney also criticized the fact that in many colonies the Europeans not only failed to provide medical care, but they also failed to train African doctors. The benefits of modern medicine from Western society was not something that the majority of Africans were not able to truly benefit from, yet Africans badly needed proper healthcare because they were being overworked and underfed by the colonial administrations. Malnourishment and curable diseases killed many Africans during colonialism. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was more of a polemic against colonialism in Africa than Rodney’s dissertation was, so it may not have been as scholarly in that regard, but How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was still very thoroughly researched and built on some of the arguments that Rodney had made in his dissertation. Historyradio.org: He was quite a controversial figure on Jamaica where he worked for a while. What were the 1968 Rodney Riots? Dwayne Wong Omowale: He was very controversial in Jamaica. At the time there was a growing Black Power movement in the Caribbean, which was influenced by the Black Power movement in the United States. Many in the Caribbean were frustrated with the fact that colonialism had ended, but there was still a lot of poverty in the region, so for the masses of people in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries independence did not bring about a significant change in their situation. Caribbean governments were very uncomfortable with this development. For example, Jamaica banned books by Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and other activists who were deemed to be too radical. What made Rodney so controversial is that he was very critical of the Jamaican government for neglecting the black masses on the island. Rodney himself wrote about meeting with people who lived in rubbish dumps. This was the type of abject poverty that existed in Jamaica at the time. Rodney was also preaching the same message of Black Power which the Jamaican government was attempting to censor. In 1968, Rodney went to Canada to attend a conference. When he attempted to return to Jamaica, he was denied entry into the country. What became known as the Rodney Riots was a reaction to the news that Rodney was banned. People in Jamaica took to the streets and began rioting to express their frustration that Rodney, who had become a very popular figure in Jamaica, was banned. Rodney was seen as a spokesperson for the struggling masses in Jamaica, so banning him sent the message that the Jamaican government truly did not care about the suffering of its own citizens. The Jamaican opposition also criticized the government’s decision to ban Rodney. Hugh Shearer was the prime minister of Jamaica at the time Rodney was banned and he would go on to lose to Michael Manley in the election that was held in 1972, so in a sense the Rodney Riots also represented an important shift in Jamaica’s politics. Unlike Shearer, Manley was much more supportive of the Black Power movement. Historyradio.org: In his writings Rodney often referred to “race” and “class”? Are these terms sufficient to explain the historical period he was writing about? Dwayne Wong Omowale: I would argue that these terms are sufficient. For Rodney, both race and class were important to truly understand the oppression of African people around the world. As an African descendant, Rodney was combating the racial oppression that African people were experiencing around the world, but he was also a Marxist who was fighting against the class structure of the global capitalistic society as well. Class was important to Rodney’s analysis because within this racist capitalist structure there were certain Africans who were able to amass somewhat of a privileged position. This included the Caribbean and African heads of government whom Rodney was very critical of. These Africans belonged to the class of people whom Rodney referred to as the “petit bourgeoisie.” Rodney included himself in this class as well because he worked in academia. Rodney saw this class of Africans—the petit bourgeoisie class—as people who benefited from the exploitation of the African working class. He included academics in this category because many of them earned a comfortable living working at public universities which were paid for by taxpayers, but few of these academics truly served the interests of the African working class. In Rodney’s view the struggles of African people around the world was not just a struggle against racism, but also a struggle against a global capitalist system which exploited working class Africans around the world and a system in which a particular class of Africans were benefiting from at the expense of the masses. Race and class were especially important in Guyana, where politics were polarized based on race. I mentioned the split between Burnham and Jagan before. This not only created a political split in Guyana, but a racial split as well, which resulted in violence between Africans and Indians in Guyana in the 1960s. When Rodney returned to Guyana in 1974, he joined an organization known as the Working People’s Alliance. The WPA was trying to create racial unity in Guyana and criticized both political parties for exploiting Guyana’s racial tension for their own purposes, so within that context the class structure of Guyana was just as important to Rodney as the racial make up of the country as well. Historyradio.org: What sort of views did Rodney have on the transatlantic slave trade? Dwayne Wong Omowale: In Rodney’s view the transatlantic slave trade began the underdevelopment of Africa, which is a process that would continue under colonialism. You mentioned Rodney’s dissertation before and the slave trade was a very central topic in his dissertation. In his writings Rodney mentions some of the ways in which the slave trade adversely impacted Africa’s development. He wrote that it completely changed the social and political organization in West Africa, as well as stagnating both Africa’s population and economic development. Rodney also applied his views of class and race to the slave trade. Rodney wrote that the European ruling class and the African ruling class jointly preyed on the African masses during the slave trade. Rodney argued that the slave trade not only sharpened class divisions in Africa, but that the slave trade was a forerunner for the present day “neo-colonial” situation in Africa in which African politicians and multinational corporations jointly work together to exploit the African masses. So, on an academic level the slave trade was central to Rodney’s work because the slave trade is not only where Africa’s underdevelopment began, but it is also where certain class formations began forming in Africa. Apart from Rodney’s views on the slave trade as a historian, the slave trade was also important to the work that he was doing as a political activist. The slave trade stole millions of Africans away from their homeland, so a lot of the work that Rodney was engaged in was an effort to reconnect with that lost African identity. This was one of the reasons why Rodney became so interested in studying African history and why he worked as a professor in Africa. Rodney felt that it was important for African descendants in the Americas to reconnect with their African roots and to take pride in their identity as descendants of Africa. Historyradio.org: Was there any relationship between Walter Rodney and Immanuel Wallerstein?  Dwayne Wong Omowale: I am not sure honestly. The two men shared many of the same ideas regarding the adverse impact that colonialism had in Africa and they were both very critical of capitalism, but the precise nature of their relationship is not something that I am aware of. I was able to come across information about a letter that Wallerstein had sent to Rodney, which included a cheque, but I am not sure what Rodney did to earn this cheque. That is the most that I know about the relationship between the two men. Historyradio.org: Who were Rodney’s chief academic opponents at the time? Dwayne Wong Omowale: That is an interesting question because usually the focus tends to be on Rodney’s political opponents, such as the governments of Jamaica and Guyana. Rodney was a Marxist, an anti-colonialist, and an anti-imperialist, so many of his academic opponents were typically people in academia who were opposed to the ideas that Rodney was putting forward. The example that comes to mind is a historian named J.D. Fage, who disagreed with Rodney’s views on the slave trade for many reasons. Fage argued that the slave trade was good for Africa’s political development, whereas Rodney held the opposite view. Fage also accused Rodney of romanticizing Africa. Rodney was challenging many prevailing ideas about Africa’s history at the time, such as the notion of Africa being a “Dark Continent” which had no civilizations of its own until Europeans arrived, so much of the opposition that Rodney received came from scholars like Fage who wanted to hold on to these ideas about Africa. Historyradio.org: There are many theories about his murder? Some speculate that the West was involved somehow? Is there any truth to this? After all, this was the Cold War and Rodney was a socialist? Dwayne Wong Omowale: It would be difficult to say how much Western involvement there was. I know there is a lot of speculation that the West was involved not only because of the political climate at the time, which you alluded to, but also because Burnham was someone who was helped into power by the United States and Britain. Jagan, whom I mentioned before, was a communist. Western countries saw Burnham as a more moderate alternative to Jagan, although Burnham was a professed socialist as well. Western countries intervened in Guyana to ensure that Burnham was the prime minister of Guyana by the time the country became independent. Burnham remained in power in Guyana from 1966 until his death in 1985. The view that some Guyanese have expressed to me is that the same CIA which helped Burnham take power in Guyana was still assisting Burnham to remain in power, so the CIA eliminated Rodney because of the threat that Rodney potentially posed to Burnham’s government. It is difficult to say with certainty because when Rodney was killed there was not a real investigation to find out what happened. The government at the time alleged that Rodney had killed himself with his own bomb, but there was never an official investigation. In 2015 there was a commission of inquiry held on Rodney’s assassination. The commission concluded that Rodney was indeed assassinated and that Prime Minister Burnham was complicit in the plot to kill Rodney. The commission also presented evidence to dispel the notion that Rodney had blown himself up with his own bomb. As to how much of a role the CIA or other Western entities played, I am not aware of any documents or evidence that directly links Western entities to Rodney’s assassination and this was not something that was discussed at the commission, although there is good reason to believe that the CIA may have been involved. Historyradio.org: What sort of reactions did his death cause at the time? Dwayne Wong Omowale: I have some personal experience with this because I was born in Guyana. My mother, who was still a child at the time, attended some of Rodney’s rallies. She told me that she was devastated, so much so that she had buried her memory of Rodney deep in her subconscious, until I reminded her about him more than three decades later. Many of the Guyanese who supported Rodney felt this same feeling of shock and devastation regarding Rodney’s assassination. It is estimated that as many as 35,000 people attended Rodney’s funeral. It is also important to understand what was happening leading up to Rodney’s death as well. Prior to Rodney being killed, there was a Guyanese journalist and priest named Bernard Drake, who was stabbed to death because of his criticisms of the government. There was also the Jonestown massacre which happened in 1978, so this was a very dark period in Guyana’s history and Rodney’s death added to the fear and uncertainty that Guyanese were feeling about the future of the country. Rodney inspired hope in many Guyanese, so to have him be killed—especially in such a horrible manner—was a very devastating blow to Guyana. Historyradio.org: What do you think Rodney would say about the way Africa is today, almost 40 years after his death? Dwayne Wong Omowale: As I indicated earlier, I think much of what Rodney said still applies today, so I am sure that much of what Rodney was saying about Africa in the 1970s is what he would be saying today if he were alive. Africa is still underdeveloped and the petit bourgeoisie African leaders that Rodney denounced when he was alive are still in authority in Africa today. I also think Rodney would be encouraged by some of the events that have been happening in Africa. In recent years there have been uprisings and protests that have resulted in regime changes in countries such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, and more recently the Sudan. Togo, which has the oldest military regime in Africa, experienced mass protests in 2017 and the Togolese activists are still fighting to end dictatorship in Togo. Rodney wrote a pamphlet titled, “People’s Power, No Dictator.” The pamphlet was directed specifically at the Burnham regime in Guyana, but in it Rodney also wrote very broadly about dictatorships and why the masses must organize to liberate themselves from dictatorships. Rodney argued that the people must mobilize to liberate themselves from oppression and this is something that we are witnessing today across Africa. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureFreedom means freedom of choice. A man exercises his freedom when, confronted by two or more possible alternatives, he realizes one and excludes the rest. Free choices are definite choices. Liberal theologians were foolish to get excited over Heisenberg’s Principle. Vagueness of behaviour may be good enough for electrons, it is not good enough for free men. Choices are of three kinds: • choices of action. A thirsty man in a desert is unfree, not because he cannot satisfy his craving for water, but because he cannot choose between drinking and not drinking. • choices of value judgement; good or evil, true or false, beautiful or ugly, absolute or relative, required or forbidden. A man who has seen only one picture is unfree to decide whether it is beautiful or ugly. A man in a passion of anger or fear is unfree because he is no longer conscious of any alternative state and so cannot judge his anger or his fear. • choices of authority: this God or man or organization is to be believed or obeyed, that is not. Here again, if there is no consciousness or possible alternatives, there is no freedom. The cravings of man’s spirit are totally unlike the appetites of his nature, such as hunger and sex. There are two of them: to be free from conditions and to be important. These can and often do conflict, for the former senses anything that is “given” whether by his own nature or by the world about him as a limitation on his freedom and longs to act gratuitously, yet it is precisely and only from the “given” that he can derive a sense of importance. Absolute arbitrariness would at the same time be absolute triviality Art as playOne of man’s attempts to satisfy both is the criminal acte gratuit, the breaking of a given law for the sake of breaking it, where the law supplies the importance, and the act of breaking it asserts the freedom. Another is play where the laws governing the game are kept by the player because they are chosen by him. At bottom, all art, all pure science, all creativity is play in this sense. The question What is Art? and the question Why does the artist create? are different questions. It seems to me that the basic impulse behind creativity of any kind is the desire to do something that is quite necessary: the desire that the result should turn out to be important comes second. The rules of a game give it importance to the player by making it difficult to play, a test and proof of an inborn gift or an acquired skill. Given that a game is morally permissible, then whether or not one should play it depends simply on whether or not it gives one pleasure, i.e., whether or not one is good at playing it. If one asks a great surgeon why he operates, if he is honest, he will not answer: “Because it is my duty to save lives” but “Because I love operating”. He may perfectly well hate his neighbour and nevertheless save his life because of the pleasure it gives him to exercise his skill. One must say therefore that, in the profoundest sense, art and science are frivolous activities for they depend on the chance possession of special talents. The only serious matter is concerned with what every human being has alike, a will, namely that one shall love one’s neighbour as oneself. Here one cannot speak of a talent for love, nor in terms of pleasure and pain. If one asks the good Samaritan why he rescues the man fallen among thieves, he cannot answer, except as an ironical joke, “Because I like doing good” since pleasure or pain are irrelevant and the point is obeying the command: “Thou shalt love”. A common loveThere are three kinds of human groups. • Crowds, i.e., two or more individuals whose sole common characteristic is togetherness, e.g., four strangers in a railway carriage. • Societies, i.e., two or more individuals united for the purpose of carrying out an action which requires them all, e.g., a string quartet. • Communities, i.e., two or more individuals united by a common love for something other than themselves, e.g., a room full of music lovers. Societies have a definite size and a definite structure and the character of the whole is different from the simple sum of the characters of the parts. Consequently the will of the individual member is subordinate to the general will of the society, however that is established. Someone in the string quartet must have the authority to decide whether it is to play Mozart or Beethoven and the rest must obey whether they agree with the choice or not. A society may at the same time be a community but not necessarily. It is quite possible that the cellist of our quartet hates music and only plays to earn his living. A society is a free society as long as the member who exercises authority does so with the free consent of the other members. Societies function best when they are free, but in certain cases coercion can, and indeed must, be applied to compel a recalcitrant member to contribute his partial function, the moral justification depending on two factors: • the importance of the function the society discharges • the degree to which the recalcitrant member can or cannot be replaced by another more willing individual. Communities, like crowds, have no definite size. It is impossible therefore to speak of the “general will” of a community since the individuals who belong to it cannot disagree; they are a community precisely because as individuals they all love the same thing (unlike members of crowds who have no love in common). In Time Magazine, of June 23, Mr Vladimir Koretsky was reported as having said at the United Nations Conference on Human Rights: “Man should have no rights that place him in opposition to the community. Man opposed to the community is nothing”. If the translation is correct, Mr Koretsky was talking nonsense. An individual can be in opposition to a society, e.g., if the cellist plays out of tune, but if the rest of the quartet love the music of Mozart and he detests it, this simply means that there are two communities, a community of Mozart lovers and a potential community of Mozart haters, for a community can begin with a single individual, while a society cannot exist until all its members are present and correctly related. There are two kinds of communities: closed or unfree, and open or free. The members of a closed community have a common love but they have not chosen it for they are unaware of any other love which they could prefer to, or reject for, the love they have. The members of an open community have consciously chosen their love out of two or more possible loves. Art as looking glassIf I understand either the myth of Orpheus or Aristotle’s doctrine of catharsis correctly, the Greeks held what is, to me, a false theory of art which has plagued the world ever since, namely, that art is a magic device for arousing desirable emotions and expelling undesirable emotions, and so leading to right action. If this were so, then I think Plato’s censures of art in The Republic and Tolstoy’s in What is Art? are unanswerable. For me the correct definition is Shakespeare’s holding the mirror up to nature, i.e., art does not change my feelings but makes me conscious of what I have in fact felt or what I might feel, and of actual or possible relations between my feelings. The world of art is a looking-glass world, i.e., a possible image of the actual world where emotions are observed, divorced from their origin in immediate passion. It is the business of the artist to make a mirror which distorts the world as little as possible and reflects as much of the world as possible. Bad art distorts; minor art reflects only a small or trivial corner of the world. Art does not judgeArt has two values: firstly it gives pleasure, the pleasure of idle curiosity; secondly, it enlarges the field of freedom. If man had no imagination, he could not make a choice between two possible courses of action without taking both, or make a value judgement about a feeling of his until he had felt the opposite. Art does not and cannot influence the choice or judgement man actually makes, it only makes it more of a conscious choice. Reading Macbeth, for instance, cannot prevent a man from becoming a murderer, but the man who has read Macbeth knows more about what becoming a murderer would be like than the man who hasn’t, so that, if he chooses to become one, he is more responsible. Art, in other words, is never a means for converting a bad community into a good one, it is one of the great means by which closed communities are turned into open communities. Art can do harm in two ways. Firstly by failing to be good art and giving the wrong kind of pleasure thereby. If the reflection of the world which it offers is distorted, if it flatters the spectator by omitting the possibilities of evil or draws him to despair by denying the possibilities of good (which, surprisingly enough, can also give pleasure), then it injures him. Secondly and more seriously, because the better the art the greater the danger, it may ensnare the spectator in the luxurious paralysis of self-contemplation so that, like Hamlet, he fails to choose at all. The danger of great art is narcissism. Narcissus does not fall in love with his reflection because it was beautiful but because it is his own in all its endless possibilities. One can tell the myth in another way: Narcissus was a hydrocephalous idiot; catching sight of himself in the pool, he cried: “On me it looks good”. Or again: Narcissus was neither beautiful nor ugly but as commonplace as a Thurber husband*; catching sight of himself in the pool, he said: “Excuse me, but haven’t we met before some place?” Art can encourage the formation of two kinds of bad communities, the community of those with false pictures of themselves, and the parody of a free community in which the knowledge of good and evil is turned against the will, till it becomes too weak to choose either. Every work of art is the focus of the potential community of those individuals who love it or could love it. Such a community is free if the artist could have created something else but chose to create this work, and vice versa, the spectators or readers could have chosen to look at or read another work but chose to look at or read this. If the artist creates a work which no one but he appreciates or a spectator cannot find any work which he likes, there is no lack of freedom, but simply no community. Freedom can be curtailed in two ways; the artist may be forced to alter his work so that the character of the community is other than it would have been if he were left alone; or people may be prevented from becoming acquainted with his work so that the community is smaller than it might have been. CensorshipCensorship can be of two kinds, an unplanned economic censorship where the artist cannot afford to create as he wishes or the public cannot afford to become acquainted with his work, and the planned censorship of authority. Economically the freedom of art is best attained if there is as great a variety of publishers, booksellers, libraries, galleries, etc. as possible and if some, but not all, of these are large-scale organizations. If there are too new agencies, above all, if there is a state monopoly, the variety of works distributed invariably declines even if there is no deliberate censorship. If all are on a small scale, costs are too high for some of the potential public. The obstacle on which liberalism has so often come to grief is the fact that we find it easier to respect the freedom of those to whom we are indifferent than the freedom of those we love. A parent or a government who believes something to be good or true knows well enough that it is possible for their children or their people to choose what, to them, is evil or false, and that, if the wrong choice is made, those they love will suffer and they themselves will suffer with them; further, they and those they love will no longer belong to the same community. However, to love one’s neighbour as oneself means precisely to be willing to let him make his own mistakes and suffer with him when he suffers for them, for no man can himself consciously wish not to be responsible for his thoughts and actions, at whatever cost. Every man knows for himself that right and duty are not identical, that he has a duty to choose the good, but a right to choose the evil, that, as Kafka says: “A man lies as little as he can when he lies as little as he can, not when he is given the smallest possible opportunity to lie”. Authorities who are more concerned that their charges should do the right thing than that they should choose it are always tempted to look for a short cut. In the short run, a man in a passion acts quicker and more effectively than a man who has reached the reflective stage of desire. Usually therefore, authorities would like the artist to arouse in others a passion for the good instead of making them conscious of good and evil; they would turn him, if they could, into Plato’s Noble Liar. Art has hardly ever been censored for aesthetic reasons because artists have rarely been in authority, which is perhaps just as well. In my own daydream state, for example, people caught reading Shelley or listening to Brahms are sentenced to the salt mines, and the possession of a juke-box is a capital offence. The usual reasons for censorship are two: either that the work is immoral, i.e., will incite the public to act immorally or illegally so that society ceases to function properly; or that it is heretical, i.e., will induce the public to adopt other values than those held by the authorities, causing them to desert the latter’s community for a new one. Censorship always implies two things: that there is a potential public for the work and that its members are incapable of making a responsible choice. It is therefore only permissible under two conditions: for minors who are legally presumed to be as yet incapable of responsible choice; and for adults who have chosen their censor and are free to disregard him if they cease to believe in his authority. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, does not violate the freedom of its members by putting books on the index, because no one is obliged to be a Roman Catholic and to choose to be one necessarily implies believing in the authority of the Church to decide what the faithful may read. No State has such a right because one becomes a member of a political society by being born, an act of chance, not a choice. Revolutions and human freedomEach major revolution in history is concerned with some particular aspect of human freedom, and has its representative human type. Each establishes its kind of freedom once and for all. The success of each is threatened by its own false claim to be the revolution, i.e., that the aspect of freedom with which it is concerned is the only freedom that matters. Since the particular aspect with which any revolution is concerned is one conspicuously ignored by the revolution before it, it is apt in its just criticism of the latter’s failing to be hostile to the freedom for which it fought. Nevertheless the fates of all revolutions are bound up with each other; they stand or fall together: if the preceding revolution had not won its battle, its successor could not be fighting its own. In any revolution, therefore, the gains of the revolutions before it have to be defended if the present revolution is to succeed. The Papal Revolution of the eleventh and the twelfth centuries established the freedom of an individual to choose between loyalties, his right to leave one community and join another, his right to belong to two communities at the same time. Its typical figures are the contemplative international priest and the activist local soldier. The revolution of the Reformation in the sixteenth century established the freedom of the individual to choose his career, his right to leave the society to which his father belonged and join another. Its typical figure is the professional man. The French and Industrial Revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries established the freedom of the individual man of talent to develop himself freely and compete for public attention, the right of the individual mind to change the community or lead a society if he can. The typical figure is Figaro. L’esprit seul peut tout changer.  De vingt rois que l’on encense  Le trépas brise l’autel  Et Voltaire est immortel.   (Only wit can make a difference.  Out of twenty kings who wear a crown  Death breaks the altar,  But Voltaire is immortal.)   One of the world crowdOur revolution of the twentieth century is trying to establish the freedom of the individual body to determine its satisfactions, to grow and be healthy. Its typical figure is the anonymous naked man with a dog-tag number, not yet a member of any society or any community, but simply one of the world crowd. Hence the preoccupation of our time with medicine and economics, its activism, its hostility to the achievement of the French Revolution, freedom of speech and thought, which it sees as a threat to unanimous action. At the physical level all are really equal in their needs and individual differences of temperament or talent are irrelevant. In our revolution, therefore, focused on winning freedom from physical want**, all the freedoms gained by preceding revolutions are threatened as never before. The French Revolution is denied wherever there is a controlled press and a censorship of art and science; the Reformation is denied wherever a state dictates what career an individual citizen shall follow; the Papal Revolution is denied wherever a monolithic state claims unconditional authority. The talented individual today is being punished for the airs he gave himself in the past two centuries. Poets are not the unacknowledged legislators of the world and never were and it is a good thing that they should be made to realize this. Those who preached a doctrine of Art for Art’s sake or Art as a luxury were much nearer the truth, but they should not then have regarded the comparative frivolity of their vocation as a proof of their spiritual superiority to the useful untalented worker. In actual fact, the modern censor and the romantic artist are alike in thinking art more important than it is. What role for the poet?“Once he looked rosy, now he looks blue. / Nurse is wondering What shall I do?” sings the poet in the sick room. If patient or nurse were to say to him “For God’s sake, stop humming and fetch some hot water and bandages” it would be one thing. But neither says this. The nurse says: “Tell the patient I am the only one who can cure him and I will give you a passport, extra ration cards, and free tickets to the opera. If you tell him anything else, I shall call the police”. And the poor delirious patient cries: “Persuade me that I am looking and feeling fine and I will give you a duplex apartment and a beautiful mistress. If you can’t do that, I shan’t listen to you”. Perhaps the poet, if he really loved the patient and the nurse as himself, would be silent and fetch the hot water, but as long as he continues singing, there is one commandment which his song must obey, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”.   Published in The Unesco Courier under a Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC-BY-SA 3.0 IGO licence. This text was Auden’s response to UNESCO’s 1947 survey on the philosophical foundations of human rights. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby John Llewelyn Rhys (1911-1940) WHEN the Old Man came into the ante-room the young officers began to rise in their chairs, but he waved them back with an impatient gesture. It was warm and comfortable in there and the tenor of idle chatter continued. One could hear the crackle of a newspaper page and the sound of bidding from the four who were playing a Chinese game in the corner, their minds apparently intent on the little walls of white blocks on the table before them. ‘ Beneath the Wing-Commander’s arm were a number of files. On the outside of the files was a map. Robert recognised its shape and his heart kicked inside him. And now every pilot in the squadron was watching the senior officer, . watching him without movement of head, watching him while seeming to read, watching’ him while crying ‘Three Characters.’ The Old Man nodded, first at one, then another, and finally at Robert. Silently they rose to their feet, leaving their circles of friends, their reading, their Chinese game, and filed into ‘the neighboring room. The Wing-Commander stood by the grand piano waiting for them to gather about him. 1 IE looked suddenly older, Robert thoughts Now his hair, shone with grey, new lines emphasised the hardness of his features. But his voice was unchanged, harsh, imperious. ‘Gentlemen, the show’s tomorrow.’ He paused and looked ‘slowly at the circle of pilots. . . ‘The target, you know. Here’s the latest from Intelligence and a few other little details I want you to know.’ ? Robert heard his instructions and memorised them, with an ease born of practice, but the words seemed meaningless rattling like hail on the roof of his mind. ‘Any questions?’ But they were all old hands, and no naive youngsters among them wanted to make themselves heard. ‘Well … good luck! I know you’ll put up a good show.’ His voice was suddenly shy. ‘I wish they’d let me come with you.’ They went back to the ante-room, went on talking, reading, playing the Chinese game. Robert sat down by a friend. ‘If anything,’ Robert’s voice was quiet as be flipped the pages of a magazine, ‘if anything were . .] . to slip up . .; . tomorrow, would you attend to the odd detail?’ ‘Of course, old boy.’ ‘Tomorrow?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Tough show?’ ‘Tough enough.’ It was almost day as Robert walked over to Flights with the Squadron Leader, and cold, with the half light lying dead on the roofs of the camouflaged hangars and the wind sock napping drearily on its pole. Mechanics were beginning to start up the motors which clattered protestingly to life, back-firing and shuddering on their bearers. ‘Looks like a good day, sir?’ The leader of the raid looked up, then kicked his heel into the turf. ‘Yes; hope this frost holds off. I hope to hunt next week.’ When Robert got to his machine only the starboard engine had been started. Impatiently he watched -the efforts of the crews. If only they’d get that engine running, he thought, if only they’d get it running. He, went up to the fitter, ‘You haven’t over-doped?’ ‘ No, Sir. She’ll go now.’ Still she refused to start. He climbed up the ladder into the cock. ‘Got your throttle setting right?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said the corporal, ‘she’ll start in a minute.’ The second pilot was inside, busy at the navigator’s table. ‘All set?’ Robert asked. ‘Bombs, petrol, and everything hunkey-dorey, sir,’ the sergeant answered. If only they’d start that engine, he thought. If only they’d get it going and we could take off. At last the motor roared to life, and be climbed into his seat, ran up the engines, pulled up the ladder and waved away the chocks. As he waited on the aerodrome, his airscrews throwing long flickering shadows, he kicked the heavy rudder violently from side to side. Where were the others? Where were the others? They would be late off the ground and there would be a row. Then he glanced at his watch, and found to his surprise that it was five minutes to his zero hour. And now the other machines were taxiing towards him, huge, heavily laden monoplanes, grim against the dawn, moving fast over the close cut turf, beating down dean thick lines through the white frost. He glanced down at the controls, felt the various cocks, checked the cylinder head temperatures, the hydraulic and brake pressures. Then, when all was ready, he pushed open the throttles, the noise increasing till it filled the long, narrow compartment, beating mercilessly upon his ears, drowning the screams of the hydraulic gear. She was heavy with full petrol and a belly full of bombs, but as he felt her becoming airborne he brought the wheel gently back and she bumped up into the air. From time to tune Robert switched on his microphone and spoke to each gunner in his turret. They were alert and cheerful, and behind him the second pilot worked at his check navigation. Sometimes they saw fishing boats whose crews waved frantically, and minesweepers busy in their deadly task, and once a convoy with destroyers like sheep dogs on its flanks. The weather was fine, with high lumps of cumulus, and they began to climb. In a little while the second pilot came forward and held up eight fingers, Robert nodded. Eight minutes. He felt cold inside, his teeth were shattering, he wished they were in the thick or It, and grinned at his companion. The target came into view, a smudge on the horizon. The leader began to give his orders over the radio, and they started a big circle so as to attack from out of the sun. As they came up the sky filled with anti-aircraft fire. The second pilot had switched on his microphone and Robert could hear him jeering at the enemy gunners, for the shooting was poor, though some of the bursts were un comfortably close. They came over the target and released their bombs. Robert watched the sky unceasingly for enemy fighters, wondering if any aircraft were lurking in its glare waiting for the anti-aircraft to cease before diving to the attack. The second pilot was busy with the camera recording the hits far below, whistling as he worked. A burst of Archies off the port wing tip made the machine rock violently. Soon they were out of range of the ground guns, and Robert saw one of the other machines break formation ‘and rock its wings. He spoke to the gunners. ‘Keep your eyes skinned. There’s a fighter about somewhere.’ Then he saw it, a lone enemy machine, a single seater fighter with square wing tips. It came up quite slowly, lazily, lying on to the tail of one of the bombers. It was so simple a manoeuvre that it might have been a pupil on his circuit at a flying training school. As it turned off, short jabs of black smoke jerked themselves from the back cockpit to the bomber. The fighter turned slowly on to its side. First smoke, then flames poured from its engine, splashing down the fuselage. In the bright sunshine, against the blue sea, the machine fell slowly, twisting, turning, diving. ‘Here they come!’ said the second pilot; and Robert saw that the sky seemed to be filled with fighters. They broke up and began to attack. Robert watched two circling him from the front. As they turned the flank his rear-gunner switched on his microphone and Robert could hear him swearing. Tracer from the enemy streamed overhead, curved in a graceful trajectory, and dropped out of sight. Then the gunner was silent Robert heard the rattle of his guns and his voice, jubilant ‘Got him, sir.’ ‘Good. Keep you eyes skinned. Be patient,’ Robert said. Now a twin-engined aircraft came up on the beam, accompanied by one of the smaller fighters, which attacked from the rear. A burst of fire shattered the roof over the second pilot’s head. The front gunner coolly brought his guns to bear. The twin was an ugly brute, the first Robert had seen with extended stabilisers on the tail. He was frightened now. His mouth dry, his hands wet inside the silk lining of his gloves. Attack after attack came up, filled the air with tracer, turned lazily away. The middle gunner brought down another fighter before he was hit in the leg. Robert sent the second – pilot back- in his place. One burst of machine-gun fire shattered half the instrument panel, sent a shower of broken glass over his knees. Darkness filled his eyes, but in his mind he could still see the face of the enemy gunner, red and foolishly grim, as he fired from the rear cockpit of the fighter. The wheel went limp in his hands, the strain of months of war, the nag of responsibility, lifted from his consciousness… Then his vision cleared, and he – pulled the aircraft level. To his surprise the fighters had vanished, and at his side was the Squadron Leader’s machine, which he thought he had seen go down. He began to sing, thumping his hands on the wheel. They were separated from the others and flew in tight formation, the Squadron Leader turning his head from time to time and grinning and doing a thumbs up. They lost height till they were just above the sea, their patterned shadows sliding effortlessly over mile after mile of water desolation. On crossing the coast their senior officer altered course for base. They flew at a few hundred feet over the sleepy countryside, their shadows now vaulting hedge and haystack. As he looked, first to the north at the black rich earth of the fens, marshalled by dykes, then south to the loveliness of Suffolk, each feature of the country fitted into its place in his mind, each town he knew, each stretch of river. How familiar, he thought. How well I know it all. Truly, England is my village. Soon the little lake, shaped like an elephant’s trunk, appeared and they dived low over the hangars, then broke away, dropped their wheels, and came to land. There were no other machines about and the camp seemed strangely deserted. A little later they walked into the mess. It was warm and comfort able in there and the words and phrases of the many conversations jumbled themselves into a haze of sound. At the table by the fire there was an empty chair at the Chinese game. When Robert saw the other players he stopped in his stride. There was Nails, who got his on the first show, and Dick, who went down in flames, and Thistle, his second pilot and Badger, who was lost in the North Sea in December. ‘Come on’ Badger said. ‘We’re waiting for you.’ ‘But I thought …’ Robert said. ‘I thought …’ A VOICE from a distance interrupted him. A woman’s voice. There were no women in the room. Then the room and the men in it were gone. Robert was lying in a bed,, in a long, dim chamber With other beds up and down its length. The face of the woman whose voice he had heard was looking at him. . It was an *frg»foh face, plain and pleasant, framed severely in a familiar headdress. ‘What was it you thought?’ the nurse was saying to him. ‘You’re all right, you know. Home in England. The second pilot brought you in.’ Robert stirred fretfully in the bed, but the pain made him lie still again. The nurse put a hand to his bandaged head to quiet him. He closed his eyes and thought of the room he had left just a moment ago. He tried to will himself back into it, to be with Badger and the others. It bad seemed so hospitable’ there, so farm, so safe, so full of friends, so free of pain. He couldn’t reach it. Almost . . . Almost . . . Not quite. He couldn’t What h~d happened to him — that he had been there with them, the brave, admired dead, and come away and couldn’t get back to them again? In pain and bewilderment be thought: ‘I wish I knew— I— wish— I knew From The Mail (Adelaide) 22 February 1941 Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literature“Real Life”, by Lewis Shiner It’s dinner time, but I can’t get my wife’s attention. She’s killing Ants. Not little black ones out in the garden, but six-foot high Ants with space ships and photon torpedoes. So I pop a cup of alphabet soup in the micro and sit down with the evening paper. Here’s President Quayle on the front page, shaking hands with John F. Kennedy. What? Dinner’s ready. I pour it into a bowl and the letters spin queasily. They’re forming words. The words say, EAT ULTRAVIOLET DEATH, TERRAN SCUM. Days like this, you wonder what the hell ever happened to reality. My wife has her answer. For her it’s a glove studded with wires and sensors and a helmet with built-in goggles and headphones. For the Associated Press it’s digitized wire photos that they can change with a stroke of the light-pen. But that still doesn’t explain what’s going on in my soup. Life here in the nineties is weird and getting weirder. Me, I like to seek solace in literature. Back in the eighties I used to be into William S. Burroughs. Wasn’t everybody? I mean, the guy was practically a pop star, with everybody from the Soft Machine to Steely Dan to Thin White Rope ripping their names off from his books. It was hip to be paranoid, random, ironic, perverse. To be literate and still get to toy with all that slightly tacky genre stuff–private eyes, heavy-metal addict aliens, pornographic sex. Not just hip, it was downright postmodern. Burroughs’ vision started losing it when Bush went to war on drugs. It was no longer cool to enjoy being stoned or even to talk about it–especially if you wanted to keep your job. Reality was turning into serious business, government business, multinational business. Do not try this at home. Then technology got away from the guys with pocket protectors and suddenly there was Computer Aided Design and digital audio and hand-held video-games. Reality changed. In fact reality was getting harder to pin down every day. If the eighties were William S. Burroughs, then the nineties are Philip K. Dick. You remember Phil Dick. He’s the guy they took Blade Runner and Total Recall from. Now all of sudden everybody is asking the same questions that Dick started asking back in the fifties, and kept on asking right up until he died. How do you tell robots from human beings? How do you know that’s really your memory, and not some construct that’s been planted in your head? Are we fighting a real war, or are we being manipulated by politicians and corporations to keep spending money–money that is itself just electromagnetic data? Only Dick was no William S. Burroughs-style rock star. He was overweight and dipped snuff and cruised mental wards for dates. Where Burroughs was a literary darling, Dick was stuck in the SF trash/pulp ghetto and never got out. He mixed up high and low culture, like Burroughs did, everything from Heraclitus to pulp sf to the Holy Bible, but for Dick there was no irony involved. If there was such a thing as the “information virus” that Burroughs talked about, Dick believed it was benign. He wanted answers for the weird shit in his life and he didn’t care where he got them. Now everybody’s life is a little like that. There’s information everywhere and “high” and “low” doesn’t mean much anymore. The science fiction stuff from Dick’s books is now physically out there. And there’s more weird shit than most of us can handle. Those moments when the whole facade starts to break down and the word “reality” no longer means anything at all. Like that nasty moment when the helmet comes off and the “virtual” reality just goes away. Okay, okay, we all know what reality really is. Reality is smog alerts, crowded freeways, famine in Africa, AIDS and drug wars and the homeless. Ozone holes and global warming and disappearing rain forests. But who wants to live in a world like that? When we can have infinite mental playgrounds that range from the geometries of Tron to the virgin planets and blazing space of Star Wars? After all, if we didn’t believe in the power of illusion, why would we have elected Reagan and Bush and now Quayle? In books like Time Out Of Joint and The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, Phil Dick told us, over and over, that Things Are Not What They Seem. He said that the measure of humanity is kindness–caritas–not the ability to look good on TV. He said that no matter how much you believe you’re in sunny Southern California, sooner or later you’re going to wake up to a lipstick scrawl on the bathroom mirror that says we’re all wasting away in an underground hovel on Mars. It’s the same feeling you get when your air-conditioned, cellular-phone and CD-stereo equipped town car breaks down and you have to climb out into the heat of the ghetto. There’s another world out there, and it’s just dying to meet you face to face. It’s the feeling you get when the power goes out in the middle of the Cosby Show. When that wino wanders into your restaurant and ruins your New American Cuisine. When a computer virus takes you down right in the middle of your spreadsheet. When you’ve been talking to a salesman on the telephone for two minutes before you realize it’s a computerized recording, or, here in the nineties, a full-fledged expert system that can bother a thousand people at once. And in the time in between, when life seems to glide happily along, you may find yourself asking more and more questions. Is it live, or is it maybe Memorex after all? Is that Schwarzenegger blowing up pretend villains or is that news footage from El Salvador? Is Coke, in fact, the Real Thing? And what is that in my soup? The text above was retrieved from Shiner’s own website, where it was published under a creative commons license. Below you can read Robert Crumb’s comic book about Philip K. Dick from archive.org. > Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyIn 2008 Radio Prague covered the publication of a new Czech book about Jean-Paul Belmondo (1933-2021, he passed away a few days ago). Their brief report described Belmondo’s unique standing in the old Soviet-bloc country; the only major, western action star to gain a foothold behind the iron curtain during the Cold War. Through him a generation of Eastern Europeans got to experience capitalist action flicks. Among hipsters around the world today Belmondo is sometimes elevated to a rugged icon of snobbish intellectualism, through the early films of the Nouvelle Vague-movement. But in Eastern Europe he is remembered as B-movie royalty, the macho man with a twinkle in his eye. Of course, it was Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (1960) that became his break-through, but in many ways his collaboration with Phillipe de Broca (1933-2004) was just as important for his future career. De Broca had been a film photographer during the war in Algeria, and became so disillusioned by the events he witnessed that he decided to make more cheerful and uplifting movies. He started out as an assistant for a few Nouvelle Vague directors, but changed paths and made comedy farces when he established himself as a director. His two producers, Alexandre Mnouchkine and Georges Dancigers, suggested Belmondo for the role of the brash swashbuckling Robin Hood-character Cartouche. A few years earlier they had produced the adventure classic Fanfan la Tulipe (1952) with the legend Gérard Philipe in the lead, and now de Broca bet on Belmondo to revive the swashbuckling genre. Cartouche (1962) was an instant box-office hit, and two years later that success was followed by L’homme de Rio (1964) – an action-packed contemporary adventure about a soldier (played by Belmondo) who pursues the men who kidnapped his girlfriend from Paris to the Amazonian jungles. The Oscar-nominated movie features a series of spectacular action-scenes, and de Broca declared in an interview that the movie was made because “he needed a hit”. His producers had only been reluctantly swayed, and he had spent five months finishing the script. The result was satisfactory, even to himself, but the film was by no means a favorite for de Broca among his own productions. He said: “This was the kind of movie I longed to see when I was 14”. As a director, de Broca often took a hands-off approach to his actors, and Belmondo tended to follow his instincts. “Belmondo will always be Belmondo. You cannot change him. You cannot hide his personality. When he plays a drunkard, he is a drunk Belmondo. When he is in love, he is Belmondo in love.” (de Broca in Gardner 1969-70: 153-157). Belmondo’s charismatic self shone through, especially in B-movies like Tendre voyou (1966), Flic ou voyou (1979), Le cerveau (1969) and L’as des as (1982). The two latter were action-comedies by Gérard Oury, France’s pre-eminent comedy director, most famous for his collaboration with the hilarious genius Louis de Funès. In the 60s and 70s, Belmondo became affiliated with the commercial side of French cinema. Godard and Truffaut ruled the film festivals and the student-bodegas, but ordinary Frenchmen rushed to the cinemas to experience the shenanigans of Louis de Funès and the hazardous stunts of Jean-Paul Belmondo, his broken nose and seductive smile. To critics like Pierre Maillot, however, Belmondo represented the “disillusionment” of French identity because so many of the models for genre movies were American. Two of the great “golden ages” that have supported the self-esteem of French cinematic culture have been the poetic realism of the 30s and 40s and the Nouvelle Vague (“New Wave”) of the 50s and 60s. As a major star and the leading man of the Nouvelle Vague Belmondo therefore became the natural successor to Jean Gabin, the icon of the 30s. But where Gabin had acted tempered and cool – often under dire circumstances – Belmondo would burst with joie de vivre. There was a generational gap between parents in the 1950s and the new rebellious youth. The young wanted more than traditional French values, they needed happy endings. The vulgar neon-lights of Hollywood and Las Vegas beckoned in the distance. Belmondo grew out of the Nouvelle Vague into a new commercial reality. The Armenian-born Henri Verneuil (1920-2002) was a director unconvinced by new wave-ideology. The Belmondo we witness in Verneuil’s movies was rougher, the soldier in the second world war, the tough criminal and the uncompromising cop. The inspiration for Peur sur la ville (1975) was probably Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. Belmondo plays a policeman pursuing the serial killer Minos through the streets of Paris – in stylish cinematography. The Belmondo we see in this movie is not his usual careless self, the lives of young women were at stake. A contemporary reviewer called it “a tough and ruthless movie”. The newspaper stated that “It was impressive to see Belmondo dangling in a rope from a building, jumping between roof-tops several floors above the asphalt and making subway journeys on top of the cars. Because Belmondo has no stuntman…” (Aftenposten, 06.02.1976) Belmondo also kept a serious face in the gangster movies Borsalino (1970) and Le voleur (1967). The latter was directed by Jacques Cousteau’s old cameraman, Louis Malle, today one of the major names in the history of French cinema. In Le Voleur (1967) Belmondo shines as an actor. He penetrates the mind of a professional thief. He persuasively portrays nerves of steel and deliberate theft. According to the contemporary press Belmondo used all his tricks, “his whole range of charm”. Like Belmondo, Malle would transcend Nouvelle Vague conventions, and create a memorable genre movie aimed at the masses, based on a novel, quite contrary to contemporary ideas about the “auteur”. Belmondo was therefore not only an actor who drifted from art into commercialism, he was a personification of a suppressed part of French cultural history. There existed another France alongside Godard and Truffaut and the other Cahiers-directors, a cinematic culture unashamedly modeled on Hollywood. Belmondo, that first ingratiating face of the Nouvelle Vague-movement, became the major box-office draw of this “other” France. He was just as charming as Roger Moore, and – at his best -adventurous to the level of Harrison Ford. by Michael Wynn editor Historyradio.org * Sources: Philippe de Broca and Paul Gardner, «Philippe de Broca: talking to Paul Gardner», The Transatlantic Review, no. 33/34 (winter 1969-70), p. 153-157 Aftenposten (a major Norwegian newspaper), 06.02.1976, s. 6 (signed O.T.) Note: This article was originally published in the Norwegian movie review Montages.no by Michael Henrik Wynn 30. januar 2014. It has been translated by him and published at this site with the consent of Montages.no.   Like this:Like Loading... [...]