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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... [...]
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... [...]
short storyThe crowds waited in anticipation as the pompous fanfares marked the opening of the red carpet, a crowd of slick journalists rushed to the front fence. An even larger crowd consisting of “common men” were held back at the perimeter – like some reserve force. And then they arrived, the dashing superstars in their lavish costumes. The simultaneous flashes of hundreds of cameras enlightened the long expected arrivals from constantly shifting angles. Some of them sweated, others blinked, but they all kept their faces. They smiled because they were used to it, and they lifted their arms and waved. They paraded along the marked lines giving autographs, and they were all in a splendid mood. “The film was excellent, Mark Thompson! How did you feel upon receiving the award”“It was a great honor, of course.”“How do you feel about being nominated as the most sexy man in the business”“I appreciate good taste when I see it”, the middle aged actor said and put on his best grin.Those who heard him – and there were plenty of these – roared with laughter. They would have escorted him to his limousine, but sunglassed guards – probably picked or perhaps even bred for size and grim appearances – blocked their way. Strangers struggled, they shouted after him, and for their sake Mark Thompson stopped, walked over to the fence where they stood and signed several autographs. Then he moved on to the next fence closer to the parking lot. There were three of them along the way, and Mark Thompson radiated even more humor and wit at the two next ones. He was warming up. Only the last two hundred meters did he walk a little faster when he noticed an open limousine waiting for him. He sighed when the car doors slammed shut behind him, because he now was protected from a multitude of stares by bullet proof colored glass. But a sigh was all he could manage because even if they could not see him, he was able to see them, the vast moving crowd, an organism by itself, twisting and turning, giving off sounds of hysteria, of admiration and sometimes – more often than people realize – of disgust and resentment. The car navigated through the streets of the city center, and stopped by the venerable Grand Hotel. The door opened, and again he was exposed. But there was that million dollar, tastefully bleached smile that had melted so many hearts, and there was that sharp tongue that always knew how to dodge awkward questions. It had served him so well, and it only became more and more efficient with age. It ripened like a fine wine. At the reception, men and women he had never met and sometimes not even knew existed told him from a mahogany podium about how he had completely altered their lives, sometimes saved them from bad marriages, improved their sex lives and prevented suicides. Of course, he had no choice but to be humbled by his enormous power, such good fortune that life had bestowed upon him. He was obliged to tell them of his own struggles, and how thankful he was that he had made it, arrived at his station, and how they too could make it if they just followed their dream. Ever onwards and upwards. There was fine dining, exquisite cuisine, which he enjoyed in silence, while hum and chatter, and toasting glasses sounded over his head. Then he got up, excused himself and rushed through the velvet corridors for the bathroom. But a young blonde had made it passed the guards, was blocking his way and was flashing her excellently sculpted breasts. Then, there was a bizarre situation in which a gigantic two meter black body guard chased the tiny creature down the corridor. Mark Thompson walked by and smiled.“They never stop”, he told the guard, “they can’t help it. You’re doing a great job, thank you, but be gentle on her. She is drunk and very young.”“Yes sir”, said the giant bodyguard. He did his thing in the toilet, washed his hands in the gilded sink, and returned to his seat. His agent was on the phone, several radio stations wanted his views on some matter. He found a quiet corner, and called them. He preferred these brief phone interviews. No one could see his face, he could even do them in the nude at home, if he wanted. But somehow it never seemed right. Even in their voices, he could sense their eyes. At ten o’clock that evening he called it a day. He had been at it since morning. Then there was the routine of leaving the building, the choreographed exit, the waiting door. The relief of departure, the oddness of seeing those ordinary people walking along the bar strip as his limousine passed. The loud music, the distant laughter. He had been 18 once, hadn’t he? He had not always had this life. Many many years ago, he too could walk down that strip, and no one would even look twice at him, a pimpled mumbling nerd. The girls had even giggled at him with pity, the pathetic boy who would never get laid. The cortege struggled through traffic, but as they entered the more affluent areas, people and vehicles magically dispersed. He was left with majestic glass and steel constructions, all polished and glimmering, fancy restaurants with private entrances and then the villa area: well kept gardens with pools hidden by carefully landscaped residential palaces. As dusk fell, the stars had come out and they hung over his home, stretching endlessly towards a million dollar horizon and view. Below them lay the vast pulsating metropolis. On top of the hill stood his isolated palace, his marble columns, his tiled walkways. Another open door was waiting for him, and he rushed towards it. He had made sure that it had been made of the most quirky wood he could find. It stood out because it had the texture of an English cottage door. The faces that met him, his servants, were friends at least, he thought. He paid them enough to fake it.“Is she still awake?” he asked as the maid took his coat.“Yes, sir. She is awake”He then stopped by the stairs, and wondered whether he would he would be brave enough to enter her room. But the memories overwhelmed him, and he bit his lip as climbed the steps.There was the door he dreaded. He leaned his forehead against it as he knocked. It squeaked open, and the silhouette a huge bed and a dying woman was visible against the moon light from a half open window. He walked those final steps to the vacant chair, and an imperceptible breeze silently swung the door shut behind him. by Mchael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story“Tribal Mark” by Iroakazi Ifeanyi here I come from, scars are just enough to tell if you are good enough, especially when they appear on your face. They are not just the regular scars from mosquito bites or accidental injuries. They are deliberate scars that you carry from cradle to grave. So they come first before anything else. Your tongue is next before whatever hidden treasure you may think hiding beneath your skull, in your heart, or wherever- it can suit itself for any occasion! Sometimes the scars appear on your cheeks, close to your nose; at the corners of your eyes, close to the brow tails; between the brows on your forehead, and other time they appear like a cat’s whiskers, growing from the corners of your mouth up until they ended just below your ears. You could get any of these and they set you apart to either make or mar you, but it all depends on the scars of those you meet. I remember the day I took Amina to see my parents years ago. Amina suggested that because she had just said YES to me a week ago, and I was so happy and eager to show this narrow-faced, slim, and tall beauty to my parents that I decided it would be the following weekend. She was a perfect woman for me-maybe I never stared into her face long enough-she always teased me about being too shy to gaze at her without blushing. You’re too shy for my liking, she would say, laughing and tickling my nipples. I so much love to be tickled because it makes me laugh like a fool even at thirty-five. I would laugh until my head muscles begin to ache. My parents were much happier when I called them. My only son is finally getting married, I heard my mother say in the background as she handed the phone to my father. Congratulations son, my Dad said. He has never used plenty words- he only give orders. My father was an ex Biafran soldier; one of those gallant soldiers who taught the Nigerian troops an unforgettable lesson at Abagana. He would often recount how he was nearly blown up while igniting the local made explosive, Ogbunigwe. One morning he had fallen off his wheelchair and after helping him up, he began to sing a particular Biafran war song that he always reminiscence his soldiering days with and as he sang, he looked up to the sky, saluting half of a yellow sun that was just breaking in the East. He began to grow gradually hysteric and soon he fell off again. It had always been funny but this time, he was seriously shedding tears and cursing Nigeria, Britian, Russia, and Egypt for confining him on a wheelchair for almost five decades. He was a boy when he lost his feet in the war and he has nursed the pain, and his hatred for the enemies to this day. When I told Abike, my ex fiance, about my father, she said hers was like him, and for sure it did end things between us few months later. Amina had something similar to tell about his uncle. Thank God it wasn’t her father. My mother was so happy that I was coming home with a woman that she prepared a mountain of Fufu and a full pot of my favorite soup as though a community of people were visiting. When we arrived at a park close to my mother’s wretched bread store, I noticed her running towards us with her whole snow-white teeth bare; her face bright and lovely; her cooing voice endearing and warm, but as she drew closer, her lips began to gradually hide the teeth and soon the smile was gone; her mouth twisted, her face furrowed. Her ‘ welcome son’ , her ‘ nwunye m’ all lacked life, though I made it looked as elaborate as it could have been if I had come with a girl with a round face, broader nose, and who doesn’t pronounce ‘Papa’ as ‘ Fafa’ when greeting my father. Amina was beginning to notice the death of the distant excitement but she just kept her calm. She was before me, rushing to embrace her soon-to-be Mother-in-law whom she had prepared so much to meet. Ndewo Mama, she greeted in my dialect, swatting. I taught her that greeting for only one night and she learnt it perfectly. My mother opened her arms, Amina hurried, I was flustered; smiling stupidly because I knew my mother was already praying in her heart for her God to intervene. Not again, she must have said countless times. When Amina buried herself in her embrace and she began to run her trembling fingers about her facial scars, it became obvious from the disappointment in her eyes as she stared still at me over Amina’s shoulder that my beauty wasn’t good enough for me. Although she pretended everything was alright afterwards, I did too, but Amina understood it was over. Her kinsmen maimed mine and crippled my father and we must punish her for that. She bore the scars of an alien, the mark of the enemies, so we had no place to exist together. That was my father’s verdict and it can’t be appealed. by Iroakazi Ifeanyi, 2019. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
creative writing / literatureWhen you think of writing most people imagine a solitary philosopher, an ivory tower, or something of the kind. However, there are some, who for commercial and practical reasons, create stories in a group. These are the showrunners, the men and women who build the stories behind our TV series with detached and sometimes cynical eye. I have talked with one such man, Arne Berggren, whose resume in Norwegian and Scandinavian TV drama is too long to mention here. Historyradio.org: I thought writing was a solitary job? I thought it depended on the genius of individual minds? Why am I wrong? Berggren: “For for most writers their job is a solitary one. Those who write fiction, for instance, are almost loners, I guess. How many of them that are geniuses, I cannot say, but there is definitely something dysfunctional about many of them. Something that perhaps makes them less suited for teamwork, that is my belief. Many writers consciously try to remedy some personal flaw through writing, or try to discover things about themselves. Often people like that have strong egos and like to follow their own train of thought and impulses, rather than conforming. But many writers also find that it is liberating working with others. No matter how smart or brilliant you may feel, they see that more minds can achieve more together than on their own. If you want to write for TV, the process is so centered on deadlines that it becomes an industry or a craft. Volumes of pages need to be produced in a short period of time. Some get a little kick out of the fact that they share this responsibility rather than taking on the burdens themselves. In a group you can produce TV scripts fast , and I suppose that is why the whole idea of so-called Writers’ Rooms emerged. TV is an industry, and that implies process and teamwork.” Historyradio.org: How exactly does the writing process work, do you sit around a table and brainstorm? When is the actual writing done? Berggren: “All Writers’ Rooms are different, and there isn’t an extensive tradition for this kind of work in Europe. When you write comedy, however, it is quite common to sit in groups and brainstorm. But in drama too we see more and more of this kind of work. In our company, Shuuto, we have a joint session in the preliminary stages, in which we test vague ideas. It is important that we move beyond brainstorming at this point, and when there’s a pitch, something that resembles a dramatic premise, we try to work our way to potentially interesting characters, look at the longer storylines and so on. What, for instance, are the worst things to which our characters may be exposed? Eventually we get round to the actual writing of the scripts. On those occasions we are generally four writers in a full-day session, once a week. We delegate, and the script producer decides on shorter meetings, if they are needed. So the actual writing process is still solitary, but the script producer or the showrunner are never far off. There might be daily deadlines for scripts that are reviewed and then rewritten. It is a very organic process, but the workload may be heavy. We like to take our time in the preliminary stages, but then we produce scripts for one episode a week.” Historyradio.org: There have been many story factories in literary history. Some say Shakespeare might have run such a factory. Dumas is another example. Still, both Shakespeare and Dumas got top billing. Isn’t there sometimes a clash of egos? Berggren: “Where there are writers, there is always a clash of egos. But you won’t last long in the TV-business if you create a lot of conflict wherever you go. As manager I have learnt to compromise, I think. I am looking for writers and a staff that are productive, with an ability to work things through. This creates positive vibes, I think. I must admit that I haven’t always been a role-model in this regard myself. But one learns by making mistakes, and I try my best to help others. Some of the most famous American showrunners have been strong egos. Even so, they have created environments in which others could flourish. There aren’t any showrunner academies in Scandinavia, so it is a trial by error process. You need to search out people with a certain set of qualities, and create a relaxed work environment with as few egos as possible. The writers need to understand that this is not about them, but about getting the job done. Their job is simply to assist the showrunner or the script producer, to make his or her life easier. So they are free to return to their “ivory tower” as long as they deliver on time.” Historyradio.org: So how should the public think about you? Are you a company executive, a writer, a brand? What? Berggren: “I am slightly schizophrenic, I guess, split between being a writer and an executive producer. I still write books and theater, but as a TV-guy I am first and foremost a producer. If there is a brand, it must be Shuuto, our company. We don’t really concern ourselves with core values and strategies of communication. In fact, we have a hard time defining what we do, except for the fact that we produce script-based content in a slightly different way than the larger production companies and book publishers.” Historyradio.org: What does it take to make it as a writer in TV, do you think? Berggren: “You need to write, write and write. And in between read and watch tv. Sometimes I must admit I am a little shocked by young writers who want to get into television, and who produce nothing. You cannot wait for a break. In fact, it’s all about actual writing experience. Even if it is difficult to write something without seeing the final product, this exactly what you need to do. Write in all genres, and get as much feedback as possible, if only from your mother or someone you know. And you need to watch a lot of TV, in all genres, several hours a day. You need to analyse how the the skilled minds think. Sometimes you can learn even more by watching half-decent drama. You see what’s wrong, notice the way they think, and when it doesn’t suit your palate you imagine what you might have done if you had written the story yourself.” Historyradio.org: Norway is a small country, yet recently our TV series, actors and directors have made it in Hollywood. Are there international opportunities for script writers? Berggren: “Yes, I think this might happen soon. Already a select few have been offered seats in writing rooms in LA. Some might get a job, and it’s much harder than you imagine. You need to be proficient in English, and this is where many Norwegians tend to over-estimate our own skills. I think you can get an entry into the US market if you become a co-producer on remakes of Norwegian TV-series, or work on developing new series for the international market. Or you could move to LA or England, get your education there, network, become a part of the scene, as much as you’re able. We have had foreigners with Norwegian as a second language in our writers’ rooms here in Norway, and I can tell you this wasn’t easy. No matter how great they think their language skills are.” Historyradio.org: Let’s say I were a 20 year old who desperately wanted to write something for TV or film. What would be my best option for achieving my goals? Berggren: “I would be very patient. Try to get a foot in the door anywhere on set. Be a runner. Make coffee, sweep the floors. Staple the scripts and so on. I would have done it for free, even if our unions might object. Once you have access, relations are built, gradually trust is gained. If you’re the sort of fellow who listens to criticism, thrives on it, more responsibility will eventually come your way. But in terms of cognition, you need to remember that the 20 year old brain is, in fact, not fully mature. That doesn’t happen until you reach 25, I think. What you believe the world to be as a 20 year old might be false. A 20 year old is impatient, and wants to been seen and recognized. They think things revolve round them. I have seen plenty of 20-year-olds who were presented with great opportunities, but who were swiftly disappointed, told everyone to go to h.. and moved on to what I assume were greener pastures. I guess, I once was a little like that myself. I have missed out on opportunities myself, you see. But “patience”, “networks”, “relations” and “trust” are the keywords. Most people are hired by someone they already know. And of course networking among people your own age is crucial. Someone that you know is sure to make it, and they will be searching for people their own age to join them. It is , in my view, almost impossible to predict who makes it. But their shared characteristics are gaining work experience, building relations and networks. So if you know “a mingler”, latch on.” Historyradio.org: As the head of a writing group, you must have seen many mistakes, and many who lacked the skills. What are the most common mistakes of the rookie writer? Berggren:…….. “They’re impatient. Afraid of criticism. You think that your way of thinking is the only one. Some lack humility. Some are lazy. Some are thin-skinned. Some jealous. Some believe themselves to be smart and that they deserve to be discovered. This is fact typical of 9 out 10 writers that we encounter. Great ego, inflated view of their own skills.” Historyradio.org: I am going to ask you a difficult question that concerns most writers and artists at one time or another. How should one deal with rejection? Berggren: “This might sound like BS coming from some one with one foot in the grave, but embrace your rejections. The people I truly admire have one thing in common. They have been rejected more than most. You’re fired. You’re humiliated. And every time you learn something that makes you a better writer and better person. Rejection is the scariest thing I know. It hurts like hell, it hits us right in the gut. Still, it is the key to progress. If you manage to put on a brave smile and move on. Rejections are not about You. The person rejecting you might be looking for something completely different. Often you will be offered new jobs from the very same person who once rejected you. As an employer I am looking for someone who is able handle themselves professionally. Patience. Humility. This can only be achieved by coming to terms with rejection. I know it sounds like crap, but this is something I know to be true. I have experienced plenty of rejections myself.” Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureIn the 1980s, a new academic discipline became popular in western academia: Postcolonial Studies. New theories emerged from the former colonies around the world about how they would deal with their shared past. Postcolonial Studies emerged from an attempt to give a voice to writers and thinkers that had been marginalized. Suddenly the original ideas of the colonial diaspora and the African universities became visible. As it turned out, even in places as far afield as Papua New Guinea intellectuals had something to say. This new branch of studies became immensly influential, and the first textbook on the subject was called The Empire Writes Back (1989). We contacted one of the authors of that work, professor Bill Ashcroft, and asked him a few questions about what postcolonial studies is and how he and his co-authors came to write this first book. Historyradio.org: You have worked with postcolonial theory all your career, how and when did you become interested in the subject? Professor Ashcroft: My interest in postcolonial studies originates in the field of Commonwealth literature, which began with the establishment of the Association for Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies (ACLALS) in the 1960s. By the 1970s new terms were emerging such as “New Literatures” and by the late 1970s I became increasingly dissatisfied with the untheoretical and New Critical approach of Commonwealth literature. In 1978 I edited and issue of New Literature Review (later New Literatures Review) on postcolonial literature. By the 1980s the term postcolonial had taken over from other descriptions of the field and my focus at this time was on the transformations of language particularly in African literatures. Historyradio.org:  You published the first textbook on postcolonial theory in 1989. Why did it take so long before postcolonial studies appeared as an academic discipline in the West? Professor Ashcroft: During the period after WWII when colonies were gaining independence ‘post-colonial’ meant post-independence. The emergence of Commonwealth literary studies dominated the field of English literature in the 1960s until the term ‘postcolonial’ began to gain strength in the 1970s. The Empire Writes Back was written to bring together the textual attentiveness of Commonwealth literature and sophisticated approaches to contemporary theory that could evolve a way of reading the continuing cultural engagements of colonial societies. In fact the conversations in which the book began occurred in the early 1980s. Historyradio.org: Where did you meet your co-authors for The Empire Writes Back? Professor Ashcroft: We had had known each other in the late 1970s but the project took shape when we met at an AULLA (Australian Universities Language and Literature) conference in 1980. Historyradio.org: You must have done a careful selection of thinkers to reference. Which ones would you say were the most important ones for you? Professor Ashcroft: Our aim was to highlight thinkers from the colonized societies as much aspossible. Of course Colonial Discourse theorists such as Bhabha, Spivak and Said were prominent in the landscape at that time but contrary to popular belief they were not a major influence on the book. Said’s Orientalism was a well known analysis of Europe’s representation of its others but none of these theorists had a prominent place in our work at that time. This is surprising to most people since I later wrote a book on Edward Said with Pal Ahluwalia, but at that time he featured very little in the book. Our aim was to distil the theoretical insights from postcolonial writers themselves. Historyradio.org: Postcolonial Studies became quite popular in the nineties. Has it lead to any improvements for the cultural life in the former colonies? Professor Ashcroft: I was struck by the statement by a Dalit woman at a conference in 2006 that The Empire Writes Back “gave us a voice.” Any ‘improvement’ in colonized cultures is represented in this statement through the voice that colonized people were able to use. However a greater and more important improvement has been made by postcolonial writers themselves, who appropriated English, the language of the coloniser, and used it represent their own culture and society to the world. To choose a language is to choose an audience and choosing English ensured a world audience. Historyradio.org:  Isn’t there a point in history when the colonial period becomes irrelevant, when too much time has passed for it to be used as an excuse? Professor Ashcroft: This question is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the postcolonial. The idea of a chronological stage ‘after colonialism’ was the way the term was used in the 1960s, after the surge of independence. But from the publication of The Empire Writes Back the situation changed radically. ‘Postcolonial’ refers to neither a chronology nor ontology but a way of reading. It is a way of reading the cultural resistances and transformations of colonised and formerly colonised cultural producers. Sometimes this was anti-colonial but more often it was transformative as transformation proved to be the most powerful and productive form of resistance. Postcolonialism has continually transformed itself to provide strategies with which to analyse global power. We live after colonialism but never without it. Historyradio.org: There is a local scholar here in Norway, Dag Herbjørnsrud, who recently wrote a book in which he argued for the establishment of a new global Canon. Is this in line with what you were trying to do in the 90s? Professor Ashcroft: I don’t think so. Postcolonial studies have always been suspicious of canons, which arise when those with cultural power determine what is best. Postcolonial studies rejected the idea of a canon of ‘great works’ because these invariably marginalized the non-European writers. If we dispense with the idea of a canon, however, then certainly the significance of writers around the world needs to be recognised. Historyradio.org:  There has been some debate here in Norway about epistemology, and alternative ways of acquiring knowledge. This may seem harmless in literary studies and philosophy, but it would seem to contradict much of what has been achieved in the natural sciences. In what way was postcolonial theory, as it appeared in the 90s, relevant for the hard sciences? Professor Ashcroft: In our next edition of The Postcolonial Studies Reader we are including a section on Postcolonial Science. Postcolonial theory is relevant for the hard sciences because it proposes that indigenous and non western ways of knowing the world, and particularly ways of knowing and caring for the natural world, are of equal importance. As the climate crisis approaches the need to consider alternative ways of knowing the world is increasing. Historyradio.org: You have read many postcolonial novels in your long career as a literary scholar. Which one would you say was most influential for postcolonial studies? And why? Professor Ashcroft: This question smacks a little of canonical thinking, but one book that stands out is Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children written in 1980. This is because it deconstructs so many forms of imperial discourse – the discourse of nationalism, the discourse of history itself within which nations come into being; the discourse of language; those of race and ethnicity and their embedding in language. All these offer a picture of the range of Rushdie’s radical dismantling of the myths of identity that surrounded that fateful midnight when India became a nation, taking over the architecture of the colonial state. What Rushdie is dismantling is not so much the idea of nation as the wider ranging tyranny of borders within which such concepts come into being. The book reminds us of the many ways in which societies unthinkingly take on the model of western society. Historyradio.org:  Sometimes when you read literary text from around the world, there are great surprises. Is there a literary culture today that you feel is neglected, that is just waiting to be discovered and recognized? Professor Ashcroft: At this stage of my career there are few surprises. I don’t know of a culture that’s being neglected, especially since publication, and particularly publication in a world language is a form of recognition. There are many books that could be better recognised by critics. I will mention just one: Agaat by the South African writer Marlene van Nierkerk. Historyradio.org: You have traveled the world as an academic. What sort of issues are universities in Africa and elsewhere concerned with today? Professor Ashcroft: Universities in Africa face the same issue as those around the world, only to a greater degree: the marginalization of the humanities and the struggle for funding. Corrections: the introduction to this interview has been edited due to some technical problems during publication.  Further reading: Ashcroft B;Griffiths G;Tiffin H, 2013, Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (3rd ed), 3, Routledge Press, London Dag Herbjørnsrud, “Beyond decolonizing: global intellectual history and reconstruction of a comparative method” in Global Intellecural History Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story1. From the village “Kosisochukwu my son!” Ozioma called repeatedly as she ran along a slightly dangling narrow bamboo bridge towards a building at the fringe of Udi village. It was a small building constructed on the top of a creek that had been rendered lifeless by oil spillage; nearby rivers and streams where they once drank from were equally useless. There were other similar buildings above the creek and they were all constructed with split tree trunks, old planks, and bamboo trees. Important men, of course, did not have roofs of raffia leaves, for they could afford old corrugated sheets to roof their houses. It didn’t matter whether there were perforations in the metal left by nails from the original buildings. These buildings were linked to one another by bamboo bridges. The people were careful to rebuild them at least once a year after harmattan seasons, which dried up and made brittle the wild creepers with which the bamboo logs were bound. These bridges were not stable, and there had been occasions when someone had slipped off and landed into the water. But such occasions only provoked hearty laughter instead of pity. In fact, the villagers considered themselves fish ‘that can never be drowned’, for as far as they could remember, only a toddler had succumbed to such a fate. It had been her mother’s fault, though. She had forgotten to close the opening where they pass out feces, urine and other rubbish into the water, and left to check what she was cooking in the kitchen. When she returned to the room, the child was missing. The mother realised she had not only left the hole open but also the door to the restroom. The lifeless child was picked from the bed of the black creek. “Kosisochukwu my son please leave immediately before they get here!” Kosi heard her mother’s voice and rushed out of the building to the veranda. He was bare-chested with only a very tight short on, his India hemp sticking out and smoking between his dark lips. “Mama, what is the problem!” he called. By now Aisosa was standing at the door post, leaning lazily on the left frame. “Run! Run! Police. Your brother has been…” A gunshot was heard and Ozioma dropped dead on the bridge. Aisosa yelled and wanted to rush to Ozioma’s aid, but Kosi caught her wrist just in time and dragged her into the building. Before long, three heavily armed police men were running towards the house. One stopped by Ozioma’s corpse and pushed it into the creek with his boot. “Level the house. Fire!” shouted one of them, obviously their leader. Bullets perforated the building until it caught fire and burned to the ground. “Any need to check for their corpses?” asked the policeman who had pushed Ozioma into the creek. “No,” the police chief replied. “They’re obviously dead.” Kosi had dropped into the creek with Aisosa through the building’s shithole before the shooting began. It was a narrow escape though, for a bullet had nearly hit his head. He had tilted his head to peep through a crack when the first shot sounded. The bullet smashed a mirror behind him. They vanished undetected in the water under cover of noise and commotion; Aisosa had even let out a loud cry when her ankle hit one of the poles that supported the building. They escaped through a trench which Kosi had deliberately dug and hidden in between hedges for occasions such as these, gunshots echoing in their minds. He covered Aisosa’s mouth with his right palm and then lowered her into the trench. A week earlier, a white man who worked with one of the oil companies in that region had been kidnapped, and the kidnappers demanded a hundred million naira ransom which the company was unable to pay because government had recently criminalized ransom payment. The militia group gave a one day ultimatum which elapsed without the company or the government doing anything to that effect. Mr Richard Anderson was promptly executed. To spite the government, the militia group filmed the atrocity and released the video. The militia leader was heard in the video saying: “You cannot deny us food and expect us to let you eat in peace. You have killed our fish and our fishermen can no longer survive. You have turned our waters into poison with your oil and rendered our farmland barren. You have deliberately starved our children for generations, and you tell us to go to hell when we protest with placards and helpless songs and chants. This time we will protest with guns and bullets and knives and monstrosity, and nothing will stop us. So go ahead and criminalize ransom and watch us answer you with more blood and death and vandalism.” As expected, the government responded by sending heavily armed police to the village with a special order to kill on sight. They arrived at the village with saboteurs and collaborators, those who feed fat off the misfortune of others. Names of militant leaders were mentioned, and Kosi was one of them. Although Kosi was a leader of a militant group, he was not part of the group that killed Mr Richard Anderson. In fact, he learned about this after the attack on his house. His only brother was shot in the head by the police that humid morning when they had reached his home. When the police discovered their mistake, they pursued Ozioma, whom they saw escaping through the back door. Later, Kosi’s second-in-command calmly laid the facts before him, and in addition added the name of the chief betrayer. His name was Chief Amayenabor. Chief Amayenabor lived in a luxury mansion in the best part of the town, two or three miles from the creek. Kosi puffed his weed, and listened to his second-in-command in their hideout. It was a bunker, squeezed between the trench that led to his house on one side and a mosquito-infested swamp on the other. Air and rays of light entered the tunnel through a square opening in the roof. There was silence as the story was told, and puff after puff rose through the dim air. In the end Kosi stood up abruptly, dipped his left hand into his trouser’s left pocket and brought out a pill, a tramadol tablet. Two 500mg pills were placed on Kosi’s tongue. He dipped his right hand in the other pocket and brought out a small bottle of codein, a cough syrup, opened it, filled his mouth and swallowed. “Target!” he shouted as though the startled Target wasn’t sitting at his left side. “Chairman!” Target answered, leaping to his feet. “I dey your side chairman,” he added, drawing heavily from his smoldering weed. “Correct!” Kosi replied. “E no go better for chief!” he added. “E no go better for chief!” said Target, as Kosi extended the pack of pills to him. ” Ready the confirms, put plenty groundnut seed for inside and carry others follow body,” Kosi instructed. “Confirm. At your command Chairman,” Target said. “Government!” Kosi yelled, and the Second-in-Command rose to his feet. “Chairman,” he answered, his weed hanging from his lips, smoke oozing from his nostrils. “I be your loyal boy. Command me.” “Chief go fall today.” “I hear you, Chairman.” “Get the other boys ready at once! We’re out of here,” Kosi said and marched into the jungle. They went by boat in the night. Before dawn Chief Amayenabor was missing and three of his personal security personnel were confirmed dead. Two days later, his head was found hanging on a stake before government house, and three days after this his headless body floated down the creek. The killing of a high government official like chief Amayenabor was an assault on the government, an unpardonable offence, according to the 9:00pm Newscaster on NTA. The government was determined to crush the riff-raff and have normalcy in the region. That day, the Inspector General of Police deployed twenty-four police officers from the dreaded Special Anti-Crime Squad unit to the village. This time they were to intensify their operations. Unfortunately, these men were met with a kind of fierce resistance they never envisaged, and during one of the gun battles which had lasted for the whole night, twenty-one out of the twenty-four police men were killed. The three who made it out of the village that night didn’t do so unharmed, for one of them later died in a general hospital at Abuja where they were all hospitalized. The militants counted only lesser casualties, and this infuriated the authorities even more. For three weeks, there was a news blackout, nothing was mentioned publicly. It was as though normalcy had truly returned, and the militants halted their operations. Then one night, the whole village was awoken by the sound of jets piercing the heavens. A sudden blast from one dead end of the village shook buildings, and brought others to the ground. The village was under siege, and screams and cries of women and children rose to the moonlit sky. Beneath the bombs, helter-skelter through a hail of bullets, villagers ran in all directions. Some made their way over the bamboo bridges to nearby bushes, and were cut down with machetes by soldiers. That night, two thousand five hundred villagers died. Kosi, Aisosa and his militant group were in their bunker when the noise reached them. From their position of safety, Kosi escaped to Benin City where he met Omos and Efe, and planned to travel out of Nigeria. He was a wanted man in Nigeria, and had to flee for his life. Omos, on the other hand, wanted to leave the country because there were no jobs for him, not even with his university degree, ten years of training as a mechanical engineer. Efe’s reason for leaving was not clear.   2. Across the sea “Omos!” Kosi shouted from the sinking edge of the deflating balloon boat. There were over a hundred of them stuffed in this bloating object and that was probably why it deflated too soon, and it happened far from shore. “If you survive this please don’t tell Aisosa that I am dead! Tell her that I shall return to marry her! Tell her to name our child Ozoemela!” That was Kosi’s last words before the next wave knocked him off the balloon. In his Igbo ethnic group, name must be significant, for it was beyond a mere means of identification. Names to the Igbos were marks that followed children from the spirit world, and most times the living knew about them even before the children were birthed. So a name must represent at least an event, and it didn’t matter whether it was good or bad- as long as it highlighted and emphasized something; if he must be called Bush, then his mother must birth him in the bush. Ozoemela is a name with a deep meaning, filled with pity and grief. It pleads for another, Ozo, not to happen again. Some things should never be repeated. Many in this makeshift boat ended their journey on the sea bed, those who could not swim, or those who were caught up by rolling waves as the boat capsized, and currents drove them apart. Those born near rivers and creeks kept themselves afloat for a very long time, and were for the first time in their lives grateful for having been exposed to the dangers and hardships of unknown waters while growing up. Efe was the most grateful, for all he could remember when he regained conscioussness was that he had let out a muffled shrill with his last strength and then began to sink. Omos was as much grateful even though he could not remember anything beyond drinking a lot of the salt water when his arms became numb and could no longer move to keep him afloat. He lay face-up on the shore, his eyes wide-open yet, not fully alive. The Libyans who found them on the beach walked about. From time to time, they bent over their motionless bodies for a closer look. Omos thought they were shadows, nameless creatures pulling him down towards the depths of the ocean. A half dream, from which he struggled to escape. “He is stirring,” one of the Libyan rescuers yelled and signaled his colleagues, “this one is still alive.” “Mop up the water running from his nustrils,” the other said. And as the man lowered his face a little closer and was about touching Omos’ nose with a piece of cloth, Omos jerked fully awake, throwing up on his face and all over his body, brown water that smelled like urine. “Let me be!” Omos yelled in a panting fright. “You black piece of shit!” the man said and hit his mouth so hard that it bled. Efe was lying beside him still unconscious. “What’s the problem?” a voice asked in Arabic. The man responded in Arabic too and then fixed an irritated gaze at Omos as he gradually stood up. “Come on black ass; your mates are eating inside!” The voice came again, but this time in English. But the accent was a caricature; a mockery of the English language. When the man left, Omos sat up properly and tapped Efe on the shoulder. Efe didn’t stir, then he tapped him again and again until he sneezed and blinked his eyes open. Omos helped him sit properly. Efe gently surveyed his surroundings and asked where they were. He, too, would occasionally cough up brown water. ” Thank God we’re alive, ” Omos said in almost a whisper. “Where are we?’ “On a shore in Libya. “ “Where is Kosi?” Omos turned his head, “Maybe in that metal house?” Efe yawned and stretched his hands above his head. “Hungry?” Omos asked. “No, famished.” “Let’s hurry into the house, I think some of us are already eating there.” “Some of us?” “Yes. We aren’t the only survivors.” Halfway to the metal house, a few yards from the sea, a heavily-bearded Libyan with a perfectly round face and an AK47 rifle hanging from his left shoulder threw the door open. With a broad smile he beckoned them to move faster. He cursed them in Arabic and introduced himself. “Come inside and eat, you black idiots. I am Ahmed Abdulahi, the head of the rescue team. Thank Allah, you’re alive!” He patted them on their shoulders and stepped aside to let them enter. Omos sensed something sinister in his eyes. The man’s handshake was too loose. There was an impenetrable darkness waiting inside the metal house. “It would have been a great loss for us if you hadn’t made it to the shore alive,” Ahmed added. Omos stared at his brown teeth and a long scar that ran from the corner of his left eye and crossed his nose bridge to the corner of his mouth. Omos thought of a gunshot, but finally concluded it was a slash by a very sharp-edged weapon. Ahmed must have noticed their hesitation and said, “Now let’s go in”, and led the way. Omos was relectuant, but there was no choice. He was the last to enter, and the door was shut with a metallic clang that startled them both. They heard a chain dragged across the lock behind them. “Are they inside?” a voice asked from one end of the darkness. Loud and ominous, the statement ended with a few Arabic mutterings. Then a switch was pulled and there was light. Not very bright, but at least there was relief. What then revealed itself to Omos was very unexpected. Where were the meals and his mates? Where was Kosi? Five men stood in that vast room. Ahmed Abdulahi was by the door with his rifle, by his side a man whom Omos remembered from the beach. One rifle leaned against the wall. At the far end Omos saw a man seated in front of a table. On the table, another rifle. He saw the aging hands of a black man in a grey hood resting on the table by the door as he was leaning forward. As soon as the light came on, he turned quickly to another Libyan that was standing behind him. “Are they your cargo?” the man in front of the table asked. “Yes, they are,” the black man responded. The accent was Nigerian, Edo precisely. “Here is the check,” the Libyan said, handing the sheet to the black man, who took it, frowned and grumbled. “You know this is the first time this has happened. That’s all I can pay for the two. We lost so many of them at sea,” the man added. “Well, I understand,” the Nigerian said. “Another boat is on the way.” “Let’s hope they arrive safely. It’s a pleasure doing business with you.” The two shook hands, and the black man turned and made towards the door, his eyes fixed to the floor. As he approached, Omos and Efe gave way for him to pass. Ahmed Abdulahi opened the door and light from outside shone bright on his face, and just then Omos recognized him. “Uncle Irobosa!” he shouted, hurrying towards him. But it was too late by then, for the rays of light vanished and the door shut with a heavy bang. In the dark, Omos crashed his head against the damp metal wall. Suddenly he was unconscious on the floor. The last he heard was a muffled scream from Efe. Within seconds, Efe too was knocked down from behind and unconscious. When Omos opened his eyes, he was naked on a narrow bed in a very small room. He could see and hear, but his body was unable to move. This bed was almost a solitary piece of furniture positioned very close to the window. There were voices, not far off beyond the glass pane. By the foot side of the bed he suddenly noticed low stool with a silver tray containing surgical equipment. There was a pair of bloodstained rubber gloves. A gown hung on a pole close by. He wanted to shift his gaze when someone shouted. It was the voice of the man he had seen in front of the table in the dark room. “This is not what we bargained on the phone! A kidney costs more than this and you know that! Do you how much I pay to get them here? “ “Well, gentlemen, I don’t think it has come to this. I am only but a middle man in this business,” another voice said. “If I…” “Then tell your master what the market price is. Don’t come here with few dollars and expect to go back to Saudi with this!” the harsher voice said. “Get him on the phone right now!” “Erh…he wouldn’t want to be disturbed, and moreover I, we have…” “Get him now or I drill your skull with a bullet! I pay that doctor over there, or you think he’s doing this job for free? I want to speak to the big man directly.” “You can’t speak directly to my master. He is a busy man, but you can talk to his doctor in Saudi.” “Then get me the damn doctor!” Somebody was speaking Arabic on a phone. When he was done, he switched back to English. “Well, he has agreed to pay thirty thousand. He’s also interested in the second kidney at the same price. But we can’t do that without ending him. “ “In that case, we shall wait until Mr Chin Lu arrives for the heart.” Omos tried to lift his head towards the window, but his neck was stiff and firm. He rolled his eyes to his left hand and discovered that he was not only on a drip, but also restrained. His hands and legs were chained to the bedframes. Suddenly, he felt moisture in his right abdomen. Blood was dripping out, he was cut. There was a sharp pain and an urge to scream, but his voice was long gone. By Ify Iroakazi 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... [...]
history  In a story by Edgar Rice Burroughs an explorer chops his way with a machete through the Cambodian jungle to a lost world – a remnant of ancient Angkor still thriving. The tale of “The Land of Hidden Men” may be an entertaining yarn, but Angkor Wat – one of the greatest cultures of the medieval world- was swallowed by the jungle, and then rediscovered in the nineteenth century. The ancient kingdom boasted 102 public hospitals. Only one first-hand account of its capital exists, from the pen of Zhou Daguan, a contemporary Chinese diplomat who later published a book entitled “The Customs of Cambodia”. Zhou Daguan was born Zhou Dake, in a small town in a coastal region of China. For some reason, he changed his name after he returned from Cambodia. Some speculate that the Chinese emperor planned to attack Cambodia, and that that might be the reasons for the many details in Daguan’s book. His text only caught the attention of the world after it was translated into French by Paul Pelliot in 1902. The following are excerpts:   “This Tche-la is also called Tchan-la. The native name is Kan-po-tche. The current dynasty, based on Tibetan religious books, calls this country Kan-p’ou-tche, phonetically close to Kan-potche. The royal palace, as well as official buildings and noble residences, all face east. The royal palace lies north of the Golden Tower and the Golden Bridge. Where the sovereign conducts his affairs, there is a golden window; to the right and left of the frame, on square pillars, there are mirrors, about forty to fifty, arranged on the sides of the window. The sill of the sovereign’s window is shaped like an elephant. Everyone, starting with the sovereign, both men and women, wear their hair in a bun and have bare shoulders. They simply wrap a piece of cloth around their waist. There are many rules regarding the fabrics based on each person’s rank. Only the prince can wear continuous patterned fabrics. He wears a golden diadem, similar to those on the heads of vajradharas. Sometimes, he does not wear a diadem and simply wraps a garland of fragrant flowers reminiscent of jasmine in his bun. Among common people, only women can dye the soles of their feet and the palms of their hands; men would not dare to. High officials and princes can wear fabrics with widely spaced patterns. Only officials may wear fabrics with two groups of patterns. Among common people, only women are allowed to wear such special types of cloth. But even if a newly arrived Chinese wears a fabric with two groups of patterns, it is not considered a crime because he is “ngan-ting-pa-cha”, a person who does not know the rules. When officials go out, their emblems and their entourage are arranged according to their rank. The highest dignitaries use a golden palanquin and four parasols with golden handles; the following have a golden palanquin and two parasols with golden handles, then a golden palanquin and one parasol with a golden handle, and finally a simple parasol with a silver handle.” “Both regular writings and official documents are always written on deer or deer skin and similar materials, dyed black. Each person cuts the skins to their liking, depending on their dimensions in length and width. People use a kind of powder that resembles Chinese chalk and shape it into sticks, which they call “so.” Holding this stick in hand, they write characters on pieces of skin, these do not fade. When they finish, they place the stick behind their ear. They can also recognize a writer by his characters. The characters will fade, however, if you rub them with something wet. All documents are written from left to right, not from top to bottom. These people always make the tenth Chinese lunar month the first month of their year. In front of the royal palace, a large platform is assembled that can accommodate more than a thousand people, and it is entirely adorned with lanterns and flowers. In front, at a distance of twenty paces, using pieces of wood placed end to end, a high platform is assembled, similar in shape to scaffolding for the construction of the Buddhist mounds we now call “stupas”. Each night, three, four, five, or six of these platforms are constructed. Fireworks and firecrackers are placed at the top. These expenses are borne by the provinces and noble houses. When night falls, the sovereign is invited to witness the spectacle. Rockets are launched, and firecrackers are lit. The rockets can be seen from over a hundred miles away, and the firecrackers are as large as boulders, and their explosion shakes the entire city. Mandarins and nobles contribute with candles and areca nuts. The sovereign also invites foreign ambassadors to the spectacle. This continues for fifteen days, and then everything stops. Every month, there is a festival. In the fourth month, they play ball. In the ninth, they enumerate. Enumerating means gathering the population from all over the kingdom and reviewing them in front of the royal palace. In the fifth month, they fetch water for the Buddhas. They gather the Buddhas from all over the kingdom, bring water, and, in the company of the sovereign, wash them. In the sixth month, they navigate boats on dry land. The prince climbs a belvedere to watch the festival. In the seventh month, they burn rice. At this time, the new rice is ripe, and they fetch it outside the South Gate and burn it as an offering to the Buddha. Countless women go to this ceremony by cart or on elephants, but the sovereign stays at home. In the eighth month, there is dancing. The term “ngai-lan” means “to dance.” They designate actors and musicians who come to the royal palace every day to perform “ngai-lan.” There are also pig and elephant fights. The sovereign also invites foreign ambassadors to attend. The sovereign holds court twice a day for government affairs. There is no schedule. Officials or people who wish an audience wait on the ground outside. After a while, distant music is heard in the palace. Then the sound of conch shells outside announces his arrival. I have heard that the sovereign travels in a golden palanquin to these meetings; he does not come from far away. A moment later, two palace maidens raise the curtain with their delicate fingers, and the sovereign, holding a sword, appears standing at the golden window. Ministers and people fold their hands and touch their foreheads to the ground. When the sound of the conch shells ceases, they can raise their heads. It is at this moment that the sovereign takes his seat, and on such occasions, he is always seated on his lion’s skin, a royal heirloom. As soon as the matters to be handled are completed, the prince turns around, the palace maidens lower the curtain, and everyone stands up.”   The excerpts come from Paul Pelliot’s French translation, first published in 1902 (then revised before his death and published in 1951). Below is Monash University’s youtube reconstruction of medieval Angkor, from 2017.     Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyLamin Bajinka is a very fortunate man, a history teacher in a country where the unemployment rate is sky high. Yet, his days are far from care free, and often he too dreams about a comfortable life in Europe or America. Originally from the rural part of the Gambia, he lives in an urban area during the academic year, and moves back with his extended family on a farm during holidays. There he ploughs the fields by hand and tries to assist his relatives. «We grow delicious watermelons», he boasts. A devout muslim, he often prays and finds comfort in simple things. In his spare time, he trains the local soccer team, and it is not without pride that he talks about their many achievements on the pitch. Historyradio.org: Tell us a little about your background. Why did you decide to study history? Lamin Bajinka: I began my education in a small village called Kiti. Then I went to the Gambia college campus in Brikama, which is five kilometres from my native land. Brikama has about 90 000 inhabitants. I sometimes live in a town called Brufut, on the Gambian coast, with my mum. My grandfather inspired my interest in studying history. During my youth he narrated vivid stories to me, which inspired to know the history of this land and her people. Historyradio.org: How many students do you have, how old are they and what do you teach them? Lamin Bajinka: I teach classes of 35 to 40 students and we have 4 history classes in the school. The age of my students differ. They are between 15 and 20, but there is nobody older than 20. In the Gambia, the history syllabus is divided into two: National History and West Africa and the Wider World. We try to read more about our own country and West Africa. Historyradio.org: What about your pay as a teacher, is it sufficient for a decent life? Lamin Bajinka: No, my wages are not enough for decent life because I can’t even buy a bicycle or construct my own house. Historyradio.org: And tuition, is it free for all Gambians? Lamin Bajinka: Yes, today basic education is free for all Gambians. Girls were the first to get free tuition, in order to empower and encourage female education in the country. Historyradio.org. What sort of methods do you apply in your classroom? Lectures? Group work? Lamin Bajinka: I normally I put the child at the center of the class and allow them to express their own understanding of the subject or topics. Then we have group work while I guide them. Historyradio.org: What are the greatest difficulties that a Gambian student faces in school?  Lamin Bajinka: Many have difficulties with the distance they travel to attend  school. Not every village or community is blessed with a school. So, as a result, some students travel far  in order to get a better education. Historyradio.org: Once a student graduates, what are their chances of attending university? Lamin Bajinka: The chances are very slim due to the student’s financial circumstances. I am a good example of this, I haven’t finished my university degree. Yes, there are scholarships, but it is not sufficient for the number of people who want to have a university education. Historyradio.org: Do you think there is adequate focus on Gambian and west African history in the media? Lamin Bajinka: There is not enough focus on west African history, particularly Gambian history. European countries don’t focus much on our history in their media, do they? Historyradio.org: If you were to teach Gambian history to a European class for a day, what events and topics would you focus on? Lamin Bajinka: I will focus on the ethnic groups of Gambia, that is the people of the country, their social and political structure, and our economy. Then you can see how we live. Historyradio.org: If you were to recommend a book on Gambian history, what would it be? Lamin Bajinka: If I am to recommend a history book for my region, it will be any history of the ethnic groups of the Gambia that you can find. Our diversity is so important. Historyradio.org: What are your dreams for the future? Lamin Bajinka: I pray to become a successful business man.   The Gambia:  There are 8 main ethnic groups in the Gambia: Mandinka, Wolofs, Akus, Jola, Fulanis, Serahule, Serer and Tukulor all living in relative peace. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureMorocco is a land of contrasts, with scenery ranging from the most beautiful mountain valleys to deserts and sprawling metropolitan areas. It is also a land of unequal wealth, a gap between the rich and the poor- prostitution and crime. Yet, while the arab world has been in turmoil, Morocco has remained fairly stable. It is perhaps not so strange then that the country is the center of an unlikely arabic revival: the police procedural. We talked with the founder of the arab noir genre, Abdelilah Hamdouchi, and we followed the literary traces of his hero, detective Hannach, through some distinctly Moroccan alleyways. Historyradio.org: Tell us a little about your background. When and how did you decide to become a crime writer? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: When I decided to write my first crime novel in late 90s, Morocco had just started a new political experience under the banner “A Government of Change”. This change followed a general amnesty for all political prisoners. Also, some democratic practices began to take hold in the running of the state and society, to the extent that a former convict and exiled leftist became head of the government. In those days, I had penned novels about social affairs, but no one took notice of these writings. So I decided to try the crime novel, even if I only was familiar with Agatha Christie in this niche. Historyradio.org: A while back I heard a theory that no crime novel could exist in a non-democratic country, simply because the citizens in dictatorships didn’t trust the police? Yet, your Moroccan police procedurals show otherwise? Do Moroccans trust the police? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: This is relatively true, the crime novel finds its space in democratic countries; or human rights and the law. Russia, for example, never knew this kind of literature during the Soviet era, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and the Francoist Spain neither, and the first crime novel in Spain was written after the death of dictator Franco in Spain in 1974. This can be said of dictatorships in Africa and in Latin America. But, of course, it does not prevent exceptions from emerging, like the author Leonardo Padura, who wrote the crime novels in Cuba. My country, Morocco, is a special case in the sense that we have always lived under a regime that adapts by drawing red lines not to cross, including the kingship, the territorial unit and the Moslem religion, Malekite. If someone goes beyond these red lines, he is overtaken by the law. Otherwise everything is subject to opinions and criticisms freely. Historyradio.org: When did Moroccans begin reading crime fiction, and what sort of crime fiction do they prefer? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: My experience is unique and even avant-garde in Arab culture. In part, this has left me with almost a feeling of rush to be translated into English and other languages. The Hoopoe Publishing House has commissioned me for a series of Moroccan thrillers whose hero is a certain Hannach. The crime novel is almost absent in our literature and Moroccan cultures in particular and Arabs in general. Even translations are limited to Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle. Historyradio.org: They say many Italian police procedurals have open endings or let the bad guy get away because they reflect public expectations of corruption and incompetence in the police force? Is there a similar tradition in Morocco? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: We must not forget that Italy is the country of the Mafia and organized crime. The majority of the crimes in Morocco are of individual nature or connected to family affairs, and the motives are often money-related or sentimental. Organized crime, like in Italy, is almost absent. It is true that Moroccans are part of mafia organizations, but the majority of crimes are individual. Historyradio.org: What sort of hero is Detective Hannach? How does he compare with let’s say Mankell’s Wallander? Does he drink? Is he flawed in any way? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: Hannach is fond of life: he loves beautiful women and has experienced both good and bad times, against a backdrop of corruption, he has a good heart. Historyradio.org: How does he go about solving his crimes, does he have a method or does he just stumble his way towards a solution in the manner of Philip Marlowe? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: First, he has a proper background. He worked in the narcotics brigade in Tangier and built a career.  He then joined the criminal brigade in Casablanca, where his experience with the drug squad helped him in his new mission, especially since he is intelligent and organizes his teams with professionalism. Before solving the crime, he asks all his colleagues their opinion. Historyradio.org: What about yourself, how do you write your novels? Do you write on instinct or do you outline the plot in advance? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: In general, before I start writing, I have a pretty clear idea of ​​my subject. I am inspired by various facts; to put my writing technique at the service of the crime novel with everything that leaves the reader in the pleasure of reading. Historyradio.org: Do you have any literary role models, writers who inspired you when you started writing? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: In principle I have no model, I read a lot, literature, crime novels, other than that I admire the clear and transparent style of Paul Auster. Also I much admire Henning Mankell. Historyradio.org: You were among the first to write modern police procedurals in your country. Have you met with any difficulties? How were your first novels received? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: My first crime novel was about the world of Hashish, and lower-ranking police officers who made a considerable effort to dismantle the traffic, and who see their effort in the water following the interventions of the officers. The purpose of this crime novel was to convey a certain message. This first noir was well received, both commercially and critically, which resulted in the making of a TV movie. Historyradio.org: According to Al Jazeera, Maurice Leblanc’s golden age rogue, Arsene Lupin, is popular in the arab world. Would you say that the cozy 1920’s crime puzzle still fascinates Moroccans? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: I’m not so sure about Al Jazeera Television’s conclusions, but the Arab reader does not consume a lot of crime novels, due to a lack of available translations. Historyradio.org: Apart from yourself, are there other major crime writers in Morocco? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: Yes, there is another author who writes in French, and who (coincidentally) has the same surname as me, Miloudi Hamdouchi. He was a very popular detective writer in the 90s and was known as “Colombo” in the popular press. You can buy 3 of Hamdouchi’s latest thrillers at Amazon. Whitefly (2016) The Final Bet (2016)  Bled Dry (2017) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literature / short storyThe vast Amazon Valley, traversed by the largest river in South America, is covered from end to end by forests of spectacular beauty, and is without equal anywhere. However, these jungles have a terrible reputation due to the extraordinary abundance of reptiles hidden beneath those endless canopies of greenery. The most colossal boas can be found there, either lurking below or suspended from the branches of the trees. They wait for unfortunate animals or people to pass by, then drop to coil around their prey. The thinnest and smallest snakes, only the length of a quill pen, are also found here, and these are perhaps even more deadly due to the potency of their poison. Woe to any careless man venturing into these magnificent forests without a large knife or a good machete! He will not leave this place alive, and either die in the terrible coils of the boas or perish from the venom of coral snakes, for which there is no antidote. Some years ago, a great unease spread among those who worked at the San Felipe plantation, which belonged to a Brazilian who had amassed a fortune cultivating coffee. Slaves who had ventured into the nearby forest for kindling spoke with terror of a serpent without equal in length or size. When the owner of the plantation, Don Manuel Herrera, was told about this, he feared that his laborers, mostly Black slaves, would flee for their lives. So he summoned loggers to help him verify the tales – the stories seemed too fantastic even to Don Manuel Herrera. Don Manuel had seen large snakes himself several times, and had even killed quite a few of them. He had also heard indigenous stories of an immense monster called “giloia,” native to the swamps and the marshes, and which was sometimes observed in certain caves along the banks of the Amazon. The four loggers and their overseer, who was also happened to be the farm manager, returned from the jungle and reported to the owner. The poor souls were still trembling with fear. “Tell me, Como,” he said to the oldest one. “Did you find any serpents?” “A huge, horrible snake, sir,” the terrified slave replied. “I’ve never seen one like it, and I don’t think there is in all of the Amazon.” ““We were cutting a dead tree when the ground rumbled… a long crack appeared…. a bad demon rose from hell. It was strange…inexplicable………we ran to a clearing. “Then we saw the monster. The ground had split! Plants were broken. The gigantic snake rose from that crack, master. Twenty-five meters long… thicker than you and me.” “You saw this with your own eyes?” “Yes, sir,” the four of them replied in unison. “Are you sure it wasn’t a python?” “No, sir. No python.” Como replied. “What did it look like?” “It was dark as a demon….with the skin of a dragon” The planter turned to his overseer, a local man who was also well traveled. “Do you think serpents so enormous can exist?” he asked. “It could be a ‘giloia,’ sir,” the overseer replied. “A rare reptile whose existence was doubted for a long time, but it does live in certain Amazon forests.” “How dangerous is this creature?” “They say it can tear a man limb from limb.” “I don’t believe in the existence of such prehistoric monsters at all,” the planter said. “However, I intend to seek out this reptile, determine its species and kill it.” “Don’t expose yourself to such danger, sir.” “Would you be afraid to accompany me?” “I will follow my master anywhere,” the overseer replied. “If you are heading into danger, it’s my duty to accompany you.” “Then we’ll go and look for this legendary “giloia,'” the planter said with a determined voice. “If it exists at all. Gather my weapons and prepare my dogs.” Less than half an hour later Don Manuel Herrera left his house, followed by his overseer and four his enormous mastiffs, dogs used to chase off jaguars and cougars and for hunting runaway slaves. They were fierce and hardened canines, each wearing an iron collar covered with sharp spikes to prevent them from being strangled by wild beasts. The four slaves had proceeded in advance, and were waiting at the edge of the forest. It was noon. The sun – now at its highest – scorched the backs of the poor laborers across the fields, and the valley seemed locked in an ominous silence. The birds, drowsy from the intense heat, no longer chirped. Even the parrots, those eternal chatterboxes, remained quiet, hidden beneath the enormous leaves of the jupati palms. Don Manuel and the overseer hurried across the open fields. The heat in the Amazon valleys, especially between eleven in the morning until four in the afternoon, is extremely dangerous. Only indigenous tribes or Blacks may defy the mid-day sun with impunity, and work without woven head ware. Fortunately, the protective roof of the forest was nearby. It was more than a forest; it was an endless expanse of virgin wilderness, extending from the deserted banks of the Amazon – for leagues and leagues. Plants of all species and sizes grew side by side wrapped in vines. Many of them were highly valuable. In such fertile regions, a person could find the necessities of life without farming or even work. In the depths of the forest, there were trees that produce excellent milk not much different from what a cow might provide. A cut in a tree trunk would make the tasty liquid drip in abundance. Other trees produce a kind of bread, or rather, certain fruits as large as a child’s head. These are filled with pulp that is sliced and toasted on charcoal, and which they say taste almost like artichoke. And still others that produce excellent wax for the making of candles, and filaments for weaving very sturdy clothing, as well as delicious fruits like bananas, pineapples, and more. When the planter and the overseer reached the first trees, they found the four Blacks crouched behind the trunk of a coconut palm, their faces pale. “Master,” Como said, “do not make us meet the devil again. The ‘giloia will eat our soul.” “I don’t know what to do with your help,” the planter replied. “Have you seen the serpent again?” “No, sir.” “Where did you see the crack?” “The gates of hell lie 500 paces yonder, master!” “Let’s go, overseer,” Herrera said. “And you cowards, may return to the plantation!” He released the four mastiffs, loaded his rifle, and ventured into the forest. “Always keep an eye on the treetops, master,” the overseer said. “Boas often hide among the leaves and drop from above as soon as they spot prey.” “I’ll be cautious,” the planter replied. The dogs began to show signs of unease. They stopped frequently, sniffing the air and the ground, and growled while looking at their owner. They seemed frightened, yet they were fearless animals, that never shied away even from the fiercest jaguars, which are the tigers of America. Five hundred paces into the forest, they found the huge fissure. The ground, which appeared to be made of dry mud, had been lifted along a vast stretch, and the force exerted by the monster had been such that it had overturned several plants. “It was under here that the reptile was hiding,” said the planter, astonished that a serpent could develop such strength. “You can still see scales and bits of skin scattered among the debris,” sighed the overseer. “Do you really think it’s one of those infamous ‘giloias’?” “They say that these monstrous reptiles, during the dry season, immerse themselves in swamps where they fall into a deep slumber or hide in caves, only to emerge two or three months later.” “In which direction do you think the monster twisted?” “It must have headed toward the river to seek refuge in caves. There are many of them in these parts, you know.” “Let’s rely on the dogs,” the planter said. “I believe they are already on the right track.” The four mastiffs, after sniffing along the entire crevice, had moved up to the opposite side, trotting among the dry leaves covering the forest floor. They had picked up the scent of the enormous reptile and were determening a direction. Don Herrera and the overseer loaded their rifles and set off after the dogs, looking under the thick bushes and among the branches, although they were convinced that a creature of that size couldn’t climb those trees without breaking them. They had discovered a passage among the plants, like an immense furrow, which must have been created by the monstrous reptile. Many young plants had been flattened, and numerous shrubs were completely broken. It now dawned on the planter that the indigenous legends of the ‘giloia,’ might be true, after all. The evidence was simply too strong. They had been walking for half an hour, trailing the dogs, when barks and agitated growls were heard. They were now near the river. The distant roars of the immense Amazon could already be heard, its waters smashing against protruding rocks. “Master,” said the overseer with a pale and solemn face, “we must be near the serpent’s refuge.” “Are there caves here?” the planter asked. “Yes, there’s a huge one that no one has ever dared to explore, and it’s believed to lead into the heart of a mountain.” “We’ll cut some resinous branches and go visit it.” As they were about to move on, they heard screams from the river, shrill female cries: “Jaco! Jaco!” with an indescribable tone of terror. The howling dogs lead the planter and the overseer toward the river. At this point, the amazon streamed between tall and rocky banks, pierced by deep holes that might lead to the mysterious caves. After passing the cliffs, the planter stopped, and overcome by a paralyzing fear, he was for a moment unable to lift his rifle. An enormous serpent, over twenty-five meters long, all dark, with its body covered in very thick scales still encrusted with mud in their joints, emerged from one of those black crevices, sliding down the steep bank. At the bottom, in a wooden canoe, a young woman from the tribes, desperately clasped her baby, shouting in desperation and despair: “Jaco! Jaco!” It was probably her husband’s name. The terrifying reptile had spotted her and was descending with its mouth wide open, flicking its forked tongue and hissing. Paralyzed by fear, the woman -who belonged to a local tribe – was unable to push her canoe from the banks. She embraced her precious child in desperation, as if this would save it. When she saw the two of them, her arms stretched towards them, holding up her baby. Her voice – almost choking with terror – screamed: “Help, white man!” Two gunshots rang out, one after the other. But it was too late. The enormous reptile had snatched the woman and the child, and with incredible speed, it had slid into its black hole, vanishing from sight. For a moment, they still heard the cries of the poor woman, then there was a profound silence. Even the dogs no longer barked. “She’s lost!” the planter exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air. “We arrived too late.” At that moment, an tribesman armed with an axe hastily descended the riverbank. “My wife! My son! The ‘giloia!'” he shouted, stopping in front of the planter. “Accursed snake! I knew it had to be here. I must avenge my wife and my son, or I can no longer be a chief for my tribe.” After the outburst, he composed himself with a sudden self-control unique to Red men. Whether they belong to the warlike tribes of North America or to the indolent and wild ones of South America, emotions will never disfigure their faces long. Once the initial surprise or anger has passed, they vanish behind a mask of indifference – as if nothing had happened. This came as no surprise to the planter, who had had frequent dealings with the indigenous tribes. “What will you do now that the ‘giloia’ has destroyed your family?” he asked. “I will avenge my wife and my son,” Jaco replied, his jet-black eyes sparkled and gleamed fiercely. “Have you ever killed a ‘giloia’?” “No, those snakes are rare. But I heard that my friend, the chief of the Ottomachi, found one near a cave last year and killed it. Why shouldn’t I, Jaco, neither a weakling nor a coward, be able to do the same?” “The monster won’t be taken by surprise,” said the overseer. “It knows we’re here, it will be on guard. After devouring its prey, it will prepare for a fight.” “At night, snakes sleep,” said the tribesman “Behold the shadow of evening!” “Do you know that cave?” Don Herrera asked. “I’ve visited it several times to find the green stones that we use as amulets against enemy arrows.” “If you help us kill that monster, I’ll give you a rifle.” That was all it took to win over a tribesman. Besides, the man wanted to avenge his wife and son, not because he was grieved by the loss of his companion and heir, as tribesmen are not overly attached to their families, but because of that primal instinct that dominates primitive peoples. “I will kill the ‘giloia,” he said calmly. “Wait for me here.” He climbed up the bank, and half an hour later, he returned with a bundle of resinous branches, which were to serve as torches, and his blowgun, a kind of wooden tube, slightly wider at the base and narrower toward the top, which they use to launch their arrows with tips dipped in the highly poisonous curare. By blowing forcefully into it, they can send their darts a distance of up to fifty meters and are so skilled that they don’t miss even the smallest birds. “When the white man is ready,” he said after distributing the branches. The sun was about to disappear behind the thickets, and night was descending rapidly. The birds were fleeing, and giant bats, ominous vampires that feed on blood, flapped over treetops. They feed on any man or animal that falls asleep in the forests or on the riverbanks. The planter, the overseer, the tribesman, and the dogs climbed the bank and stopped in front of the crevice where the colossal reptile was last seen. Fearing that it might be nearby, they first lit resinous branch and stretched it into the opening, shaking it in all directions. Hearing no noise or hissing, the three men cautiously entered the cave, their rifles and blowgun ready. “It must have fled into the cave,” said the tribesman. “There’s a hall of stone…the ‘giloia’ will feel safe… And a lake without bottom..they love water.” “This tribesman has courage,” the planter said to the overseer. “I must admit, master, that I have an uneasy feeling about this.” “We have the dogs in front of us, and they’ll warn us of danger.” The mastiffs preceded the hunters, but they didn’t seem too eager to discover the terrible cave boa. From time to time, they stopped and turned their heads toward their master, as if to ask if it wouldn’t be better to give up the expedition, which didn’t seem to be to their liking. The cavern widened enormously. Huge rooms adorned with magnificent stalactites followed one another, with lateral cavities that it was impossible to know where they led. The monster could be lurking in any one of these. The tribesman, appearing confident, never hesitated. He continued to advance under the dark vaults, holding the resinous branch high, its reddish flame sometimes flickering, as if strong air currents were entering from invisible cracks. They had already crossed four caves when Jaco stopped, bending toward the ground and showing something that wavered in his hand. “Do you see the ‘giloia’?” the planter asked. The tribesman stood up, extending his hand. “My wife’s hair,” he said in a hoarse voice. “The ‘giloia’ spat them out.” Then he added with a certain satisfaction: “They are black and long and will make a good impression on my war shield.” “These tribesmen,” said the planter, disgusted. “They have not an ounce of heart!” Jaco hung the hair, still smeared with blood and saliva, from his belt and resumed the march. He had abandoned his blowgun and was now wielding the war ax, a much better and safer weapon for facing such a reptile. They crossed four more caves, each one longer than the previous. Then they entered a gallery and arrived on the banks of a large, almost circular, blackwater pond. They were about to go around it when a gust of wind, coming from a lateral gallery, suddenly extinguished their torches, leaving them in utter darkness. “Light the torches! Light the torches! the terrified planter yelled to the tribesman. They heard Jaco rummaging in the bag hanging from his belt, then he exclaimed: “I no longer have the flint!” “Overseer, you do it!” Don Herrera whispered, as if afraid to draw the attention of the lurking boa. “I’m not a smoker, master,” was the reply. “I never carry one with me.” At that moment, they heard the dogs growling, and then the black waters of the pond began to roar and gurgle. “Let’s flee!” the planter cried. “The ‘giloia’ is breaking the surface” They rushed toward the gallery they had crossed shortly before, fumbling in the profound darkness. A few seconds later, they bumped into a wall, and all fell together. “Where are we?” Herrera asked. “We must have lost our way and entered a side gallery,” the tribesman said. “Listen!” the overseer exclaimed, shivering. From the depths of the cave, near the pond, they heard shrill hissing and furious barking. “My dogs are attacking the reptile,” Herrera said. “They’re lost,” the tribesman said. The barking had turned into lamenting cries that lasted for a few moments, and then silence once again enveloped the cave. “The serpent has killed my dogs!” the planter exclaimed, making an angry gesture. “We’ll avenge them too,” the tribesman replied. “You know what, let’s just get the hell out of here,” Herrera said, losing all confidence in the tribesman. “We’ll find the exit,” Jaco said. “Stay close to me, or better yet, hold onto my belt.” He detached from the wall and pushed forward, trying not to veer to the right or left, eventually finding a passage. “We must be in one of the seven caves,” he said then. “Keep following me.” He walked at a very fast pace. He, too, wanted to get out as soon as possible, afraid that the terrifying serpent might strike at them at any moment. Suddenly, he stopped, leaning against a wall. “Halt!” he said. “Have we lost our way again?” the planter asked. “Listen.” A rustling noise sounded nearby, the slither and rattle of the ‘giloia’s’ large scales, and it was approaching at some speed. “Could the boa be heading for the exit?” Herrera whispered. “Yes,” the tribesman replied. “Hold your breath and don’t move! If it senses our presence, it will come at us.” They pressed up against the wall, their rifles and blowgun ready, fearing an attack at any moment. The rustling drew nearer. But then there was a sudden silence. They thought had been discovered, but then the sounds resumed as it moved farther and farther from them. “It has passed us,” the tribesman said. “Now we attack!” “Perhaps we should let it go?” the overseer suggested. “No,” Jaco replied. “We’ll wait until it is halfway out of the crevice, and then off its tail.” They tiptoed after the rustles, until, finally, the mouth of the cave appeared before them – illuminated by the moon. “The ‘giloia’ is about to leave,” Jaco said, holding the ax. “Wait until the head and half of its body is out!” The attack from the dogs had disturbed it, it no longer felt safe and now it searched for another hiding place. The enormous body slid into the crevice, almost blocking it entirely. It was caught in a trap, unable to turn in its defense. “Attack!” the tribesman yelled, his eyes had already adjusted to the darkness. He leaped with the ax raised and began to strike the serpent’s tail vigorously, while the planter and the overseer, with their rifles unloaded, grabbed the cutlasses, which were no less sharp than the tribesman’s ax. As the serpent felt pain it its tails, it hissed angrily and writhed, trying in vain to back up and confront its attackers. The narrow opening held it in a lock. Now, the two planters and the tribes stuck at it repeatedly, breaking its vertebrae and scales. The serpent, mad with pain, then tried to escape. With one final effort, it withdrew the end of its body and slid down the slope into the river below, and vanished in the water. “It’s gone!” the planter exclaimed with regret. “I wanted to preserve its skin.” “It will be my gift to you,” the tribesman said. His wife’s canoe still floated by the banks, and he stepped into it and paddled off. Two days later, Jaco returned to the fazenda, followed by six tribesman carrying the skin of the enormous reptile. He had found the monster on an islet, where it had gone to die. The skin measured twenty-four meters and had a circumference of seventy centimeters. Today that fearsome cave boa makes a fine display in the lounge of the San Felipe plantation, and naturalists flock to admire it.   translated by Michael Henrik Wynn         Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literature / short storyNote from Historyradio.org: the following text is not a model for anything, but an entertaining discussion point for all students of the past. The Hon. H. G. Volrees sat in his office room looking moodily out of the window. Since the desertion of his young bride his life had been one long day of misery to him. His mystification and anger increased with the years, and he had kept a standing offer of a large reward for information leading to the discovery of his wife. He had vowed vengeance upon the author or authors of his ruin. “Come in,” said he in a response to a knock on his door. A young Negro man walked in and Mr. Volrees turned around slowly to look at his caller. “This is Mr. Volrees?” asked the Negro. Mr. Volrees nodded assent, surveying the Negro from head to foot, noting the flush of excitement on his swarthy face. “I understand that you have offered a reward for information leading to the discovery of the whereabouts of your wife,” said the Negro. An angry flush appeared on Mr. Volrees’ face and he cast a look of withering contempt in the Negro’s direction, who read at once Mr. Volrees’ disgust over the fact that he, a Negro, dared to broach the question of his family trouble. “Pardon me,” said the Negro, turning to leave. “Come back! Are you a fool?” said Mr. Volrees angrily, his desire for information concerning his wife overcoming his scruples. “My wife took me to be one and left me,” said the Negro in a tone of mock humility. Mr. Volrees looked up quickly to see whether he meant what he was saying or was making a thrust at him. The solemn face of the Negro was non-committal. “Now, what do you know?” asked Mr. Volrees gruffly. “I know where your wife is,” said the Negro. “How do you know that she is my wife?” “I was the porter on the train that you and she began your bridal tour on,” replied the Negro. “How have you been able to trace her?” “I was the porter on the train on which she first came to Almaville. She came into the section of the coach for Negroes, and she and a Negro girl created a scene.” “Go on!” almost shouted Volrees, now thoroughly aroused. “The reward?” timidly suggested the Negro. “Of course you get that. Go on!” said Volrees, with increasing impatience. “The affair was so sad-like that I always remembered the looks of the two women,” resumed the Negro. “One night not long ago I saw the Negro girl buy a ticket to Goldsboro, Mississippi. It came to me like a flash that she was going to see your wife. She had the same sad look on her face that she had the night I saw them together. I followed this girl to Mississippi and sure enough I came upon your wife.” Volrees had now arisen and was restlessly moving about the room, his brain in a whirl. “Was she living with some family, or how was she situated?” he asked. “She and her husband live——” “Her husband!” thundered Volrees, grabbing the Negro in the collar, fancying that he was grabbing the other husband. “The people there say that she is married,” said the Negro timidly. “I will choke the liver out of the miscreant,” said Volrees, tightening his hold in the Negro’s collar as if in practice. “I am not the man,” said the Negro, with growing determination in his voice. Volrees was thus recalled to himself and resumed his restless tramping. “No, you are not the man. You are only a —— nigger.” Grasping his hat, Volrees strode rapidly out of the room. At the door he bawled back, “You will get your reward.” The Negro followed Volrees at a distance and noted that he went to the office of an exceedingly shrewd detective. In the course of a few days the city of Almaville was shocked with the news that a Mrs. Johnson, wife of a leading Mississippi planter had been arrested and brought to Almaville on a charge of bigamy. The prosecutor in the case was the Hon. H. G. Volrees, who claimed that the alleged Mrs. Johnson was none other than Eunice Seabright, who had married him. Mrs. Johnson denied being the former Miss Seabright, and employed able counsel to conduct her defense. The stir in the highest social circles of Almaville was indeed great, and for days very little was talked of save the forthcoming Volrees-Johnson bigamy trial. Long before the hour set for the trial of the alleged Eunice Volrees on the charge of bigamy the court house yard and the corridors were full of people, but, strange to say, the court room in which the trial was to take place, though open, was not occupied. The crowds thus far were composed of Negroes and white people in the middle walks of life, who looked upon the forthcoming trial as a ‘big folks” affair and, as if by agreement, the court room was spared for the occupancy of the elite. As the hour for the trial drew near the carriages and automobiles of the upper classes began to arrive. Each arrival would come in for a share of the attention of the middle classes and the distinguishing feature of each personage was told in whispers from one to another. When the carriage of the Hon. H. G. Volrees rolled up to the court house gate silence fell upon the multitude and those on the walk leading to the court house door fell back and let him pass. His face wore a solemn, determined look and the common verdict was, “No mercy there. A fight to a finish.” The court room was now fairly well filled with Almaville notables, and the plain people now crowded in to get seats as best they could or to occupy standing room. Almost the last carriage to arrive was that containing Eunice. The curtains to the carriage were drawn so that no one in it could be seen until the door was opened. Eunice and her lawyers stepped out and quickly closed the door behind them. Contrary to the expectations of many, she wore no veil and each person in the great throng was highly gratified at an opportunity to scrutinize her features thoroughly. A way was made for her through the great throng and she walked to the prisoner’s seat holding to the arm of her lawyer. The case was called, a jury secured, and the examination of witnesses entered into. The first witness on the part of the State was the Hon. H. G. Volrees himself. As he took the witness chair a bustle was heard in the room. The people in the aisle were trying to squeeze themselves together more tightly to allow a man to pass who was leading a little six-year-old boy, who had just been taken from the carriage which had brought Eunice to the trial. “Make room, please. I am taking her son to her,” the man would say, and the crowd would fall away as best it could. The Hon. H. G. Volrees had opened his mouth to begin his testimony when he noticed that his attorney, the opposing counsel, the judge and the officers of the court had turned their eyes toward the prisoner’s seat. As nobody seemed to be listening to him he halted in the midst of his first sentence and turned to see what was attracting the attention of the others. As he looked, a peculiar sensation passed over him. Perspiration broke out in beads and his veins stood out like whip cords. He clutched his chair tightly and cleared his throat. There sat beside Eunice her child, having all of Mr. Volrees’ features. There were his dark chestnut hair, his large dark eyes, his nose, his lips, his poise and a dark brown stain beneath the left ear which had been a recurrence in the Volrees family for generations. The public was mystified as it was commonly understood that the marital relations had extended no farther than the marriage ceremony. The presence of this child looked therefore to be an impeachment of the integrity of Mr. Volrees and of Eunice. The wonder was as to why nothing about the child had been mentioned before. Mr. Volrees sat in his chair, his eyes fixed on the boy. The lawyer at length resumed the examination of Mr. Volrees, but the latter made a sorry witness. It was evident that the coming in of this child had thoroughly upset him in some way. He was mystified, and his mind, grappling with the problem of his likeness sitting there before him, could not address itself to the functions of a witness in the case at issue. He was finally excused from the witness chair. The other witnesses, who, out of sympathy for H. G. Volrees had come to identify Eunice as his bride, seeing his collapse, did not feel inclined to take the prosecution of the case upon themselves and their testimony did not have the positiveness necessary to carry conviction. It was very evident that the state had not made out a case and an acquittal seemed assured. The Negro porter was in the court room eagerly watching the progress of the trial, knowing that the obtaining of his reward hinged upon the outcome of the case. He saw the trend of affairs and felt that something had to be done to stem the tide. He saw Tiara sitting in the court room, and said to the prosecuting attorney in a whisper, “Yonder is a colored girl who knows her thoroughly and can tell all about her.” To her great surprise Tiara was called as a witness. She was a striking, beautiful figure, as she stood to take the oath that she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. “Mr. Judge,” said Tiara, in a sweet, sad voice, “can it go on record that I am not a volunteer witness in this case?” The judge looked a little puzzled and Tiara said, “At any rate, judge, if in after time it be said that I did not on this occasion stand up for those connected with me by ties of blood, I want it understood that I did not seek this chair—did not know that I was to be called; but since I am here, I shall fulfil my oath and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Tiara now took her seat in the witness chair. Eunice leaned forward and gazed at Tiara, her thin beautiful lips quivering, her eyes trying to read the intent of Tiara’s soul. Tiara looked at the recording clerk and appeared to address her testimony to him. Now that she was forced to speak she desired the whole truth to come out. Her poor tired soul now clutched at proffered surcease through the unburdening of itself. She began: “In revolutionary times one of your most illustrious men, whose fame has found lodgment in all quarters of the globe, was clandestinely married to a Negro woman. My mother was a direct descendant of this man. My mother’s ancestors, descendants of this man, made a practice of intermarrying with mulattoes, until in her case all trace of Negro blood, so far as personal appearance was concerned, had disappeared. She married my father, he thinking that she was wholly white, and she thinking the same of him. Two children, a boy and a girl, having all the characteristics of whites, were born to them. Then I was born and my complexion showed plainly the traces of Negro blood. The community in which we lived, Shirleyville, Indiana, in a quiet way, was much disturbed over the Negro blood manifested in me, and my mother’s good name was imperilled. “My mother confessed to my father the fact that she was a descendant of Negroes and he made a like confession to my mother as to his ancestry. When Shirleyville found out that my parents had Negro blood in their veins, I was regarded as a ‘reversion to type,’ and the storm blew over. My father became Mayor of the town, and great ambitions began to form in my mother’s heart. “A notable social event was to take place at Indianapolis and my mother aspired to be a guest. She met with a rebuff because she had Negro blood in her veins. This rebuff corrupted my mother’s whole nature, and hardened her heart. She had my father to resign as Mayor. Our home was burned and we were all supposed to have perished in the flames. This was my mother’s way of having us born into the world again. “My mother, father and the other two children began life over as whites, and I began it over as a lone Negro girl without family connection, and we all had this second start in life here in your city. “Most all people in America have theories as to the best solution of the race problem, but my mother fancied that she had the one solution. She felt that the mixed bloods who could pass for whites ought to organize and cultivate unswerving devotion to the Negro race. According to her plan the mixed bloods thus taught should be sent into the life of the white people to work quietly year after year to break down the Southern white man’s idea of the Negro’s rights. She felt that the mixed bloods should lay hold of every center of power that could be reached. She set for herself the task of controlling the pulpit, the social circle and the politics of Almaville and eventually of the whole South and the nation. O she had grand, wild dreams! If she had succeeded in her efforts to utilize members of her own family, she had planned to organize the mixed bloods of the nation and effect an organization composed of cultured men and women that could readily pass for white, who were to shake the Southern system to its very foundation. With this general end in view, she had her son trained for the ministry. This son became an eloquent preacher. My mother through a forged recommendation, which, however, the son did not know to be forged, had him chosen as pastor of a leading church in this city. “My mother had a strange power over most people and a peculiar power over my brother. He did not at all relish his peculiar situation, but my mother insisted that he was but obeying the scriptural injunction to preach the gospel to every creature. The minister in question was none other than the universally esteemed Rev. Percy G. Marshall, who now rests in a highly honored grave in your most exclusive cemetery, from which Negroes are barred as visitors.” There was a marked sensation in the court room at this announcement concerning the racial affinity of the Rev. Percy G. Marshall. “I visited my brother clandestinely; often he and I sorrowed together. On the night of the murder, which you all remember, and preceding that sad event, closely veiled I visited him at his study. When we were through talking I arose to go and opened the door. ‘Kiss your brother. We may not meet again,’ said he sadly. Neglecting to close the door I stepped up to him and kissed him. When I turned to go out I saw that Gus Martin, whom Leroy Crutcher, as I afterwards found out, had set to watching me, had seen us kiss each other. I hurried on home embarrassed that I could not explain the situation to him. When on the next day I read of my brother’s death, I immediately guessed all. That is how I had the key to bringing Gus Martin to terms. When he found out his awful mistake he was willing to surrender. “So resulted my mother’s plans for the mastery of your Southern pulpit.” Turning to Eunice, she said, “There is her daughter. Through her my mother hoped to lay hold on the political power of the state. But that girl loved a Negro, the son of the prosecutor, the Hon. H. G. Volrees . “After leaving her husband, Eunice came to live with me. Earl Bluefield, who is Mr. Volrees’ son was wounded in a scuffle that was not so much to his credit, and he was brought to my house to recover. Eunice waited on him. They fell in love, left my home and married. This explains how that boy favors the Hon. Mr. Volrees. It is his grandson.” Tiara now stood up and said, “Mr. Judge, it may not be regular, but permit me to say a few words.” The whole court seemed under a spell and nobody stirred as Tiara spoke. “My mother is dead and paid dearly for her unnatural course. But do not judge her too harshly. You people who are white do not know what an awful burden it is to be black in these days of the world. If some break down beneath the awful load of caste which you thrust upon them, mingle pity with your blame.” Tiara paused an instant and then resumed: “One word to you all. I am aware of the fact that the construction of a social fabric, such as your Anglo-Saxondom, has been one of the marvelous works of nature, and I realize that the maintenance of its efficiency for the stupendous world duties that lie before it demand that you have strict regard to the physical, mental and moral characteristics that go to constitute your aggregation. But I warn you to beware of the dehumanizing influence of caste. It will cause your great race to be warped, to be narrow. Oratory will decay in your midst; poetry will disappear or dwell in mediocrity, taking on a mocking sound and a metallic ring; art will become formal, lacking in spirit; huge soulless machines will grow up that will crush the life out of humanity; conditions will become fixed and there will be no way for those who are down to rise. Hope will depart from the bosoms of the masses. You will be a great but a soulless race. This will come upon you when your heart is cankered with caste. You will devour the Negro to-day, the humbler white to-morrow, and you who remain will then turn upon yourselves.” Tiara paused and glanced around the court room as if to see how much sympathy she could read in the countenances of her hearers. The rapt attention, the kindly look in their eyes gave her courage to take up a question which the situation in the South made exceedingly delicate, when one’s audience was composed of Southern white people. “One thing, Mr. Judge, wells up in me at this time, and I suppose I will have to say it, unless you stop me,” said Tiara, in the tone of one asking a question. The judge made no reply and Tiara interpreted his silence to mean that she was permitted to proceed. Said she: “You white people have seen fit to make the Negro a stranger to your social life and you further decree that he shall ever be thus. You know that this weakens his position in the governmental fabric. The fact that he is thus excluded puts a perennial question mark after him. Furthermore the social influence is a tremendous force in the affairs of men, as all history teaches. To all that goes to constitute this powerful factor in your life as a people, you have seen fit to pronounce the Negro a stranger. The pride of the Negro race has risen to the occasion and there is a thorough sentiment in that race in favor of racial integrity. “So, by your decree and the cordial acceptance thereof by the Negro, he is to be a stranger to your social system. That is settled. The very fact that the Negro occupies an inherently weak position in your communal life makes it incumbent upon you to provide safeguards for him. “Instead, therefore, of the Negro’s absence from the social circle being a warrant for his exclusion from political functions, it is an argument in favor of granting full political opportunity to him. When a man loses one eye, nature strengthens the other for its added responsibility. Just so, logically, it seems absurd to hold that the Negro should suffer the loss of a second power because he is shut out from the use of a first. Dont circumscribe the able, noble souls among the Negroes. Give them the world as a playground for their talents and let Negro men dream of stars as do your men.” “Don’t circumscribe the able, noble souls among the Negroes. Give them the world as a playground for their talents and let Negro men dream of stars as do your men.” “Your Bible says: ‘And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.’ White friends of the South! Let me beseech you to vex not this social stranger within your borders; the stranger who invades your swamps and drains them into his system for your comfort; who creeps through the slime of your sewers; who wrestles with the heat in your ditches and fields; who has borne your onerous burdens and cheered you with his song as he toiled; who has never heard the war whoop but that he has prepared for battle; whose one hope is to be allowed to live in peace by your side and develop his powers and those of his children that they may be factors in making of this land, the greatest in goodness in all this world. Don’t circumscribe the able, noble souls among the Negroes. Give them the world as a playground for their talents and let Negro men dream of stars as do your men. They need that as much as you do. As for me, I shall leave your land.” Turning to Eunice, Tiara stretched forth her hands, appealingly and said, “Sister, come let us leave this country! Come.” “Ha! ha!” laughed Eunice, with almost maniacal intensity, as she waved her hand in disdain at Tiara, who now slowly left the witness stand. All eyes were now turned toward Eunice, who had arisen and stood trying to drive away the passions of rage that seemed to clutch her vocal cords so that she could not speak. At last getting sufficient strength to begin, she said: “Honorable Judge and you jurymen: I declare to you all to-day that I am a white woman. My blood is the blood of the whites, my instincts, my feelings, my culture, my spirit, my all is cast in the same mould as yours. That woman who talked to you a few moments ago is a Negro. Don’t honor her word above mine, the word of a white woman. I invoke your law of caste. Look at me! Look at my boy! In what respect do we differ from you?” She paused and drawing her small frame to its full height, with her hands outstretched across the railing, with hot scalding tears coursing down her cheeks, she said in tremulous tones: “And now, gentlemen, I came here hoping to be acquitted, but in view of the statements made I want no acquittal. Your law prescribes, so I am told, that there can be no such thing as a marriage between whites and Negroes. To acquit me will be to say that I am a Negro woman and could not have married a white man. I implore you to convict me! Send me to prison! Let me wear a felon’s garb! Let my son know that his mother is a convict, but in the name of heaven I ask you, send not my child and me into Negro life. Send us not to a race cursed with petty jealousies, the burden bearers of the world. My God! the thought of being called a Negro is awful, awful!” Eunice’s words were coming fast and she was now all but out of breath. After an instant’s pause, she began: “One word more. For argument’s sake, grant that I have some Negro blood in me. You already make a mistake in making a gift of your blood to the African. Remember what your blood has done. It hammered out on fields of blood the Magna Charta; it took the head of Charles I.; it shattered the sceptre of George III.; it now circles the globe in an iron grasp. Think you not that this Anglo-Saxon blood loses its virility because of mixture with Negro blood. Ah! remember Frederick Douglass, he who as much as any other mortal brought armies to your doors that sacked your home. I plead with you, even if you accept that girl’s malicious slanders as being true, not to send your blood back to join forces with the Negro blood.” Eunice threw an arm around her boy, who had arisen and was clutching her skirts. She parted her lips as if to speak farther, then settled back in her seat and closed her pretty blue eyes. Her tangled locks fell over her forehead and the audience looked in pity at the tired pretty girl. Eunice’s attorneys waived their rights to speak and the attorney for the prosecution stated that he, too, would now submit the case without argument. “Without further formality the jury will take this case under advisement. You need no charge from me. You are all Anglo-Saxons,” said the judge solemnly in a low tone of voice. The jury filed into the jury room and began its deliberations. A tall, white haired man, foreman of the jury, arose and spoke as follows: “Gentlemen: We have a sad case before us to-day. That girl has the white person’s feelings and it seems cruel to crush her and drive her from those for whom she has the most affinity to those whom she is least like. Then, I pity the boy. He carries in his veins some of our proudest blood, and it seems awful to cast away our own. But we must stand by our rule. One drop of Negro blood makes its possessor a Negro. “Our great race stands in juxtaposition with overwhelming millions of darker people throughout the earth, and we must cling to the caste idea if we would prevent a lapse that would taint our blood and eventually undermine our greatness. It is hard, but it is civilization. We cannot find this girl guilty. It would be declaring that marriage between a white man and a Negro woman is a possibility.” A vote was taken and the jury returned to the court room to render the verdict. “The prisoner at the bar will stand up,” said the judge. Eunice stood up and her little boy stood up as well. There was the element of pathos in the standing up of that little boy, for the audience knew that his destiny was involved in the case. “Has the jury reached a verdict?” asked the judge. “We have,” replied the foreman. “Please announce it.” The audience held its breath in painful suspense. Eunice directed her burning gaze to the lips of the foreman, that she might, if possible, catch his fateful words even before they were fully formed. “We, the jury, find the prisoner not guilty.” “Murder!” wildly shrieked Eunice. “Doomed! Doomed! They call us Negroes, my son, and everybody knows what that means!” Her tones of despair moved every hearer. The judge quietly shed a few tears and many another person in the audience wept. The crowd filed out, leaving Eunice clasping her boy to her bosom, mother and son mingling their tears together. Tiara lingered in the corridor to greet Eunice when the latter should come out of the room. She had thought to speak to her on this wise: “Eunice, we have each other left. Let us be sisters as we were in the days of our childhood.” But when Tiara confronted Eunice, the latter looked at her scornfully and passed on. When Tiara somewhat timidly caught hold of her dress as if to detain her, Eunice spat in her face and tore herself loose. Excerpts from the novel The Hindered Hand: Or, The Reign or the Repressionist (1905) by Sutton Elbert Griggs (1872-1933)   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storymagine traveling through space at lightening speed, exploring the deep recesses of the universe to unveil her deepest secrets. “Are we really alone?” is one of the most fundamental questions that future generations must explore. The questions really makes my heart beat. Somehow the notion of that grand future, of all those limitless possibilities makes me relax, bringing balance to a boring life. I am a social worker, you see, for a private company. I make rounds helping old people, geezers, hags and cripples. Perhaps they need something. Then I will provide it for them. I will even wipe their bottoms if they need it. Naturally, I often hate my job and like most people I sit on my couch and dream of becoming a millionaire or I get completely wasted and pretend to be one. Sometimes I feel as if I would care for anything or anyone provided the pay was satisfactory. Science Fiction writing is therefore a great passion of mine. When I write about the future, a world of possibilities and probabilities opens up to me and I can mould it into a format I can accept. I will become the next Arthur C. Clark. In the meantime, I will, for a modest fee, remove your excrements and make your bed. In January a few years back, I was given a new patient to take care of, a certain Mrs. Jackson whose husband had died suddenly in a horrible accident a few years earlier leaving her all alone with failing memory. She lived a nice house on the west end of town, with a patch of grass outside and a white fence to match. It would have been a paradise for someone healthy. What it was for Mrs. Jackson, I cannot say. She sat in a wheelchair as I entered, but I don’t think she was physically dependent upon it. When she saw me she was immediately disgusted. “Who are you?” she said. “I am Michael, your new social worker? Don’t you remember?” “No.  Will you be taking care of me?” “Yes.” “Well you damn well better. Crazy old cow like me, sitting here all alone!” I soon found out that Mrs. Jackson had many needs that needed to be fulfilled. She had a schedule to keep and if it was not kept to the letter, she would become hysterical and utter words I have never heard from people her age. Other times – I think this was in her best periods- she would get flashes of clarity and her eyes gleamed of doom and tragedy. “I am so lonely”, she would say. One day she was looking for her glasses in the living room. “Michael! Michael Michael” she shouted as she paced across the room. I ran down the stairs from the upstairs bedroom where I was making the bed thinking that she had suffered some form of injury. When I arrived she said “I cannot find my glasses. I know they are here. Perhaps they have taken them from me?” “Who?” I replied. “Don’t get funny with me! You know very well who I am talking about. Anyway it’s 3 o’clock and you haven’t finished the bedroom yet. That means that you will be late for cleaning the kitchen at 4 like we normally do. I always have the kitchen cleaned at 4. Why can’t I find my glasses”, she said as she sunk down in her chair. I could see now that she was crying. I was going to her side, but something held me back. Then she made it easy for me as she said “Go away!”. “I know what I want”, the old woman said. “I want to be human. You all want me dead. That is what you really want. Actually, if you are going to continue with that sort of attitude, I don’t see how we can work together. I honestly don’t. Where are my glasses? I want my glasses, damn it” The old woman had turned mean on me. Her face was stone cold, even her wrinkles seemed inanimate. I studied her expressions, but I could not find a hint of compromise. “Do you want me to leave Mrs. Jackson?” “Yes” I sighed and gathered my things. As I was leaving, I heard her shout after me: «And don’t bother coming back». The next day I returned to have the matter settled. I expected that she simply didn’t like me and that she would prefer to have someone else in her house, perhaps a woman. Surprisingly she seemed cheerful in her chair by the window. She greeted me and smiled. I sat down, began politely by saying that I understood her situation, that it was her choice and that I was willing to have the company find a replacement within the month. She looked at me and laughed “My dear, what are you rambling about?” “Don’t you remember that you shouted at me and called me a liar?” “No” “You said I had a bad attitude.” “My dear young man, I have never seen you before in my life. I bear grudges to no one, especially not a complete stranger such as yourself. Now be a dear sweetheart and give my pills, will you.” At first, I thought she was playing with me, but her act seemed so natural and her expression so innocent that I discarded the idea. “Mrs. Jackson, do you remember my name?” “John?” “No, it’s Michael.” “Such a nice name too,” she said and touched my hand. I now began wondering what she really remembered from our past encounter. What did it matter what I did, if she would never remember it. Normally I bring some cake every Friday to my patients, but in view of recent events it would seem a waste of time. She always asked me if we had cake on Friday, and having assumed that she simply needed to have the obvious confirmed; I thought she remembered. From that day on I brought no more cake on Fridays. Certainly there was no reason to bring the actual cake. When she asked me if we had cake, I told her we had and she was just as happy as if she actually did. Pretty soon other changes occurred. I no longer needed to follow her stringent rules. She would always ask me if I had done the kitchen at 4 like she wanted it done, and I replied yes, and that was that. I had no qualms about what I was doing because it meant nothing to her now. I started wondering whether there was even any need for kindness. I thought I could insult her one day and come back the next as if nothing happened. But, such deliberate cruelty was beyond even me. Things were bad enough. There was no need to rub it in. The situation with Mrs. Jackson soon started to depress me. Somehow I blamed her for her effect on me, and I am afraid I at times was not as polite to her as she deserved. Seeing her sit there, asking me every time who I was and what I was doing there, got to me in a way that I didn’t understand. It was as if I saw in her my own situation magnified. I began searching for something to do, something that could take my mind of the job. I found it in a newspaper ad. A local writer was organizing a course in creative writing. But it was too expensive for me, a 1000 dollars. The opportunity that presented itself to me at the end of May that year now fills me with shame, although there are parts of me that think I deserved something in compensation for the way she made me feel. Mrs. Jackson’s failing memory had brought more of her practical affairs to my attention. When there was something that needed to be fixed, local taxes or gas bills, I stepped in to pay them for her. Naturally she had given me all her papers and permission to withdraw any amount from the bank. Legally she was in need of a guardian, and in the absence of relatives, the system left those tasks temporarily to me. I now realized that Mrs. Jackson was a very rich woman. In fact, I was told that she owned as much as a million, and that there were no close relatives to inherit the money. In fact, the money would probably be donated to charity when she died, or even worse, it would confiscated by the government. 1000 dollars to her was nothing. It was a drop in the ocean. I would get my writing class, and then I would be a better nurse to her. She might actually want that. Surely, in the end this was something that I did for her too, seeing that she was helpless and needed constant assistance from strangers. I was a tip. Yes, that’s what it was. The next day I withdrew the 1000 dollars from her account and enrolled in the writing class. I was very excited at first. I never thought that I would have any kind of talent for writing. I never compared myself to great writers, but I thought that might actually be able to write for the mass marked rather than for the sophisticated critic, who it was impossible to please anyway. The classes took place every Friday at some shabby downtown haunt. Unfortunately the classes took place at the same time as my Friday appointments with Mrs. Jackson, but I discovered that if I arrived 2 hours later and stayed a few minutes longer, she would never even notice that I was gone. There were about 10 of us and our teacher was just as eccentric as I hoped he would be. Everybody knows that anyone who tries to teach writing to others must be certifiably insane. He was a tall skinny character with bushy hair and a wild staring gaze. Apparently he had published some novels himself, although I had never heard of any of them. There were several people who considered themselves artists in the true sense of the word. They quoted Russian novelists and spoke of literary theory with great insight. Naturally, none of them had ever published anything and in my opinion they were all idiots. When I announced my intention to write about aliens for the mass marked, they said I was insincere. “Don’t you know”, I said, “that the future is a very exciting subject? New developments in biotechnology will revolutionize our treatment of disease and new information technology will bring all the knowledge of the world into our living rooms. In the future, I believe, all humans will learn faster because they can take drugs to improve their memory. We will all become geniuses.” “Interesting”, the teacher said, and stared at me with his crazy eyes. “Very interesting. What do the rest of you think, will there be a brave new world of tomorrow? Hm Hm Tell me.” His eyes searched the room for an opinion. “Well, I think he is on to something”, a girl replied. “I can sort of see the sense of it”. She looked at me with deep brown eyes and smiled. I felt my heart skip a beat. I don’t get many smiles from women. Next time the class gathered, the teacher was late and I got her into a conversation. She was very pretty, too pretty for me actually. She had quiet, subdued manner about her, she never looked straight at me. It occurred to me that she was painfully shy, even delicate. “What do you do?”, I said, “I mean when you are not writing” “I’m a psychologist”, she said. “Really”, I replied, “I am a social worker.” We soon discovered that we had much in common. A few minutes later we talked about personal matters, things that we both seemed concerned about. She had some oddities though, but I easily forgave them considering how beautiful she was. For instance, she would always ask me if I thought she was fat, even though she was extremely skinny. When I told her that I thought she could well gain a few pounds, she gave me a very irritated look, as if I was lying to her. However, most of the time we talked about other things, such as the best Sci-Fi movies and who founded modern science fiction, Mary Shelley or H.G. Wells. Very soon I realized that I was in love with her. This blessing was a tragedy in disguise. I could hardly work anymore without having all sorts of plans for our future in my head. Her face seemed to haunt me constantly, even when I worked with Mrs. Jackson. Once Mrs. Jackson eyed me suspiciously and said “Michael, are you in love?” “Of course not”, I said. “Don’t be silly.” After that I decided that I should not talk to her the rest of the week. After all, I could start talking to her in a week when I had calmed down and she wouldn’t remember a thing. That weekend Lisa and I went up to a cottage she had in the country. It was one of those perfect moments that are forever imprinted in your memory. We drove into her valley and we felt happy. The cottage lay on the bank of a slow moving river that glittered where the landscape opened up into a wide-open space. I think I told myself that this was too good to be true, fearing that I could wake up at any moment. The following week we met regularly, and it goes without saying that I partly neglected my duties with Mrs. Jackson. However, she did not suffer any distress in the sense that her physical needs were ignored. She had food, her house was clean and she never complained. Lisa and I had now become intimate and I cherished the memory of her naked body, elegant and dexterous as it was. I could sit by myself and think about it for hours on end. Sometimes I would catch myself in red-handed apathy and at those occasions I would humour myself with the idea that the senile Mrs. Jackson and I after all were not much different, comfortably seated in our chairs, staring into oblivion. My writing classes were now drawing to a close. I think we had about a week left. To be honest I had not produced much. Lisa had found an expression for her obsession with dieting and produced the first draft of a book for overweight women. I had only produced the first draft of a story about time travel. Our teacher, however, now declared the course a complete success. Some day, he predicted, several people in our class would win the Nobel prize and then we would be grateful for the advice he had given. I think he was just making excuses for our obvious lack of talent, but I went along with it because I wanted to close on a good note. Lisa and I had made plans for a travel to Europe. It was kind of a honeymoon for us. We wanted to travel in France and make love like they do in all the clichés. However, the journey was quite expensive. I had not told her any details about my financial situation. I barely got by on my present salary. The truth was that not only did I not make enough money to live in the dream world we wanted, my house was heavily mortgaged. I therefore asked for extra hours at work. I would stay with Mrs. Jackson the whole week and help her in any way I could. It would be much easier if she had one person to relate to instead of all the people that she had coming and going all week. Perhaps then she would remember my name. I assured my employer that that would be very unlikely. One day Mrs. Jackson came to me and asked me to get her some medicines from the pharmacy. They were very expensive, but she would give me the money like she usually did. I was surprised to find that she had large sums of cash stored in a box in her closet. She handed me a roll of notes, and as I held them in my hand, I could not help thinking what would happen if I took some of it. After all, I had done it before and gotten away with it. Was I stealing from her? She was wealthy and had no one to inherit her money. If I didn’t take it, the money would simply go to waste. I decided to steal yet another time. On the way from pharmacy the remaining notes found their way into my pockets. That evening I called Lisa and told her I bought the tickets. She laughed and said we would have the time our lives. I repeated that phrase over again as I went asleep that night “the time of our lives”. As the morning broke the next day I felt alive for the very first time. It was as if everything was clearer now. I noticed the slow movements of the morning mists and watched the dewdrops on the windowpane. I made my sandwich and prepared for my final day at the writing class. It was, ironically, Friday and we were having a cake baked by our mad teacher. I took the bus through the city as usual, but found that traffic was especially annoying this morning. Cars, streetlights and sirens seemed to conspire against us in a futile attempt to nag me. But nothing could touch me now. I got off the bus and made my way through the crowded park to the building and classroom. As I entered the classroom I found everyone in a strange, almost quiet mood. “Hi guys,” I said defiantly, “guess what”. “Michael, you’d better sit down. Something has happened. Have you not heard about the accident? They are dead.” “What do you mean, ‘They are dead?’ Who is dead? When did they die?” “This morning, in a car crash. Lisa and her sister.” “You are lying? They are not dead” “Yes, they are, ask anyone. I looked at their faces and they all nodded “But I have made plans. We are going to Europe. I have bought tickets. The worst thing about it is that I can’t get a refund now. They don’t give refunds on cheap tickets. It’s funny really because I seldom travel. And I know they like traveling. Most people like traveling. It’s not like I am an astronaut or anything. Imagine going on a spaceship to the moon or something. I just like to see new things you see.” They all gave me a strange look, my hands suddenly started shaking. I was unable to control them, so I stuffed them in my pockets. I began laughing at my own clumsiness. Those damn hands, I thought. Well I have something to do, I said, got up nodded reassuringly to them and left. I shall not bother you with the details of my sorrow. It is, after all, not much different from that which most people experience at some point in their lives. It took me about a month to compose myself. I then took up my job for Mrs. Jackson, who still sat in her chair by the window. “Who are you?” she said as I entered. “I am your social worker. Michael is my name”, I said. “Don’t you remember?” “No” Michael Henrik Wynn (written at the end of the 1990s) 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... [...]
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 Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
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 / literatureEver since the invention of writing, authors have struggled with their craft. Modern writers apply word processing software, then email their text to editors, who comment and correct. Then, if they are lucky, the book is printed by machines and destributed via a modern transport network. Commercials market their work, and we pay for the product in stores. But what was the reality of writing and reading before all this, before the machines, the computers. How much has really changed? We asked a scholar of Latin and Greek classics. Historyradio.org: There are many ways of looking at ancient literature. In what ways would you say that writers during the classical period innovated, broke rules and experimented? Professor Richlin:  Ancient literature was like jazz:  a strong traditional basis, with performers or writers making a name for themselves by the way they riffed on what was given.  Vergil turned Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey into an epic on the founding of the city of Rome; the anonymous players who made early Roman comedy took Greek New Comedy and stuffed it full of local shtick.  Likewise within each culture:  Attic Old Comedy sends up tragedy, and, within tragedy, Euripides plays around with his predecessors’ work and changes mythology. Historyradio.org: Today when we think of classical literature many think of rigid rules and pentameters that must be adhered to. Why do you think that is? Professor Richlin:  Maybe because of the way Latin is taught in school?  Because of the rules of grammar?  As with most languages, though, you have to trudge through the early stages of learning how the language works before you can understand what’s going on in literature.  And you have to know the rules in order to see how individual writers innovate. Historyradio.org: How did one become a writer in ancient times, were you hired by a theater company? How did you make a living? Professor Richlin:  It worked very differently in different times and places. Sappho lived in a culture where there was a place for poets in the world of ritual and dance; Pindar, also living in the Greek islands, made a living by praising kings and tyrants for the victories of their chariots in races, and all kinds of other poets made a living in the courts of kings, all over the Mediterranean, especially in the 300s BCE. Major cities like Athens commissioned plays and poems for their big festivals; in Rome from 240 BCE through the 160s and probably beyond, the city magistrates also paid acting troupes to perform at festivals. But these troupes, made up of slaves and lower-class men, had to live all year, and probably made money performing at markets and fairs all over central Italy. They wrote their own material. From the 300s onward, troupes of Greek professional actors performed everywhere from Babylonia to Sicily, being paid and honored by cities. Among Latin-speaking people in Italy from the 200s onward, and eventually throughout the West from Carthage to Gaul, slaves and lower-class people (mostly men) became upwardly mobile by teaching and, sometimes, writing; already by the time of the elder Cato around 200 BCE, writing prose and some kinds of poetry had become a pastime for upper-class men and a few women, and this continues into the 500s CE when those men were now bishops. Historyradio.org: Only a fraction of ancient literature has survived into the modern age? Have any new literary works been discovered recently? Professor Richlin:  Yes, a handful of previously unknown poems by Sappho have been found over the past ten years or so Historyradio.org: What do we know about the reading habits during ancient times? What was the degree of literacy, and to what extent did the average Joe have access to the great stories and drama? Professor Richlin:  It’s been argued that the rate of literacy was very low, but then again there are graffiti everywhere, some of which quote poetry or are written in verse, which I think argues for quite widespread literacy. In addition, although books were expensive, the rich people who had private libraries also had people to read to them, i.e. slaves, so that reading and books were not exclusive to the rich; moreover, since reading aloud was widely used as dinner entertainment, everyone present could hear. The average Jo(sephine) had regular access to drama through public performance, which was usually free or very cheap, subsidized by cities or by wealthy individuals. In cities, children were sent to school, where Homer was among the first texts they learned. Most of the ancient world was rural, though, and literature must have been relatively unknown in the hinterlands. On the other hand, folk tales, jokes, myths were everywhere, probably including large amounts of Homeric poetry that people had memorized. Historyradio.org: We have all heard about the great library of Alexandria, but were there smaller public libraries where text might be read, poetry, stories etc? Were there lending arrangements like in a modern library? Professor Richlin:  Yes, there were public libraries in Rome; the young Marcus Aureliuis jokes about having to seduce the librarian into letting him borrow a book he wants. There were also booksellers, and the poet Martial, at least, brags that his poetry books are popular throughout the empire. Historyradio.org: Reading, of course, depended on proper lighting in the houses. In Victorian Britain they had gas, as you know, but evenings remained dark. What sort of lamps would the Greeks and Romans have had access to? Professor Richlin:  Oil lamps. Once when I was living in New Hampshire, I had to get by with oil lamps for a week, doing the reading for my classes and grading papers, and it was pretty hard on the eyes. But they got up very early in the morning; Marcus Aurelius, as a student, was often up before sunrise, reading in the predawn light. Historyradio.org: What were the most popular literary genres and forms during the ancient period? I know they had comedy, tragedy and poetry? But did they have anything resembling a modern novel? Professor Richlin:  The Greeks seem to have invented novels, although Petronius’s Satyricon (60s CE) seems to be earlier than the earliest extant Greek novel. Since the Satyricon often parodies the norms of the Greek novels we do have, however, it seems clear that Greek novels started well before Petronius. Novels were tremendously popular; they morphed into saints’ lives, they were translated and adapted into many ancient languages (there’s one in Syriac about the biblical Joseph and his beloved Aseneth), they moved eastward through Byzantium and on into Russia, as far east as China, so I’ve heard. The Satyricon is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, it still makes me laugh. And only a bit of it is left! See below. Another great novel in Latin is Apuelius’s Metamorphoses, sometimes called The Golden Ass, about the adventures of a young man who gets transformed into a donkey, and that novel has survived in its entirety. The Greek novels are mostly “romances” — they have a marriage plot — but there are all kinds of others. Historyradio.org: The classical period spans hundreds of years. Did they have literary schools that reflected any modern sensibilities, such as the stress and anxiety of urban living in a modernist sense. Or perhaps romantic idealization of nature, the way it is seen by a city dweller? Professor Richlin:  Lots of romantic idealization of nature, the Greeks invented that, too (and the Roman poet Horace wrote a comic poem satirizing that). The Romans invented satire, and Juvenal’s Satire 3 is about the stress and anxiety of urban living, though not in a modernist way. Modernism is a rejection of the classic, really, so I don’t see a big overlap. Historyradio.org: In Umbert Eco’s The Name of the Rose, there is a crime plot centering on the rediscovery of an ancient text on comedy. Which lost text would you like to see rediscovered? Professor Richlin: The rest of the Satyricon! Medieval Arabic satire shows some remarkable resemblances to the Satyricon; I have a fantasy that, somewhere, the novel was translated into Arabic before most of the Latin text was lost, and that someday we’ll find that manuscript. And I’d give a lot to have the comedies of Naevius, Plautus’s predecessor, whose tantalizing fragments make me long for even one complete play of his. The memoirs of the elder Agrippina: oh, boy. Tacitus mentions them — they must have been pretty hot stuff, in terms of telling the inside story of the house of the Caesars. The lost books of Tacitus, ditto. In Greek: the rest of Sappho! And the other women poets, esp. Nossis, whose few remaining poems are so beautiful. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storypublished  in All-Story Weekly September 7, 1918 Francis Stevens (real name Gertrude Barrows Bennett, 1884–1948) t was upon the waterfront that I first met her, in one of the shabby little tea shops frequented by able sailoresses of the poorer type. The uptown, glittering resorts of the Lady Aviators’ Union were not for such as she. Stern of feature, bronzed by wind and sun, her age could only be guessed, but I surmised at once that in her I beheld a survivor of the age of turbines and oil engines—a true sea-woman of that elder time when woman’s superiority to man had not been so long recognized. When, to emphasize their victory, women in all ranks were sterner than today’s need demands. The spruce, smiling young maidens—engine-women and stokers of the great aluminum rollers, but despite their profession, very neat in gold-braided blue knickers and boleros—these looked askance at the hard-faced relic of a harsher day, as they passed in and out of the shop. I, however, brazenly ignoring similar glances at myself, a mere male intruding on the haunts of the world’s ruling sex, drew a chair up beside the veteran. I ordered a full pot of tea, two cups and a plate of macaroons, and put on my most ingratiating air. Possibly my unconcealed admiration and interest were wiles not exercised in vain. Or the macaroons and tea, both excellent, may have loosened the old sea-woman’s tongue. At any rate, under cautious questioning, she had soon launched upon a series of reminiscences well beyond my hopes for color and variety. “When I was a lass,” quoth the sea-woman, after a time, “there was none of this high-flying, gilt-edged, leather-stocking luxury about the sea. We sailed by the power of our oil and gasoline. If they failed on us, like as not ’twas the rubber ring and the rolling wave for ours.” She referred to the archaic practice of placing a pneumatic affair called a life-preserver beneath the arms, in case of that dreaded disaster, now so unheard of, shipwreck. “In them days there was still many a man bold enough to join our crews. And I’ve knowed cases,” she added condescendingly, “where just by the muscle and brawn of such men some poor sailor lass has reached shore alive that would have fed the sharks without ’em. Oh, I ain’t so down on men as you might think. It’s the spoiling of them that I don’t hold with. There’s too much preached nowadays that man is fit for nothing but to fetch and carry and do nurse-work in big child-homes. To my mind, a man who hasn’t the nerve of a woman ain’t fitted to father children, let alone raise ’em. But that’s not here nor there. My time’s past, and I know it, or I wouldn’t be setting here gossipin’ to you, my lad, over an empty teapot.” I took the hint, and with our cups replenished, she bit thoughtfully into her fourteenth macaroon and continued. “There’s one voyage I’m not likely to forget, though I live to be as old as Cap’n Mary Barnacle, of the Shouter. ‘Twas aboard the old Shouter that this here voyage occurred, and it was her last and likewise Cap’n Mary’s. Cap’n Mary, she was then that decrepit, it seemed a mercy that she should go to her rest, and in good salt water at that. “I remember the voyage for Cap’n Mary’s sake, but most I remember it because ’twas then that I come the nighest in my life to committin’ matrimony. For a man, the man had nerve; he was nearer bein’ companionable than any other man I ever seed; and if it hadn’t been for just one little event that showed up the—the mannishness of him, in a way I couldn’t abide, I reckon he’d be keepin’ house for me this minute.” “We cleared from Frisco with a cargo of silkateen petticoats for Brisbane. Cap’n Mary was always strong on petticoats. Leather breeches or even half-skirts would ha’ paid far better, they being more in demand like, but Cap’n Mary was three-quarters owner, and says she, land women should buy petticoats, and if they didn’t it wouldn’t be the Lord’s fault nor hers for not providing ’em. “We cleared on a fine day, which is an all sign—or was, then when the weather and the seas o’ God still counted in the trafficking of the humankind. Not two days out we met a whirling, mucking bouncer of a gale that well nigh threw the old Shouter a full point off her course in the first wallop. She was a stout craft, though. None of your featherweight, gas-lightened, paper-thin alloy shells, but toughened aluminum from stern to stern. Her turbine drove her through the combers at a forty-five knot clip, which named her a speedy craft for a freighter in them days. “But this night, as we tore along through the creaming green billows, something unknown went ‘way wrong down below. “I was forward under the shelter of her long over-sloop, looking for a hairpin I’d dropped somewheres about that afternoon. It was a gold hairpin, and gold still being mighty scarce when I was a girl, a course I valued it. But suddenly I felt the old Shouter give a jump under my feet like a plane struck by a shell in full flight. Then she trembled all over for a full second, frightened like. Then, with the crash of doomsday ringing in my ears, I felt myself sailing through the air right into the teeth o’ the shrieking gale, as near as I could judge. Down I come in the hollow of a monstrous big wave, and as my ears doused under I thought I heard a splash close by. Coming up, sure enough, there close by me was floating a new, patent, hermetic, thermo-ice-chest. Being as it was empty, and being as it was shut up air-tight, that ice-chest made as sweet a life-preserver as a woman could wish in such an hour. About ten foot by twelve, it floated high in the raging sea. Out on its top I scrambled, and hanging on by a handle I looked expectant for some of my poor fellow-women to come floating by. Which they never did, for the good reason that the Shouter had blowed up and went below, petticoats, Cap’n Mary and all.” “What caused the explosion?” I inquired. “The Lord and Cap’n Mary Barnacle can explain,” she answered piously. “Besides the oil for her turbines, she carried a power of gasoline for her alternative engines, and likely ’twas the cause of her ending so sudden like. Anyways, all I ever seen of her again was the empty ice-chest that Providence had well-nigh hove upon my head. On that I sat and floated, and floated and sat some more, till by-and-by the storm sort of blowed itself out, the sun come shining—this was next morning—and I could dry my hair and look about me. I was a young lass, then, and not bad to look upon. I didn’t want to die, any more than you that’s sitting there this minute. So I up and prays for land. Sure enough toward evening a speck heaves up low down on the horizon. At first I took it for a gas liner, but later found it was just a little island, all alone by itself in the great Pacific Ocean. “Come, now, here’s luck, thinks I, and with that I deserts the ice-chest, which being empty, and me having no ice to put in it, not likely to have in them latitudes, is of no further use to me. Striking out I swum a mile or so and set foot on dry land for the first time in nigh three days. “Pretty land it were, too, though bare of human life as an iceberg in the Arctic. “I had landed on a shining white beach that run up to a grove of lovely, waving palm trees. Above them I could see the slopes of a hill so high and green it reminded me of my own old home, up near Couquomgomoc Lake in Maine. The whole place just seemed to smile and smile at me. The palms waved and bowed in the sweet breeze, like they wanted to say, ‘Just set right down and make yourself to home. We’ve been waiting a long time for you to come.’ I cried, I was that happy to be made welcome. I was a young lass then, and sensitive-like to how folks treated me. You’re laughing now, but wait and see if or not there was sense to the way I felt. “So I up and dries my clothes and my long, soft hair again, which was well worth drying, for I had far more of it than now. After that I walked along a piece, until there was a sweet little path meandering away into the wild woods. “Here, thinks I, this looks like inhabitants. Be they civil or wild, I wonder? But after traveling the path a piece, lo and behold it ended sudden like in a wide circle of green grass, with a little spring of clear water. And the first thing I noticed was a slab of white board nailed to a palm tree close to the spring. Right off I took a long drink, for you better believe I was thirsty, and then I went to look at this board. It had evidently been tore off the side of a wooden packing box, and the letters was roughly printed in lead pencil. “‘Heaven help whoever you be,’ I read. ‘This island ain’t just right. I’m going to swim for it. You better too. Good-by. Nelson Smith.’ That’s what it said, but the spellin’ was simply awful. It all looked quite new and recent, as if Nelson Smith hadn’t more than a few hours before he wrote and nailed it there. “Well, after reading that queer warning I begun to shake all over like in a chill. Yes, I shook like I had the ague, though the hot tropic sun was burning down right on me and that alarming board. What had scared Nelson Smith so much that he had swum to get away? I looked all around real cautious and careful, but not a single frightening thing could I behold. And the palms and the green grass and the flowers still smiled that peaceful and friendly like. ‘Just make yourself to home,’ was wrote all over the place in plainer letters than those sprawly lead pencil ones on the board. “Pretty soon, what with the quiet and all, the chill left me. Then I thought, ‘Well, to be sure, this Smith person was just an ordinary man, I reckon, and likely he got nervous of being so alone. Likely he just fancied things which was really not. It’s a pity he drowned himself before I come, though likely I’d have found him poor company. By his record I judge him a man of but common education.’ “So I decided to make the most of my welcome, and that I did for weeks to come. Right near the spring was a cave, dry as a biscuit box, with a nice floor of white sand. Nelson had lived there too, for there was a litter of stuff—tin cans—empty—scraps of newspapers and the like. I got to calling him Nelson in my mind, and then Nelly, and wondering if he was dark or fair, and how he come to be cast away there all alone, and what was the strange events that drove him to his end. I cleaned out the cave, though. He had devoured all his tin-canned provisions, however he come by them, but this I didn’t mind. That there island was a generous body. Green milk-coconuts, sweet berries, turtle eggs and the like was my daily fare. “For about three weeks the sun shone every day, the birds sang and the monkeys chattered. We was all one big, happy family, and the more I explored that island the better I liked the company I was keeping. The land was about ten miles from beach to beach, and never a foot of it that wasn’t sweet and clean as a private park. “From the top of the hill I could see the ocean, miles and miles of blue water, with never a sign of a gas liner, or even a little government running-boat. Them running-boats used to go most everywhere to keep the seaways clean of derelicts and the like. But I knowed that if this island was no more than a hundred miles off the regular courses of navigation, it might be many a long day before I’d be rescued. The top of the hill, as I found when first I climbed up there, was a wore-out crater. So I knowed that the island was one of them volcanic ones you run across so many of in the seas between Capricorn and Cancer. “Here and there on the slopes and down through the jungly tree-growth, I would come on great lumps of rock, and these must have came up out of that crater long ago. If there was lava it was so old it had been covered up entire with green growing stuff. You couldn’t have found it without a spade, which I didn’t have nor want.” “Well, at first I was happy as the hours was long. I wandered and clambered and waded and swum, and combed my long hair on the beach, having fortunately not lost my side-combs nor the rest of my gold hairpins. But by-and-by it begun to get just a bit lonesome. Funny thing, that’s a feeling that, once it starts, it gets worse and worser so quick it’s perfectly surprising. And right then was when the days begun to get gloomy. We had a long, sickly hot spell, like I never seen before on an ocean island. There was dull clouds across the sun from morn to night. Even the little monkeys and parrakeets, that had seemed so gay, moped and drowsed like they was sick. All one day I cried, and let the rain soak me through and through—that was the first rain we had—and I didn’t get thorough dried even during the night, though I slept in my cave. Next morning I got up mad as thunder at myself and all the world. “When I looked out the black clouds was billowing across the sky. I could hear nothing but great breakers roaring in on the beaches, and the wild wind raving through the lashing palms. “As I stood there a nasty little wet monkey dropped from a branch almost on my head. I grabbed a pebble and slung it at him real vicious. ‘Get away, you dirty little brute!’ I shrieks, and with that there come a awful blinding flare of light. There was a long, crackling noise like a bunch of Chinese fireworks, and then a sound as if a whole fleet of Shouters had all went up together. “When I come to, I found myself ‘way in the back of my cave, trying to dig further into the rock with my finger nails. Upon taking thought, it come to me that what had occurred was just a lightning-clap, and going to look, sure enough there lay a big palm tree right across the glade. It was all busted and split open by the lightning, and the little monkey was under it, for I could see his tail and his hind legs sticking out. “Now, when I set eyes on that poor, crushed little beast I’d been so mean to, I was terrible ashamed. I sat down on the smashed tree and considered and considered. How thankful I had ought to have been. Here I had a lovely, plenteous island, with food and water to my taste, when it might have been a barren, starvation rock that was my lot. And so, thinking, a sort of gradual peaceful feeling stole over me. I got cheerfuller and cheerfuller, till I could have sang and danced for joy. “Pretty soon I realized that the sun was shining bright for the first time that week. The wind had stopped hollering, and the waves had died to just a singing murmur on the beach. It seemed kind o’ strange, this sudden peace, like the cheer in my own heart after its rage and storm. I rose up, feeling sort of queer, and went to look if the little monkey had came alive again, though that was a fool thing, seeing he was laying all crushed up and very dead. I buried him under a tree root, and as I did it a conviction come to me. “I didn’t hardly question that conviction at all. Somehow, living there alone so long, perhaps my natural womanly intuition was stronger than ever before or since, and so I knowed. Then I went and pulled poor Nelson Smith’s board off from the tree and tossed it away for the tide to carry off. That there board was an insult to my island!” The sea-woman paused, and her eyes had a far-away look. It seemed as if I and perhaps even the macaroons and tea were quite forgotten. “Why did you think that?” I asked, to bring her back. “How could an island be insulted?” She started, passed her hand across her eyes, and hastily poured another cup of tea. “Because,” she said at last, poising a macaroon in mid-air, “because that island—that particular island that I had landed on—had a heart! “When I was gay, it was bright and cheerful. It was glad when I come, and it treated me right until I got that grouchy it had to mope from sympathy. It loved me like a friend. When I flung a rock at that poor little drenched monkey critter, it backed up my act with an anger like the wrath o’ God, and killed its own child to please me! But it got right cheery the minute I seen the wrongness of my ways. Nelson Smith had no business to say, ‘This island ain’t just right,’ for it was a righter place than ever I seen elsewhere. When I cast away that lying board, all the birds begun to sing like mad. The green milk-coconuts fell right and left. Only the monkeys seemed kind o’ sad like still, and no wonder. You see, their own mother, the island, had rounded on one o’ them for my sake! “After that I was right careful and considerate. I named the island Anita, not knowing her right name, or if she had any. Anita was a pretty name, and it sounded kind of South Sea like. Anita and me got along real well together from that day on. It was some strain to be always gay and singing around like a dear duck of a canary bird, but I done my best. Still, for all the love and gratitude I bore Anita, the company of an island, however sympathetic, ain’t quite enough for a human being. I still got lonesome, and there was even days when I couldn’t keep the clouds clear out of the sky, though I will say we had no more tornadoes. “I think the island understood and tried to help me with all the bounty and good cheer the poor thing possessed. None the less my heart give a wonderful big leap when one day I seen a blot on the horizon. It drawed nearer and nearer, until at last I could make out its nature.” “A ship, of course,” said I, “and were you rescued?” “‘Tweren’t a ship, neither,” denied the sea-woman somewhat impatiently. “Can’t you let me spin this yarn without no more remarks and fool questions? This thing what was bearing down so fast with the incoming tide was neither more nor less than another island! “You may well look startled. I was startled myself. Much more so than you, likely. I didn’t know then what you, with your book-learning, very likely know now—that islands sometimes float. Their underparts being a tangled-up mess of roots and old vines that new stuff’s growed over, they sometimes break away from the mainland in a brisk gale and go off for a voyage, calm as a old-fashioned, eight-funnel steamer. This one was uncommon large, being as much as two miles, maybe, from shore to shore. It had its palm trees and its live things, just like my own Anita, and I’ve sometimes wondered if this drifting piece hadn’t really been a part of my island once—just its daughter like, as you might say. “Be that, however, as it might be, no sooner did the floating piece get within hailing distance than I hears a human holler and there was a man dancing up and down on the shore like he was plumb crazy. Next minute he had plunged into the narrow strip of water between us and in a few minutes had swum to where I stood. “Yes, of course it was none other than Nelson Smith! “I knowed that the minute I set eyes on him. He had the very look of not having no better sense than the man what wrote that board and then nearly committed suicide trying to get away from the best island in all the oceans. Glad enough he was to get back, though, for the coconuts was running very short on the floater what had rescued him, and the turtle eggs wasn’t worth mentioning. Being short of grub is the surest way I know to cure a man’s fear of the unknown.” “Well, to make a long story short, Nelson Smith told me he was a aeronauter. In them days to be an aeronauter was not the same as to be an aviatress is now. There was dangers in the air, and dangers in the sea, and he had met with both. His gas tank had leaked and he had dropped into the water close by Anita. A case or two of provisions was all he could save from the total wreck. “Now, as you might guess, I was crazy enough to find out what had scared this Nelson Smith into trying to swim the Pacific. He told me a story that seemed to fit pretty well with mine, only when it come to the scary part he shut up like a clam, that aggravating way some men have. I give it up at last for just man-foolishness, and we begun to scheme to get away. “Anita moped some while we talked it over. I realized how she must be feeling, so I explained to her that it was right needful for us to get with our kind again. If we stayed with her we should probably quarrel like cats, and maybe even kill each other out of pure human cussedness. She cheered up considerable after that, and even, I thought, got a little anxious to have us leave. At any rate, when we begun to provision up the little floater, which we had anchored to the big island by a cable of twisted bark, the green nuts fell all over the ground, and Nelson found more turtle nests in a day than I had in weeks. “During them days I really got fond of Nelson Smith. He was a companionable body, and brave, or he wouldn’t have been a professional aeronauter, a job that was rightly thought tough enough for a woman, let alone a man. Though he was not so well educated as me, at least he was quiet and modest about what he did know, not like some men, boasting most where there is least to brag of. “Indeed, I misdoubt if Nelson and me would not have quit the sea and the air together and set up housekeeping in some quiet little town up in New England, maybe, after we had got away, if it had not been for what happened when we went. I never, let me say, was so deceived in any man before nor since. The thing taught me a lesson and I never was fooled again. “We was all ready to go, and then one morning, like a parting gift from Anita, come a soft and favoring wind. Nelson and I run down the beach together, for we didn’t want our floater to blow off and leave us. As we was running, our arms full of coconuts, Nelson Smith, stubbed his bare toe on a sharp rock, and down he went. I hadn’t noticed, and was going on. “But sudden the ground begun to shake under my feet, and the air was full of a queer, grinding, groaning sound, like the very earth was in pain. “I turned around sharp. There sat Nelson, holding his bleeding toe in both fists and giving vent to such awful words as no decent sea-going lady would ever speak nor hear to! “‘Stop it, stop it!’ I shrieked at him, but ’twas too late. “Island or no island, Anita was a lady, too! She had a gentle heart, but she knowed how to behave when she was insulted. “With one terrible, great roar a spout of smoke and flame belched up out o’ the heart of Anita’s crater hill a full mile into the air! “I guess Nelson stopped swearing. He couldn’t have heard himself, anyways. Anita was talking now with tongues of flame and such roars as would have bespoke the raging protest of a continent. “I grabbed that fool man by the hand and run him down to the water. We had to swim good and hard to catch up with our only hope, the floater. No bark rope could hold her against the stiff breeze that was now blowing, and she had broke her cable. By the time we scrambled aboard great rocks was falling right and left. We couldn’t see each other for a while for the clouds of fine gray ash. “It seemed like Anita was that mad she was flinging stones after us, and truly I believe that such was her intention. I didn’t blame her, neither! “Lucky for us the wind was strong and we was soon out of range. “‘So!’ says I to Nelson, after I’d got most of the ashes out of my mouth, and shook my hair clear of cinders. ‘So, that was the reason you up and left sudden when you was there before! You aggravated that island till the poor thing druv you out!’ “‘Well,’ says he, and not so meek as I’d have admired to see him, ‘how could I know the darn island was a lady?’ “‘Actions speak louder than words,’ says I. ‘You should have knowed it by her ladylike behavior!’ “‘Is volcanoes and slingin’ hot rocks ladylike?’ he says. ‘Is snakes ladylike? T’other time I cut my thumb on a tin can, I cussed a little bit. Say—just a li’l’ bit! An’ what comes at me out o’ all the caves, and out o’ every crack in the rocks, and out o’ the very spring o’ water where I’d been drinkin’? Why snakes! Snakes, if you please, big, little, green, red and sky-blue-scarlet! What’d I do? Jumped in the water, of course. Why wouldn’t I? I’d ruther swim and drown than be stung or swallowed to death. But how was I t’ know the snakes come outta the rocks because I cussed?’ “‘You, couldn’t,’ I agrees, sarcastic. ‘Some folks never knows a lady till she up and whangs ’em over the head with a brick. A real, gentle, kind-like warning, them snakes were, which you would not heed! Take shame to yourself, Nelly,’ says I, right stern, ‘that a decent little island like Anita can’t associate with you peaceable, but you must hurt her sacredest feelings with language no lady would stand by to hear!’ “I never did see Anita again. She may have blew herself right out of the ocean in her just wrath at the vulgar, disgustin’ language of Nelson Smith. I don’t know. We was took off the floater at last, and I lost track of Nelson just as quick as I could when we was landed at Frisco. “He had taught me a lesson. A man is just full of mannishness, and the best of ’em ain’t good enough for a lady to sacrifice her sensibilities to put up with. “Nelson Smith, he seemed to feel real bad when he learned I was not for him, and then he apologized. But apologies weren’t no use to me. I could never abide him, after the way he went and talked right in the presence of me and my poor, sweet lady friend, Anita!” Now I am well versed in the lore of the sea in all ages. Through mists of time I have enviously eyed wild voyagings of sea rovers who roved and spun their yarns before the stronger sex came into its own, and ousted man from his heroic pedestal. I have followed—across the printed page—the wanderings of Odysseus. Before Gulliver I have burned the incense of tranced attention; and with reverent awe considered the history of one Munchausen, a baron. But alas, these were only men! In what field is not woman our subtle superior? Meekly I bowed my head, and when my eyes dared lift again, the ancient mariness had departed, leaving me to sorrow for my surpassed and outdone idols. Also with a bill for macaroons and tea of such incredible proportions that in comparison therewith I found it easy to believe her story! 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... [...]
history / literatureIn 1873 the restless poetic prodigy composed one of his final and greatest works. Arthur Rimbaud had been shot by his lover. Now he left the literary salons to become a vagabond, a deserter and a gun runner among the sand dunes of north Africa. Rimbaud came upon the artistic crowd in Paris like an invasion from the Ardenne. All his life he tried to escape his claustrophobic childhood. His father was passing soldier who deserted his family and his mother was strict, religious and maintained a facade of respectability. Most people who met Rimbaud were stunned by his talent, but they soon detected a rebellious streak behind his childish features. If there ever lived a poet of the gutter or a man who lived up to the bohemian myth of the restless artiste, Rimbaud must be it. He wrote his masterpieces between the ages of 16 and 19. Then he quit suddenly, left everyone and everything and became a legend. There are different theories as to why he did this. Was it the break-up with his homosexual lover Paul Verlaine? (Verlaine was much older than Rimbaud.) Was it his tragic childhood? He ran away from home when he was 14. As a teenager he searched the dustbins of Paris when France lost the war against Prussia in 1870. He saw the last French empire dissolve and the communes of Paris. He hung out with artists, painters, drank constantly, experimented with drugs and lived fully the life of the caffees. But after Verlaine had shot him in the hand, Rimbaud withdrew to face up to his theory of art in the poem “A Season in Hell” and decided to become a man of action. Verlaine, who still missed his wife and children, made a futile attempt at reconciliation, but Rimbaud turned his back on him. Verlaine was a born again christian at this time, and he is said to have prayed for Rimbaud’s salvation: “Merciful God,please save this angry child.” Distant horizons Rimbaud’s travels brought him to most countries in Europe, including Sweden, but after his sister’s death in 1875, he set his eye on exotic continents. First he decided to travel to Russia via Austria, but in Wien he was robbed by his own coachman. He begged in the streets until he was arrested by the police for vagrancy and shipped out of the country. A year later he was in the Netherlands where he joined the army for a six-year period, but after a few months in Java, he deserted. He returned to Paris wearing British sailor’s outfit. Then he decided to go to Egypt. In Hamburg he heard that a ship was due to sail from Greece, and in 1878 he crossed the alps during the winter season, an insane undertaking that almost cost him his life. A few months later he could proudly engrave his name on one of the pillars at the Luxor temple. In Egypt he worked for a while in Alexandria before he moved to Cyprus. Here he contracted typhoid, and when he returned to his mother he was only 25. Rimbaud’s return was nothing but a stay of necessity. Suffering had been a part of his artistic ideas, and now it became the force that drove him. He returned immediately to Cyprus where he saved up enough money to travel south along the shores of the Red Sea. Tired and sick with fever he ended up in the desolate and isolated seaport of Aden. Here he came into contact with a French coffee merchant, and it was in his service that the vast interior with its waving sand dunes, jagged peaks and savage tribes opened up to him. He was sent to Harar, a city where no Frenchmen had been, and soon he was given the opportunity to penetrate deeper into the unknown continent, the heart of darkness. His article about this journey was published by the French Geographical society, but only his letter to his mother revealed his true feelings: Loneliness is a wretched thing, and I am starting to regret the fact that I never married or started a family. As things are now, I am obliged to roam the earth, tied down by a distant enterprise. And every day I lose my taste for the climate and way of life in Europe. But no, what does the endless spending and accumulation of profit mean, these adventures, this hardship among alien races, these languages that fill my mind; what does all the indescribable suffering mean if I not, after many years, can rest in a place I like and have my own family. . .. Who knows how long I can survive in the mountains here. I may lose my life among these people without anyone ever knowing. .. The arms dealer When Rimbaud finally returned to Aden he brought with him an Abyssinian woman with who he lived happily for a while. We don’t know the reason for why he sent her away. New changes arrived in the area. Egypt was losing its political position, and like many Europeans Rimbaud tried to make money from gun running. He found experienced partners and invested all his savings to fund a caravan, but lady luck was not on his side. One of his colleagues was murdered and the other two fell ill. Rimbaud took charge of the caravan himself, from the coast to the interior. It took several months, a bitter contest with the elements. When he finally reached his destination, he was swindled by the devious king Menelek, and the balance only barely swung in his favor. Because he had a unique knowledge of local conditions, and because Italy had become active in the region, Rimbaud sent some articles to the newspaper Le Temps. The articles were rejected, but the newspaper could tell about his growing reputation in France. You probably don’t know this as you live so remote, but you have become a legend to a small circle here in Paris; one of those who is taken for dead, but who still maintain a group who believes in you and who patiently awaits your return. The petty salons of Europe were part of a world that Rimbaud had permanently abandoned. Rimbaud was now a weathered adventurer who pursued his investments. He found a partner for shipping goods between the French port Djibouti and Harar. His partner got him involved in the illegal slave trade to Arabia. However, he traded mostly in guns and other merchandise. Gradually he established a significant business and was well liked as a trader and known for his integrity and frugal nature. He had a good relationship to the natives, often helping those in need. As a white man in Africa, he was still an outsider, and he often wrote dreamy letters to his mother about how she would give him away in marriage upon his return to France. The servant Djami kept him company, a constant support for Rimbaud. The warm-hearted Rimbaud married him off when he turned 20, even if it served to consolidate his own solitude. The poet returns The decision to return to Europe was inevitable. In 1891 Rimbaud was struck by pains in one of his feet. It became infected and he lost mobility. He feared that his days were numbered and he immediately set course for home. 16 servants carried him through desert and rainstorm to the sea port. The local doctor eased his symptoms, which allowed him to set sail for Marseille. He telegraphed his mother and his sister and asked them to meet him there, and told them he might have to amputate one of his legs. He was carried ashore, but realised his time had come. All he could think about now was whether his personal life had been wasted. He returned as a poetic legend, but he never got in touch with his old colleagues. His final days were spent with his sister and he constantly complained about the fact that he had not married: And I who had planned to return to France this fall to marry. Goodbye marriage! Goodbye family! Goodbye future! My life is over! I am nothing but a rotting log. Rimbaud died November 9 1891 by his sister’s side, at the age of 37. His many acts of rebellion both in life and in poetry have since influenced a generation of poets. When his old lover, the great Verlaine, published his book about what he called “the damned poets”, Rimbaud was given special mention. In the 1960s he was admired by Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan, and he became – in spite of the fact that he resented his own fate – the poet icon of the sixties. Michael Henrik Wynn 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... [...]
history / online resourcesIn the 19th century the British Empire went to war to keep China addicted to opium. Britain was the largest drug cartell the world had ever seen, shipping their merchandise from India, and bribing the Chinese customs officials to bring the drugs into the country. Millions of Chinese became addicted, a public health emergency. The Chinese emperor dispatched Lin Zexu, an efficient former regional govenor, to deal with the issue.  The result was an armed conflict which ended in a humiliating treaty for the Chinese. William Gladstone, the famous liberal, denounced the war as scandalous. “A war more unjust in its origin, a war calculated in its progress to cover this country with a permanent disgrace, I do not know and I have not read of” he wrote. His opposition was Lord Palmerston, the prime minister at the time, who said he would fight for compensation from the Chinese for lost merchandise. Along with the great Indian famines, the opium wars are seldom mentioned in Britain. The UK likes to take the moral high ground focusing on Churchill’s struggle with the nazis. But the British were, at times, no saints themselves. Lin Zexu on the other hand, the rigid moralist, emerges a hero of Chinese history. There are at least three great epic movies about him (two below).  Although blamed for the war, he was partially rehabilitated in his lifetime. He died in 1850. “Let us ask, where is your conscience?”- Lin Zexu open letter to Queen Victoria Lectures History.org: The Opium Wars Gresham.ac.uk: “Conflict over China” “The China Trade” part 7 “The Opium Wars” London School Economics Lecture by Amitav Ghosh on his Opium War novels The Guardian audio “Raj Ghatak reads the first chapter of Amitav Ghosh’s latest novel, Flood of Fire” (1 hour 12 min) Radio shows BBC In Our Time “The Opium Wars” Teacup media The First Opium War History Today Podcast “The Opium Wars” with Julia Lovell Talkinghistory.org “Frank Sanello, author of The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another” (25 min) Documentary Below you can watch a Chinese feature movie on the Opium Wars. There is a public domain version of the story from 1959, but it is not subtitled. This one from 1997 has been available from several channels on youtube for a while. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyA story set in 1980s Nigeria Muhammed lay quiet in the corner of his cell when police chief Chuwungu and his deputy passed by. They stopped by the door and smiled at his bruises. After all, Muhammed was a muslim, and what they internally referred to as a “B-citizen” in the station. A B-citizen was a person who had been arrested, but for whom they had yet to come up with a charge. Usually, this was done within a few months. But it was not easy because Chuwungu had limited imagination. Sometimes, he claimed they had attacked the police unprovoked, but most of the time he claimed that they were fundamentalists. This was very convenient, because it was both very serious, there were bombings elsewhere in the country quite often, and most importantly, it was impossible to disprove. After all, not even the judges had access to the man’s mind? And most of his criminals were so starved, unclean and agitated when they arrived in court that the judge – who was a neat well-kept and well-fed academic educated somewhere in Europe – frowned with disgust when they took the stand. Chuwungu always smiled at this. Once, however, the judge had sent him a suspicious and irritated look, and after that Chuwungu always wore his fake Ray-ban glasses court, and pulled his cap a little down. Muhammed was one of those ruffians who became so cocky in their teens that they stood on street corners laughing at the police. Then, of course, he had no choice but to put him in his place. He got some of his men to pick him up one evening while he was out drinking, gave him a real good beating and dumped him in a cell overnight. When he woke in the morning Muhammed was thirsty and bruised. They let him go with a warning.However, next week, he looked at them with even more spite, and it was then Chuwungu decided that Muhammed was a B-citizen. This was some years back. Of course, the local shop owners would be ordered to be very rude to Muhammed, and he would not be allowed to visit certain areas in which there were girls or entertainment. Chuwungu also made sure that the taxi company in which Muhammed worked cut his salary. And that his girl friend did not offer him sex more than once a month. This was the ultimate insult to any African man, and Chuwungu thought Muhammed would beat her senseless. But he did nothing, which was even more contemptible. There were many things that B-citizens would not be allowed to do. Chuwungu and his deputy used to sit and brainstorm in order to come up with ways of limiting their options. Someone suggested that they would deny them chicken, or even bush meat, leaving only pork. But this was very impractical because there was no way to keep track of such things. So, he simply dismissed the idea.Even if Chuwungu was feared by ordinary people, he was not disliked by his own, that is, the other police. He was a tall muscular man with a round face, balled and black as coal. He had teeth, which – by contrast- glittered like ivory when the roar of his laughter was heard. He had six children, and a very proud wife, and who was sometimes seen in the town square in her flowery red robe, negotiating for the price of vegetables. She was not the sort of person who downplayed her position. She looked at you with determination, and she ordered her children about like a true deputy – and she obeyed her husband in everything. For after all, he was the police chief known locally as the Lion of Edo state. Chuwungu almost never beat his wife. He was a man who appreciated loyalty. And she was loyal in every sense of the word. But, if any shopkeeper was late with their payments, he had no qualms about bringing them in, then locking himself in a cell with the unfortunate later payer, who afterwards almost never repeated the offense. Muhammed had never been a major concern for Chuwungu. He was muslim, but one of the nameless characters who sometimes drifted into town from the large shanty suburb north of the center. He lived there with his ailing mother and his younger sister. Little is known about his mother’s past. No one in such places had any identification. Those in the center at least had a local id. Very few, except for academics like the judge and people like himself, and the rich tycoons, owned a passport. Chuwungu had never used his passport, it just lay on his office shelf next to his golden bracelet, his sunglasses and the keys to his car. Muhammed’s mother was fat and frail, and quiet. She had always been this way. 20 years ago she had arrived with some refugees from the north. She married another muslim and they settled in a very modest house in town, and she had her babies. Then suddenly the man left her. Some say they argued and some say he had found another woman. But Chuwungu suspected that he had gone off to join the militants in the jungle. It did not matter because this was ages ago, and all these years Muhammed’s mother had scraped by in a run down shed with her two children. The house she had once lived in had been renovated and extended, and now belonged to Chuwungu’s preacher. There was no bitterness on Chuwungu’s part against Muhammed and his family. But Chuwungu needed to be respected and feared. If teenagers and twenty year olds were allowed to look him directly in the eye that would not be possible. When Chuwungu drove through the gravel covered streets at night, they appeared in his head lights, dancing in front of women – showing off. When he heard the music from portable radios he often wondered why it was that he had never been this carefree himself. He had been destined for something else, for keeping control and for assuming power. He had always been a large man, and when he entered a room, all murmur had always fallen silent. Chuwungu had really only begun thinking about Muhammed two years ago when a young muslim from arrived from the north selling cheap Japanese walkmans. Because he was a man from the other side, he ignored Chuwungu’s warnings and struck up a friendship with Muhammed. They were both muslim, but sometimes drank a little alcohol. Chuwungu had begun pondering about how he could drive a wedge between the two so that Muhammed would be kept in his place. After all, a B-citizen should never rise above his station. One day while Chuwungu was sitting in his office, he was notified of a car crash north of town involving two young men. At first, he did not react. Nobody was seriously hurt, but the car hit a tree and was now a wreck. The officer had been paid on site and Chuwungu would receive his share, so the matter almost slipped by unnoticed.But upon his return to the station the officer mentioned in passing that the men in the old blue Ford were Muhammed and his new friend. “Really?” said Chuwungu. “I have had enough! It is time I had a talk with this electronics seller, whoever he might be. Bring him in. Let him understand that we don’t like drunk driving in our town. Leave him in a cell overnight, I will talk to him in the morning alone”. The next morning Chuwungu entered the cell, and the following week the seller moved back north. The dry season had now arrived. The nights were cold, the stars clear and the cracked ground twice as dusty in daylight. Muhammed was often seen in town, in back alleys drinking cheap alcohol. He avoided those areas where he was not welcome, and kept to himself. But he was not sober, and there were rumors that his aging mother was ill. When Muhammed was fired from his job, his sister took up whoring to pay for his mother’s treatment. This made him feel even worse. For earning money was a man’s duty in life. And what sort of man had he become? Then one day Chuwungu was notified of a robbery. There was no one on call. They had been summoned to the scene of some exploded oil pipe. So, chief Chuwungu answered and drove to the crime scene himself. An old man was waiting for him. He showed visible signs of a beating, and seemed very agitated. “Calm down, old man!” Chuwungu began. “Tell me what happened – very slowly.”“A young lunatic appeared out of nowhere, took all my money and fled.”“Do you have any idea who he was?”“Yes, I know him well. It was that drunk, Muhammed.”“Muhammed? Are you sure?” Chuwungu almost smiled.“Yes. I know him well by sight.”“I see. Don’t worry. We will leave no stone unturned and find him. Get your money back.”“There is no need to search. He entered that shed over there. He has not come out”. He pointed to a rotting wooden shed, hidden in the shade of some trees a few hundred meters away.“How long ago?”“An hour or two.”“Have you spoken to him?”“No, he is mad”Chuwungu nodded, left the old man and slowly and silently made his way towards the shed. There was no sound, only night crickets, but the flicker of a small light could be seen through the window, probably an oil lamp. Chuwungu checked the back. There was only one entrance.He approached the door, stopped and listened. All quiet. Then he tore the door open quickly and stuck his head in. The shed had been used for storage for old scrap metal, and rods and rusty bars were lying about among heaps of paper and plastic trash. In a clearing on the ground sat Muhammed – drunk as hell. He was alive, but only glanced up indifferently at Chuwungu.“You know what your problem is, Muhammed. You have no respect for authority. You never had”.“My mother died last night. I could not pay for her treatment.”Their eyes met, and then suddenly Chuwungu smiled and even laughed. He was a huge man towering above the drunk Muhammed. “So now you finally realize that you cannot change the way things are in this world.”‘Chuwungu went to the window, and looked out to wave at the old man 200 meter away. As he turned he heard a swish and felt a sharp pain in his ankles. The huge policeman tumbled over, and fell to the ground with a thump. He was not unconscious and realized that Muhammed had swung at his leg with one of the rusty iron bars. It had been a tremendous blow, for Chuwungu felt blood on his hands. He looked up and saw the insane and frightened stare of Muhammed looking down at him. In a flash, the mad man had opened the door and fled into the dense dark forest. It goes without saying that Muhammed never returned to his old town. He walked till morning, slept by a river and started to make his way north. He thought maybe there would be a better life for him somewhere where there would be more Muslims like himself. He stayed clear of major cities, ate bush meat, drank water from creeks and wells and consumed berries. In the open areas he hitch hiked with lorry drivers and called himself Ali instead of Muhammed. When he eventually arrived at a mid-sized northern town, he first lived on the street. Then he got a job as a cleaner at a mosque, and he rented a room. It was only 11 square meters, but it was something. A year passed, and Muhammed had the feeling of a new beginning. He had no friends, but he never had anyway. One evening, after he had received his paycheck and was walking home, he took a shortcut via a long poorly lit alley. He was half way through the alley, when a shadow rushed upon him out of nowhere. He felt a sting in his arm, and before he knew it all his money had vanished. He had been robbed. Returning to the light of his room, he noticed a bad stab wound on his arm. There was blood and pain. At first he wanted to deal with it himself, but eventually he walked 4 kilometers under the crescent sky to the hospital. They cleaned and dressed the wound, put on some bandages, and then he sat waiting till morning in the corridor. At dawn the nurses, the doctor and finally a policeman arrived. The policeman was an elderly man, wise in the ways of the world. He told Ali not to worry, the culprit had already been caught. Unfortunately, he had bought alcohol for the entire amount.“Alcohol?” said Ali.“Yes,” the old man replied. “He was one of those drunk infidel Christian pigs.”“I see.”Even if these were cruel words, there was an immediate connection between the officer and the man now calling himself Ali. The old man bought Ali sweet tea, and then they smoked and talked for an hour.At one point, the man said: “I hear you work at the mosque. That is noble work.”“I am only a cleaner”.“But still. It is something. I make an OK living as a policeman. The pay is not much, but it is steady, and there are extra sources of income. My children depend on these, you see.”“Yes”“We are actually looking for new recruits. You need a few courses. But the state provides them one by one. You are spoon fed.” He smiled.“I am not sure if this is my thing…”Before the old man left, their eyes met again, and there was another moment of unspoken understanding. The next week, Ali did contact the recruiting office, and the story goes that he eventually did become a policeman. And some years later even the police chief of a small town. There he became known for his violent temper, his cunning and his ruthlessness. Because of the way he compensated for his feeble stature and his utter lack of mercy, they called him “The Hyena”. They say he referred to all his Christian criminals as “C-citizens”. Michael Henrik Wynn 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... [...]
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... [...]
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... [...]
historyIn 2016, China’s submission to the Academy awards followed a 7th century monk on his journey of exploration to India. The record of Hiuen-Tsiang’s (b. 602– dec. 664) travel has had an enormous impact on Chinese culture, inspiring one of the country’s age-old novels. The manuscript also contains one of the most detailed descriptions of the old Nalanada monastery in India, an intellectual powerhouse that dominated the world for a thousand years, before being reduced to ruins. In this text from 1911, a prominent sinologist comments. “Centuries before biography became a business, before the peccadilloes of royal mistresses and forgotten courtesans obtained a “market value’ the writing of the Master’s life by some cherished disciple was both an act of love and piety in the far East. The very footprints of the famous dead became luminous, and their shadows shone in dark caves that once withheld them from the world. Memory looking back viewed them through a golden haze; they were merged at last in ancient sunlight; they were shafts of God rayed in the tangled forests of time. In this spirit, then, the man of compassionate feeling, the Shaman Hwui Li took up his tablets and wrote the life of Hiuen-Tsiang. The Master had already written his immortal Great Tang Records on the Western Regions (published 646 AD), yet the sixteen years of that wonderful quest in far-off India, of cities seen and shrines visited, of strange peoples and stranger customs, cannot be crowded into one brief record. And so we watch the patient disciple waiting on those intervals of leisure when the task of translation from Sanskrit into Chinese is laid aside, when the long routine of a Buddhist day is ended, waiting for the impressions of a wandering soul in the birthplace of its faith. The Life is supplement to the record. What is obscure or half told in the one is made clear in the other. Hwui-Li begins in the true Chinese manner with a grand pedigree of his hero, tracing his descent from the Emperor Hwang Ti, the mythical Heavenly Emperor. This zeal for following the remotest ancestors over the borders of history into the regions of fable may be largely ascribed to a very human desire to connect the stream of life with its divine source. We are chiefly concerned to know that he came of a family which had already given notable men to the State, and was launched in the troublous whirl of birth and death but a little distance from the town of Kou-Shih, in the province of Honan, in the year 6oo A.D. Here and there biography leaves us a glimpse of his outward appearance as boy and man. We are told that at his opening life he was rosy as the evening vapours and round as the rising moon. As a boy he was “sweet as the odor of cinnamon or the vanilla tree.” A soberer style does justice to his prime, and again he comes before us, “a tall handsome man with beautiful eyes and a good complexion. He had a serious but benevolent expression and a sedate, rather stately manner.” The call of the West came early to Hiuen-Tsiang. From a child he had easily outstripped his fellows in the pursuit of knowledge, and with the passing of the years he stepped beyond the narrow limits of Chinese Buddhism and found the deserts of Turkestan between him and the land of his dreams. Imperfect translations from the Sanskrit, the limited intelligence of the Chinese priesthood, the sense of vast truths dimly perceived obscurely set forth, the leaven of his first Confucian training—all contributed to the making of a Buddhist pilgrim. The period of his departure, 629 A.D., was an eventful one for China. Taizong (b.598- d.649), the most powerful figure of the brilliant Tang dynasty, sat on the throne of his father Kaotsu, the founder of the line. The nomad Tartars, so long the terror of former dynasties, succumbed to his military genius, and Kashgaria was made a province of the Empire. Already the kingdom of Tibet was tottering to its fall, and Corea was to know the devastation of war within her boundaries. Ch’ang-an was now the capital, a city of floating pavilions and secluded gardens, destined to become the center of a literary movement that would leave its mark for all time. But the days were not yet when the terraces of Teng-hiang-ting would see the butterflies alight on the flower-crowned locks of Yang-kuei-fei, or the green vistas re-echo to the voices of poet and emperor joined in praise of her. Only two wandering monks emerge furtively through the outer gates of the city’s triple walls, and one of them looks back for a glimpse of Ch’ang-an, the last for sixteen eventful years of exile. Others had crossed the frontier before him, notably Fa-hian and Sung Yun in the fourth and the fifth centuries AD, others in due course would come and go, leaving to posterity their impressions of a changing world, but this man stands alone, a prince of pilgrims, a very Bayard of Buddhist enthusiasm, fearless and without reproach. As we read on through the pages of Hwui-li the fascination of the Master of the Law becomes clear to us, not suddenly, but with the long, arduous miles that mark the way to India and the journey home. Take the Master’s tattered robes, let the winds of Gobi whistle through your sleeve and cut you to the bone, mount his rusty red nag and set your face to the West. In the night you will see ‘ “fire-lights as many as stars” raised by the demons and goblins; travelling at dawn you will behold ‘ “soldiers clad in fur and felt and the appearance of camels and horsemen and the glittering of standards and lances; fresh forms and figures changing into a thousand shapes, sometimes at an immense distance, then close at hand, then vanished into the void.” The time comes when even the old red steed avails not, the Great Ice Mountains loom in front of you, and you crawl like an ant and cling like a fly to the roof of the world. Then on the topmost summit, still far away from the promised land, you realize two things—the littleness of human life, the greatness of one indomitable soul. But the superman is also very human. With the vast bulk of his encyclopedic knowledge he falls on the pretentious monk Mokshagupta in the Kingdom of Agni, he flattens him and treads a stately if heavy measure on his prostrate body. And withal clear-sighted and intolerant of shams, he is still a child of his age and religion. With childish curiosity he tempts a bone to foretell the future, and with childish delight obtains the answer he most desires. In the town of Hiddha is Buddha’s skull bone, one foot long, two inches round. “If anyone wishes to know the indications of his guilt or his religious merit he mixes some powdered incense into a paste, which he spreads upon a piece of silken stuff, and tlien presses it on the top of the bone according to the resulting indications the good fortune or ill fortune of the man is determined” Hiuen obtains the impression of a Bodhi and is overjoyed, for, as the guardian Brahman of the bone explains, “it is a sure sign of your having a portion of true wisdom (Bodhi).” At another time he plays a kind of religious quoits by flinging garlands of flowers on the sacred image of Buddha, which, being caught on its hands and arms, show that his desires will be fulfilled. In simple faith he tells Hwui-li how Buddha once cleaned his teeth and flung the fragments of the wood with which he performed the act on the ground ; how they took root forthwith, and how a tree seventy feet high was the consequence. And Hiuen saw that tree, therefore the story must be true. But it is not with the pardonable superstitions of a human soul of long ago that we need concern ourselves. The immense latent reserve, the calm strength to persist, is the appeal. It comes to us with no note of triumph for the thing accomplished or the obstacle removed, but rather underlies some simple statement of fact and is summed up in these few trite words: “We advanced guided by observing the bones left on the way.” The little incidents of life and death are as nothing to one who looks on all men as ghosts haunted by reality. And so the Master of the Law resigns himself to the prospect of a violent end at the hands of the river pirates of the Ganges, to the miraculous interposition of a timely storm, with the same serenity with which he meets the long procession streaming out of Nalanda in his honor, with its two hundred priests and some thousand lay patrons who surround him to his entry, recounting his praises, and carrying standards, umbrellas, flowers, and perfumes. “The tradition of the old people is this: To the south of the convent, in the middle of an Amra garden, is a pool. In this pool is a Naga called Nalanda, and the convent built by the side of the pool is therefore called after his name. Again there is a saying that Tathagata whilst a Bodhisattva was the king of a great country and built his capital in this place. He was deeply affected towards the orphans and destitute, and, ever moved by this principle, gave away all he had for their good. In memory of this goodness they named the place ”doing charitable acts without intermission,” The place was originally the garden of the lord Amra. Five hundred merchants bought it for ten lacs of gold pieces, and presented it to Buddha. Here Buddha preached the law for three months, and most of the merchants obtained the fruit of Arhatship, in consequence. After the Nirvana of Buddha an old king of this country called Sakraditya, from a principle of loving obedience to Buddha, built this convent. After his decease his son seized the throne, and continued the vast undertaking; he built, towards the south, another temple. Then his son built a temple to the eastward. Next, his son built a temple to the north-east. Afterwards the king, seeing some priests who came from the country of China to receive his religious offerings, was filled with gladness, and he gave up his royal estate and became a recluse. His son succeeded and built another temple to the north. After him a king of Mid-India built by the side of this another temple. Thus six kings in connected succession added to these structures. Moreover, the whole establishment is surrounded by a brick wall, which encloses the entire convent from without. One gate opens into the great college, from which are separated eight other halls, standing in the middle. The richly adorned towers, and the fairy -like turrets, like pointed hill- tops, are congregated together. The observatories seem to be lost in the vapours of the morning, and the upper rooms tower above the clouds. From the windows one may see how the winds and the clouds produce new forms, and above the soaring eaves the conjunctions of the sun and moon may be observed.” There are moments of sheer delight when scenes of physical beauty are fair enough to draw even a Buddhist monk from his philosophic calm, when even Hiuen-Tsiang must have become lyrical in the presence of his recording disciple. Who would not be the guest of the abbot of Nalanda monastery with its six wings, each built by a king, all enclosed in the privacy of solid brick? “And then we may add how the deep, translucent ponds, bear on their surface the blue lotus, intermingled with the Kie-ni flower, of deep red color, and at intervals the Amra groves spread over all, their shade. All the outside courts, in which are the priests’ chambers, are of four stages. The stages have dragonprojections and colored eaves, the pearl-red pillars, carved and ornamented, the richly adorned balustrades, and the roofs covered with tiles that reflect the light in a thousand shades, these things add to the beauty of the scene.” Here ten thousand priests sought refuge from the world of passing phenomena and the lure of the senses. Wherever our pilgrim goes he finds traces of a worship far older than Buddhism. He does not tell us so in so many words, yet underneath the many allusions to Bodhitrees and Nagas we may discover the traces of that primitive tree and serpent worship that still exists in remote corners of India, as, for instance, among the Naga tribes of Manipur who worship the python they have killed. In Hiuen’s time every lake and fountain had its Naga-raja or serpent-king, Buddha himself, as we learn from both the Si-yu-hi and the Life, spent much time converting or subduing these ancient gods. There were Nagas both good and evil. When Buddha first sought enlightenment he sat for seven days in a state of contemplation by the waters of a little woodland lake. Then this good Naga “kept guard over Tathagata ; with his folds seven times round the body of the Buddha, he caused many heads to appear, which overshadowed him as a parasol ; therefore to the east of this lake is the dwelling of the Naga.”…. The Buddha sat for seven days contemplating this tree ; “he did not remove his gaze from it during this period, desiring thereby to indicate his grateful feelings towards the tree by so looking at it with fixed eyes.” Hiuen Tsiang himself and his companions contributed to the universal adoration of the tree, for, as that impeccable Buddhist the Shaman Hwui-li rather baldly states, “they paid worship to the Bodhi-tree.” How did Buddhism come to be connected in any way with tree and serpent worship? The answer is, through its connection with Bralimanism. As Buddhism was Brahmanism reformed, so Brahmanism in its turn was the progressive stage of tree and serpent worship. Siva the destroyer is also Nag Bhushan, “he who wears snakes as his ornaments.”… But Hiuen-Tsiang was born into a world that beheld the tree of Buddhism slowly dying from the top. He bore witness, if unconsciously, to a time of transition and a noble faith in decay, and the swift, silent growth of jungle mythology around the crumbling temples of Buddha. His record of these sixteen years of travel is a priceless one, for through it we are able to reconstruct the world and ways of Buddhist India of the centuries that have passed. Yet far more priceless still is that record, read between the lines, of a human soul dauntless in disaster, unmoved in the hour of triumph, counting the perils of the bone-strewn plain and the unconquered hills as nothing to the ideal that lay before him, the life-work, the call of the Holy Himalayas and the long toil of his closing years. It is difficult to over-estimate his services to Buddhist literature. He returned to his own country with no less than 657 volumes of the sacred books, seventy-four of which he translated into Chinese, while 150 relics of the Buddha, borne by twenty horses, formed the spoil reverently gathered from the many lands we call India. And so we leave him to his rest upon Mount Sumeru, where once his venturous soul alighted in the dreams of youth, with the serpents coiled beneath its base, with its seven circling hills of gold and the seven seas between, and the great salt ocean encompassing them all. May 6th, 1911″ by sinologist Launcelot Alfred Cranmer-Byng (1872-1945).   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyIn the shadow of the dying Hapsburg Empire a new treatment that focused on conversation was invented: psychoanalysis. However, who would benefit from Freud’s new method and what end would it finally serve? Sigmund Freud saw himself as part of the supercilious materialist wave that reduced men to Darwin’s apes. He was part of the liberal bourgeoisie of Vienna around 1900 and was educated in the neuro-physiology of Brucker and the hypno-theraphy of Charcot. Some time between 1895 and 1900, he broke with his old mentor Breuer and produced psychoanalysis. Like his role model, Charles Darwin, whom he praised in a 1917 essay*, he benefited greatly from his privileged background, and like him, he was sometimes haunted by his historic limitations. While Darwin swore by his own observations, Freud based his ideas on conversation and analysis. At the turn of the century, Freud was tested in a way that would expose the difficulties of psychoanalysis, the case of Dora. Privileged patients Psychoanalysis was the outcome of Freud’s conversations with women who could not survive in their social straitjackets. So it was with Dora, or Ida Bauer, as her real name was, an 18 year old who was sent to Freud by her wealthy family. She had been abused by an older friend of the family as a 14-year old, and as a result she had developed several symptoms, such as continued arguments with her father, fainting and the writing of suicide notes. «In their nature women are like feeble, exotic green house plants» Stephen Zweig joked. The contemporary ideal was, according to Zweig that «A young girl from a good family should not have the faintest idea about what a man’s body looked like; not know how children are conceived, they were innocent angels». Freud never denied the fact that he benefited from family power structures and that the psychoanalyst borrowed his authority from the father figure. But because Freud saw himself as the as a prophet of psychology, he never understood the ways in which he came to rationalize oppressive conditions in his own society. Ida Bauer was told that she denied her own sexuality when she described her fear of her abuser, «Mr K», and this qualified her to the obscure diagnosis «a hysteric». However, there were many women who claimed to be sexual victims, and Freud may have had some reason for doubt. Even so, the diagnosis becomes incomprehensible without  understanding the social and historical context. Vienna at the time At the start of the 1900s Freud was an ambitious doctor who had struggled long in the shadow of positivist physiology; he was well established with a large family which, excluding himself, included his wife Martha, as well as relatives, colleagues and a brood of children. From the safety of his home at Berggasse 19 he could defy the medical establishment and acquire the clinical experience that brought him- after several detours- to a better method of treatment. In addition, he developed a new theory about dreams and the structure of the mind. In spite of progress, Freud failed to rise in the academic hierarchy at the university of Vienna, where he had been employed as an assistant professor for years. Vienna was the center of a conservative empire. According to Stephan Zweig there was only one thing that could shatter the social neurosis and liberate the creative forces: Art. «all these social strata existed in their own own circles and even in their own neighborhoods, the aristocracy in their palaces in the center of the city, the diplomatic corps in a third area, industry and merchants around Ringstrasse, the petty bourgousi in the inner parts, the proletariat in the outer. But they all met in the theater». Anti-semitism flourished in the wake of various financial scandals and the French Dreyfuss affair. The right wing mayor Karl Leuger had been elected in spite of massive protest from the aristocracy and the powerful Jewish bourgeoisie. Barring the foul mob that rose from the gutter, few had the power to force through moderate reforms. Upper-class liberals like Freud now turned their back on politics and sublimated their own rebellions. A rigid society therefore seem to wither from within. Complicated by social factors Freud was among the first to develop a theory about how human dialogue can solve mental problems. A bi-product of this was an unsentimental description of the power structures in this conversation, both how they prevented and contributed to communication. When Dora one day slammed her door and shut Freud out, Freud saw it as a sign of weakness. Posterity, and a few literary scholars and theoreticians in particular, has compared Dora to Ibsen’s famous heroine, Nora.* To other thinkers like Hélène Cixous, Dora became the woman who exposed Freud as a chauvinist. Women, like some religious people, have discovered that the more you criticize psychoanalysis, the more you seem to confirm its diagnosis. In the essay «On femininity» Freud declared that psychoanalysis doesn’t ask what a woman is, but how she is made. Psychoanalysis is seemingly impervious to any attack, and raises itself high above women, the religious and other so-called pathologies. More humane after all On the other hand, Freud took an important step away from the macabre laboratories of neuro-physiology and the institutionalized sadism that preoccupied many contemporary institutions. He communicated with his patients and wasn’t afraid of touchy subjects, like sex, death and aggression. But perhaps because Freud developed a theory to penetrate the defenses of the self and unveil hidden motives, he was later seen as the architect of a state sponsored invasion of the private sphere. In the doctor-patient relationship, historical positivism and its wave of materialism became a social tool of the establishment. The power of definition Of course, this spurred a host of counter-theories. Freud’s studies revealed that all women at some point in their childhood discovered that boys have something which they apparently lack, and that leads to “penis-envy” and supposedly causes neurosis later in life. Freud never accepted that this was in some ways a description of, if not a rationalization of, contemporary attitudes. Later psychologists like Karen Horney understood that women needed to justify fundamental needs. They need to find a response to the old language of power. The feminist Susan Gubar begins one of her articles with the question «Is anatomy linguistic destiny?» Such a fate seemed inevitable to early feminists who suggested that penis-envy be replaced by “womb-envy”, or the stage in a boy’s life when he discovers that he is unable to give birth and consequently develops neurosis. It is not hard to see that this theoretical tug-of-war masks a power struggle. Psychoanalysis in a vacuum? Darwin had won his victory by gradually placing his followers in strategic positions within the scientific societies. The psychoanalytic movement followed a similar pattern, and spread throughout Europe after 1906 through intrigues and personal animosity. The totalitarian side of psychoanalysis became increasingly more apparent as Freud clamped down on heretics within his own movement: Fleiss, Adler, Jung, Reich and others. This is a fate that psychoanalysis shares with Marxism. Where Marx saw exploitation, Freud saw neurosis, and the twentieth century seemed to follow these two in their search for hidden agendas. Whether Freud was a positivist is debatable. However, he did write texts in which he saw himself as part of an accumulating corpus of knowledge. He also clung to scientific objectivity, and is consequently often scolded for his arrogance. Yet, it seems like posterity has blamed him for not being able to bring conversational analysis into a social vacuum. Can we really predict human behavior as reliably as the laws of Newton or describe them as eloquently as Darwin’s finches? It is not without reason that the great Karl Popper labeled both evolution and psychoanalysis as «metaphysical research programs». Such unreasonable demands may also have also influenced Freud’s view of himself. However, in 1914, after a heated debate over psychoanalysis, the world experienced a series of irrational tremors that swept the old bourgeoisie and their prejudices aside: the shell shocks of the first world war. The immense tragedy of that conflict secured both women and psychoanalysts a better position in society. Michael Henrik Wynn * “A difficulty in the path of psychoanalysis” Sigmund Freud 1917. * A simple search in google scholar revealed serveral who made the comparison.  Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby Jack Boyle (1881- 1928) A MASSIVE safe, seemingly impregnable, was in the corner of the darkened office. Before it stood ‘Boston Blackie, chief of the “mob” of “peter” cracksmen. Gray-haired, stern-faced, laconic and efficient, Blackie had made his criminal profession an exact science. Given a strong box of certain dimensions, certain thickness and certain make, he knew to a fraction of a drop how much “soup,’—as the profession styles nitroglycerin,—would force the steel door from its hinges and drop it with the least possible noise on a bed of mattresses, placed by his assistants. In his eyes, a drop too much was a stupid blunder, a drop too little an inexcusable catastrophe. Snapping on an electric torch he carefully examined the plaster of soap with which he had made air-tight the tin; crack between the door and the safe walls. In the center of the door at the top fashioned a soap cup capable of holding a couple of tablespoonfuls of liquid. At the inner and lower edge of this cup a tiny orifice, unsoaped, in the crack of the door, made room for the explosive to trickle down behind it. Satisfied with his inspection, the chief turned to one of the two men behind him. “Gimme the ‘soup,” Cushions.” “THE youngster called “Cushions” produced a bottle with hands that were not quite steady. Uncorking it, the cracks man poured a couple of teaspoonfuls into a physician’s measuring glass, then, examining his measure with infinite care, he added a couple of drops and was satisfied. Returning the bottle to the youth, he poured the heavy fluid into the soap cup. A few drops spilled on the cement floor by a shaky hand would have ended the careers of the trio. But Blackie’s hands didn’t shake. Taking a fulminating cap from his pocket, he placed it firmly against the crack through which the explosive had flowed into the safe and crushed the soap cup over it to hold it in place. A six-inch fuse dangled from the cap. ” K. Y. , give Jimmy the signal,” was the next command. The third man who, until now, had neither spoken nor moved, slipped silently away toward the front doors of the store. A moment later a peculiar tapping, scraping sound made with the backs of the finger nails was heard on the glass. It was the opium-smoker’s “rap,’—a signal familiar the country over to users of the drug. In answer, from across the street came a few whistled bars from a popular song. “Everything’s O. K.” reported K. Y., noiselessly re-entering the office. In his absence Blackie and his helper had covered the entire safe with heavy blankets, filched from the store’s shelves. “Get the mattress,” ordered Blackie. The two men dragged in a big double mattress and laid it on the floor in front of the safe door, “A little to the right and a couple of inches farther back,” instructed the “mob” leader, measuring the door with his eve. “Get down behind that counter out there and lie close to the floor. Here she goes,” he said, striking a match and igniting the fuse. Then, with the same match, he relighted the cigarette between his lips and, without any haste, slipped through the doorway and dropped down d the counter where his pals laying. There was a hissing, sputtering sound as the fuse burned, then a smothered detonation that rattled the store windows, followed by a puff of smoke, and the great outer door of the safe, torn from its place by the irresistible power behind it, sagged outward and dropped squarely in the center of the mattress, still swathed in the torn folds of the blankets. In a second Blackie was at the inner door of the safe, testing the combination with fingers of experience. Taking a light sledge from among the tools laid out ready on the floor he laid it flat against the door near the top and brought it down with a sharp tap on the combination. It dropped, cut off as cleanly as by a knife. Then with a steel punch he forced the broken shank back into the lock, using a leather-covered hammer to deaden the noise. A few turns of the knob and the broken tumblers and disks slipped apart. A moment’s prying and the wrecked door swung open. The safe was cracked. Unhurried and without excitement, but quickly, Boston Blackie forced drawer after drawer, tossing out flat packages of bills to the men behind him, and finally emerging himself with a coin sack marked “Gold”. This he dropped into a concealed pocket inside the lining of his overcoat. “That’s all. Let’s go, boys,” he said. The tools were left on the office floor. Sledges and hammers, drills and a few punches, are cheaply bought at midday. They are hard to explain away, however, if found on a man in the vicinity of a wrecked safe at three o’clock in the morning. DIAGONALLY across the street from the store they had just left, an automobile engine began to cough. Crossing to the machine, in which sat a driver, muffled and goggled, Blackie and his companions climbed into the tonneau and the car shot away into the night. A half hour later the quartet lay on their hips in a circle, an opium “layout” in their midst, while the erstwhile chauffeur, called “Jimmy the Joke,” rapidly toasted the pungently sweetish brown pills, as the pipe passed round and round the circle from lip to lip. There was no discussion of the “job” they had just turned, no excitement or exultation over its success. It was all a part of the day’s work with them and, anyway, opium smokers in the throes of a “habit” have no desire for speech. Boston Blackie, whose piercing black eyes and New England birthplace had won him his nickname, lay in the position of precedence to the left of the “cook.” Next came K. Y. Lewes, second in command, whose drawling Southern accent betrayed his Kentucky boyhood. Pillowed on him was the “Cushions” Kid, so called because once when the rest piled into a freight car to make a short trip he paid his last five-dollar bill for a railway ticket—and went hungry for twenty-four hours in consequence.” And, lastly, there was “Jimmy the Joke” who had been christened James Tener. Long ears before, he had done a “jolt” in a Western penitentiary. The judge sentenced him to ten years. “Is that meant as a joke, Your Honor?” queried the prisoner blandly. “A joke!” ejaculated the old judge. “Yes, Your Honor,” replied the prospective convict. “Didn’t I just understand you to say a ‘tener’ for Tener?” AN HOUR passed. Each of the four was beginning to feel the physical relaxation and mental exhilaration that binds its victims to opium. A knock—the “fiend’s rap”—sounded on the door. “Come in,” called Blackie. The owner of the “joint” in which they lay entered—a haggard-faced skeleton of a man called “Turkey-neck” Martin. “Good evening, Blackie,” he commenced, after carefully closing the door. “Hello, boys! How’s every little thing? The Joke’s ‘cheffing,” as usual, eh? Some cook, you are, Jimmy, old boy. Need any more ‘hop’ yet, Blackie?” “That’s not what you butted in here for, What is it you’ve got to say?” This from Blackie. ‘The human wreck half-cowered under the reprimand. “Well, it’s this way, fellows—not that it’s really any of my business,” he began hesitatingly, “but knowing what a ‘right’ crowd you fellows are, and how you put up the dough for that Denver Kid’s bonds, and—” “Aw, cut that stuff and get down to what you’re trying to say,” growled Blackie. “It’s this way,” began Turkey-neck again, “The pinch come off yesterday. They’ve got him right, and it’s a trip over the bay to the Big House if it aint squared. l’i’e’s broke, and the boys are taking up a purse.” “Who’s pinched, you gabbling fool ” interrupted Blackie. “Why, ‘Mitt-and-a-half’ Kelly. He—” “What?” cried Blackie raising himself on his elbow and glaring at the flustrated joint keeper with more excitement than any of his listeners had ever seen him show. “You come to me from that white-livered rat! Why, he just misses being a copper. I don’t put it past him to ‘stool’ at that. We’re a different breed here from that skunk. Tell him fi;)rn me that he’s safer behind the bars than—” But the joint keeper had slipped from the room and Blackie choked Ezck the flow of his indignation. His three friends waited in silence for the explanation they knew would come. BLACKIE took the next pill in a “long-draw,” inhaling the smoke until his lungs seemed bursting, then exhaling slowly in short puffs. “I’m going to tell you the story, boys, of a fellow who had principles and paid for them, same as we all must pay for anything that’s worth while having,” he commenced. “The man I mean is “Three-Fingered Mac.” “Poor old Mac! I remember when he got his ‘jolt,’” chimed in Jimmy. “He did one before that,” went on Blackie. It was characteristic of him that, having smoked, he dropped the aror of the Joint bit by bit, and reverted to the clean speech of his college days. “Fifteen years is what they gave him. It was a bank safe job. Fifteen years! That’s nine years, five months solid, allowing for good conduct ‘copper.’ judge can say fifteen in a fraction of a second, but it’s a long, long stretch when you have to do it—one day at a time. “Mac had a woman, loyal and true as steel, who did his jolt too, on the outside— one day at a time. That’s the worst of this rotten business. Our women have to do our time the same as we do, if they’re worth while, which Mac’s wife was. Almost all the money he’d laid away went to his ‘mouth-pieces” (lawyers) at the trial, so she opened a little millinery shop and took care of herself and the kid while Mac was ‘buried.” She wrote every week and never missed a visiting day in all of those long years. Well, at last he got his time in and they turned him out at the gate to start life with a five-dollar gold piece and a ‘con’ suit. I ran across them on the train to the city—Mac, his wife, and a long-legged boy who had been an infant when Mac went across. I was looking for a man to fill in my ‘mob’ just then, and felt him out. He shook his head. ““Blackie,” he said, ‘I’m done, I haven’t lost my nerve and you know I’ve always been “right.” But look at that little woman there. She’s waited and worked for me for nine years and five months. She’s saved enough to buy us a little chicken ranch up Petaluma way, and I’m going in for the simple life, with her and the boy to hold me straight when I get restless for the old, exciting days.’ “I SHOOK hands with him and told him how lucky he was to have a woman like that,” continued Blackie. “Then he asked me where Mitt-and-a-half Kelly was living. He had a message for him from a pal who was doing twenty up above. “He’s living at the Palm, same house with me,’” I said, ‘but he’s under cover. You and the folks come on to a show with me and I’ll take you up to see him afterward.” “‘Not tonight,’ he said. ‘Im going to spend this night at home with them, nodding over his shoulder at his wife and son. I’ll meet you to-morrow might, though, for we leave for the country the next morning.” “We went to the Orpheum the next night and Mac missed half the show explaining to me how much money could be made with chickens. Afterward, we went up to the Palm, looking for Kelly. He was out. I asked Mac down to my room, but he refused. He knew I was due to smoke and didn’t want to tempt himself with even the smell of ‘hop,” he said. So I let him into Kelly’s room with a passkey, and went down-stairs to my own layout. It was midnight then. “It couldn’t have been over half an hour, for I was still smoking off my first card, when I heard a copper’s tread on the stairs. Then two more of them. I planted the layout and lamped out through the transom. I could see them at the head of the stairs, hammering on Kelly’s door, and every man had his gun out. Mac opened the door, and in less time than it takes me to tell it they had three ‘rods’ at his head and the cuffs on his wrists. Then, after searching the room, they took him away, along with a bundle of clothes they had found. “I stepped down from the transom laughing to myself. I knew the coppers were working a ‘bum rap’, for Mac had been with me all night. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that they would have to turn him loose in the morning. When they had gone, I slipped down-stairs, for I wasn’t any too eager to interview the chief myself just then. All the way down on the stairs there was a plain trail of blood, and in the doorway a big splotch where a man had stood while he used his latchkey. I knew then that somebody had got in bad and had been hurt. “I SPENT the rest of the night at the joint and got the first editions of the papers. I found what I was looking for plastered all over the first page. A ‘peter’ mob had been surprised at work on a safe out on the south side by a ‘harness bull’ (uniformed policeman) just as the midnight watch was changing. “There was a lot of shooting. The copper got his and died on the operating table at the hospital. One of the mob, too, was hurt, the paper said, for a trail of blood led up the street in the direction theyhad gone. A later edition announced the capture of Three-Fingered Mac, a desperate criminal just released from the penitentiary. In his room at the Palm Hotel he was caught stripping off his blood-soaked clothing. A policeman, noticing blood on the sidewalk, had traced it to the hotel and up the stairs to Mac’s room. In the room they found a bloody handkerchief and a .44 Colts with every shell exploded. The prisoner had no visible wound except a gash on his head, probably made by a night-stick. The blood on his clothing, it was explained, came from the wounds of the dead policeman with whom the prisoner had a hand-to-hand struggle as he fled. I knew then that poor old Mac wasn’t going to start for that chicken ranch the next day. I went down-town and sent a lawyer up to him, and then went out myself to break the news to that little woman of his. She hadn’t been to bed, and was waiting for him. It was the toughest job I ever tried, to hand her that paper. “He’s innocent as you are, ma’am,” I said. “He was with me from eight o’clock until midnight, and this job was done before twelve.” ”I TOOK her up to the lawyer’s office, and we waited all day for him to get to Mac. When the mouth-piece finally came in he had a worried frown and I could see more trouble ahead. ““You’ve given me a crazy man for a client,” he said, irritably. “He swears he is innocent, but admits he knows the guilty man. Says this mysterious friend came in with a bullet wound in the arm and that he dressed and bandaged the hurt. Then the fellow changed clothes, threw his revolver in the bureau drawer and skipped out, knowing the police would follow the trail of blood he left behind. While Mac was washing the blood off his hands, the coppers came battering at the door. He opened it and «Bull” Dunnigan rapped him on the head with his stick, cutting a long gash in the scalp. Then he was pinched. Not a bad yarn that, true or not. But right there’ he “crabs” it all, He absolutely refuses to tell who this other man is. Says he’ll take a jolt rather than turn informer. Can you beat that for idiocy? He says he has an alibi—that he was at the theater with a friend and didn’t leave him between eight and midnight.” “That’s true. I’m that friend,” I interrupted. “We went to the theater, sat through the whole performance— here are our seat checks —and then went up to the hotel. It was just midnight when Mac went upstairs to wait for his friend. I know he couldn’t have had a hand in that job.” “Your testimony will help, Blackie”, the lawyer went on after a moment’s thought; “but you know you’re not exactly a witness that will carry weight with a jury. Mac says there is a bullet hole in the right sleeve of the coat belonging to his friend. Mac’s coat is bloody, but there is no hole in the cloth and no wound in his arm. If I had that coat, I’d acquit him. But listen to this: Mac says Bull Dunnigan has been trying to force him to betray this friend of his He told the detectives the same story he told me. Dunnigan came out flatly and told him he believed he was telling the truth, but that somebody would have to swing for killing that policeman. “It is either you or your friend, Take your choice,” said Dunnigan. “You’ll come through or you’ll swing, and I don’t give a finger-snap whether you are innocent or guilty. I’ll get you. And Mac swear he’ll never “stool”. Can you beat it?’ “Mac’s woman had been leaning forward looking at the lawyer with a light in her eyes that would asbestos. She had aged ten years since I saw them on the boat two days before, all so happy and carefree “My, poor boy, my poor,” she cried. I can’t dose Dim again, I won’t—not when I know he isn’t guilty. Oh, Mr. S–, save him some way, save him from himself. You’ll have to do it all yourself, for Mac won’t help vou. He’ll never “snitch” on a friend. I know him. I can’t see him go buck there to prison. Only yesterday I was so happy, so hopeful, and now,—oh, it drives me mad!” THEN she broke down and the tears came. I was glad. Anything is better than the terrible dry-eyed grief of a woman who sees her man being torn from her—and unjustly at that. “She told the lawyer all their plans about the chicken ranch, and he perked up a bit. He told her not to worry and finally sent her home, heartened up some because he assured her that her testimony would help more than anything that had turned up. When she had gone, he turned to me. “Is that yarn true?’ he asked. “Absolutely, every word of it.” “If I could get that coat with bullet hole in it, I’d acquit him. But, Blackie, will wil we ever see that coat?” He looked at me questioningly. “Not if those framing coppers are wise that it will acquit Mac. Dunnigan will railroad him for this as sure as eggs make omelets, unless he snitches, and he won’t,” I replied. A MONTH later they put Mac on trail. All through that month I had been expecting Kelly to show up and do something. I thought he’d get his mob. together and stick up the patrol wagon taking Mac to and from the county jail to curt. But he didn’t show. The trial wasn’t long. The papers all took it for granted that Mac was guilty, and the jurors admitted reading about the case but declared that they had no ‘fixed” opinions and could give him a fair trial. That word “fixed” muse save many a juror’s conscience, if any of ’em have any. “The coppers testified about the trail of blood that they had traced almost from the scene of the crime to the room where they found Mac washing his bloody hands and wiping blood spots from his clothes. Then they produced the revolver and the empty shells and proved that the policeman was killed with that sized gun and that it smelled of fresh powder when found in the room. Then Dunnigan filled in all the gaps in the chain of evidence. First he told what a desperate criminal Mac had been and produced his photograph in stripes taken at the penitentiary. The judge refused to permit this in evidence then, but the jury had all seen it before it was ruled out. Then he swore that Mac had a scalp wound received before he was arrested, presumably, from intimations by the prosecution, in the dearh struggle with the murdered policeman. Then Dunnigan settled Mac’s chances with the foulest perjury I ever heard. He told how he reached the dying policeman’s cot in the hospital ten minutes before he died. “Did he know who shot him? asked the prosecutor. “He didn’t know him by name, answered the detective slowly, turning to the jury would be sure to get every word, “but he said the man was a big fellow with dark clothes, and he said also that two fingers were missing on bis gun hand and chat he had a scar from his eve to his chin on the right side of his face.” THERE sat Mac in full view of the jury with his mutilated hand in plain sight and the scar on his face turning fiery red as he heard the lie that damned him for life. 1 knew it was all off then. The lawyer did his best, but we were beaten before we started to put a defense in. I told my story—the exact truth—bu they sprung my record on me, and I knew by their looks that the jury wasn’t even paying attention to me and my story. Mac’s woman made a great witness. I tell you, boys, no one who heard her tell about their plans for that chicken ranch, and how her husband had determined to live square, could help believing her. There was something that choked up my throat in the desperation with which she fought every step of the way for her man. The jury seemed impressed for a few moments, but it didn’t last until they commenced balloting. “The landlady of the Palm was called to prove that Mac did not rent or own the room where he was caught. As ill luck would have it, Kelly had go: me to rent the room for him, he being under cover, and old Mother McGunn showed my name on the books and swore she didn’t know whether one or twenty men visited the room, as long as the rent was paid. We demanded the coat with the bullet hole in it and made an awful howl when the police denied even seeing it, but the jury set it all down as a fake of ours. “Mac made a good witness. He told the truth in a straightforward manner— that is, all but Kelly’s name. On cross-examination the district attorney asked just one question: “Who was this man you say came in wounded just before your arrest?” “Every drop of blood seemed to leave Mac’s face. He started to speak, stopped, looked over at his wife in whose eyes there was the look of Death itself. He hesitated a second, then turned to the jury: “I refuse to answer,” he said. “Thank God it isn’t my business to be a copper like chat lying perjurer there,” pointing at Dunnigan. “I’ve never betrayed a friend or sent a man to jail yet, and I never will!” Mac was convicted anyway, but that refusal settled every doubt. The jury was out just long enough to get a dinner at the expense of the county, and then brought in a verdict of guilty and fixed the penalty at life imprisonment. A couple of them objected to hanging. As they took Mac back to jail, Dunnigan passed by him. “Just remember while you’re doing another man’s time,” he whispered, “that I said I’d get you, and I did” Mac leaped at him and would have brained him with the handcuffs if the deputy sheriffs hadn’t overpowered him. The papers next day called it “a desperate murderer’s attempt to escape.”” A HALF-DOZEN times the pipe went round the complete circle before other word was spoken. “What did the woman do?” asked Cushions at last. “There are some things too painful for even hardened crooks like us, and sometimes those same things also are too fine and sacred for a bunch like this to talk over in a place like this. That little woman and her dead hopes and plans for that ranch are among them,” answered Blackie slowly. “And now, boys, you know why I said what I did about Mitt-and-a-half Kelly. Mac is doing ‘all of it’ (life imprisonment) because he was too right to snitch even on a skunk. Kelly didn’t do a thing for him—not even as much as sending dough for his defense. Cushions, my boy, when your turn comes to do time, and it will if you stick by hop and us, remember Mac who had principle and paid for it like a man. What a price, though, when you think of that wife and boy of his!” Jimmy the Joke toasted the last pill of hop and handed the pipe to Blackie. Lewes, pulling back the heavy curtains, let in a ray of bright morning sunshine. They all bundled into their overcoats. “I’m going,” said Blackie. “You know the meet for us to-night. Eight o’clock sharp. You three go out one at a time five minutes apart. No bunching up on the street. And Lewes, you size up that ‘hock’ shop job this afternoon. Press the button for Turkey-neck and his bill.”The joint keeper came shuffling in. “There’s an extry just out,” he began in his quavering voice. “Another swell job’s come off. That peter mob that has been doing the whole of this rough stuff around town got another one last night—it’s the Boston Department Store this time.” “Good for them,” said Blackie without interest. “About that dough to spring Kelly from jail. We—” “Let it go; let it go,” Turkey-neck broke in. “The moment you refused the money—” “Refused the money!” cried Blackie turning on the astounded joint keeper like a flash. ““Refused nothing! I said Mitt Kelly is a low-lived skunk who ought to be shot on sight. But I didn’t say I wouldn’t chip in dough to help him beat the Big House. I’d give up my last five-case note to keep the fleas on a yellow dog from doing time. We’ll put in fifty dollars. If you don’t get enough, say 50 to-night and I’ll make up the rest. But tell him from me, that he has the black curse of the snitch on him now and forever. Hell never have a day’s luck while he lives, and he’ll die in the gutter like the cur he is.* So long, fellows.” “The man described here as Mitt-and-a-half Kelly was found shot to death in a doorway near an opium joint in Seattle some six months after the date of the incidents in this story. No trace of his murderer was ever found.” Like this:Like Loading... [...]