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historyIn 2008 Radio Prague covered the publication of a new Czech book about Jean-Paul Belmondo (1933-2021, he passed away a few days ago). Their brief report described Belmondo’s unique standing in the old Soviet-bloc country; the only major, western action star to gain a foothold behind the iron curtain during the Cold War. Through him a generation of Eastern Europeans got to experience capitalist action flicks. Among hipsters around the world today Belmondo is sometimes elevated to a rugged icon of snobbish intellectualism, through the early films of the Nouvelle Vague-movement. But in Eastern Europe he is remembered as B-movie royalty, the macho man with a twinkle in his eye. Of course, it was Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (1960) that became his break-through, but in many ways his collaboration with Phillipe de Broca (1933-2004) was just as important for his future career. De Broca had been a film photographer during the war in Algeria, and became so disillusioned by the events he witnessed that he decided to make more cheerful and uplifting movies. He started out as an assistant for a few Nouvelle Vague directors, but changed paths and made comedy farces when he established himself as a director. His two producers, Alexandre Mnouchkine and Georges Dancigers, suggested Belmondo for the role of the brash swashbuckling Robin Hood-character Cartouche. A few years earlier they had produced the adventure classic Fanfan la Tulipe (1952) with the legend Gérard Philipe in the lead, and now de Broca bet on Belmondo to revive the swashbuckling genre. Cartouche (1962) was an instant box-office hit, and two years later that success was followed by L’homme de Rio (1964) – an action-packed contemporary adventure about a soldier (played by Belmondo) who pursues the men who kidnapped his girlfriend from Paris to the Amazonian jungles. The Oscar-nominated movie features a series of spectacular action-scenes, and de Broca declared in an interview that the movie was made because “he needed a hit”. His producers had only been reluctantly swayed, and he had spent five months finishing the script. The result was satisfactory, even to himself, but the film was by no means a favorite for de Broca among his own productions. He said: “This was the kind of movie I longed to see when I was 14”. As a director, de Broca often took a hands-off approach to his actors, and Belmondo tended to follow his instincts. “Belmondo will always be Belmondo. You cannot change him. You cannot hide his personality. When he plays a drunkard, he is a drunk Belmondo. When he is in love, he is Belmondo in love.” (de Broca in Gardner 1969-70: 153-157). Belmondo’s charismatic self shone through, especially in B-movies like Tendre voyou (1966), Flic ou voyou (1979), Le cerveau (1969) and L’as des as (1982). The two latter were action-comedies by Gérard Oury, France’s pre-eminent comedy director, most famous for his collaboration with the hilarious genius Louis de Funès. In the 60s and 70s, Belmondo became affiliated with the commercial side of French cinema. Godard and Truffaut ruled the film festivals and the student-bodegas, but ordinary Frenchmen rushed to the cinemas to experience the shenanigans of Louis de Funès and the hazardous stunts of Jean-Paul Belmondo, his broken nose and seductive smile. To critics like Pierre Maillot, however, Belmondo represented the “disillusionment” of French identity because so many of the models for genre movies were American. Two of the great “golden ages” that have supported the self-esteem of French cinematic culture have been the poetic realism of the 30s and 40s and the Nouvelle Vague (“New Wave”) of the 50s and 60s. As a major star and the leading man of the Nouvelle Vague Belmondo therefore became the natural successor to Jean Gabin, the icon of the 30s. But where Gabin had acted tempered and cool – often under dire circumstances – Belmondo would burst with joie de vivre. There was a generational gap between parents in the 1950s and the new rebellious youth. The young wanted more than traditional French values, they needed happy endings. The vulgar neon-lights of Hollywood and Las Vegas beckoned in the distance. Belmondo grew out of the Nouvelle Vague into a new commercial reality. The Armenian-born Henri Verneuil (1920-2002) was a director unconvinced by new wave-ideology. The Belmondo we witness in Verneuil’s movies was rougher, the soldier in the second world war, the tough criminal and the uncompromising cop. The inspiration for Peur sur la ville (1975) was probably Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. Belmondo plays a policeman pursuing the serial killer Minos through the streets of Paris – in stylish cinematography. The Belmondo we see in this movie is not his usual careless self, the lives of young women were at stake. A contemporary reviewer called it “a tough and ruthless movie”. The newspaper stated that “It was impressive to see Belmondo dangling in a rope from a building, jumping between roof-tops several floors above the asphalt and making subway journeys on top of the cars. Because Belmondo has no stuntman…” (Aftenposten, 06.02.1976) Belmondo also kept a serious face in the gangster movies Borsalino (1970) and Le voleur (1967). The latter was directed by Jacques Cousteau’s old cameraman, Louis Malle, today one of the major names in the history of French cinema. In Le Voleur (1967) Belmondo shines as an actor. He penetrates the mind of a professional thief. He persuasively portrays nerves of steel and deliberate theft. According to the contemporary press Belmondo used all his tricks, “his whole range of charm”. Like Belmondo, Malle would transcend Nouvelle Vague conventions, and create a memorable genre movie aimed at the masses, based on a novel, quite contrary to contemporary ideas about the “auteur”. Belmondo was therefore not only an actor who drifted from art into commercialism, he was a personification of a suppressed part of French cultural history. There existed another France alongside Godard and Truffaut and the other Cahiers-directors, a cinematic culture unashamedly modeled on Hollywood. Belmondo, that first ingratiating face of the Nouvelle Vague-movement, became the major box-office draw of this “other” France. He was just as charming as Roger Moore, and – at his best -adventurous to the level of Harrison Ford. by Michael Wynn editor * Sources: Philippe de Broca and Paul Gardner, «Philippe de Broca: talking to Paul Gardner», The Transatlantic Review, no. 33/34 (winter 1969-70), p. 153-157 Aftenposten (a major Norwegian newspaper), 06.02.1976, s. 6 (signed O.T.) Note: This article was originally published in the Norwegian movie review by Michael Henrik Wynn 30. januar 2014. It has been translated by him and published at this site with the consent of   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyBy Aleister Crowley atricia Fleming threw the reins to a groom, and ran up the steps into the great house, her thin lips white with rage. Lord Eyre followed her heavily. ‘I’ll be down in half an hour,’ she laughed merrily, ‘tell Dawson to bring you a drink!’ Then she went straight through the house, her girlish eyes the incarnation of a curse. For the third time she had failed to bring Geoffrey Eyre to her feet. She looked into her hat; there in the lining was the talisman that she had tested—and it had tricked her. What do I need? she thought. Must it be blood? She was a maiden of the pure English strain; brave, gay, honest, shrewd—and there was not one that guessed the inmost fire that burnt her. For she was but a child when the Visitor came. The first of the Visits was in a dream. She woke choking; the air—clear, sweet, and wholesome as it blew through the open window from the Chilterns—was fouled with a musty stench. And she woke her governess with a tale of a tiger. The second Visit was again at night. She had been hunting, was alone at the death, had beaten off the hounds. That night she heard a fox bark in her room. She spent a sleepless night of terror; in the morning she found the red hairs of a fox upon her pillow. The third Visit was nor in sleep nor waking. But she tightened her lips, and would have veiled the hateful gleam in her eyes. It was that day, though, that she struck a servant with her riding-whip. She was so sane that she knew exactly wherein her madness lay; and she set all her strength not to conquer but to conceal it. Two years later, and Patricia Fleming, the orphan heiress of Carthwell Abbey, was the county toast, Diana of the Chilterns. Yet Geoffrey Eyre evaded her. His dog’s fidelity and honesty kept him true to the little north-country girl that three months earlier had seduced his simplicity. He did not even love her; but she had made him think so for an hour; and his pledged word held him. Patricia’s open favour only made him hate her because of its very seduction. It was really his own weakness that he hated. Patricia ran, tense and angry, through the house. The servants noticed it. The mistress has been crossed, they thought, she will go to the chapel and get ease. Praising her.True, to the chapel she went; locked the door, dived behind the altar, struck a secret panel, came suddenly into a priest’s hiding-hole, a room large enough to hold a score of men if need be. At the end of the room was a great scarlet cross, and on it, her face to the wood, her wrists and ankles swollen over the whip lashes that bound her, hung a naked girl, big-boned, voluptuous. Red hair streamed over her back. ‘What, Margaret! so blue?’ laughed Patricia. ‘I am cold,’ said the girl upon the cross, in an indifferent voice. ‘Nonsense, dear!’ answered Patricia, rapidly divesting herself of her riding-habit. ‘There is nohint of frost; we had a splendid run, and a grand kill. You shall be warm yet, for all that.’ This time the girl writhed and moaned a little. Patricia took from an old wardrobe a close-fitting suit of fox fur, and slipped it on her slim white body. ‘Did I make you wait, dear?’ she said, with a curious leer. ‘I am the keener for the sport, be sure!’ She took the faithless talisman from her hat. It was a little square of vellum, written upon in black. She took a hairpin from her head, pierced the talisman, and drove the pin into the girl’s thigh. ‘They must have blood,’ said she. ‘Now see how I will turn the blue to red! Come! don’t wince: you haven’t had it for a month.’ Then her ivory arm slid like a serpent from the furs, and with the cutting whip she struck young Margaret between the shoulders. A shriek rang out: its only echo was Patricia’s laugh, childlike, icy, devilish. She struck again and again. Great weals of purple stood on the girl’s back; froth tinged with blood came from her mouth, for she had bitten her lips and tongue in agony. Patricia grew warm and rosy—exquisitely beautiful. Her bare breasts heaved; her lips parted; her whole body and soul seemed lapped in ecstasy. ‘I wish you were Geoffrey, girlie!’ she panted. Then the skin burst. Raw flesh oozed blood that dribbled down Margaret’s back. Still the fair maid struck and struck in the silence, until the tiny rivulets met and waxed great and touched the talisman. She threw the bloody whalebone into a corner, and went upon her knees. She kissed her friend; she kissed the talisman; and again kissed the girl, the warm blood staining her pure lips. She took the talisman, and hid it in her bosom. Last of all she loosened the cords, and Margaret sank in a heap to the floor. Patricia threw furs over her and rolled her up in them; brought wine, and poured it down her throat. She smiled, kindly, like a sister. ‘Sleep now awhile, sweetheart!’ she whispered, and kissed her forehead. It was a very demure and self-possessed little maiden that made dinner lively for poor Geoffrey, who was thinking over his mistake. Patricia’s old aunt, who kept house for her, smiled on the flirtation. It was not by accident that she left them alone sitting over the great fire. ‘Poor Margaret has her rheumatism again,’ she explained innocently; ‘I must go and see how she is.’ Loyal Margaret! So it happened that Geoffrey lost his head. ‘The ivy is strong enough’ (she had whispered, ere their first kiss had hardly died). ‘Before the moon is up, be sure!’ and glided off just as the aunt returned. Eyre excused himself; half a mile from the house he left his horse to his man to Lead home, and ten minutes later was groping for Patricia in the dark. White as a lily in body and soul, she took him in her arms. Awaking as from death, he suddenly cried out, ‘Oh God! What is it? Oh my God! my God! Patricia! Your body! Your body!’ ‘Yours!’ she cooed. ‘Why, you’re all hairy!’ he cried. ‘And the scent! the scent!’ From without came sharp and resonant the yap of a hound as the moon rose. Patricia put her hands to her body. He was telling the truth. ‘The Visitor!’ she screamed once with fright, and was silent. He switched the light on, and she screamed again. There was a savage lust upon his face. ‘This afternoon,’ he cried, ‘you called me a dog. I looked like a dog and thought like a dog; and, by God! I am a dog. I’ll act like a dog then!’ Obedient to some strange instinct, she dived from the bed for the window. But he was on her; his teeth met in her throat. In the morning they found the dead bodies of both hound and fox—but how did that explain the wonderful elopement of Lord Eyre and Miss Fleming? For neither of them was ever seen again. I think Margaret understands; in the convent which she rules today there hangs beside a blood-stained cutting-whip the silver model of a fox, with the inscription: ‘Patricia Margaritæ vulpis vulpem dedit.’ Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story“An Unequal Marriage” by Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896) (published here with the permission of the translator, Toshiya Kamei) It was starting to get dark by the time we reached Covadonga. A crescent moon was almost halfway across the sky, and its weak light was mixed with the last hints of twilight, giving a fantastic aspect to all objects, amplifying their proportions with indecisive silhouettes. For days we had been dreaming of Covadonga. With a feverish impatience to visit that historic place, we revived its traditions and chronicles in our minds and expanded the legends that sprouted from each one of the cantos inspired by those rocks, sacred for the Spaniards. Thus, as we arrived and descended into the ravine at the mysterious hour, our imagination was piqued, and we thought we were hearing the shriek of the Moors and the hoarse cry of the Christians; and we gazed at those soaring crags in wonderment, and Covadonga seemed like an enormous granite shell that had closed its huge valves to shelter a band of heroes like a pearl, and opened them later to disperse the seeds of a people who would grow stronger every day, reconquer their homeland, and wave their flags triumphantly over half the world in the sixteenth century. * * * We took shelter in an inn and, at eight in the evening, we sat to eat with the few pilgrims who were there. The after-dinner conversation took on a pleasantly informal tone, because there were only a few of us and we all had come in search of the impression the place produced in us. Across the table from me sat a young German man, who looked about thirty-five, and at his side a woman of about fifty-five. It was impossible to tell at first sight whether she was his mother or wife. The two spoke correct Spanish and were tactful enough not to say anything in German to each other, for fear that we wouldn’t understand it, thus proving to us, though indirectly, they were persons of distinction. Halfway through the meal, we already knew the woman was the wife of the German, whose name was Leopoldo Schloesing; but to our surprise, his wife called him Guillermo, while he was Don Leopoldo to us. Perhaps Leopoldo came to notice that we were amazed by this, besides their great age difference and their deep affection for each other, as, turning to me, he said, “Do you think my wife is older than I am?” I didn’t know how to answer him, because saying no was a lie that my eyes would have given away; yet saying yes was a lack of manners toward the woman, who gave a sweet smile when she heard her husband’s question and looked at him with a deep tenderness. “Well, no, señor,” continued the German. “I’m at least eight years older than she is, and I can assure you of that on my word of honor.” None of us dared say a word. Had he said it in jest, even though laughing at it would probably have offended the woman, we would have given way to laughter; but as he said it, his features assumed a solemn expression, his voice had prophetic vibrations, and he looked beyond us, his eyes lost in infinity. “It’s not a secret, nor do I want to make a mystery out of what I’m going to tell you. Surely you will take me for a madman and feel pity for my poor Margarita, but it’s true.” The woman squeezed her husband’s arm, laid her head on his shoulder, and we saw her eyes well up in tears. It seemed as though we were dreaming, and even a servant and two girls attending to the table stood thunderstruck with the plates and cutlery, which they washed in a basin at the back of the dining room. The lamps seemed to have dimmed. The man had begun to move us, even fascinate us. “I was twenty-eight years old; I was honest, hardworking, and intelligent; with all my heart, I loved Margarita, who was then twenty and lived with her kind mother in Hamburg; not rich, but not destitute either. Her father, at his death, had left them income, well invested, enough to cover the needs of the two women, who had no other relative. “Our love had grown when we were children, and I was waiting to make my fortune to marry Margarita; well, for that, I not only had her mother’s approval, but the kind woman also loved me like her own son. “In those days a brilliant enterprise in America fell into my lap, which would take too long to explain but, after a year’s absence from my country, it would quadruple my investment; but I didn’t have the capital, and it came to worry me so much that Margarita and her mother noticed something was wrong with me, and they urged me to reveal my secret. How could I have refused? They were my only loved ones on earth! When I told them everything, they tried to comfort me; but I was inconsolable as I felt a fortune slipping through my fingers and, with it, my happiness, because the realization of my marriage depended on it. “A few days later, on arriving at Margarita’s house, the two women flung themselves into my arms, shedding happy tears. They had sold everything they owned and were offering it to me for my enterprise. “I adamantly refused to accept it, but they begged, cried, and insisted on it, making me understand that we were all part of the same family, that we had to share one another’s joys, sorrows, and hopes, and if that money was lost, Margarita and I would marry penniless, and I would support the family with the blessed fruits of my labor. I couldn’t possibly refuse the offer. I accepted it: the day for my departure arrived; I said goodbye to Margarita and her mother, and set sail for America.” * * * The German remained silent for a while, during which all eyes were fixed on him. “I already know,” he continued in a solemn tone. “There’s no need to ask you if you believe in metempsychosis, the Pythagorean theory of the transmigration of the soul, or the doctrine of reincarnation, which has been upheld with such vigor by apostles of Spiritism like Allan Kardec and Juan Renau, because all those theories must be nonsense to you. I was convinced of the same thing. “On the sixth day of the voyage, we were enveloped in one of those dense fogs prevalent in the northern seas. We sailed among reefs as the captain took precautions: a large lamp high above one of the masts; a bell ringing all the time; the steam engine letting out a long and loud groan every few minutes, and sailors keeping watch on the spars. “But all was in vain: I was on deck and suddenly saw the fog before us grow dark; enveloped in the fog, as if rising from the bottom of the sea, an enormous steamer came crashing against us, making a terrible noise I can’t explain. Our ship split, and I don’t know what happened next, because I felt faint, and vaguely sensed murmurs, music, and distress. “I recovered my senses, but I wasn’t who I had been. I felt myself light; suspended in space, I saw the scene of the catastrophe far away, just a patch of fog on the vast sea, because the earth, without dragging me along, was floating dizzily in infinity. Then I realized I was dead. I began to acquire the marvelous perfection of the spirit: I could see a great distance, and among many cadavers floating on the waves I recognized mine. “I suffered the most terrible sorrow, thinking of Margarita and her mother, their pain, their solitude, the miserable life ahead of them, and decided to return to the world to help them.” Leopoldo became quiet again, and no one dared look at the others, for fear of seeing a mocking face. We didn’t believe this story, but we were so drawn in that we wanted to believe it. “A year later,” continued Leopoldo, “I had reincarnated in the body of a child, the only son of an affluent businessman in the city where Margarita lived. “Until I turned seven, my memories were dormant, but they awoke clearly and brightly with the awareness of the mission I had imposed on myself. “It was time to give her proof so that she would believe me. I searched for Margarita as well as a child could, who was only taken to parks for fresh air. “Fortunately for me, one afternoon, while I was playing with other children, she passed where we were, and the moment I saw her, I went to her and lavished her with caresses. She was taken aback by that sudden display of affection, and even more when I told her, ‘Come tomorrow at this time, because I have something very beautiful to tell you.’ “No doubt she thought these were the things of a child, but the following day she was there. We sat on a stone bench while my governess, on another bench farther away, was completely absorbed in reading a novel. Then I told Margarita that I, young Leopoldo, was Guillermo: I thought she was going to go mad, because to prove that truth, I repeated our conversations word for word and the most insignificant details of my past life, but trying to hide my plans for the future. I learned that Margarita’s mother had died of grief on hearing the news of the catastrophe, and that she, always sad, supported herself by giving music lessons. “From that time on, Margarita recovered her cheerfulness, worked harder, saved to buy me a toy, and tried to see me everywhere: I felt the tenderness of a mother. “I was twenty-eight; my father and mother had died, and I possessed a considerable fortune. I proposed marriage to her; she refused, citing our age difference, but I forced her: we have been together for eight years, and we are as happy as the first day of our marriage. Good night, señores, and each of you will have to judge my story for himself.” “Good night,” we all said. And Leopoldo, leading his wife by the arm, slowly left the dining room. * * * Without making any comment, we all went to bed then, but I could hardly sleep a wink, wondering whether there was any truth in that story, whether they were both mad or a madman and a martyr. When we got up the next morning, the Germans had already left Covadonga. 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. 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.” 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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). 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. We hear a lot about “the great American novel”. Is there such a thing as “the great Somali novel”? Is there a book or a novel that all Somalis love? Professor Ahmed: The novel has not been fully domesticated in Somalia. Of course, the novel genre is such that it is in its protean form; it has yet to crystallize and assume a definite form. That said, two novels would contend or vie for the distinction. Maxamed Daahir Afrax’s (Mohamed Dahir Afrah) Maana Faay (1981;1993) ushers in a new form of storytelling, as it exhibits ingenious and conscious ways of using language to reflect the quotidian life of its characters. With Maana Faay the novel genre in the Somali language comes of age, both in terms of content and structure. The other novel is Yuusuf Axmed Ibraahin-Hawd’s Aanadii Negeeye, a riveting story that recounts the gory details of murder and revenge. The narrative unfolds as the eponymous protagonist, Negeeye, whose father was murdered shortly after Negeeye’s birth, remembers his mother’s account of the brutal killing of his father. Negeeye, then, plots to avenge his father’s death. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short 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... [...]
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 / 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. 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.  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. 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. 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. 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.  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. 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.  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. 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.  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. 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 storyby J.-H. Rosny published and translated by Santa Fe daily New Mexican. September 22, 1894. y first marriage, said Jacques Ferveuse, was of but a few hours’ duration and did not break my betrothal to her who afterward became my true wife. It was nevertheless a legal wedding and without doubt the best action of my life. I have pardoned myself for many faults on account of the happiness I gave to her who was my bride for a day. At the time of which I speak I used sometimes to dictate notes on a philosophical work to an old copyist who lived in Rue de l’Estrapade. He was one of the best men in the world, but had been brought to poverty by an unusual series of misfortunes which he had a weakness for recounting to all comers. I used to listen to him willingly, for his voice was charming and his words well chosen. While he spoke his daughter, a timid blonde, would sit near us copying papers. I found her alone two or three times and could not help remarking that she semmed greatly agitated in my presence. As she was quite pretty and I saw a look of infinite tenderness in her beautiful eyes when they met mine, I felt some vague inclination toward her, but I quickly stifled it. Yes, I often spoke kindly to her that she might see I did not think her displeasing. My gentle words impressed a soul so profound that I would have shrunk back afrightened could I have guessed its depth. We had known each other for some time when I was suddenly called away from the city, and during my absence I fell in love and became betrothed. The very morning of my return to Paris some one knocked at my door, and my old copyist entered. His thin figure was yet more meager, his face pale, his temples hollow and his eyes red with weeping. “Sir,” said he, “I trust you will excuse my coming thus, but you have always been so good – my daughter – she – I fear she is about to die.” “Indeed!” I responded with more politeness than emotion. “She is at the hospital, sir. I have come to ask you – to say to you” – He interrupted himself, stammering, incoherent, his eyes full of entreaty, and said abruptly, without further prelude: “My daughter loves you! Before her approaching death I believed you might be able” – And without giving me tim eto recover from this strange declaration he commenced a story of love which, though prolix, was so strange and pathetic that, when he ended, my eyes were wet with tears. “Will you see her? It would make her so happy! She has but a few weeks to live.” Three-quarters of an hour I was at the young girl’s bedside. Her face shone with that ineffable beauty with which coming death sometimes transfigures the features of the young. At seeing me there her great dark eyes lighted up with a joy that touched me to the heart. Almost at once she guessed that her father had revealed her girlish secret, and she commenced to tell me the sad, sweet story of her love; the pathetic romance of a poor little maiden resigned to death – a tale of infinite tenderness; how first she had known she loved me, then her fear that her love was not returned, then her illness and her wish to die. For an hour she talked thus., her blond head lying upon the snow white pillow, her beautiful eyes gazing into mine. Finally she asked in a trembling voice: “And you – Did you ever – ever?” What should I say? Should I play the cruel executioner by telling her the truth or mercifully console her with a lie? Pity moved me: “I? I have loved you long!” “Is it true?” “It is true indeed.” A look of joy such as I will never see again in this world – the joy of the despairing – overspread her face, and in that moment, if I loved her not, there was something very sweet in my soul- an atom of that boundless compassion which is the closest kin to love. I know not what led her during the following days to doubt me, but one afternoon she asked: “But will you ever marry me?” I swore to her that I would. She smiled up at me with adoration. She prayed aloud, thanking God for his great goodness. One day I was so moved by the depth of her love for me that I wished to give yet more happpiness, it would cost me so little. Alas! Was she not irredeemably condemned? “I am going to publish the banns,” I cried. Her joy was almost terrible in its intensity. Her face shone with a marvelous splendour, and while she drew down my face to hers, while she laughed and cied in reciting to me in broken words the prayer of her love while she spoke to me as fervent devotees to God, I felt that I had given to one human being the equivalent of a lifetime of happiness. I will not tell you how I arranged to obtain the consent of my guardian. I did not ask that of my fiancee I knew she would pardon me afterward. The banns were published, and I made all the preparations for a regular marriage. During the weeks which followed she lived in ecstasy. Her malady seemed relenting. A miraculous beauty seemed to shine about her like an aureole. She dazzled me; she filled my heart with a sad love, like that of mothers for frail, beautiful children who cannot live. I had her placed in a special room at the hospital, where she received the care of the best physicians and had a sister of charity to watch over her night and day. I passed the greater part of my time with her. I could not satiate myself with that adoring gaze, with that beatitude with each word, each gesture of mine bestowed. How well I remember the twilight hours when I would sit beside her, watching her pale face blend harmoniously with the shadows, while she murmured to me her words of love like the verses of a song: “Better than God! Better than the Virgin! Better than my life and the life of the universe!” Thus time flowed by, and the wedding day came. After the civil marriage they set up an alter in her chamber and dressed her in rich bridal robes. She seemed to live in an atmosphere of perfect bliss. She was as beautiful as a day in springtime when it draws toward sunset and a misty glory rises over the hills and lakes and the drowsy flowers droop their heads in sleep. She lived 20 years in that hour. I have but to close my eyes, and I see her again. Her eyes were so large and bright that they seemed to efface her pale visage. A saintly smile played upon her lips. Her little hands were clasped as she listened to the voice of the priest. Our fingers joined, and she trembled when, at last, she prnounced the great “Yes,” for she put in it all her religion, all the force of her being; then sank back, her strength exhausted. But what delicious fatigue, what blissful weariness! Tenderly she whispered as she dreamed and drew me near her lips. The murderous shadow of death crept rappidly onward. Her spirit wandered in the faroff land of twilight. I saw her cheek grow leaden hued and her temples hollow. She felt not the approach of death, but continued to love, to be happy, to forget herself in her dream divine. Her head was pillowed on my arm, and I watched her dark eyes grow wider, wider yet. Her hair shone upon her pillow like a mesh of gold. The silken bridal robe envoloped her like a cloud. The sun had set, and the daylight was fading, when she murmured: “Thou lovst me, Jacques? Thou lovest the poor girl? Mon Dieu! We will live long. I feel that I cannot die. I cannot die now.” Her voice sounds as if she had turned back at the entrance of that mysterious land to call to me once more – it is like bells heard far off upon the sea. Her body grows cold in its rich winding sheet, but she no longer suffers. She repeats: “I cannot die!” A vague smile hovers over her face, which always wears that look of infinite love, of happiness without a shadow. My heart is still. At that moment I am all that loves in the world – I am a mother, a father , a lover. She murmurs again: “I love thee. We will live in the country – the violets” – Her lips part with a smile of ineffable joy, and she is at rest forever. It is evening, and I gaze through the gathering shadows at the outline of the slender figure in its bridal robe. My sorrow is as profound as it is sweet, for I feel that much will be pardoned me because I have soothed one poor, loving little heart and sweetened with happiness the bitter cup of death. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story“A Balloon Seller” by Takane Kiuchi (published here with the permission of the translator, Toshiya Kamei) n a certain town there once was a curious man who made his living selling balloons. The man lived at the top of a large tree in a park. During the day he would stroll around the town selling balloons of various colors, such as blue, red, green, and purple. When evening arrived, he would return to his home up in the tree. On his way home the balloon seller would buy himself something for dinner in the first store he stepped into, whichever it might be. For that reason, sometimes he would end up buying nothing but odd things. Also, he was careful to eat as light as possible because of his line of work. So he would buy only two things at each time. Depending on the store, he would buy only a caramel and a cracker at times, only a fig fruit and a bunch of grapes at other times, and only a carrot and an onion at another time. Even so, the balloon seller found all this funny. He would stuff his purchased items into his pockets and go home with a smile on his face. His home was the largest and tallest tree in the park. It was a magnificent tree, indeed. The balloon seller would always whistle his way back. Also, he would think about everything that had happened that day. He would remember every one of his customers, pretty girls and lively boys who had bought his balloons. As he walked while whistling and smiling, his heart would gradually become lighter. By the time he had reached under the tree, his body had become fluffy and light, so he would be able to fly up to his home with the floating power of the balloons he hadn’t sold that day. That’s why he was able to live high up in the tree, where there was a branch that had grown in the shape of a soft bed among the thick leaves. He would lay down his tired body there. He would tie his balloons tightly to a branch, and then eat slowly what he had bought earlier. Whatever came out of his pockets, he would savor his dinner with a smile. When he lay on his back, the stars would shine brightly above him. While humming or whistling a tune, the balloon seller would feel cozy and doze off into sleep. In the morning, a chorus of chirping birds would wake him up. Then he would loosen the strings of his balloons from the branch, hold half of them with each hand, jump off the tree, and land softly on the ground. Then he would walk up to a nearby food stand and eat his breakfast. After that, he would spend the whole day strolling and hawking his balloons. Day after day passed, without any incident. However, one night, the balloon seller was no longer able to go back to his home in the tree. What on earth happened? This is a story of how he lost his ability to fly home. * * * The day had been sultry since the morning. The wind blew hard, raising dust. It was a dreadfully unpleasant day. The whole town had become cranky, irritable, and spiteful. Even though the balloon seller headed for home as usual, he couldn’t think of anything pleasant. Earlier that day a little girl had stamped her feet and burst into tears, complaining that her mother had bought her a green balloon, instead of a blue one. A little boy got angry and kicked another boy, who said, “My balloon is bigger than yours.” Two boys, who were brothers, fought over their balloons. When both of them let go of the balloons, which floated up to the sky, they cried. None of the other children who had bought balloons did a good thing. While remembering such things, the balloon seller, too, felt angry and disgusted. On that day, he, who hardly stopped grinning all day, from morning until night, didn’t crack a smile at all, not even once. On top of that, the mean-spirited wind tried to blow his balloons away in all directions. The balloon seller fell into a terrible mood. In addition, the balloon seller marched into a hardware store by mistake when he went shopping for diner. Now he was in a fix because he had decided to buy in the first store he entered. “Uh, let me see… Please give me a couple of nails,” he said reluctantly. But suddenly he changed his mind. “No, I want a nail and a rivet.” Even though they were too hard for dinner, he would rather have them both. He then put them into his pocket and started trudging along the darkened path. “I wanted to eat something delicious to cheer myself up, but I have nothing but a nail and rivet. What did I do to deserve this?” the balloon seller whispered. He couldn’t see a single star when he stood under the tree. His heart became heavier and heavier. He couldn’t even bring himself to whistle. Unlike other times, his body didn’t become light. No matter how hard he tried to jump, his heavy feet dropped back to the ground. The balloon seller pulled the nail from his pocket and threw it away because he wanted to make his body lighter, even a little. But nothing changed. His feet were stuck to the ground, not willing to fly. Having no other choice, he tried to climb the trunk of the tree. However, it was so thick that it would take three or four men, each with arms outstretched, to encircle the tree. He just dropped to the ground and banged the tip of his nose. “Ah, darn it!” the balloon seller said, quite upset. “I can’t go home ever again. Balloons, why don’t you pull me up with more force? Is it really too much to ask you to lift me up?” Then the balloons pulled him up with all their might. But the balloon seller’s body felt like lead. Finally, the strings snapped and the balloons glided away in every direction. “Ah, this is the end of everything!” the balloon seller said, hurling himself to the ground. Then he began to pluck weeds as if tearing out his hair. “Oh, what’s the use of doing that?” Startled by the voice, the balloon seller looked up at the tree and saw an owl whose face was familiar to him. “So what should I do?” “You should go look for the balloons.” “Why? It’s impossible to do that.” “On your way home, you weren’t whistling, like always. Now, that’s a problem.” “But I don’t feel like whistling. I feel so bored, worried, and disappointed that I don’t know what to do.” “Why are you feeling that way? That’s what’s the matter with you. People got upset because you were in a bad mood. That’s why you have lost your balloons and can’t go home,” said the owl. “Why don’t you whistle now?” The balloon seller got back to his feet. But he still wasn’t in the mood to whistle. Even so, in the end only feeble sounds came out of his mouth. They were so frail and weak that he would have burst into laughter if he weren’t in such a bad mood. The balloon seller whistled again. This time it was better. “You’re getting better at it,” said the owl. Then as the balloon seller started to whistle one of his favorite tunes, his heart began to feel lighter. “I bought a nail for dinner! How silly of me!” He burst into a loud chortle. “How come I didn’t find this funny before?” The owl joined the balloon seller in laughter. And then they picked up all the balloons together. Before he realized it, the balloon seller’s body had become light and afloat, so he was easily able to return to his home in the tree. * * * After that, no matter how bad the day had gone, the balloon seller would always whistle his way home. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history A crowd of millions cheered as Ghana became independent in 1957 (audio above). “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked-up with the total liberation of the African Continent”, Kwame Nkrumah boldly declared on the day of liberation. Yet a couple of decades later, Nkrumah has been toppled from power, has ended up in exile on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, and his pan African dream lies in ruins. In some ways, his own personal fate mirrored that of a whole continent. We talked to professor Jeffrey Ahlman, a specialist on the Ghanaian statesman, about what happened to Nkrumah, and what has been the lasting legacy of his ideas.  Let us begin at the end of Nkrumah’s life. He had quite a sad demise. He was ill, paranoid and afraid of western intelligence agencies. And he lived in exile. Did he have reason to be afraid? Professor Ahlman: There was significant reason for Nkrumah to have concerns about US and other western subversion in Ghana. In African history, the year 1960 is often remembered quite jubilantly as the “Year of Africa,” marking not only the independence of Nigeria and the Congo, but also the many states that comprised French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa. However, from the perspective of radical anti colonial figures like Nkrumah, the year opened not with jubilance, but with the troubling independence of Cameroon under a government viewed by many as an appendage of the French state. The rushed independence of the Congo and the political chaos that ensued—much of it the result of US and Belgian Cold War intrusion into Congolese democratic politics—only further added to Nkrumah’s wariness, especially as his government had committed a significant number of Ghanaian troops to the UN peace mission to the Congo. However, it was the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba’s assassination that dramatically shook Nkrumah as, for him, the assassination marked the extremes to which capitalist powers would go to subvert the autonomy of African independence. Meanwhile, in Ghana, Nkrumah survived a number of attempts on his own life. The most famous one being the bombing in the far northern Ghanaian town of Kulungugu in August 1962 in which at least two people were killed and Nkrumah himself suffered significant injuries—injuries that some Ghanaians argue was a cause of the cancer that killed him a decade later. Eyeing what had happened to Lumumba a year and a half earlier, Nkrumah and his government read the Kulungugu attack, among the others he endured, as at least in part efforts by capitalist countries like the United States, Belgium, and Great Britain to subvert his vision for Ghana and for Africa. Given this context in Ghana and Africa more broadly, yes, he did have reason to be afraid. How did he become involved with the struggle against British Colonial Rule in The Gold Coast? Professor Ahlman: In his autobiography, Nkrumah argues that he first became aware of the “wickedness of colonialism” while in the UK while waiting for a visa to the US as Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. According to him, the expressionless response from men and women on the streets as the newspapers’ headlines announced the invasion awakened in him a desire to “play my part in bringing about the downfall of such a system.” In the United States, Nkrumah attended Lincoln University and later UPenn, while also seeking connections to African student groups as well as a number of black political and cultural institutions during his time in the country. After a decade in the US, he traveled to the UK, where he joined the political network of the Trinidadian pan-Africanist George Padmore and played a key role in helping to organize the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester—a congress that demanded an immediate end to colonial rule in Africa. It was approximately two years after the Manchester Congress that Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast at the invitation of the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a political party often maligned as being too moderate. During his time as the UGCC’s general secretary, he clashed with the convention’s other leaders before leaving the convention—or getting expelled depending on whose version one accepts—and forming his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), under the mantra of “Self-Government Now.” Why the CPP is so important to African history is that it was one of the first mass political parties on the continent, drawing supporters from a wide range of walks of life (educated, uneducated, farmers, urban dwellers, youth, women, etc) and, for many, providing a new sense of belonging in a period of rapid political and social change following WWII. Like Gandhi he was partly educated in Britain, in what way did this influence his ideas? Or were his years in the United States more significant? Professor Ahlman: I think the fundamental elements of his political education occurred in Great Britain as he came under the tutelage of George Padmore. It was here, I believe, where his ideas began to mature and gained their first coherent form in his 1947 pamphlet Towards Colonial Freedom. However, one cannot underestimate the role of his time in the US, for he arrived in the US in the midst of the Great Depression and stayed through the war years. During this time, he not only actively sought out readings by such people as Marcus Garvey and associated with Paul Robeson’s Council on African Affairs, among others, but was forced to live in the highly racialized social environment of the United States as a black man. It is hard to imagine that such an experience did not help shape his understanding of the world, colonialism, and race. Was he always a leftist? Professor Ahlman: I think in terms of his adult life, yes. When he became PM of the newly liberated Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) he was quite popular. How popular were his ideas of pan-African unity? Professor Ahlman: I think you have to add more nuance to the question. In principle, I think many Ghanaians were supportive of some sort of largely undefined pan-African unity, especially one that—like Nkrumah suggested—placed Ghana at the center of an emerging pan-African politics. Part of this was pride; part may have been—and still may be—an authentic hope for what unity could bring to the future of both Ghana and Africa. On the other hand, many questioned the resources spent in pursuing Nkrumah’s continental ambitions. This included the aid Ghana offered to other countries and liberation movements as well as the time Nkrumah spent away from the country. By as early as 1958, if not earlier, criticism of the resources spent on Nkrumah’s pan-African policies had become a potent critique of the government when marshaled by some opposition officials. Why do you think the idea of pan-Africanism failed? Professor Ahlman: I don’t believe it did, particularly because I don’t think we can talk about pan-Africanism in the singular. There were/are many different pan-Africanisms—diasporic, continental, political, social, cultural, economic, etc. What may have failed was Nkrumah’s particular vision of a United States of Africa. However, even Nkrumah shouldn’t be beholden to that singular definition of pan-Africanism, especially when answering rather normative questions like whether he succeeded or failed. In his life, Nkrumah came to influence, embody, interact with, and shape a number of competing, if not contradictory forms of pan-Africanism. His flirtation with Garveyism may not have meshed organically with his socialism and aspects of the Ghanaian nation-building project at home and the Ghanaian exceptionalism that seemed to follow in its wake does not easily fit within the continental vision he so famously articulated. He launched quite a lot of programs in those early years, how successful was he in modernizing Ghana? Professor Ahlman: Ghana has not seen a leader like him to date. He transformed the country politically, socially, culturally, economically, and infrastructurally. He shepherded in the development of the city of Tema, transforming a previously small fishing village into the industrial engine of the new Ghana. Similarly, he also ushered in the damming of the Volta River that, through the electricity it produced, electrified much of the country and still does so today. However, the greatest impact his government had was in its promotion of fee-free primary education. This program democratized education in the country, allowing untold numbers of boys and girls who may not have had the opportunity to go to school before gaining an education. When did his downfall begin? And why did he eventually lose his grip on power? Professor Ahlman: His downfall began with the 1966 coup. People were talking in unspecific ways about what Ghana might look like without Nkrumah prior to the coup. However, it was always in vague terms. He and his government appeared strong on the eve of the coup and the coup surprised many. This is not to say that many were content with the state of affairs in Ghana at the time. The reality was much more complicated. Instead, even as late as the month of the coup, many people had come to terms with a reality that the one-party political context created by Nkrumah and the CPP represented the reality that they must live with for the foreseeable future. In what way would you say the Cold War affected the idea of pan-Africanism? Professor Ahlman: I think it constrained the possibilities open to African thinkers and leaders as they sought to reimagine the new world created by decolonization. As individual countries and  liberation movements faced pressures from the US, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Soviet Union, many found it difficult to break from the bifurcated global model that so defined the Cold War in their efforts to make a reality the futures they imagined. How is Nkrumah remembered in Ghana today? Do they celebrate him, or lament his failings? Professor Ahlman: Nkrumah and his ideas appear to be gaining in popularity in Ghana again. However, Ghanaians tend to have a complicated relationship with Nkrumah, especially those who lived through his rule. Many truly appreciate how he transformed Ghana into a major player on the international stage during his tenure and, at the same time, built roads, schools, healthcare facilities, etc. Yet, many of the same people recall the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that accompanied a government that in many ways policed many forms of political and social expression, particularly those forms did not fit within the ideological confines of an orthodox decolonization-era Nkrumahism. What is the legacy of Pan Aficanism today? Professor Ahlman: I’m not sure how to answer this given that there are still pan-African thinkers today, both in Africa and the diaspora. They are actively trying to reflect on the legacies of earlier generations of thinkers like Nkrumah, Du Bois, Padmore, Stokely Carmichael, Malcom X, and others. At the same time, they are actively trying to construct their own pan-African visions that not only take into account contemporary realities in Africa, the diaspora, and the world, but are also experimenting with methods and ideas—small and large—to bring their visions for the future into a reality   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / movies  Despite the hardships of war, the 1940s are usually considered a golden age of British cinema. TV was not yet introduced into the homes, and during the worst fighting the audience flocked in their millions to see the Noel Coward films of David Lean, the collaborative work of Powell & Pressburger or Gainsborough melodramas (1943-49). After the war there were of course Ealing comedies (1947-57) to cheer you up. How did the British manage to maintain such an output of quality productions during a period when sacrifices were so great? We had a brief chat with movie historian Charles Drazin.  How were films financed during the war? Charles Drazin: Dominating production at this time was the Rank Organisation, which provided the lion’s share of financing for most of the prestige films that are still remembered today. (The Rank Organization was the media empire founded by J. Arthur Rank, and owned everything from studios to the cinemas where the movies played.) Was there much censorship? Charles Drazin: Mainstream movies had to respect the British Board of Film Censorship and, if they wanted to get into the profitable US market, the Hollywood Production Code, and also of course any wartime regulations relating to national security, but I think what was more notable was the freedom that film-makers had to express themselves. A good example is Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). Churchill wasn’t able to prevent the film from being released although he disapproved fiercely of its content. Were movie people exempt from military service in any way? Charles Drazin: They could be if they were in a “reserved occupation” deemed to be necessary for the furtherance of the war effort. How do British wartime movies compare with the similar productions in Germany? Charles Drazin: Filmmakers were “free” in the sense that no higher government authority was telling them what to say. Obviously film-makers were encouraged to make films that support the war effort, but there was a diversity and authenticity of spirit that comes from free expression. The British film industry was of course engaged in a kind of propaganda but it was soft propaganda as opposed to the hard propaganda of the Nazis. I like the comment someone made about the great British documentary film-maker Humphrey Jennings that he was making “propaganda for the human race”. Were the movies distributed among the troops? Charles Drazin: Most certainly. What about availability of raw film? Certainly that would have to be rationed during the war? Charles Drazin: Yes, very significantly. Like so many other things at this time raw film was rationed. How did the moviegoers during WWII react to the realism of some films, such as One of our Aircraft is Missing? Charles Drazin: The critics thought such realism was the crowning glory of a British film renaissance – what made it stand out from the phoniness of Hollywood – but of course over time audiences grew tired of it. In the second half of the war the most successful movies were the escapist Gainsborough romantic melodramas. These melodramas were very much aimed at women. (The men were mostly off to war, or perhaps home on leave.) Did the army have any role in the production of the film like In Which we serve (1942) or One of Our Aicraft is Missing (1942)? Charles Drazin: The armed forces would provide support in the form of men and equipment to films that the Ministry of Information considered to be in support of the war effort. What would you say were the major forms of innovation in British cinema during the war years? Charles Drazin: The major achievement in my view was breaking away from formulaic, genre cinema to say something important to a mass popular audience. There were all sorts of style innovations, but it was the coming to age of the cinema as a serious medium in Britain that made such innovations possible. One of Our Aicraft is Missing (1942)  Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby Juza Unno (Translated by J.D. Wisgo) “Mysterious Spacial Rift” was first published in Science: Hopes & Fears : Juza Unno: The Father of Japanese Science Fiction, available on Amazon here. y friend Hachiro Tomoeda is a peculiar fellow. Sharing with you a few dreams he’s told me about is the quickest way to give you a sense of just how peculiar he is. Hachiro loves talking about his dreams. These tend to be extremely odd and surprisingly detailed, but as someone who rarely dreams myself, I found them intriguing and, at times, even disturbing. “In my dreams, I visit the same city, again and again,” he said, vacant eyes glaring at me. “…So I get this feeling that I’ve been to this city before. Before I know it, all these people I’ve met in dreams are coming out of the woodwork: old men, young women, you name it. I talk to this strange group of people about what happened before, hoping to continue the long series of events from previous dreams. But, more often than not, the same thing happens in every dream, and whenever I get the feeling something is going to happen, it generally turns out that way. It sounds crazy, but my hunches often turn out to be right. However, there’s another odd thing about these dreams: my face. In these dreams I always have the same face, and it’s completely different from what you see now. My face isn’t pale like this, it’s more of a reddish copper color. Even its shape is completely different: longer, with a well-defined nose, larger mouth, and eyes aglow with a passion you’d never believe, not to mention a wonderful head of hair and a stately beard. That imposing man in my dreams is me. What do you think? Pretty strange, right? That’s why I often have these strange thoughts. Could this city, and these people in my dreams, actually exist? Could I possess two bodies with different faces, sharing a single soul? Stuff like that. Oh, I can see you’re having trouble believing me. It’s written all over your face. Alright then, I’ll tell you an even stranger, more disturbing story–one that will wipe that smile right off your face. It’s a true story of something that just happened to me.” 1. One day, I had this dream. I was walking down a long hallway. Oddly enough, there wasn’t a single window. Everything was a yellow color–walls, ceiling–and at regular intervals on both sides of the extremely long hallway was a set of identical doors. I stood there, motionless except for my eyes inspecting each of the doorknobs, one by one. They all shared a dull brass color except for a shiny gold one on the fifth or sixth door down, on the left side if I remember correctly. “A golden doorknob!” When I came to the door with the shiny doorknob, my hand spontaneously reached out for it. Grabbing the golden doorknob, it twisted and pushed inward. Needless to say, the door opened easily each time I had this dream. I entered the room as if sucked in by some invisible force. Inside was a bare living room, measuring roughly thirty square meters. A bright red carpet dominated the center, set under a light blue table and set of chairs. On the table rested a green, Spanish-style flower vase that always contained a pink carnation. The room had a very unusual design. I took quite a liking to it, especially the large mirror hanging on a far wall. The full-sized mirror stretched from floor to ceiling, larger than the kind you find in barbershops. It was over 3 meters wide, framed on both sides by a narrow curtain made from an ornate, heavy-looking fabric that hung down from a rod at the top. Unfortunately, the room’s dim lighting obscured the curtain’s color, although it appeared to be a dark shade of indigo. The mirror faithfully reflected the contents of the room, just as you would expect. Whenever I entered that room I was always eager to walk straight up to the mirror and see my reflection. Because the mirror was at the far end of the room, angled away from me, I had to be directly in front of it to see myself. I had a habit of staring into that mirror, fascinated by my stately visage. Thrusting my chest out, I would imagine this is what Victor Emmanuel the First must have looked like. My image in the mirror followed suit, his chest raised triumphantly. But just as I was enjoying myself making funny faces and idiotic gestures into the mirror, a voice suddenly called out from behind. “Would you like something to drink, sir…?” It was the voice of a young man. I turned around to discover a silver tray on the table with a liquor bottle and a drinking glass upon it. A handsome, athletic teenage boy–who had presumably just spoken–stood with his back to the door. But there was someone else: a young woman standing dangerously close to him. How did these two get here so quickly? The woman, her eyes downcast at first, gradually raised her head and glared at me. (What the…) I suddenly averted my gaze as if struck by some great force–the woman had been a lover of mine. Watching her waltz into the room with a young guy in tow, I was anything but calm. However, getting hysterical now would only embarrass me. Maintaining perfect composure, I approached the table and sat down, facing away from the couple. I filled the glass with alcohol and silently raised it to my lips. Behind me, I heard the frantic whispering of those two engaged in a private conversation. Their faint voices, intensified if as by an amplifier, thundered in my ears like a metal washbasin being pounded next to my head. (Those two are far more than friends. I’m sure they’ve gone all the way!) I struggled to hold back my emotions, but nothing could stop the rising anger. I shut my eyes, grabbed the glass, and gulped down the whole thing, then slammed it down on the table. The whispering died instantly. I stayed calm and maintained my composure. Did those two come here just to show off? Did they really think I wouldn’t notice? If so, fine with me. I know–I’ll return the favor and pretend they don’t exist. Legs trembling, I planted my feet firmly on the floor and stood up from the chair. I walked quietly to the large mirror at the far end of the room, making sure to avoid looking in their direction. Before I knew it, I was standing before the mirror. I watched the couple’s reflection, their bodies all over each other, practically making love. The girl was taking the lead, trying to seduce him, but I detected a hint of hesitation in the boy. Blood rushed up from my legs into my head. I looked at my face in the mirror and discovered my expression had completely changed. I saw my shoulders shaking uncontrollably. Oblivious to me observing them through the mirror, this indecent couple was in the middle of committing a depraved act. Panic began to creep in. I tried to scream, but nothing came out of my dry throat. I had to calm down… I thought to enlist the aid of tobacco and pulled my cigarette case from my pocket. I tried to gently open the lid, keeping it hidden in the shadows of my body to avoid being seen, but for some reason it wouldn’t open. Realizing I should be careful about what my face revealed, I shifted my eyes to look at the reflection of my hand in the mirror. Then I looked at the cigarette case. (Huh?) I was a little startled; the thing in my hand was not a cigarette case but a… (…pistol!) My hand gripped none other than a small, boxy Browning pistol. A wave of vertigo washed over me. That’s when it happened. The reflection of my hand, still holding the pistol, quietly floated up to the level of my chest. Defying logic, the hand crept upwards against my own will. Equally strange was seeing my hand’s reflection inch up slightly higher than my actual hand. It was incredibly disturbing–the hand in the mirror was somehow moving ahead of my own hand. I couldn’t bear to stand here and do nothing; if I stayed still like this in front of the mirror, I would surely go insane. After all, the movement of my reflection–even as I stood frozen before the mirror–would be certain evidence that I could no longer be counted among the living. (…) A tremor ripped through my body, nearly tearing it apart. I quickly raised the arm holding the pistol, chasing after its reflection, and it soon caught up with the image in the mirror. (My, that was horrific!) My body was completely drenched with sweat. The pistol had risen a good ways above my chest, where its muzzle pressed firmly into my left shoulder. I twisted my shoulder back gradually. I squinted and aimed the gun. Once my target was fixed, I continued to rotate my body back, ever so deliberately. My attempt to speak only resulted in a pathetic stutter. The couple continued their flirting, completely unaware of what I was about to do. “Y-you bitch!” Detestable slut! I glanced at the mirror to see a few teeth exposed as I bit down hard on my lower lip. Time slowed to a crawl, my tormented expression urging me to the only natural conclusion: my two fingers on the trigger retracted… Bang. Oh shit, I really did it. “…Ugggghhhhh…” The girl bent over backward as if struck by a bolt of electricity. One hand clutched her chest while the other flailed wildly in the air; a moment later, she collapsed there on the spot. “I killed someone. In the end, I’ve committed murder with my own hands!” I approached the girl sprawled on the floor, so still I would have sworn she was in a deep sleep. Her clothes had a gaping red hole near the chest where fresh blood gushed out, trickling over her partially exposed breasts and down her neck. The boy was nowhere to be found; I assumed he had darted out of the room without me noticing. “Shit, I just killed someone…” I mumbled. Just then, I heard a derisive laugh in an all-too-familiar voice: my own. “Oh…I get it. I’m having a dream where I murder someone…But if I’m not careful I’ll wake up in the middle of the best part. My hands should be trembling more, like I’ve actually killed someone. And I should be scared. Very scared…” Unfortunately, something happened and I lost my memory of everything after that. I only remember up to the point where I shot and killed the girl. 2. I must have bored you to tears with so much detail, especially considering I was only talking about a dream. But I wanted you to understand just how vivid and strange my dreams are. My talk about dreams isn’t over yet. Now I’d like to tell you about an even more mysterious dream. I really hope you’ll listen to what I have to say. Let’s see…I don’t remember how many days had passed, but eventually I had another dream. Just I was making my way down a long hallway, I realized something. “Another long hallway. The walls and ceiling are yellow, and…” “I remember! I’ve been in this hallway before!” I thought to myself. But that quickly led to another, less desirable, realization. “…Oh, I’m dreaming now. I’m really dreaming!” As I walked down the hall, I tried to imitate my gait from the other day because I felt that otherwise I’d ruin a potentially wonderful dream… Just like last time, I glanced at the doors one by one. I noticed a golden doorknob on the left side, five doors down. “This is it,” I said with a smile. I turned the golden doorknob and slipped into the room. Needless to say, things looked exactly the same as before: a red carpet in the center, above that an elegant table and chair set in blue, and on the table, a green vase holding an identical pink carnation. I chuckled under my breath as I made my way to the room’s center, trying to keep from breaking out into laughter. From there, I inspected the far end of the room and found the large mirror. It was a great relief to see that mirror. (I can imagine how in some occupations like acting, where each day the same movements are acted out with the same props, performances tend to get progressively easier after the first day–just like what I am experiencing now.) Thoughts like this popped into my head. The next moment, I found myself once again before the large mirror. The same stately appearance was reflected in it: a bold mustache surrounded by a storm of unkempt hair. “Sir, would you like a…” I looked behind me to see who had spoken and found the same handsome young man standing there. Beside him was the same young girl, eyes downcast, another character in this performance who hadn’t changed at all. Adhering to the proper order of events, I returned to the table. I opened the liquor bottle and filled up the glass. Right then, as if on cue, I heard the hushed whispers of that couple behind me. Infuriated, I chugged the entire drink in a single breath. I slammed down the glass, sprung to my feet, and staggered towards the mirror… An uncomfortable feeling came over me, triggered by the vivid recollection of that terrible incident the other day. The thing that happened next was utterly terrifying. No, I don’t mean the part when I murdered someone; I mean when, standing before that large mirror, my reflection moved before I did. That uncanny sight, etched deeply in my mind… “That was truly horrifying.” My body trembled uncontrollably. I carefully watched my every move reflected in the mirror, afraid of what I might see. I withdrew from my pocket not a cigarette case, but a pistol… Yes, now is my chance! I raised the pistol to my chest ever so slowly…ever so deliberately… “Well, well…it seems my reflection is following me well today.” I sighed, relieved to see no sign of the expected abnormality today. And yet, our movements could diverge at any moment… “Whew, I’m safe…” I was so happy, so relieved, that I nearly cried out. Nothing abnormal had occurred. I even tried flailing my arms up and down, but, like a film with perfectly synchronized audio and video tracks, my reflection stayed in lock-step with its counterpart, moving the same way at the same time, without even the slightest gap. (Perhaps that terrible separation I witnessed the other day was simply a hallucination?) This thought came to me, but then I realized there was no need to think so deeply about it. After all, this was just a dream; there was no rule stating everything had to make sense. If, for example, I stood in the middle of a field and wished for a desk, it might appear out of nowhere, like magic. In dreams, things like that would be perfectly normal. I held the gun tightly against my left shoulder, took aim, and slowly twisted my shoulder back. The girl and boy whispered to one another excitedly, panting as if out of breath. I heard the young girl’s sensual whine, you know the kind that can drive you crazy. “Take this, asshole!” I pulled the trigger. Bang. The girl’s piercing shriek tore through the room. Clutching her shoulder with one hand, she toppled over onto the carpet as her other arm twitched, clawing wildly at the air. “Why is she still moving?” I suspiciously approached the girl who was supposed to be dead from my gunshot. She was barely hanging on. But as I watched, her life faded away before my eyes. The bloodstained hand that had been clutching her shoulder gradually slid down, revealing a gaping wound that spurted fresh blood, a blooming flower. Her arms and legs twitched a few more times before collapsing to the floor, and her body finally went still. “You put on quite a show in those final moments!” Sneering, I approached her body and gave it a kick. It didn’t budge, as if she was in a deep sleep. I circled around to her head and gazed at her face from the side. “Huh?” I had been certain this woman was my old girlfriend, but I was shocked when I saw her face. “It’s…not her.” The realization struck me like a massive weight. I cradled her limp head and angled her face towards me. “Oh no, this is…” I’ve made a terrible mistake. I was so sure it was my old girlfriend, but I couldn’t have been more wrong; the woman’s corpse before me was unmistakably the wife of a close friend who was like a brother to me. “D-damn it!” My teeth clenched. Why hadn’t I realized this sooner? Clearly, murder was a terrible crime, but to shoot dead the wife of a good friend…how could I ever make it up to him? She had been a truly admirable woman. Her husband was a good friend of mine, but strange rumors about him had been circulating lately. Apparently he was making a great profit by loaning out money at an exorbitant interest rate but rarely returned home to see his wife waiting there alone. She would often visit me, worried sick, prostrating herself teary-eyed and begging that I help repair her relationship with her husband, seemingly gone sour due to her inadequacies. I had never met a nicer, more good-natured woman in my life, and I failed to understand how any man could pretend to know nothing of this woman and neglect his duties as a husband. Thus, I began to pity this woman, consoling her whenever the opportunity arose. After visiting me she would always return home in a better mood. However, it seems that lately my friend had an odd suspicion of something going on between his wife and me. He was worried about us being alone frequently together in the same room, a concern I found both idiotic and maddening. How truly unfortunate. “And now I have murdered that woman with my own hands. What am I going to do…” I was too ashamed to face my friend; but I was even more remorseful toward his wife, whom I had shot dead. But at the same time, I would no longer be able to prove my innocence of the alleged relationship between us. I lied down beside her body, tormented by an excruciating pain like my intestines were being ripped apart… “…How could have I been such a fool? I’m crying in the middle of a dream!” I suddenly heard the sound of my own voice. Oh, it’s all just a dream. The entrance burst open and a crowd clamored into the room. At its head stood the attractive young man I had seen with my friend’s wife, but when he saw me he backed away and disappeared into the crowd. “You’re under arrest!” A group of people wearing police officer uniforms rushed at me and restrained my arms. Just as I was thinking about how I would be executed soon, handcuffs were slapped on my wrists. I have no memory of what happened after that. Well now, what do you think of these two dreams? Pretty strange, huh? Aren’t they’re almost too vivid? 3. It was a quiet winter morning. A high fence obscured the sun but the sky was clear for miles, the air refreshing like citrus. Enclosed by the plain, white walls of the square room, my friend Hachiro Tomoeda was telling me once again about his dreams. Sometimes my mind gets all messed up and causes me a great deal of trouble. I know it’s not because of my age, but my life is often thrown into disarray by my tendency to mix things up. I think I was telling you the other day about two similar dreams where I killed someone, but I don’t remember how far I got. Most likely I stopped around the part where I was thrown in jail, awaiting a trial. Yeah, that sounds about right. I remember talking about those dreams in earnest, unaware of my absurd misconception, but perhaps things didn’t happen like that. To be honest, during that conversation I was convinced you were not a person from a dream, but the real world. However, after being implicated in a murder and then talking to you in this jail cell, it’s clear that you’re also from the dream world. Why did it take me so long to realize this? This is not easy for me since I’m hopelessly poor at explanations. But if you don’t mind, I’ll try once more. I told you about that murder incident; after that, I was jailed as a suspect. Sometimes you would come to visit me in jail–proof that the world where the murder occurred and the world you live in is one and the same. I spoke to you about the murder in my dream. Also, if you ask me, you yourself are from the same dream world. The way I see it, that murder took place in my dreams; to you, it took place in the world that you live in. But, you see, this is the dream world now where I am speaking…When a dimwit like me tries thinking about this stuff, I always get totally confused. Maybe I should just let someone else figure it all out. Anyway, I’ll tell you what happened next. Like I said, at some point I discovered myself, jailed and awaiting trial. I was astonished to learn it was related to a murder in that room with the big mirror. “My, what a terribly long dream I’m having…” I didn’t find this out until later, but at the time I was apparently about to be put into a mental institution. So I’m really glad I figured everything out when I did. After that they investigated me at length, and one of the court officials was a kind-hearted magistrate by the name of Sugiura. One day he came to me and started telling me a story. It was a mysterious tale skillfully crafted by a true creative genius, filled with uncanny events like you often find in short stories. While clearly a fabrication, I was intrigued to see how everything was woven together, so I’d like to tell you about it. “Do you think those two dreams were really dreams? Even assuming they are, don’t you see an inconsistency between them?” the judge suddenly asked me, his tone reserved. I kept quiet; these questions irritated me. He continued babbling, even more sure of himself. This is what he told me: “You said you killed an old girlfriend in your first dream, and a friend’s wife in the second. If, as you say, you are seeing the same events repeatedly in dreams, then shouldn’t the victim be the same each time? Don’t you think it’s odd that the person you murdered was different?” “Anything is possible in dreams,” I objected. “Characters can switch around arbitrarily.” The man’s questions continued. “In your first dream, when you killed your girlfriend, there was a simplicity, a surreal beauty. And yet, your second dream–where you killed your friend’s wife–wasn’t it painted in colors that seemed almost too vivid? Didn’t you detect something deliberate about this disparity?” he said, a deadly serious expression on his face. The moment I heard this, I thought he really was on to something. The murder in the second dream did have a much deeper sense of realism. However, once I thought about it a little more, I realized he was badly distorting minor details just to argue his point, and this disgusted me. “You’re quiet, but I think you understand what I’m saying, at least a little,” Judge Sugiura added, delivering another one-sided statement. “Listen–I’ll tell you a few more discrepancies. First, what do you think of that room? What a truly unusual place. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a large mirror covering the wall, like in a barbershop, and an oddly remarkable red carpet. Even the plain colors of the table and chair set, their placement, and the flower on display were unusual. If someone was actually living there, you would expect a clutter of items; but those were nowhere to be found, and the room’s remarkable simplicity made it hard to forget once you saw it. Like the handiwork of a magician, it had the appearance of a room, yet was totally unfit for human habitation. Nothing more than a prop in a trick.” “Come on, dreams are supposed to be remarkable and simple,“ I wanted to say, but I kept quiet. “So what do you think? I bet all of this is starting to make sense to you,” the magistrate said, increasingly confident. “Now there’s one final, truly great contradiction. I’m sure you remember the terrifying part of your first dream. That’s where the contradiction was. You grabbed the pistol and saw it in your reflection in the mirror. Then, strangely enough, you watched your hand raise above your chest, stopping somewhere near your left shoulder. Yet your actual hand hovered there unmoving, gripping the pistol you’d withdrawn from your pocket. In short, you had observed a gap between your actual body’s movements and your reflection in the mirror, a sight which terrified you to no end. By witnessing a mysterious rift between the spatial region encompassing your body, presumably possessing a single soul, and that of your body’s reflection, you were thrown into complete–and needless–confusion. Had you been an ordinary person with a sound mind, you would have surely realized the truth. This point is critically important. What would an ordinary person think? How strange…I’m not in a haunted house, but the reflection in this mirror before me is moving separately from my body. This can’t be right. The image in the mirror isn’t my reflection! Just like that, you should have figured it out. In other words, the large mirror before you was not actually a mirror; behind that panel of glass stood a person disguised as you, trying to make you believe he was your reflection. You should have picked up on that immediately–if you were an ordinary person, that is.” This was a shock to even someone as dull as me, as if a hammer had suddenly struck my skull. But shock soon became anger as I began to question whether such an absurd thing was even possible. “After all, the entire room’s interior was reflected in that mirror: the chairs, the table, and the bottle of liquor. But that’s not all. Even the girl and her handsome companion were reflected in the mirror. Is something that absurd actually possible?” I objected. “It’s like I’ve been telling you. That room was specially prepared for the deception. What you thought was a reflection in the mirror was, in actuality, a separate room visible through a large pane of glass, made to appear identical to the room you were in. They just needed to put everything in the same location, turned to face the pane of glass. Same thing with the people. There were two different couples, one in each room, so each person appeared to have a reflection. In fact, there was another man in the far room. As I said, he was dressed just like you. In any case, not in your right mind, you mistook the faces of the two couples to be identical. After that point, it would have been easy to deceive anyone, even an ordinary person. Well now, let’s consider why someone would create dual rooms and make them appear to represent a single space. That couldn’t be any more obvious. The man disguised as you suggested your next action: aiming the pistol and shooting the girl behind you. The gunshot sound was probably from a blank cartridge and, as planned, she collapsed on the spot. Finally, in dramatic fashion she triggered the release of red iron oxide concealed in something like an eggshell, giving the impression of having been shot dead.” “If that’s true, then why would he make me do such a thing?” I cried out. “That’s obvious. They planned to lure you to the place of your second dream and have you actually murder your friend’s wife. They fooled you, a weak-minded man, into believing you were reliving the same dream, making you fire the pistol again in the second dream, just like the first. But the second time, the pistol was loaded with live ammunition and the second room was not used. By darkening that room, the pane of glass functioned like a mirror. It’s a trick commonly employed in circus attractions; everyone knows about it. But in any case–you have, unintentionally, murdered a woman.” “But why me?” I shouted back at the judge. “I investigated and found out the reason. It was the woman’s own husband who plotted to kill her–in other words, your friend. He was the one who orchestrated it all.” “No, my friend would never do something so horrible,” I said. “There’s no use defending him. We’ve already gathered sufficient evidence. Your friend is quite a despicable fellow. His failed business venture demanded a great deal of money, and there was a life insurance policy on his wife for an enormous sum. He couldn’t just kill his wife with his own hands, so he tried to use you instead. Apparently he even fabricated an excuse to lure his wife to that room. She was brought inside and saw you who had, according to the rumors, gone insane. Then you shot and killed her. In any case, I’m glad your mental state has recovered so quickly since arriving here.” As I listened, I was nearly fooled by his well-crafted story. Could my friend really have plotted such an elaborate scheme? I felt there was something wrong with the judge’s logic. “But Mr. Magistrate, something doesn’t seem right. How did my friend manage to manipulate me so easily?” “Isn’t that obvious too? Did you not have the habit of explaining your dreams to him in great detail? He used that to take advantage of you.” So you see, my friend, that’s what I was told. I really pity the magistrate for wasting so much time fretting over these minute details, because he’s claiming that you used me to kill your own wife to avoid dirtying your own hands. I can’t believe he has the audacity to say those things about you. Fortunately, everything happened in a dream so it doesn’t really matter. Had it actually happened, we would be in some serious trouble. But, you see, that magistrate just wouldn’t give up. What a pain in the ass. “You’re mistaken about those things happening in a dream. If you still believe that, then I’ll just have to prove to you how wrong you are…” the magistrate said. When I asked him what he had in mind, he lead me to a mirror. “So which is it?” he asked. “Is the face you see reflected here the one from your dreams, or the one from the real world?” When I looked in the mirror, a sickly pale, very round face stared back at me. It was nothing like the stately visage I’d seen in my dreams. “It’s my face from the real world,” I answered honestly. With that, the magistrate continued, an unspoken I told you in his eyes. “Now isn’t that strange. You’ve been saying this is all a dream. But if the face you saw now was your real face, that’s really strange. Am I wrong? Now listen up. You’ve got to think hard and remember everything. This dream world that you believe in has never existed. There’s only one reality. You claimed there was an alternate reality where you had a different face, but in the end your two faces are one and the same. Are you following me? When your mental condition deteriorates, you become like a comselftaughtjapanese.completely different person. You stop combing your hair, let your beard grow out. There are even times where you’ve run around half-naked outside, eventually hiding somewhere in the mountains. You get a sunburn there and your appearance drastically changes. Let’s try one more thing while I have you here. First, ruffle your well-combed hair and make it stand up all over. Next, put on this fake beard I have here. Then we’ll apply some brown facial powder…Now take a look at your face in the mirror. Does it ring a bell? I bet it’s exactly like the face you thought you had in the other reality,” he said with a chuckle. I was utterly shocked. The magistrate was right…But wait a minute, something was still fishy. His skill in solving this case appeared impeccable, yet the truth was far from that. He knew practically nothing about math, and his logic was completely off. In other words, he had secretly retouched my face in the dream world with makeup to make it look identical to my real face. Then he had undone that disguise to return my dream face to its prior state. This by no means proves the magistrate’s one-sided story. I knew it–I’m definitely dreaming. That sure was a close call. It’s like I’ve been saying, my friend: we’re both in the middle of a dream now… Just then, the steel door opened with a creak. As I expected, the head prison guard silently entered carrying handcuffs, followed by the warden, skinny as a bird, and the prison chaplain who resembled a large potato wrapped in a gold brocade vestment. “If you’ll pardon me for interrupting you…” said the prison guard. “The time has come to execute the prisoner’s sentence, so Mr. Tomoeda, I’d like to ask you to leave.” My friend stood up abruptly from his chair. He embraced me, glaring at the others. “You mustn’t be afraid. Whatever anyone says, this is all part of a dream, even if you are about to climb the gallows. You mustn’t believe you’re actually going to die, because ultimately, you’re just dreaming about being executed. There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of…As soon as you get too uncomfortable, just wake up from this dream. I’m sure a moment later you’ll find yourself in a warm bed, hearing your children in the next room switching on the radio to listen to the morning calisthenics. Don’t stay there mulling about the terrible dream you just had; quickly jump out of bed so you aren’t late to work. Well then, if you’ll excuse me…” And with that, he left my prison cell. Yes, yes! I knew it was a dream! Gallows…bring on the gallows! === (English translation Copyright © 2019 by J. D. Wisgo) Please see for more information about J.D. Wisgo and his translations. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyA lot has been said about the movies made by the German director Uwe Boll. But in spite of much opposition he has been at his post since 1991, writing, producing and doing what he loves. asked him a few questions about the types of films he has made, and why he made them. Some of the movies relate to various historical periods, while others seem to be mere entertainment.  Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be a film director? Uwe Boll: Since I was 10 years old I wanted to be a film director. I started with super 8mm and BETA Video and short films and documentaries when I was in my teenage years. German Fried Movie was the first real movie I could do 1991 with a budget of 50.000$ on 35mm and it started my career.  You have a PhD. in literature, what was the subject of your thesis? Have you used any of this knowledge in the movie making business? Uwe Boll: I wrote about the development of storytelling in novels and series, and went deep into the history of that form. Directly using for my movies was not necessary but its always good to have a deep background in literature, film and TV history. Unfortunately a lot of young filmmakers have no idea….. their knowledge starts at Star Wars …or E.T.  You have based many of your films on video games. Why did you choose this particular approach? Uwe Boll: I made House of the Dead in 2003 and it made very good money and so I could only raise money for video game based movies…that was the only reason I made so many of them.  What is the difference between adapting, let’s say, a novel, and adapting a video game? Uwe Boll: A novel is normally pretty much clear about the story, emotions, storytelling etc. A game leaves a lot of that open. So you fill it in yourself and then the fans flip out on you because you CHANGED something. But in reality you filled the voids.  In your career you have worked with some very famous actors: Christian Slater, Jason Statham, Ray Liotta and others. What is your approach to directing, are you a hands off guy or do you micro-manage? Some of these actors would be very experienced? Uwe Boll: Most of them had a lot of experience and I let them do their job. They should show me in the first run through how they approach the scene or their character, and then if necessary I correct something.  This is a blog about history. So I have to ask you about your World War II movie about the nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz (2011). Why did you make this film? Uwe Boll: I felt that in times of fake news and after truth bullshit we need a real film showing what the holocaust actually was. Not the hero stories etc…just the killing. Because that was Auschwitz. 50% of the people who came with a train in were dead within 2 days. There is a lot of holocaust denial and I think those who watch my movie will get the reality stuck in their face.  You also made a film about the situation in Sudan called Darfur starring Billy Zane. There is an interesting dilemma presented in that movie: two journalists have to choose between reporting or helping victims. How and when did you get the idea to make this film? Uwe Boll: I felt that after Rwanda where the West didn’t help that in Sudan we should stop the genocide, but as always nobody did anything. No NATO troops stopped the genocide. 450.000 women, children, old people got hacked into pieces ….and nothing happened …. A crime.  You made a film called Tunnel Rats (2008) about soldiers during the Vietnam War. Don’t you think it is strange that there is so much focus on the perspective of the American soldiers, and  so little on the lives of the ordinary Vietnamese? Uwe Boll:Yes, I tried to show both sides in my film and also showed why America really lost the war. You could bomb the tunnels, but they were structurally sound….and of course the Vietnamese were fighting for EVERYTHING and the Americans had no clue why that war actually happened.  You are no stranger to controversy. You have gained a reputation as a sort of cult director. What would say has been the hardest part of the movie making process? Uwe Boll: Raising money and getting good distribution. To shoot the movies was always the fun part.   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyThere lived an old retired major in the hills of central Europe. No one knew in which armies he had fought, or which battles that had disfigured his wrinkled face. Some took for granted that he had supported the Nazis during the war. They barely knew his name, and only referred to him with contempt as “the grumpy old major”. His home was a log cabin, overlooking a valley that was often covered in mist. And when the rains and the wind darkened the evenings, the light from his window was a solitary gleam – like the eye of the mountains themselves – peering down on the village below. The major was thoroughly disliked because of his ferocious temper. He arrived in the afternoons, unshaven, stinking of sweat and alcohol, and then he would be very rude and cold – if he indeed he said something at all. The only creature on this earth that seemed to be good enough for the old major was his dog. No one knew the age of the creature, or even of the of the major himself. The dog walked with a proud skip in its steps, and he showered it with luxury and food. In the evenings the major would silently ponder the landscape from his vantage point. What his thoughts were, not even the dog could tell. There was never a visitor to the old cabin, but the major sometimes sobered up and cleared the path. He worked into the afternoons with a pick ax and shuffle. When he was done he would take a seat in a chair outside, and drink whiskey and smoke until he fell asleep where he sat. The evening chill would wake him and then he would withdraw to his bed. Sometimes when the major slept he would kick and scream, as he was struggling for his life. Then the dog would jump down from the bed, and lie down in a corner until he quieted down. When the major woke, he would be sweaty and confused, and then he would drink coffee, and then read a book til dawn penetrated the morning mist. The landscape around the village was vast and wild, and the major would limp up and down those isolated paths followed by his mute companion. In winter, blizzards would descend upon his outpost with terrifying violence. A lighted fireplace and piles of wood kept him warm. He stored canned food of various kinds, beans, spam, fish, and he salted meats to comfort himself. When the water froze he opened the door and collected snow in a bucket which he melted by the fire for his coffee. Sometimes, when he was in the mood, he dug deep into a wooden chest and found an old battery powered radio, and he would sit quietly, intensely concentrated, trying to move the antenna back and forth in order to make out those almost imperceptible voices that penetrated into his dominion from the world outside. But sometimes this proved impossible, and therefore he did not receive advance warning of the horrific storm of 1973. On 21 of October that year the heavens gave birth to the worst winds and heaviest snow fall seen in those parts. The other villagers never talked to the old major because they did not like him, and by the time storm had arrived, and he entered their thoughts, it was too late. They thought that the cabin on the hill has stood there for hundreds of years. Like the major himself it seemed carved out of the hillside. If he just sat quiet where he was, no harm could befall him. And they were right, and the old major knew it. He did what he normally did during winter storms, lighted his fire. The flames flickered, and when the shutters were secured, they filled the room with comfort, light and heat, while the Day of Judgment brewed outside. The old major was used to this, it had been his life, in every sense. He got up a bottle of whiskey, and sipped from a glass. His dog, however, was utterly terrified. It crawled under the table, and whined. The old major tried to reassure the creature, calm it with offers of treats, but the howl of the winds, the creaking walls and what seemed like an inexplicable drone from the heavens above frightened it, and it would take no food. The old major then got down on his knees under the table and sat next to the dog with his glass of whiskey. He looked at the dog, and for a while dog was calm. But then suddenly a tremendous gust blew the door open, filling the room with swirls of snow. The old major rushed to his feet, and struggled against the wind to shut it. When that was done, he noticed that the dog had fled into the night to seek refuge among the trees. First, he was overwhelmed with grief when the room was quiet. He looked at the empty space where the dog used to lie. Then his eyes were suddenly filled with defiance, an old soldier was returning to battle. He put on his thickest coat, and hat and scarf, grabbed an oil lamp and unlocked the door. So it was that the old major decided to take on the very spirits of the mountain to fight for his dog. He waded to his ankles in snow for a few hundred meters up the hill. He shouted, but his voice was inaudible. As he became removed from his cabin, he saw its light extinguish in the storm. And not soon after, the old major was overcome with fatigue and sat down under a tree. That is where the men from the village found his frozen body two days later. They did not have much sympathy for him because he had always been mean and yelled at them. The dog, however, was found alive in the shed outside. Everyone thought that this was the most faithful creature on earth which stayed so loyal to such a terrible person. It was brought down from the mountain, and given to a breeder, who made sure that it produced many litters, whose offspring still run around on the meadows in those parts. They say old majors die, but their dogs live on forever. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... 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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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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... [...]
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... [...]
history / literatureIn the second week of February 1949, 3 men were charged with provoking the death of over ten people in Ecuador. The method of their crime: creating a radio play based on H.G. Wells and then letting it loose on an unsuspecting public. It was an incident far more sinister than the panics that followed the 1938 broadcast in America when Orson Welles had first dramatised H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on radio. Not even the effect of a similar 1944 radio broadcast in Chile could compare when it came to the number of deaths and the level of devestation. On the fateful night of February 12’th, writers for Associated Press and Reuters reported back to the US and Britain: «The mob attacked and burned the building of the newspaper, El Comercio, which housed the radio station and killed fifteen persons and injured 15 others.» Fake news The radio broadcast was the brain child of Leonardo Paez (top photo), director of art at Radio Quito and Eduardo Alcaraz, the station’s dramatic director. The two had become familiar with the 1938 incident in America and the 1944 incident in Chile, which both caused widespread panic, but which also exposed the power of radio. In both those cases, it was announced ahead of schedule that the broadcast would be a fictional dramatisation. Leonardo Paez, a native of Quito, was not only a journalist, but also a singer, composer, poet and producer of radio. In an interview with El Dia, Alcaraz later said that he begged Paez to announce at the beginning of the broadcast that what followed was a dramatisation, but that Paez had dismissed him. Even so, someone had planted bogus UFO reports in the newspaper El Comercio in the weeks before the broadcast. At 21.00 the night of February 12’th, the normal musical broadcast began. Halfway into a song, the news team interupted without warning stating that an attack on Ecuador was underway. Panic erupted in the streets and police were dispatched to the alleged location of a martian invasion, the town of Cotocollao. The imaginary invasion was gradually to proceed from the town of Latacunga, 20 miles south of the capital Quito, where a poisonous gas cloud was reported to kill everything in its path. Actors immitating well known authority figueres then appeared on radio confirming the crisis. Appology not accepted When the station realised that chaos was breaking out, they announced the hoax on radio. The crowd then gathered outside the radio station throwing stones and setting fire to the building. According to the Associated Press there were over a hundred people in the building. Some escaped through the back door. Others sought refuge in the top floors, where some of them jumped from the roof to escape the flames. The army was then called in with teargas and tanks to disperse the crowd and allow the firemen to do their work. At the end of the evening, bodies lay silent in the street, and the injured were shipped off to hospital. The station managers protested their innocence saying they had been unaware of the planned hoax, and the minister of defense himself was called in to investigate the incidence. Punishment Ten people were detained the night of the riot, and several were later charged, among these Leonardo Paez, Eduardo Alcaraz and the actor Eduardo Palace. Eduardo Alcaraz had fled Quito, but was arrested later in the town of Ambato. Paez, however, had escaped that night from the burning building. Seeing that his route of retreat was cut off by an angry mob and the police, he found a way of escaping via an old conservatory. A truck then took him a property near Ibarra, and he laid low until his legal difficulties were solved. 6 years later he left Ecuador and made his way to Venezuela. Paez lost his girlfriend and his nephew to the chaos created by his own radioplay. They died in the riots. He would never return to Ecuador or be convicted of anything, but in 1982 he published his account of the radio play he broadcast on that Saturday evening in 1949. His book is called Los que siembran viento (Those who sow the wind). How could it happen? There has been much speculation about the causes of the panic that erupted after so many broadcasts of War of the Worlds, in the US, in Chile and in Ecuador. Just a year after the Welles broadcast the psychologist Hadley Cantril conducted a study of the effects of the radioshow in which he claimed that the cause of the confusion following the broadcast was the standards of judgment that people applied to the information they heard on radio. They simply trusted the new media of radio, and couldn’t believe that someone would deliberately lie to them. Seing the effectiveness of the broadcast as perhaps being too calculated, the writer Daniel Hopsicker even speculated that the 1938 broadcast was a psychological experiment funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, a conspiracy theory which was dismissed by Orson Welles. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureIn Nepal every school boy knows the name Laxmi Devkota (1909-59), author of the short Napelese epic Muna Madan. All over Himalaya his works are revered as classics, yet in Europe and the West his folk inspired narrative poems remain largely unknown. In a special interview one of his two surviving sons, Padma Devkota, explains the continuing attraction of his father’s stories, and why a tale like Muna Madan still fascinates today, almost 100 years after it was written. Why has Muna Madan become such a central work in Nepalese literature? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan remains a central work in Nepali literature for several reasons. Briefly, it is the first major Romantic work in Nepali literature which revolts against the age-long Sanskrit classical tradition and seeks to tell the story, as Professor Shreedhar Lohani observes in “Life, Love, and Death in Muna Madan,” of real people through lives of fictional characters, and to fictionalize real geographical space. This is the first work in Nepali literature which elevates the jhyaure song, an otherwise neglected cultural space, to a significant literary height. Next, it tells a story of the common Nepali people which remains realistically contemporary in the context of the international labor market which still attracts many indigent Nepali workers. It is a heart-rending tragedy written in a simple diction which even the illiterate people of Nepal easily understood. They found their own lives written all over the pages of this book. Even then, Poet Devkota himself was criticized by elitist writers as having done something that would mar his literary career. Muna Madan deals with issues like poverty and caste, to what extent are these issues in present day Nepal? Professor Padma Devkota: The caste system is not a central theme of Muna-Madan. It is mentioned only once in the course of the story when Madan’s overwhelming gratitude to the Good Samaritan figure, the Bhote, causes Madan to mention his own caste. Furthermore, the caste system itself was efficient at the time it was created. Later practices cast a slur on its original intent, which was simply a division of labor within a small, ancient community. Quite obviously it has outlasted its use in contemporary societies and the Government of Nepal has taken efficient action against all caste discriminations. However, even as poets and thinkers point up the correct path, human habits die hard. We now fear the rise of economic castes such as those that encrust capitalistic societies. I believe Nepal, especially after its secularization, has been more successful fighting the discriminatory caste system than it has succeeded in fighting poverty. Tell us a little about your father, Laxmi Prasad Devkota. What sort of man was he? Professor Padma Devkota: Laxmi Devkota is popular as Mahakavi (Great Poet/Epicist). The public was quick to recognize the exceptional qualities of a poet whose fifty-ninth book, The Witch Doctor and Other Essays, a collection of thirty essays written originally in English, appeared on November 11, 2017. There are several other documents waiting to be published. He wrote in practically all the genres of literature and excelled in poetry and essay. Initially, he wrote under the influence of his Sanskrit background and English education. He started out as a Romantic poet in the Nepali tradition but continually grew as a poet to a literary modernity which the bulk of his writings have shaped. As an intellectual, he participated in the socio-political life of the nation, which he loved with all his heart. As a writer, he had vision, imagination and mastery over the medium. He also raised his voice against colonialism, imperialism, discriminations and injustice. As a thinker, he asserted the necessity of scientific and logical thinking to counteract blind faith and orthodoxy which hindered progress. As a human being, he had the gift of compassion and empathy. Legends continue growing around the life of the poet. What kind of reception did Muna Mudan receive when it was published? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan is a long narrative poem written in the lyrical form called jhyaure in which learned people of the time found, as Devkota himself explains, “a low standard of rural taste, an inkling of distancing from civilization or of showiness or trace of ill-manners of the hills.” He tells us how the pundits “started wrinkling their nose” at the mention of jhyaure. For them, the merits of literature were with Kalidas and Bhavabhuti, the classical Sanskrit poets. For Devkota, they were not national poets and their literary output was not the Nepali national literature. So, he compares his situation to that of his predecessor, Bhanubhakta Acharya, the Adi Kavi or the First Poet of Nepal. During Bhanubhakta’s time, the elitists asked if it was possible to write poetry in Nepali. But Bhanubhakta used the Sanskrit classical meter and produced wonderful poetry in Nepali. Similarly, in Devkota’s time, the elitists asked if it was possible to write poetry in jhyaure. Devkota elevated the status of jhyaure by writing serious literature in this rhythm of the common heart. Quickly, Muna-Madan gained popularity and it still remains the best-seller even to this day.  There is a movie version of the novel, is this film faithful to the original text? Professor Padma Devkota: I would have to look at the movie again to tell you just how faithful it is. When I watched it for the first time years ago, I thought it was sufficiently faithful to the original text, but that is just a passing claim. Gaps, additions and interpretations of the movie need a more serious revisiting. Watch the movie trailer  Could you describe the literary style of that your father uses in his narrative? Is he a realist writer, a naturalist? A modernist? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan is a long narrative poem written with the ballad in mind. It uses a lyrical form called the jhyaure which was popular among people at work, especially in the paddy fields where young boys and girls teased each other with songs and fell in love. Although Devkota’s poem is tragic in essence in keeping with the eastern view of life, he insists on the importance of action, which alone can give significance to life. Throughout the poem, there are reversals of the imaginary and the real, of gender roles, of situations, and so on. The poem is romantic in vision, emotionally well-balanced and under full control of the writer. It uses fresh metaphors and images that have a lasting impression upon the mind of the reader. The work is popularly acclaimed as being simple, but simplicity of diction is counteracted by the poet’s imaginative flights that trail the syntax behind them. It is as if my father wanted to apply William Wordsworth’s famous poetic declaration in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads to Nepali literature: to write about real people in their own tongues. In trying to select a “language really used by men,” Devkota strikes gold and achieves a simplicity which stands in great contrast to the complexity he was later able to achieve in the epic language of Nepali Shakuntala, for instance. In terms of its revolt against the classical tradition and its attempt to speak in the simple language of the common people, Muna-Madan is modernist too. It does make a very powerful statement against discriminatory caste practices.  In which way does his novel fall into the narrative of Nepalese literary history? Professor Padma Devkota: Nepali derives from Pali, which derives from Sanskrit. Very early Nepali writers wrote devotional poetry in Sanskrit; but Bhanubhakta Acharya decided to freely translate Ramanyan into Nepali using the classical Sanskrit meters. He also wrote a few poems about the political and social issues of his time. Then came Motiram Bhatta and introduced the Urdu gazal and wrote many love poems. Lekhanath Poudyal stuck to the Sanskrit tradition but wrote a Nepali that gleamed with polished language. Balakrishna Sama, a playwright and a poet, looked westward and to science and philosophy. Laxmi Prasad Devkota introduced Romanticism and Modernity to Nepali literature. Briefly again, my father’s poetry is spontaneous, deeply felt, sincere and honest, and has a touch of spirituality in it. He loves his nation, but goes glocal. He finds his inspiration in the histories and mythologies of India, Greater India (Bharatvarsha), Greece, Rome and Nepal. For him, mythology offers a proper window into the hearts of the peoples of the world. For the human being must stand at the center of the universe. The human being is the only significantly worthy object of worship. And the poet remains a liberal humanist.  Why do you think Muna Madan is so little known in Europe? Professor Padma Devkota: No serious attempt has been made by the Nepalese Government to introduce its culture and literature to the Europeans, who don’t read Nepali anyway. And why should they? Nepal is not an economic or military giant. So, its richest cultural mine awaits discovery by individuals who wander in search of the best in world literature. Some such as Dom Moreas who met Devkota at his death-bed and reminisced him in Gone Away: An Indian Journal or David Rubin whose translations of Devkota’s poems appear under the title Nepali Visions, Nepali Dreams or Michael Hutt of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, who translated Muna-Madan are examples of Western scholars who have discovered him. More recently, international scholarship has grown around Devkota’s work. One such study, though peripheral to Muna-Madan, is that of Anna Stirr’s on “Sounding and Writing a Nepali Public Sphere: The Music and Language of Jhyaure” (Asian Music 46, 2015). Although Devkota himself started the tradition of translating his own works and those of his colleagues’ into English, and although he also started the tradition of writing serious literature originally in English, we have not been able to publicize it beyond the frontiers of our immediate neighbors.  Are there many foreign translations of the story? Professor Padma Devkota: Not as many as or as good as we would like to see. Some Nepali translators have attempted rendering Muna-Madan into English. Among them are my father’s brother, Madhusudhan Devkota, and Tirtha Man Tuladhar both of whom attempted a translation of this work in 1970. Ananda Shrestha’s rendering into English appeared in 1995. Foreigners, too, have tried to translate this work in their own ways. A. M. Syangden and Ganga Singh Rai form India attempted translating Muna-Madan in 1994 and 1996, respectively. Their major problem is with the language itself. Michael J. Hutt’s translation appeared in 1996. It remains the most noted version to this day. Liu Xian translated it into Chinese in 2011. Portions of the text have been translated into Russian, Korean, French, German and other European languages, too. All of them have translated from the original text of Muna-Madan, which is shorter by 399 lines from the text revised by the poet in 1958. This one remains to be translated by someone.     Click to buy an English translation “Muna Madan follows the life of Madan who leaves his wife , Muna,  and goes to Lhasa to make money, and while returning he becomes sick on the way. His friends leave him on the road and come back home saying he has died. The story also shows the life of a poor woman who suffered much without her husband and later dies because of grief. Finally he is rescued by a man who is considered to be of lower caste in Nepal. That is why it is said that a man is said to be great not by caste or race but by a heart full of love and humanity. When Madan returns to Kathmandu after regaining his health, he discovers that his wife is dead and becomes grief-stricken. Madan comes to realize that money is of no value at that point. In this poem, Devkota has written about the biggest problems in Nepalese society at the time.” (Wiki) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureIn his youth, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) wrote 6 poems in total. We publish 4 of them here with the permission of their translator Donald Rayfield. The poems are presented for educational purposes.   Untitled The rose’s bud had blossomed out Reaching out to touch the violet The lily was waking up And bending its head in the breeze High in the clouds the lark Was singing a chirrupping hymn While the joyful nightingale With a gentle voice was saying- ‘Be full of blossom, oh lovely land Rejoice Iverians’ country And you oh Georgian, by studying Bring joy to your motherland.’ by Joseph Stalin (“Soselo”)   Old Ninika Our Ninika has grown old His hero’s shoulders have failed him… How did this desolate grey hair Break an iron strength? Oh mother! Many a time With his ‘hyena’ sickle swinging, Bare-chested, at the end on the cornfield He must have suddenly burst out with a roar. He must have piled up mountains Of sheaves side by side, And on his face governed by dripping sweat Fire and smoke must have poured out. But now he can no longer move his knees, Scythed down by old age. He lies down or he dreams or he tells His children’s children of the past. From time to time he catches the sound Of singing in the nearby cornfields And his heart that was once so tough Begins to beat with pleasure. He drags himself out, trembling. He takes a few steps on is sheperd’s crook And, when he catches sight of the lads, He smiles with relief. by Joseph Stalin (“Soselo”)   To the Moon Move tirelessly Do not hang your head scatter the mist of the clouds The Lord’s providence is great.   Gently smile at the earth Stretched out beneath you; Sing a lullaby to the glacier Strung down from the heavens. Know for certain that once Struck down to the ground, an oppressed man Strives again to reach the pure mountain, When exalted by hope.   So, lovely moon, as before Glimmer through the clouds; Pleasantly in the azure vault Make your beams play.   But I shall undo my vest And thrust out my chest to the moon, With outstreched arms, I shall revere The spreader of light upon the earth! by Joseph Stalin (“Soselo”)   To Raphael Eristavi When the laments of the toiling peasants Had moved you to tears of pity, You groaned to the heavens, oh Bard, Placed at the head of the people’s heads; When the people’s welfare Had pleasantly exalted you, You made your strings sweetly sound, Like a man sent forth by heaven; When you sang hymns to the motherland, That was your love, For her your harp brought forth A heart enraputuring twang…. Then oh Bard, a Georgian Would listen to you as to a heavenly monument And for your labours and woes of the past Has crowned you with the present. Your words have in his heart Now put down roots; Reap, grey-haired saint, What you sowed in your youth; For a sickle, use the people’s Heartfelt cry in the air: ‘Hurray for Raphael! May there be many Sons like thee in the fatherland!!’ by Joseph Stalin (“Soselo”) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyA controversial row is dividing Norwegian and European historians and researchers these days: decolonization of academia. What does it actually mean? Some seem to think that it is a matter of giving credit where credit is due; to all the unsung heroes of non-western background who have been suppressed or banned from official accounts. Others see it as an attempt to introduce non-scientific methodology in areas where it cannot possibly do good, in medicine or the natural sciences. We talked with an outspoken proponent of decolonization, the historian of ideas Dag Herbjørnsrud, and asked him to specify what the movement is trying to do.  When did this movement of decolonization start, and why has it become an issue now? Dag Herbjørnsrud: The event that sparked much of the current decolonial debates was the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town, on April 9th, 2015. One student, Chumani Mawele, started the protest exactly one month earlier, arguing that the “The Thinker”-looking statue of the colonizer, one of the founders of the apartheid ideology, does not represent him nor the students of today’s South Africa. The students started the peaceful civil disobedience campaign #RhodesMustFall – and after a month of discussion, the Council of the university conceded. Later, the students expanded the campaign to include the right to affordable education. The decolonize campaign spread to Europe as well: At the University of Cambridge, a group of scholars began discussing how one could “decolonize” its English literature syllabus last year – not only focusing on the texts of white males. Academics around the world are now asking: Is the Canon we teach really a selection of the best texts available? And: Is the history of the different disciplines presented in a neutral, scientific way, or how much of the colonial and biased legacy from the last couple of hundred years is still present? Oxford University Press is now establishing the “New Histories of Philosophies” series with professor Christia Mercer and Melvin Rogers as editors. London University has started to offer the course “World Philosophies,” and Dr Meera Sabaratnam was the one who held the introduction at the seminar on “Decolonising the Academy” in Oslo, June 8th. In Norway, a “Decolonial Research Group”  was set up at The Norwegian University of Science and Techology some months ago, a platform for discussing “the legacies of colonialism from ethical, sociotechnical, literary, and cultural perspectives.” They recently held their first public workshop in Trondheim, and soon after, the student organization SAIH (The Students and Academics International Assistance Fund) did a very well attended seminar in Oslo. This fall, several books are published internationally: One of them is the anthology “Decolonising the University” (Pluto Press); Sussex-professor Gurminder K. Bhambra is one of the editors.  I studied postcolonial literature in the 90s, what is different now? Dag Herbjørnsrud: You’re right: Decolonization might look like postcolonial studies all over again. And of course, classics like Edward D. Said’s Orientalism (1978), Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak” (1988), and Samir Amin’s Eurocentrism (1988) are an important background for today’s development. Still, I would say that the decolonizing concept brings new energy to the debates: Instead of a narrative where “postcolonial” succeeds the colonial era, a bit like Neo-romanticism arises as a consequence of Romanticism, the concept of decolonizing rather makes us think: No, we need to reject the colonial ideology altogether. We need decolonize! The problem is the ideological colonial narrative that is all around us. The task is to erase the colonial legacy from our mind sets – in order to get a more balanced and scientific approach to our past and present. In other words: Decolonising the Mind. That is also the title of a book published in 1986 by the Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o. His main concern was language; the right to speak, write, and use one’s native language instead of only colonial languages like English. I think Thiongo’s concept has this transcending power that could be applied to most of the Academy of today. In 1999, New Zealand professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith published Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People. This is a ground-breaking book that uses the Maori experience with the colonial system in order to bring us forward toward a more non-colonial and global perspective. As I see it, there are often one or more of these three demands when it comes to decolonizing: 1) A more balanced presentation of the world’s scientific history within the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. The Academy should not only be based on a Eurocentric or Protestant/Catholic narrative. 2) A less Oriental account of the world outside Western Europe/the US. For the last decades this region has been given the mythological name “the Western Countries,” seemingly meaning “white”, but too often the complexity and diversity of Europe and the US are not acknowledged. 3) A more subject critical evaluation of what we study, and why. In several disciplines today, European men have been canonized and given quotas just because one has not bothered to look for earlier or better writers and scholars. There are other perspectives as well. Student organizations have been working in order to help establish the Indigenous University in Colombia – and last year the Native and Afro-descendant Peoples of Abya Yala thanked a number of Norwegian institutions for their support. So, decolonizing can mean different things depending on the discipline, the place, and the context. But I think the most contributions can be included in the three points above.  You have written a book called Global Knowledge. Renaissance for a New Enlightenment (2016, new edition in 2018). Why did you decide to write this work? Dag Herbjørnsrud: After some twenty years in the media, and some three co-authored books, I got a bit tired of all the myths and simplifications in the media and the academy. So, instead of asking others to give a non-colonial presentation of the world’s global knowledge – arguing for a new Renaissance – I just wrote the book myself. I founded Center for Global and Comparative History on April 6th, 2015, three days before Chumani Mawele started his more successful campaign in South Africa. In May 2016, just before I was to turn in my manuscript of my book, Bryan W. Van Norden and Jay L. Garfield published a column in the New York Times arguing for diversity, and this column resulted in the book Taking Back Philosophy. A Multicultural Manifesto (2017). So, I guess you might say that these topics of diversity, global perspectives, and non-colonial thinking were in the air several places in the world.  Could you give us some examples of characters that have been neglected by official historians? Dag Herbjørnsrud: Oh, that would take weeks. But of the English texts I have published on these matters, I could mention the Aeon essay “The African Enlightenment”: It covers the Ethiopian rationalist philosopher Zera Yacob (1599–1672) and his student Walda Heywat. In his book, The Inquiry (1667), Zera Yacob argues against all religious laws that are contrary to reason, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Indian. He argues against laws that says menstruating women are impure, as it “impedes marriage and the entire life of a woman, and it spoils the law of mutual help, prevents the bringing up of children and destroys love.” Zera Yacob stated that woman and man are “equal in marriage,” and he put forward a universal argument against slavery and discrimination “All men are equal in the presence of God; and all are intelligent, since they are his creatures; he did not assign one people for life, another for death, one for mercy, another for judgment. Our reason teaches us that this sort of discrimination cannot exist.” This is far beyond anything Kant wrote, a hundred years later. The Aeon text became one of the most shared essays on the web last December/January, and it was translated and published in some of the foremost papers and magazines in Brazil, Iran, and Italy. So, it seems that there might become a global awakening. More people understand that the human culture has produced so much more exciting than the ethnocentric and national canons we have been fed. The Aeon text also covers Anton Wilhelm Amo (ca. 1703–1755), who was born and died in today’s Ghana. As a young child he was brought to Germany – and he ended up teaching philosophy at Halle and Wittenberg and writing treatises in Latin. One could of course mention hundreds of names from the Chinese, Indian, Arab, African, and Latin American cultures who have contributed to the world heritage. When it comes to the natural sciences more recently, I would like to mention the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose (1894–1974) whose work on quantum mechanics provided the foundation for Bose-Einstein condensate.  Bose’s contribution was misrepresented in the curriculum at the University of Oslo, and I’m glad the result of the discussion is that he is given due credit for his important work. Bose’s article was actually rejected in the UK, so he sent it to Albert Einstein, who immediately recognized his genius derivation of Planck’s law. Einstein translated the text from English into German, and Bose got it published. The rest is history. When it comes to the theory of evolution, I think it should be common knowledge to know that Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) – who also can be named a founder of sociology – proclaimed that humans descend from apes: “The higher stage of man is reached from the world of monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking.” When it comes to history, I think it is important to know that The Battle of Vienna (1683) – and the rest of European history for that matter – never was a clash of civilizations between Christianity and Islam. My second Aeon essay, “The Real Battle of Vienna”, highlighted how the Sunni Muslim Tatars of Lithuania and Poland have been vital for the defense of their countries from 1397 and until the Nazi invasion in WWII. In general, the encyclopedias, the media, or the standard text books do not mention such facts; maybe such facts are not deemed as important, but they are.  What about this argument presented by your opponents that SAIH will introduce dangerous medical treatements or perhaps set back the progress of research? Dag Herbjørnsrud: Those accusations against SAIH and others are way off target. True, The Daily Mail and other UK colonial defenders have had some vicious attacks on the students who wanted to mention Kant’s racism and terrible views upon women. But the claims from some academics and media pundits have been rather embarrassing for the image of Scandinavian debate. Wouldn’t decolonization have to take into account the peculiarities of each academic discipline? Can we have a decolonization of medical science, for instance? Dag Herbjørnsrud: Yes, one has to be precise. And medical faculty postdoc Tony Sandset has stressed exactly that point. According to Maren Sæbø, a journalist and historian specializing in African affairs, the medical research institutions do not prioritize sickle-cell disease, of which 80 percent of the cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. That is one way to decolonize medical science – to give priority also to the health problems among minorities in rich countries and to diseases in countries that have been colonized. In addition, I think all medical students should be taught that the Persian polymath Ibn Sina (980–1037) wrote The Canon of Medicine (1025) – which was the standard medical textbook in Europe for over five hundred years, until the 18th century. If the upcoming doctors and researchers know that they are following in the footsteps of a Muslim from today’s Uzbekistan, the father of modern medicine, I think that will have positive effect on attitudes and actions as well.  Another argument presented by your opponents is that you, by adding to the official canon, will push out familiar faces. These characters, some claim, are essential for understanding our own history? Dag Herbjørnsrud: That is a valid point to discuss. One answer would be: Look at the books written by professor Arne Næss for exphil (the introductory courses at the Norwegian universities) in 1953. He did not push out familiar faces even though he included Chinese, Indian, and Arab philosophers. It is the Canon of the last decades that has become more narrow and ethnocentric. For example, Goethe was inspired by the Persian poet Hafez, dedicating one of his latest major works (West-Eastern Divan) to him. Both Martin Buber and Martin Heidegger translated and utilized the thinking of the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi in their writings. The British translated a lot of Indian texts into English while they occupied/colonized India. I would say such things changed for the worse after WWII. Ironically, when the former colonies became politically independent states, the former colonizers seem to have lost interest in their intellectual production. So, the political decolonization did not result in a mental decolonization. Take a look at the historian William McNeill’s bestseller The Rise of the West. A History of the Human Community (1963). It neglected or Orientalized the world beyond “the West”. But in 1991, in a new foreword, McNeill admitted that his former scope and conception was “intellectual imperialism,” an expression of “the postwar imperial mood”, and a result of “residual Eurocentrism.” Unfortunately, not too many are as self-critical as him. When history is written it may trace either chronology or influence. Some ideas emerge, only to be forgotten and then re-appear at a later date. It is the same in nature, the eye has been re-invented many times by evolution. Could you give us example of such an idea, and tell us why it is important to study these historical «dead ends»? Dag Herbjørnsrud: One example is the atheistic and secular school of India, Lokayata (also known as Carvaka). It is the world’s oldest known atheistic and materialistic thinking, more than 2500 years old. We have texts about such natural thinkers, like Jayarasi in the 8th century and the Muslim Mughal emperor Akbar in the 1580s. But atheism became a “dead end” during colonial times – the 17th–20th centuries were actually very religious. I think atheism/Lokayata is an example of an idea/school that can reappear more forcefully now in the 21st century. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya’s collection on this is so great – and just a week ago, Ethan Mills published a very exciting book on a closely related topic, scepticism, namely Three Pilars of Scepticism in Classical India.  Some claim that decolonization should only be relevant for certain cultural spheres. The Chinese, for instance, should perhaps be allowed to use their own thinkers instead of the western ones. What are your specific goals with decolonization? Are you trying to change our common global knowledge, or are you calling for more space for individuality? Dag Herbjørnsrud: I’m trying to change, or rather improve, our common global knowledge. I think we need to expand our knowledge both in its breadth and in its depth. A hundred or two hundred years ago, the educated people were proud to know about the world. For the last decades, it seems like we in Europe have become less interested in the global history if ideas. The global perspectives of Arne Næss was removed from the curriculum lists, and the UiO master program of both the history of ideas and cultural history has been defined purely as part of “European culture”. This idea of “cultural spheres”, that only the Chinese should know about the Chinese, is really new and dangerous. Yes, Europeans still know about the peace message of Gandhi and Mandela – but there is so much more – like the cosmopolitan “universal love” philosophy of the Chinese thinker Mozi (3rd c BCE). Luckily, people in Africa and Asia get to know about Europe, but it is dangerous that Europeans in general are not taught much about the rest of the world – at least not in a non-Oriental or non-colonial way. This narrowness feeds extremists and populists. In his main work of 1543, Copernicus proudly quoted Arab scientists and stated that he relied on Egyptian calculations and Indian numbers. Such pre-colonial world-views are seldom these days. But I still believe in change.So many excellent academics are working for the better – for example Peter Frankopan, check his bestseller The Silk Roads (2015), and Wendy L Belcher, Sarah E. Bond, Dorothy Kim, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Peter Adamson, and Chike Jeffers. Why do you think there has been so much opposition to the decolonization project within Norwegian academia? Dag Hebjørnsrud: One reason is that some scholars feel threatened. After all, the philosophy departments in Norway basically teach philosophy only within a European Catholic-Protestant tradition. So, Europeans like the Muslim Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides – both from what is now Spain and born in the 12th century – are excluded. Ibn Rushd was included in the Canon by both Dante in 1320 and by the painter Raphael in 1511, but now, he’s not presented as a European anymore. In addition, Norwegians have for generations been taught that they have been “colonized” by Danish and Swedes. Norway’s unions with its neighboring countries had nothing to do with colonialism, of course. But Norwegians are not being taught that Norway was heavily involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade; shipping over 100,000 Africans to the Danish-Norwegian colonies in Ghana and in the Caribbean (St. Thomas, St John, and St Croix) from 1672 to 1814. And it’s not yet part of general knowledge to acknowledge that the Sami people for centuries have been treated in a colonial way by the state, like the indigenous people in Canada or the Maoris in New Zealand. Without facing such facts or realizing the historical suppression of the Jews and the Roma people, it will also be hard to face such a debate on decolonizing the Academy.  Let us say that you are successful in your efforts. What will be different in our western academia? Dag Herbjørnsrud: Well, it’s not about me; it’s about us. What kind of academia would we like? Several loud voices seem to fancy a more nationalist, ethnocentric, and colonial curriculum – based on a white identity ideology. I would prefer a more balanced, global, scientific, and non-ideological presentation of the past and the present. In short: decolonized and non-colonized reading lists. There is a long way to go. But there is still hope. Dag Herbjørnsrud is the author of  Global Knowledge. Renaissance for a New Enlightenment (2016, new edition in 2018), a work hailed as “An enormously important project” by Norwegian social anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen. The book is a journey into the history of ideas, from India’s secular lokayata-philosophy, via Copernicus and the woman who wrote the world’s very first novel, to The Matrix.  Relevant links: “The African Enlightenment”, an essay by Dag Herbjørnsrud  “The Real Battle of Vienna”, an essay by Dag Herbjørnsrud “Den Muslimske Darwin”, a Norwegian article by Dag Herbjørnsrud (translation: The Muslim Darwin”) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyWhen Mohammad died in 632, most of the Arabian peninsula had converted to his new religion. Soon a rapid expansion of the faith across most of North Africa followed, untill a caliphate was established. During the Middle Ages, Islam became the sworn enemy of Christian Europe. Even so, it is through Islamic custodianship that much of the legacy of classical Antiquity survived.  The animosity between cultures seems to have reached a new peak in the wake of the war on terror following 9/11. Today, there is hardly a more controversial historical figure than the prophet Muhammad, the man who, in 610 A.D., at the age of 40, sought refuge in a mountain cave and was visited by the angel Gabriel. We talked with a well-known moderate, British proponent of interfaith dialogues, Methodist and historian, Martin Forward.  We asked him to introduce Muhammad to those of us unfamiliar with his life. You have studied Muhammad and written a short biography of the man, what attracted you to this subject? Muhammad has had a very bad press in the west as a false prophet, an epileptic, a cardinal who went bad and founded another religion out of spite, and a host of other bad things. These criticisms arose in part out of people dissing what they fear. Islam was a threat to Europe’s Christian identity for over 1,000 years: as late as 1683, Ottoman Turks laid siege to the gates of Vienna. But they also arose out of a genuine puzzlement: why, Christians thought, did Muslims need another religious founder after Jesus? Why could they not accept him and his religion? So I found him a fascinating figure and wanted to see what I thought of him. Writing it out helped that process! In the West, we often compare Muhammad to Jesus, but how fair is that comparison? Muslims compare Jesus with Muhammad. For Muslims, Jesus is a prophet, Messiah and son of Mary (but not of God). Christians, as I have said, often regard Muhammad as a fraud, though there is no obligation, in their religion, to have a point of view about Muhammad at all, since he post-dates it. Understandably, Muslims are often disappointed that Christians can’t find fine things to say about Muhammad when they themselves hold Jesus in high regard. Equally understandable, Christians are disappointed that Muslims high regard for Jesus misses (from their perspective) the important point about him and his role in salvation.  Do all Muslims have the same view of Muhammad? Are there differences within sects or traditions? There are different views but they’ve been submerged by the dominant one. An early view, that of the Mutazilites, didn’t see him as a passive recipient of an inerrant scripture but gave him a much more positive role in its manufacture. There views were quickly abandoned as innovative, though they re-emerge in the writings of Muslim modernists in Egypt and India (e.g. Syed Ameer Ali’s “The Spirit of Islam”) Shiahs tend to emphasize Muhammad as a charismatic leader whose descendants may inherit some of that spiritual power, whereas Sunnis are more cautious about this. But the vast majority have the view that he is the last and greatest prophet, after whom there will be no more prophets. What sources do we have about his life, and how reliable are these sources? The Qur’an and the hadith (traditions). Muslims and until recently, western scholars of Islam, have taken a conservative view of these and see them as closely linked to the historical life of the prophet and as reliable guides to it. But radical recent western historians now often regard the Qur’an as a work that wasn’t fixed and finalized until many years after Muhammad’s death. Muslims don’t accept this, but the evidence is quite compelling that, e.g., some of the Qur’an is post-Muhammad. (John Wansbrough and Patricia Crone are famous exponents of this view).  What sort of a man was he? Was he an educated man? Many Muslims believe him to have been illiterate and this has the advantage of highlighting the miracle of the Qur’an and its divine provenance. Since he was a member of a distinguished clan, and the husband of a wealthy businesswoman, Khadijah, it’s likely that he was able to read and write (though, as I say, many Muslims don’t believe so,) and to do basic math.  We often hear that Muhammad was a military man, and that as such he cannot be worthy of being praised. How should we deal with this issue? How do Muslims deal with it? Islam was the most successful religion of all, in its infancy. Within a few years, it had destroyed the Persian Empire, and vastly reduced the territories of the Byzantine Empire. Within a century Muslims controlled much of the Middle East and North Africa, and had entered Europe as conquerors through the Iberian peninsula. Islam’s success was based on military power. This isn’t a problem for Muslims, God being on the side of the righteous, though it conflicts with views of Jesus as the prince of peace. To Christians, Muhammad seems to be a violent sort of prophet. To many Muslims, Jesus seems to have been an unsuccessful one, dying before he could implement his vision in any concrete ways. Describe for us the sort of tribal culture he was born into? He was born into a distinguished clan, the Quraysh. Clan life was originally desert based and gave its members an identity and a loyalty. You could, e.g., raid another clan but not your own. Mecca, the town where he was born, was on the silk route. Many scholars suggest that greedy capitalism was beginning to subvert tribal values at the time of Muhammad, and see this as the background to the Qur’an’s condemnation of those who oppress the poor and needy. How did Muhammad regard women? This is a minefield. He had many wives, and had them veiled out of respect, though he didn’t require other women to be veiled. He limited wives to four, for others, and some Muslims claim polygamy was a concession to circumstances, to protect and look after widows of the Muslims who died fighting against pagan Meccans. One of his wives, Ayesha, was very young, and his marriage to her nowadays would be regarded as pedophilia. But it wasn’t a problem then, if you compare it with practices in Greek and other cultures.  There is the very difficult topic of Muhammad’s relationship with the Jews. How should we today interpret his military actions against Jews? Muhammad saw them as thorns in his side, preventing him from implementing his vision; fifth-columnists, if you like. He acted as leaders of his day did, removing them in a ruthless fashion. But he wasn’t a modern anti-Semite, regarding Jews as intrinsically sub-human. In the Middle Ages, Jews often did pretty well under Muslim rule, as opposed to Christian rule. Why is it so important for some Muslims that we don’t show artistic representations of Muhammad. Like Jews, (but unlike Christians) Muslims believe that God is incomparably beyond our power to depict him artistically or in any other way. Muhammad is the messenger of God. and so should be afforded the same courtesy.  What do the sources say about his appearance? Do we know anything about what he actually looked like? I summarize his appearance in my book. There I write: “He was of average height or a little taller. He was strongly built. His complexion was fair. He had a hooked nose, and black eyes flecked with brown. He had a good head of hair, and was bearded. He had a large mouth, which occasionally broke into a warm smile. His was a mobile body: he turned his whole self to look at somebody, spoke rapidly and to the point, and was often in a rush.” Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyn the year 1841, there resided, at different points in the State of Illinois, three brothers by the name of Trailor. Their Christian names were William, Henry and Archibald. Archibald resided at Springfield, then as now the seat of Government of the State. He was a sober, retiring, and industrious man, of about thirty years of age; a carpenter by trade, and a bachelor, boarding with his partner in business—a Mr. Myers. Henry, a year or two older, was a man of like retiring and industrious habits; had a family, and resided with it on a farm, at Clary’s Grove, about twenty miles distant from Springfield in a northwesterly direction. William, still older, and with similar habits, resided on a farm in Warren county, distant from Springfield something more than a hundred miles in the same northwesterly direction. He was a widower, with several children. In the neighborhood of William’s residence, there was, and had been for several years, a man by the name of Fisher, who was somewhat above the age of fifty; had no family, and no settled home; but who boarded and lodged a while here and a while there, with persons for whom he did little jobs of work. His habits were remarkably economical, so that an impression got about that he had accumulated a considerable amount of money. In the latter part of May, in the year mentioned, William formed the purpose of visiting his brothers at Clary’s Grove and Springfield; and Fisher, at the time having his temporary residence at his house, resolved to accompany him. They set out together in a buggy with a single horse. On Sunday evening they reached Henry’s residence, and stayed overnight. On Monday morning, being the first Monday of June, they started on to Springfield, Henry accompanying them on horseback. They reached town about noon, met Archibald, went with him to his boardinghouse, and there took up their lodgings for the time they should remain. After dinner, the three Trailors and Fisher left the boardinghouse in company, for the avowed purpose of spending the evening together in looking about the town. At supper, the Trailors had all returned, but Fisher was missing, and some inquiry was made about him. After supper, the Trailors went out professedly in search of him. One by one they returned, the last coming in after late teatime, and each stating that he had been unable to discover anything of Fisher. The next day, both before and after breakfast, they went professedly in search again, and returned at noon, still unsuccessful. Dinner again being had, William and Henry expressed a determination to give up the search, and start for their homes. This was remonstrated against by some of the boarders about the house, on the ground that Fisher was somewhere in the vicinity, and would be left without any conveyance, as he and William had come in the same buggy. The remonstrance was disregarded, and they departed for their homes respectively. Up to this time, the knowledge of Fisher’s mysterious disappearance had spread very little beyond the few boarders at Myers’, and excited no considerable interest. After the lapse of three or four days, Henry returned to Springfield, for the ostensible purpose of makings further search for Fisher. Procuring some of the boarders, he, together with them and Archibald, spent another day in ineffectual search, when it was again abandoned, and he returned home. No general interest was yet excited. On the Friday, week after Fisher’s disappearance, the Postmaster at Springfield received a letter from the Postmaster nearest William’s residence, in Warren County, stating that William had returned home without Fisher, and was saying, rather boastfully, that Fisher was dead, and had willed him his money, and that he had got about fifteen hundred dollars by it. The letter further stated that William’s story and conduct seemed strange, and desired the Postmaster at Springfield to ascertain and write what was the truth in the matter. The Postmaster at Springfield made the letter public, and at once, excitement became universal and intense. Springfield, at that time, had a population of about 3,500, with a city organization. The Attorney General of the State resided there. A purpose was forthwith formed to ferret out the mystery, in putting which into execution, the Mayor of the city and the Attorney General took the lead. To make search for, and, if possible, find the body of the man supposed to be murdered, was resolved on as the first step. In pursuance of this, men were formed into large parties, and marched abreast, in all directions, so as to let no inch of ground in the vicinity remain unsearched. Examinations were made of cellars, wells, and pits of all descriptions, where it was thought possible the body might be concealed. All the fresh, or tolerably fresh graves in the graveyard, were pried into, and dead horses and dead dogs were disintered, where, in some instances, they had been buried by their partial masters. This search, as has appeared, commenced on Friday. It continued until Saturday afternoon without success, when it was determined to dispatch officers to arrest William and Henry, at their residences, respectively. The officers started on Sunday morning; meanwhile, the search for the body was continued, and rumors got afloat of the Trailors having passed, at different times and places, several gold pieces, which were readily supposed to have belonged to Fisher. On Monday, the officers sent for Henry, having arrested him, arrived with him. The Mayor and Attorney Gen’l took charge of him, and set their wits to work to elicit a discovery from him. He denied, and denied, and persisted in denying. They still plied him in every conceivable way, till Wednesday, when, protesting his own innocence, he stated that his brothers, William and Archibald, had murdered Fisher; that they had killed him, without his (Henry’s) knowledge at the time, and made a temporary concealment of his body; that, immediately preceding his and William’s departure from Springfield for home, on Tuesday, the day after Fisher’s disappearance, William and Archibald communicated the fact to him, and engaged his assistance in making a permanent concealment of the body; that, at the time he and William left professedly for home, they did not take the road directly, but, meandering their way through the streets, entered the woods at the northwest of the city, two or three hundred yards to the right of where the road they should have travelled, entered them; that, penetrating the woods some few hundred yards, they halted and Archibald came a somewhat different route, on foot, and joined them; that William and Archibald then stationed him (Henry) on an old and disused road that ran near by, as a sentinel, to give warning of the approach of any intruder; that William and Archibald then removed the buggy to the edge of a dense brush thicket, about forty yards distant from his (Henry’s) position, where, leaving the buggy, they entered the thicket, and in a few minutes returned with the body, and placed it in the buggy; that from his station he could and did distinctly see that the object placed in the buggy was a dead man, of the general appearance and size of Fisher; that William and Archibald then moved off with the buggy in the direction of Hickox’s mill pond, and after an absence of half an hour, returned, saying they had put him in a safe place; that Archibald then left for town, and he and William found their way to the road, and made for their homes. At this disclosure, all lingering credulity was broken down, and excitement rose to an almost inconceivable height. Up to this time the well-known character of Archibald had repelled and put down all suspicions as to him. Till then, those who were ready to swear that a murder had been committed, were almost as confident that Archibald had had no part in it. But now, he was seized and thrown into jail; and indeed, his personal security rendered it by no means objectionable to him. And now came the search for the brush thicket, and the search of the mill pond. The thicket was found, and the buggy tracks at the point indicated. At a point within the thicket, the signs of a struggle were discovered, and a trail from thence to the buggy track was traced. In attempting to follow the track of the buggy from the thicket, it was found to proceed in the direction of the mill pond, but could not be traced all the way. At the pond, however, it was found that a buggy had been backed down to, and partially into the water’s edge. Search was now to be made in the pond; and it was made in every imaginable way. Hundreds and hundreds were engaged in raking, fishing, and draining. After much fruitless effort in this way, on Thursday morning the mill dam was cut down, and the water of the pond partially drawn off, and the same processes of search again gone through with. About noon of this day, the officer sent for William, returned having him in custody; and a man calling himself Dr. Gilmore, came in company with them. It seems that the officer arrested William at his own house, early in the day on Tuesday, and started to Springfield with him; that after dark awhile, they reached Lewiston, in Fulton County, where they stopped for the night; that late in the night this Dr. Gilmore arrived, stating that Fisher was alive at his house, and that he had followed on to give the information, so that William might be released without further trouble; that the officer, distrusting Dr. Gilmore, refused to release William, but brought him on to Springfield, and the doctor accompanied them. On reaching Springfield, the doctor re-asserted that Fisher was alive, and at his house. At this, the multitude for a time, were utterly confounded. Gilmore’s story was communicated to Henry Trailor, who without faltering, reaffirmed his own story about Fisher’s murder. Henry’s adherence to his own story was communicated to the crowd, and at once the idea started, and became nearly, if not quite universal, that Gilmore was a confederate of the Trailors, and had invented the tale he was telling, to secure their release and escape. Excitement was again at its zenith. About three o’clock the same evening, Myers, Archibald’s partner, started with a two-horse carriage, for the purpose of ascertaining whether Fisher was alive, as stated by Gilmore, and if so, of bringing him back to Springfield with him. On Friday a legal examination was gone into before two Justices, on the charge of murder against William and Archibald. Henry was introduced as a witness by the prosecution, and on oath re-affirmed his statements, as heretofore detailed, and at the end of which he bore a thorough and rigid cross-examination without faltering or exposure. The prosecution also proved, by a respectable lady, that on the Monday evening of Fisher’s disappearance, she saw Archibald, whom she well knew, and another man whom she did not then know, but whom she believed at the time of testifying to be William, (then present,) and still another, answering the description of Fisher, all enter the timber at the northwest of town, (the point indicated by Henry,) and after one or two hours, saw William and Archibald return without Fisher. Several other witnesses testified, that on Tuesday, at the time William and Henry professedly gave up the search for Fisher’s body, and started for home, they did not take the road directly, but did go into the woods, as stated by Henry. By others, also, it was proved, that since Fisher’s disappearance, William and Archibald had passed rather an unusual number of gold pieces. The statements heretofore made about the thicket, the signs of a struggle, the buggy tracks, &c., were fully proven by numerous witnesses. At this the prosecution rested. Dr. Gilmore was then introduced by the defendants. He stated that he resided in Warren county, about seven miles distant from William’s residence; that on the morning of William’s arrest, he was out from home, and heard of the arrest, and of its being on a charge of the murder of Fisher; that on returning to his own house, he found Fisher there; that Fisher was in very feeble health, and could give no rational account as to where he had been during his absence; that he (Gilmore) then started in pursuit of the officer, as before stated; and that he should have taken Fisher with him, only that the state of his health did not permit. Gilmore also stated that he had known Fisher for several years, and that he had understood he was subject to temporary derangement of mind, owing to an injury about his head received in early life. There was about Dr. Gilmore so much of the air and manner of truth, that his statement prevailed in the minds of the audience and of the court, and the Trailors were discharged, although they attempted no explanation of the circumstances proven by the other witnesses. On the next Monday, Myers arrived in Springfield, bringing with him the now famed Fisher, in full life and proper person. Thus ended this strange affair and while it is readily conceived that a writer of novels could bring a story to a more perfect climax, it may well be doubted whether a stranger affair ever really occurred. Much of the matter remains in mystery to this day. The going into the woods with Fisher, and returning without him, by the Trailors; their going into the woods at the same place the next day, after they professed to have given up the search; the signs of a struggle in the thicket, the buggy tracks at the edge of it; and the location of the thicket, and the signs about it, corresponding precisely with Henry’s story, are circumstances that have never been explained. William and Archibald have both died since—William in less than a year, and Archibald in about two years after the supposed murder. Henry is still living, but never speaks of the subject. It is not the object of the writer of this to enter into the many curious speculations that might be indulged upon the facts of this narrative; yet he can scarcely forbear a remark upon what would, almost certainly, have been the fate of William and Archibald, had Fisher not been found alive. It seems he had wandered away in mental derangement, and, had he died in this condition, and his body been found in the vicinity, it is difficult to conceive what could have saved the Trailors from the consequence of having murdered him. Or, if he had died, and his body never found, the case against them would have been quite as bad, for, although it is a principle of law that a conviction for murder shall not be had, unless the body of the deceased be discovered, it is to be remembered, that Henry testified that he saw Fisher’s dead body. Published by Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1846 Listen to a reading of the story:   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyBy Margie Harris, Racketeer Stories, February 1931 (Courtesy of John Locke. His collection of her stories is available from Amazon) It’s a hell of a thing to be waiting for the rubber hose in your B.V.D.’s and suddenly see yourself looking into your cell at you, with blood all over your face! horty Breen, get-away driver for the Bull Coleman gang, was keenly alive to the trouble hunch which had been riding him all afternoon. So it needed but the touch of heavy fingers on his shoulder to send him jerking, leaping, twisting through the crowd on Fourteenth Street. His first spring carried him through a group of chattering women. In a few seconds more he was clattering down the steps of the subway. Behind him was the usual chorus of “Stop, thief!” but over all resounded the bull-like roar of Police Captain McGrehan. An express train was standing in the station. Shorty dropped a nickel in the turnstile, dashed aboard as the doors closed. Damn McGrehan anyway. Two nights before he’d caught Shorty in a dark corner and given him purple hell for playing with Bull’s gang. “Damn ol’ goat,” Shorty growled. “Where’s he get ‘at stuff? You’d think he was me ol’ man, instead of him being just a guy ‘at wanted to marry Mom w’en she was a goil!” At Thirty-fourth Street he slipped from the train and cast a furtive eye over the crowd. Hell’s fire! There he was, getting out of the last car! There was no mistaking the blue uniform with its captain’s bars and stripes in gold, nor the heavy, squared jaw above it. Shorty dashed up the stairs two at a time, made the first half block at a rapid walk. Then he slowed, but no police uniform showed behind him. At Eighth Avenue he turned south, stopping for a final survey of his back trail. He was safe. McGrehan had lost him. Heaving a sigh of relief, Shorty started to stroll along toward Finnegan’s café and Bull’s headquarters above it. For the moment his underworld guardian angel was not on the job. He stopped at the curb to light a cigarette in the lee of a parked Checker cab. He gave the cab and driver no attention until he sensed a flurry of movement. He started to turn but it was too late. A blue clad arm shot forth, clamped iron fingers on his shoulder, dragged him, struggling, into the cab. A split second later he heard the order. “Down to Center Street, lad; drive right intuh the garage.” Shorty didn’t need to see his captor’s—McGrehan’s—face. He couldn’t, had he wanted to. His face was jammed into a corner of the seat, his knees were on the floor. The pressure relaxed; Shorty heaved himself erect, only to suffer the shame of being shoved back, slowly, relentlessly into his former position. “You’re a tough guy, Clyde!”—Jeez! how he hated that pansy name Mom had given him—“But I’m tougher than all of you gaycats. Now sit you down and listen to me.” The big hands heaved again, slammed him back onto the seat. Captain McGrehan’s eyes were blazing; steely fingers were digging into Shorty’s shoulder muscles. Shorty tried to out stare the cop; his eyes fell first. “What th’ hell?” he growled. “This a pinch?” “What does it feel like—a swimmin’ lesson?” “Aw, what have I done? You got nothin’ on me.” The old formula between cop and crook the world over. “I have me hand on you, which’ll do for the present,” McGrehan responded with heavy wit. “It looks like a tough night for you, Clydie.” Shorty winced again at the hated name. “Clyde!” for the speedball who drove the chopper car last week when Bull Coleman’s rodmen shot it out with The Yid’s organ grinders, hijacked two trucks of alky. Uh-huh. Two cops had been killed, but that was their hard luck. “You don’t take kindly to th’ name a good mother gave you, Clyde.” There was contempt in the Captain’s sarcastic drawl. “Well, it’s a hell of a name for a gangster—and it’s a hell of a gangster you’ll be after this night.” Shorty stirred uneasily. Jeez! Suppose some of Bully’s scouts saw him riding with McGrehan. They’d be calling him “Canary” and tomorrow taking him for a ride. Yet he hated a “chirper” worse than anyone, almost. “Lissen, Cap,” he pleaded. “Lemme go. Jess because you’n Mom went to school together’s no reason fer youse to get me put on the spot.” “The spot, is it now?” The reply was a bellow of derision. “You’ll be wishin’ for the spot before tonight’s over. It’s the Third we’re fixin’ up for you.” Shorty’s blood turned cold within him. The dreaded “third.” And at the hands of this ramping, raging old Mick on whom he’d always looked, though from a distance, as a family friend! “Yuh can’t give me no hosin’,” he said. “Whaddyuh think you got on me?” McGrehan’s lips didn’t move; his hand did. It slid down to a point on Shorty’s arm between elbow and shoulder. The fingers tightened, dug into the nerve center under the biceps. Shorty tried to jerk loose. The movement brought a howl of pain from his lips. McGrehan was pitiless. Slowly the grasp tightened. Horrible searing pains flashed down the arm to the finger tips, up over the shoulder. “Enough?” The Captain growled the word. Shorty nodded in mute agony. “Listen to me, then. Don’t you start tellin’ me what I can or cannot do this night. In five days more I retire on pension. Nobody can change that. Them five days is to be given to runnin’ down some rats that killed two brave men recent—and to makin’ a man out of Mary Ann Breen’s lousy brat—or killin’ him.” Shorty sunk down in his corner. Suddenly he felt terribly alone. McGrehan he knew was tough, iron hard. It was said he preferred a billy to a rubber hose—and followed his liking. “Yes, Clyde,” the Captain’s tones were silky now. “It’ll be a tough night, and here we are ready for it to start.” The cab swung across the curb, into a big room filled with riot cars, prowl cars, the fast buses of the strong arm squad; the big racers in which the Commissioners and Brass Collars buzzed to danger points. McGrehan handed the driver a bill, pointed over his shoulder with a big thumb. “Out,” he growled. As the automatic doors closed, he spun Shorty about, crossed his pile-driver right to the button with a snap. Shorty went limp. McGrehan caught him, did not let him fall. “Poor, dumb lad,” he half whispered. “Spoiled as he is, I wish he was mine.” Two plainclothes men came from the shadows, took the drooping form, carried it to the silent cells where there is only silence. While Shorty still was unconscious, the detectives stripped him of coat, hat, shoes, collar, trousers, hat and tie. “Cap said to leave him his cigarettes and matches,” one of the searchers said. “Yeh?” his mate replied. “The ol’ boy’s gettin’ soft. Wouldn’t be surprised to come down here in a day or two an’ find he’s been getting drinkin’ water.” II Doubling for Shorty “McGrehan speaking, sir. I have the lad. May I come up?” “In five minutes, Captain. I’ll ring.” The Commissioner’s voice was curt but friendly. “Any trouble?” “For him, not for me, sir.” McGrehan sensed the beginning of a chuckle as his superior hung up the receiver. Commissioner Van Voort turned back to the stockily built, severe faced man opposite him, Captain Michaelson, Chief of New York’s Secret Police. “That was McGrehan,” Van Voort said. “Reporting he’s turned in the Breen boy. Dammit, Michaelson, I don’t like the thought of Springer and Haddon taking such chances.” “Nor do I.” Michaelson’s face was granite hard. “McGrehan’s plan to save this little Breen rat is apt to spoil it all. But we’re ready—checked and rechecked on the plan.” “Yes, we’re too deep in now to change,” Van Voort replied. He drew a map toward him. “We’ll go over it once again; then you can get your crew together. Here’s the district, with the route marked in red arrows. “The point marked ‘J’ is where the truck will be, with tools, tear bombs, extra ammunition; whatever’s required. When Bull’s third car passes, the boy who’s been trying to start the engine will slip around the corner and signal Lieutenant Henry. The signal to close in will be a burst of blank cartridge machine gun fire. Right? All clear?” “Perfectly, Mr. Commissioner. And in the meantime the other group will surround Bull’s headquarters over Finnegan’s. When the word is passed that the warehouse raiders have been mopped up, we’ll hit Bull from all sides and the roof.” “Good, Captain. Goodnight and good luck.” A touch on the button brought McGrehan from downstairs. “Good work,” the Commissioner said. “Anyone see you get him?” “Not a chance, sir. I snatched him offen the sidewalk before he could squawk. He was goin’ to Bull’s; thought he’d ditched me in Thirty-fourth Street. I hopped a cab, beat it the other way and copped him on Eighth Avenue.” The Commissioner stared for a moment at the stubborn old face before him. “See here,” he said. “It’s a devil of a thing you’ve made me ask of Springer—to gamble his life for a crook like that.” “Wait ‘til you’ve seen Springer in his clothes. They’re enough alike to be twins, except their eyes is different. Springer has painted a couple of fine blue bruises on his lamps to take care of that. You’d swear he’d been in a pip of a fight.” “It’s a terrible chance—” The Commissioner paused. “No worser’n any other man of the Secret Squad’s takin’ every day, sir. No more than the other boy we shoved in on Bull’s gang. It’s all risky; that’s how we’re cleanin’ up on the tips they get.” “I hope you’re right, McGrehan. Anyway, after tonight there’ll be no more cop killings by the Coleman gang.” “Which’ll be a blessin’ in a wicked world, Mr. Commissioner.” McGrehan saluted, about faced and departed. Thirty minutes later the lookout at Bull Coleman’s headquarters opened the peep panel, recognized Shorty Breen and admitted him. “Where th’ hell youse been, punk?” the lookout demanded. “Bull’s been askin’ for youse.” “Aw hell! I had a fight wit’ a guy over a pool game,” Shorty replied out of the corner of his mouth. “I got a pair uh shiners.” “Damn if you ain’t—an’ maybe Bull won’t slap youse down fer that.” Shorty did not reply. Instead he shambled across the room and, dropping into a chair commanding a view of both the office and entrance doors, he seemed to doze. III The Stage Is Set Sharp at 10 o’clock Bull Coleman opened the door of his private office to crook his fingers at four of the loungers. Shorty followed Ginger Olsen, Chopper Allen and Sid Haddon into the room. “Shut the door, kid,” Bull growled. “All of youse set down and hang out an ear. Everything’s set. Sid’ll drive the lead car wit’ two roddies an’ Chopper wit’ his grinder. Shorty’s to drive the guard car. He’ll take two more rods, an’ Ginger wit’ his Tommy. “On th’ way youse’ll pick up the third car, which’ll run between lead an’ guard. That one’ll back into th’ shippin’ alley beside the warehouse. Shorty pulls down th’ street half way of th’ block, headin’ east. Sid heads back west and pulls near to the corner. That way, if they’s a ruckus, they won’t burn each other down. “Now lissen. That gives a guard car headed whichever the dope buggy heads when it comes outta the alley. The other one’ll swing an’ follow. Get me?” All nodded, but Bull, himself a strategist, duplicated the scene of a few moments before in the Commissioner’s office, when he produced a rough map of the route to show the course to be taken. To one man in the room the scene had its element of humor. It was his second view of the maps—one down in Center Street, the other in Bull’s office. For Sid Haddon was the “other fellow” mentioned by McGrehan—a member of the Secret Police, planted on Bull’s gang through clever plotting. Something warned Haddon. He looked up, caught the burning eyes of Chopper Allen studying him intently. Instantly he let his face go blank, gazing back almost stupidly at the other. This simply wouldn’t do. Allen never had been friendly. Just now it is possible the man had caught the half grin on his face. Bull’s bellowing voice brought the duel of glances to an end. “Everybody out now,” he said. “But stick around. Youse know th’ rules. I’ll tell youse when it’s time.” That was Bull’s method. At the last moment he outlined his plans in detail. After that no one was allowed to leave the hangout or to telephone. Even then the exact hour was kept secret until the moment of departure. At the door, Chopper turned back. “See you a moment, Bull?” “Yeh. What youse got on your chest?” Chopper saw to it that the door was closed. He returned to the desk and leaned forward. “It’s that guy, Haddon,” he half whispered. “Lemme knock him off, chief; he’s poison. Don’t ask me how I know. I just feel it. I’ve seen him in my dreams putting the cuffs on me. Every time he comes near me I smell the cops.” “Aw cripes, Chopper, you’re nuts,” Bull answered. “He was sent to me by Mickey the Harp from Chicago after he got into a jam there. I had him watched plenty, and I know he’s all right. Just because you’re a damned old woman’s no reason for me to lose a guy with th’ kinda guts he’s got. He’ll go down intuh hell if I send him—’n come back wit’ a bottle of pre-war in each hand.” Chopper shrugged, started for the door; turned back. “Lissen, chief—” He was bitterly, insanely angry now. “When this guy sends you to the Big Squirm up in Sing Sing just remember that I told you to get rid of him.” Bull’s heavy face crimsoned, turned purple. “Get th’ hell outta here, you damned croaking louse,” he shouted. “When anybody sends me to the Hot Seat it’ll be some rat like youse, afraid of his own shadow. Mebbe you’re th’ one ‘at needs his horns knocked off—” Chopper shivered involuntarily. “Forget it, chief,” he said placatingly. “It’s you I’m worryin’ about; not me. When do we start?” “When I send you, rat,” Bull snarled. “That good enough for youse?” Chopper slouched to the door, white-faced, humiliated. The stage was set for the third act of the drama of Secret Police versus the Coleman dusters. IV The Attack Zero hour was 1:30. Bull strode into the main room, followed by Ginger and Chopper, each carrying his favorite sub-machine gun. “Smitty and Shuffle!” he barked. “Get your rods and go wit’ Ginger. Dutch and Ike, you go wit’ Chopper. He’ll tell youse what to do.” “Come on, punk; get your driving eye alive,” he snapped, halting before Shorty’s slouched form. He stopped and peered under the boy’s hat brim. “Jeez, you would pick a night like this to get slapped up,” he snarled. “One slip-up from you, gaycat, and I’ll knock youse off myself. Kin you see well enough to drive?” Shorty spat nonchalantly. “Sure!” he responded. “What’s a shiner got to do wit’ steppin’ on th’ gas?” “Hell! Get goin’,” Bull demanded. “Ginger’s grinder in your car. If he tells you to drive offen a dock—do it.” Quietly the four slipped through the outer room, down the rear stairs to the alley garage where waited a stolen Packard touring car. Shorty wriggled under the wheel, touched the starter, listened for a moment to the motor’s purr. He cut the switch, looked about him tranquilly. The outer door opened. Sid Haddon entered, followed by Chopper and the two rodmen. Beside the opposite wall stood a Buick. Half way there, Haddon whirled and said to Shorty: “Slip us a pill, kid, I’m all out.” Shorty obligingly extended a package of cigarettes to Haddon. Before returning it, the other snapped his pocket lighter and set the fag going. Stepping close to the side of the Packard he handed the package back to Shorty with his right hand. At the same time, with a deft twist of his left, he tucked a squat automatic between the padding of the front seat and Shorty’s leg. “Thanks, kid—see you in church,” he said nonchalantly, turning back to the other car. Shorty’s eyes flashed to the rear vision mirror. Had Ginger or the other two seen Haddon slip him the rod? It was Coleman’s rule that drivers of get-away cars must not be armed. Thus, if they started any treachery, they’d be at the mercy of the other gunmen. Seemingly Haddon’s sleight-of-hand had gone unnoticed. Dutch Schmaltz, who had been standing at the right of the car, slipped in beside Shorty. He inspected his automatic, lighted a cigarette and wriggled to a comfortable position. “All right—let’s go,” Ginger said in a moment. “Follow Chopper half a block behind, When we pick up the other car on Eleventh Avenue slide back a little further; don’t want it to look like a parade.” The garage doors swung open on oiled hinges. In another moment they closed behind the two dark cars. The side curtains were up on both, but a touch on the bottom buttons would open them for the death-spewing choppers. Otherwise there was nothing to distinguish them from the other motor-cars of the night. Shorty kept a watchful eye on the red tail light of the Buick. He speeded up when the other driver found a hole in traffic; slowed when the lights caused a temporary jam. On Eleventh Avenue, where traffic was light in the early morning hours, a dark shape curved out of an intersecting street, buzzed up alongside the Buick, then dropped into line. It was the raiders’ car. Shorty slowed down to give it room behind the lead car. “All set now,” Ginger barked. “Remember, when we get to the warehouse, you pull east and stop about fifty feet past where Sid turns and heads west. Let the engine run and be ready for a quick lam.” “Gotcha!” Shorty grunted. “Second corner, ain’t it?” “Yeh. What th’ hell’s that ahead of us?” At the curb ahead the lights had picked up an unlighted black shape. As Ginger spoke he saw the twinkle of a flashlight and lifted the grinder from the floor. Shorty gave the engine more gas, swung so that his lights also lit up the scene. By the curb stood an ancient Model T Ford, seemingly broken down. The hood was up and an elderly man, overall clad, was looking on as a youth tinkered with the engine. “Breakdown,” Shorty called over his shoulder. “ ‘Sall right.” “It is—like hell,” Ginger growled “It’s punks and old apple knockers like that who’ll remember seein’ three cars come along and turn the corner.” Grumbling, he glared back through the rear window. Shorty swung his car on the trail of the other two. He cut his lights as he saw the first car turn west. The second was backing into the loading area. Fifty feet farther on he drifted to a silent stop, jazzed his engine to blow out the last vestige of carbon, then let it purr sweetly while they waited. In the rear vision mirror he could see the outlines of the Buick at the opposite curb behind them. He grunted as he reached for a cigarette and remembered the orders were: “No smoking.” As he sat there in the darkness, he felt his nerve tauten as he visioned dark forms creeping through the warehouse, stalking the watchmen, ready to hijack the trunkful of cocaine and hyoscine Snuffles Thornton had stored there three days previously. Wriggling about as though he tried to see farther up the street behind him, Shorty succeeded in getting the automatic under his coat and thence to the holster under his armpit. Ten minutes passed, fifteen, twenty. Still there was no sound from the warehouse, no movement in the street. “Looks like a pipe,” Ginger whispered. “They’ve got the watchman by now, an’ if there’s any dingdongs, they’ve beat ‘em. Pink Tiernan’s the best man in the world on alarm systems.” Another five minutes dragged by. Suddenly three bird notes sounded shrilly. It was the “Get Ready” signal—a special whistle carried only by lieutenants in charge of a job. It meant that the raid had succeeded, that the others were coming out. In a minute or so the trunk would be tossed into the rear of the raiding car. In thirty minutes it would all be over. “Hold ‘er, Shorty,” Ginger warned raspingly. “See which way they turn. Only one man knows. That’s Bull’s system.” With the last word every man in the car stiffened to attention. From somewhere in the distance came the muffled tac-tac-tac of a machine gun—a sustained burst which ended as suddenly as it had begun. “W’at th’ hell?” Ginger growled. Shorty unlatched the door and looked back up the street. When he resumed his seat he saw to it that the latch did not catch. “Sounded like a grinder to me,” he said. “Long ways off, though.” He let his eyes probe the darkness ahead. There were shadows, he thought, shadows in the heart of shadows out there; flitting forms, or did his eyes play him tricks? He turned his head, spoke over his shoulder to the others. “Prob’ly somebody else turnin’ a trick,” he said. “This’ll be a damn good part of town to get away from quick.” Ginger grunted assent, moved uneasily. A shot crashed somewhere near at hand. Then it seemed that the whole world went mad. Orange and blue streamers of flame sprang out of the night everywhere. Ginger howled curses, thrust his weapon out through the curtains. “Now or never,” Shorty whispered to himself. He gathered his body into a compact ball, slid the door open another inch; fell against it and to the ground. As he struck, instead of leaping to his feet, he rolled under the body of the car, lay there quiet. Fifty-feet distant Sid Haddon was executing a similar maneuver, warned by the crash of the first shots. Now the two cars were driverless, helpless until one or another of the rodmen took the wheel. Heavy feet scraped the pavement in the darkness nearer and nearer at hand. From doorways service guns were belching streams of death. Ginger, still howling curses, shifted his grinder to the left door, sprayed the shadows with red-hot bursts of fire. Somewhere in the darkness a moan told of a stricken man’s agony. A pistol fell to the pavement, followed by the thud of a falling body. Over the staccato barking of the rods and the deeper growl of the Tommy guns, grew a new sound. Motors were dashing up from every hand. It was but the second minute of the attack but already scores of blue-clad cops were out of hiding, converging to add their share to the death din. Bullets were thudding now into the body of the car above Shorty. Something wet flowed along and soaked his coatsleeve as he lay hugging the pavement. A strong odor assailed his senses. Gasoline! A cop’s bullet had punctured the gas tank. Shorty dragged himself a bit to one side. It wouldn’t do to soak up a lot of that stuff and then get in the way of a pistol flash. The body of the car above him swayed and groaned. Someone put his weight on the running board, dragged something from the tonneau, pattered across the sidewalk. A moment later Ginger’s chopper began chattering from a recessed doorway where he had taken up his position. The value of his strategy was proved instantly. Entrenched as he was, he could hose death at the compact group of police across the street. Wounded men shouted, fell. The group melted, tried to re-form; melted again. Viciously Ginger swept the muzzle of the chopper right and left. Bullets from service guns slithered off the brick walls of the entryway, ricocheted. Ginger stopped only to change clips, then resumed his firing. “Dammit—get that guy!” The command was bellowed from somewhere near at hand. Shorty swung crosswise under the car, lifted the muzzle of his rod; tried to peer back of the spitting flashes to get a bead on Ginger. It was no use. Another agonized shriek came from the ranks of the attackers. Shorty loosed two shots from his rod at a point beside the spitting muzzle of the chopper. His answer was a burst of slugs which spun from the pavement near his head. Ginger was not to be caught that way. Shorty raised his hand to rub his dust-filled eyes. The odor of gas was strong again. That was the way! He lay for a moment, trying to think clearly. Yes, he could do it—provided the cops did not kill him the first second or two after he had acted. Rolling out from under the car he came to hands and knees. Overhead was the sound of the passage of swarms of giant bees. The smashing impact of slugs against the car’s riddled sides was nearly deafening. The roll of pistol fire was thunderous. Shorty snapped his gat back into its holster. His right hand felt for and brought out his pocket lighter. Holding it within his cap, he spun the wheel. The first spark failed—and the second. Then the wick caught. Deftly he skidded the metal box across the pavement, then dropped flat, rolling rapidly toward the opposite curb. Almost there he collided with someone’s legs. A great weight descended on him; throttling hands caught at his throat. “Springer—headquarters!” he gasped. The hands still held for a split second. The flame from the lighter snatched at a drop of gasoline. Instantly the opposite curb for a distance of twenty feet burst into flames which eddied and danced, making the scene light as day. Whoever was holding Shorty loosed his grasp. A tongue of fire ran along the pool, under the tank, leaped up and enveloped the container. The force of the outpouring liquid was too great as yet to permit the fire to enter. With the lift of the blaze an exultant shout rang out. “There he is—that doorway! Get him, men!” Shorty stared across the way. Ginger and his chopper were outlined as on a motion picture screen. For a second he squatted there, staring dully at the blaze. Police guns barked. Ginger instantly fell prone, sending his stream of death back full in the faces of the attackers. It was a moment of intense drama. Outnumbered, knowing that he could not escape—that the infuriated police would stop shooting only when he was dead, Ginger lay there coolly, firing methodically into the shadowy groups across the street. The car’s body was burning now. Flames burst from underneath the hood and chassis, climbed up the sides, caught at curtains and top. One of the rodmen, badly wounded, pitched out through the flaming curtains, his clothes smoking. Police guns rattled. Dust spots billowed from his clothing in a score of places. He twitched, died. As the curtains burned away, another huddled form could be seen in the tonneau. Death had been merciful to one gunman. Ginger was still in action, but he was firing jerkily now. A passing gust of breeze made the light lift, grow stronger. It showed a hate-twisted, bloody mask, little resembling a human face. A dozen police pistols crashed simultaneously. No one possibly could live through that storm of lead. Expectantly the cops held their fire. There was a moment’s pause, then an unbelievable burst of shots from the doorway. “Tac-tac-tac-tac-tac!” Twenty-five, thirty times the grim chopper sang its song of menace. Silence at last. The police guns roared again. One man, braver than the rest, charged into the doorway, firing as he ran. In a moment he was out, waving his hands excitedly. Others rushed to him. “He’s dead!” they shouted after a moment. “Croaked with his finger on the trigger.” They dragged the body into the light, marveled that one so torn and mutilated could have the spirit to continue fighting. “All right, men.” It was a captain calling. “That mops up this bunch. The others are inside yet. We’ve got ‘em from above and from all sides. Get in there. Don’t let one get away.” Shorty turned dazedly, walked a few steps toward the Buick. He realized now that the firing there had stopped long before. In the darkness he collided with someone in civilian clothes. “You, kid?” the other asked. “Haddon!” There was joy in the tone. “You got through all right, too!” “Yeh—just a few scratches. Better duck now. You know the orders—under cover with cops as well as civilians. They’ll mop up this mess, and anyway I want to be in on the raid on Bull.” Together the two Secret Police melted into the darkness, caught a nighthawk cab and speeded back to the vicinity of Finnegan’s. “I had to tell a flattie I was from headquarters after I’d touched off the gas,” Shorty said after awhile, “but he didn’t get a good look at me. Everything’s jake.” “Nice party,” Haddon said reflectively. “Wonder what the real Shorty’d have done in your place!” “That fuzz-tail!” Springer’s voice was hard. “He’d be dead back there with the rest of ‘em. Wonder why McGrehan wanted to save him?” “Damfino! Hell with that. If you want something to fret about, figure what the newspapers are goin’ to say about half the department layin’ for a bunch of thugs and knockin’ ‘em off. Them and the reformers. Hooey!” “I can see ‘em now,” Springer answered. “And I’m damn glad I’m on the Secret Police instead of the regulars.” The taxi rounded the last corner, skidded to a stop. Uniformed police blocked the way. “Broadway or Tenth,” they chanted monotonously. “Don’t turn up Seventh or Ninth.” The trap was being sprung at Finnegan’s then, according to plan. Haddon and Springer, ex-Shorty, dropped out and paid the driver. For two blocks the avenue was free of moving traffic. At the corner nearest the hangout stood several armored motorcycles, police prowl cars, and two of the big armored trucks used by the riot squad. One of the flatties came over to them. “What’re youse guys hangin’ ‘round here for?” he demanded truculently. “Sixty-six,” Haddon replied, giving the code word which in the department on that particular night meant “on special duty.” The word changed nightly. Only men within the department could know it. It was whispered to each relief on leaving the station. “Oh, yeh?” the policeman said. “Well, youse guys better crawl intuh th’ ol’ tin vests if youse’re gonna stick aroun’ here. Know what’s doin’?” He leered at them craftily, with the curiosity of the harness bull as to what the plainclothes men were doing. “No, handsome; what is it?” Haddon’s reply was like a slap in the face. “Ahrrr, nuts!” the cop replied. “Kiddin’ somebody, aintcha?” Turning, the two scurried along the darkened store fronts. A rhythmic pounding, somewhere ahead, came to their ears. “Smashing down Bull’s steel door in the middle of the stairway,” Haddon said. “That’s a tough spot,” Springer replied. “Be plenty hell when they finally get through.” His words were prophetic. Guns were in action now, their spatting sound curiously muffled by the building’s walls. From higher up came a crashing, rending sound. The roof detail was smashing a way through to the upper floor. Across the street someone opened a window on a fire escape. Two cops with a machine gun stepped out onto the landing, trained the weapon on the windows opposite. The armored motorcycles made a crescent before the open doorway. Each carried a passenger in its protected tub; each passenger carried a Tommy gun. The men in the saddles crouched forward behind their shields, automatics ready for business. The shooting, which had died down after the first few shots, crashed forth again. A policeman, his right arm dangling loosely, blood dripping in a stream from his fingers, staggered from the doorway. “They’re givin’ us hell in there,” he said through set lips. “Door’s down but they’re hosin’ the stairs with a rapid fire from back of a steel shield set on the second flight. Never get ‘em this way.” Springer turned on Haddon, jerked his head. Haddon nodded. “Try it, anyway,” he said. They raced toward the front of the place but were stopped by a captain. “Sixty-six,” Springer whispered. “My friend thinks he knows a way in through Finnegan’s. There’s a half balcony there and a doorway that’s been boarded up. We’ll signal through the window.” “Good! The other way’s suicide. See what you can do, boys.” In the rear of the hallway, under the old-fashioned stairway, was a descending stairway leading to the Finnegan half of the basement. Haddon clicked on a pencil flashlight; inspected the lock. Springer flicked out a bunch of skeleton keys, turned the lock with the second. In a moment they stood in the cellarway. A heavy partition divided the two halves of the basement from left to right. Along this stood a table where peelers prepared the vegetables. At the left, at the wall, was a narrow stair—hardly more than a ladder. Springer led, tried the door at the top. It was held by a bolt on the other side. “Hold my feet so I don’t slip,” he said. Swinging as far back as he dared, he launched his wiry shoulder against the barrier. It creaked but did not give. A second thrust splintered a panel. Three or four driving blows with his palm made a hole big enough to admit his arm. The bolt clicked back. They were in the café now. Outside the Captain stood shading his eyes, peering into the window. Springer seized a bill of fare, wrote on it; ran lightly to the front. “hallway. through cellar and back up here,” the Captain read by beam of his hand torch. He nodded, ran to the doorway, beckoning others to follow. Springer looked about. Haddon was at his side. “Boost,” he demanded. “Right, kid,” the big fellow said, catching the smaller man by the cloth at his hips; boosting him straight up as one might raise a chair. Springer’s hands caught the cross-piece; pulled him up. “Go up the stairs,” he whispered. “Feel along the wall from the stair head toward me. I’ll work back. There’s a boarded up door somewhere.” They met, but without result. “It’s farther back,” Haddon said. “I remember now.” It was almost at the back corner. They ripped away the light deal casing. “This won’t get us anywhere,” Haddon whispered. “They’re still on the floor above us.” “Old building,” Springer grunted. “I’m gambling the stairs are built all the way up on a scaffolding. You know the old system. Four-by-fours, with two-by-four supports; like a grandstand. Get under there—shoot hell out of the choppers from underneath.” “Sure’s hell something there, or there’d be no door,” Haddon replied. “Cripes, listen to those flatties stumble up the stairs!” Springer said. “Good thing everybody’s shooting.” He flashed his torch to outline the way to the stairs. Three men accompanied the captain. One carried a chopper. The other had a sawed-off shotgun and a net of tear bombs. The third attacked the door slit with a jimmy. The old wood gave readily. Back of it, as Springer had surmised, was a dark passage which led toward the rear of the building under the stair supports. One of the flatties produced a long-beam flashlight, disclosing twenty feet back, the outlines of the second floor landing. “I’m going up,” Springer said quietly. “When I find which step they’re on we can shoot ‘em loose in two seconds.” He dropped his coat, set the pencil flash upright in his vest pocket; shinned up to the first cross support. From there he swung like a monkey, up and back to a point a score of feet above the others’ heads. Their flashes revealed him as he balanced on a two-by-four, clinging with knees and one hand. With the other he felt of the risers and treads until vibration told him where the gunmen rested for their shooting down the stairway. Still clinging precariously, he took out his flash and counted the stairs. It was the seventh. A moment later he dropped to the floor, dripping with sweat, his palms bleeding from a score of sliver wounds. “The seventh stair,” he said, “but there’s no use shooting them out of there until the cops are set for a rush. Get word out to be ready.” “That’s the dope,” the Captain replied. “I’ll send word for the boys to be ready. Here, Wilkins, get out and tell ‘em what we’re doing. When they’re ready to rush, wig wag me with a light and when you hear my whistle, you other boys blow them rats to hell outta there.” The police machine gunner took up his place back in the darkness, found a rest; set his weapon with the rays of a flash so he could spray his death hail through the rotting wood of the stairway. It was stifling in the narrow passage. The minutes dragged terribly. At intervals firing was resumed in the stairway. Also there was firing at some distant point; probably the roof crew fighting their way downward. Below, in the rear, were other smashing sounds as the basement was occupied. Haddon, his nerves ragged from waiting, started toward the balcony. Before he had taken three steps, a shrill note cut through the medley of other noises. Springer and the harness cop threw their flashes upward. The gunner’s finger compressed on the trip and the Tommy-gun began its death chatter. Its barking roar smashed on their ears like the turmoil of a boiler shop. Orange flames spurted in a continuous stream from its blunt muzzle. The tread of the seventh stair seemed to lift under its smashing blows. Men bellowed in agony and a heavy object clattered downward. The stairway creaked. The tread flew apart; became a mass of splinters. Springer touched the flattie’s shoulder; mentioned for him to sweep the remaining six steps to blot out any lurking thugs. He obeyed. Other yells of pain or anger burst out in answer. He hosed every nook and corner where a gunman might be hiding. “Hold it!” Springer barked the word. Heavy footed men were pounding up the stairway from the ground floor. It wouldn’t do to shoot down any of the attackers. The cops had gained the hallway now, but were being fired on from within the gang’s assembly room. From farther back came the chatter of guns as well. “Bull’s holed up in the office,” Haddon muttered. “He’s cornered, but it’ll take a hell of a lot of lead to get him out. He’s shooting from behind the big safe; that’s a bet.” Springer shrugged. “Let’s get going,” he said. They slipped back through the café and cellar, into the hallway. The heavy fumes of cordite made it almost impossible to breathe. The stairs were heavy, slippery with broken plaster, pools of blood. At the top the cops stood massed out of range of the death hail from inside. As they watched, Springer and Haddon saw three men raise the steel shield from behind which the defenders had held the stairway. Others fell in behind it, pushed it through the open doorway of the clubroom. The others thrust forward. Springer nudged Haddon, pointing. Three dead men lay at the foot of the second flight of stairs. Another sprawled grotesquely over the splintered tread. “Must have got them with the first burst,” he said. “Wonder if we can drive Bull out the same way?” “Nope. Safe’s on a steel plate about seven by four feet. It stands across the corner. Anyone behind it, with the doors open might as well be shooting from a battleship.” “I’ve got it through the wall.” Springer rushed back along the stairway, returned in a moment, cursing. “Hall only goes part way back; they’ve built a partition there,” he said. “Above then,” it was Haddon’s turn now. “There’s some way for us to get at that rat.” They ran up the stairs, shoving the body of the dead gangster aside as they went. Springer leaped to the door at the head of the stairs, opened it, slammed it again—dragged Haddon down flat on the floor. Lead smashed in a stream through the panels at the height of a man’s chest. More of the defenders were in there, holding back the crew attacking from the roof. A battered broom stood in one corner. Springer tiptoed over to it, tore loose the cord of a droplight and wound it about the handle, leaving one end free. “We’ll pen ‘em in there,” he said. “Door opens inward. When it comes time for them to smash us from the rear, they can’t get out.” Silently he slipped to the door-casing, laid the broom across horizontally, motioned for Haddon to hold it level. He wound the wire several times about the doorknob, then about the broom, tied a granny-knot. Purposely he jiggled the handle. More slugs crashed through, then someone tried to pull the door open from the inside. It held. “That’ll keep ‘em off our backs. Come on,” Springer barked. They ran to the rear of the hallway. The attic scuttle stood open. Back in the shadows he could make out the outlines of a face. “Up with them—I’ve got you covered,” a voice commanded. “Sixty-six,” Springer replied. “Drop a couple of men down here into the hallway to help smash into them from the rear. I’ve got the door barred from this side.” “How’ll that help,” the other demanded suspiciously. “Easy. They figure they can hold us off, while Bull stands your fellows off from back of the safe in his office. We’ve got to smash this bunch and then get Bull through the floor from above.” Long, blue clad legs appeared in the opening. The cop swung for a moment by his hands, fell to his knees. Another followed with drawn gun. “All right, Bob,” the first said. “Headquarters, special service men with the password.” “Get a grinder,” Springer interrupted. “We’ll never get anywhere with hand guns.” The second cop was still suspicious. “Say,” he demanded. “Who in hell are you anyhow, young fellow? You look a helluva lot to me like a punk that hangs ‘round with this gang.” “Yeh!” Springer snapped. “And if it means anything to you, I look a lot like my father too. Come on! Get busy. Introductions can wait.” Still surly, the copper went back and called to someone above through the scuttle. In a moment a third policeman swung down, holding by one hand while he passed over a Tommy gun. “How many in there?” Haddon asked. The policeman rubbed his nose reflectively. “Half a dozen anyway. We got into the attic all right, but they pumped so many holes around our feet that we couldn’t break through. Four of our boys are up there, shot up. They burned the hell out of us every time we started.” “What’s the layout?” “Two big rooms with a door in the center of the partition. Two rooms on this floor, three in the same space on Bull’s floor.” Springer pointed to the door with its broom-and-wire lashing. “By now they’ve found its barricaded,” he said. “That gives us a chance to surprise ‘em. Put the guy with the grinder on the stairs, with just the tip of the gun showing over the landing. You others plant back in the dark and knock over the ones he don’t get. I’ll loosen the bar and kick the door open.” The firing within was intermittent. It seemed that the gangsters were satisfied with a stalemate; glad to hold the raiders from the roof on the attic floor. Springer’s hands were working now at the wire lashing. Silently he released the broom but retained his hold on the doorknob. Flattening himself against the wall he waited for another burst of firing. When it came he nodded to the others, turned the knob and sent the door sweeping back against the inner wall. Someone inside loosed a scattering spray of shots from an automatic through the opening. The copper on the stairs withheld his fire for a second, while the others, waiting for his first burst, stood silent. Springer looked over his shoulder and unconsciously flinched aside from the doorway as the Tommy-gun went into action. He could feel the death-draught of the flying lead. A medley of cries came from within. A bullet or two buzzed through the opening, smashed harmlessly into the plastering. Haddon and his two supporting cops leaped forward, but Springer was first into the room. Four men were prone on the floor. A fifth, his legs shot from under him, was trying to crawl into the second room. Springer’s gun belched twice. The crawling gunny squirmed; lay still. Feet were thudding on the floor inside as the cops dropped from the low attic opening. Springer turned and ordered the man with the Tommy-gun to keep on firing erratic bursts so Bull and his group could not know that the cops finally had occupied the floor above him. “Give me a jimmy,” he gritted. “I want to tear up the floor in this corner.” He cast his eyes about the two rooms. Roughly they approximated the three of the gang headquarters below. Therefore the southeast corner would be directly above the spot where Bull was holding out against his attackers. One of the cops disappeared; returned almost immediately with a jimmy big enough to wreck the City Hall. Springer snatched at it hungrily; turned to the corner baseboard. His agile shoulders twisted. The baseboard came loose. Another wrench. The inside flooring board flipped back in splinters. Another. Another. Haddon slipped to his knees beside Springer. “Easy does it,” he warned. “You’re tipping your mitt. Can’t you hear? They’ve stopped shooting downstairs.” Springer stared at him, wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Who the hell cares?” he snarled. “I’m going to get Bull.” “Be smart,” Haddon said and caught at his wrist. “Don’t be a sap. We’ve got all night—but we’ve got to put this thing over or the Commish is sunk.” Springer nodded in understanding. He slipped the jimmy under the next board and levered it up carefully. It ripped loose at one end. Haddon slipped his fingers beneath the edge and wrenched quietly. Another board gave. Springer arose, wiped the sweat from his eyes. “Enough?” he said, indicating the opening. Haddon shook his head. “More,” he said. “At least three feet. Safe stands across the corner, you know.” Springer loosened two more boards, then a third. Haddon levered them out, keeping the nails from creaking. Then the firing started up again on the floor below, Springer motioned to the copper with the Tommy. “Lie down,” he directed. “Listen carefully and see if you can tell from the sound just about where he’s standing.” The cop complied, laid there a matter of moments, then arose, grinning. “Bet I knock a hole in his skull first thing,” he boasted. “Then get at it,” Springer snapped, passing the gun to the man’s waiting hands. “There’s a big safe across the corner that he’s using for a shield. Sponge out every inch behind it.” The cop up-ended the weapon, stopped to kick loose a sliver of board from a cross beam. He grinned over his shoulders at the others. “Watch this,” he said. He brought the trigger back; drew a jagged line of holes straight from the corner back almost to his feet. The slugs tore through the plastering as a knife cuts whey. He moved the muzzle patiently from left to right and back again, probing into every possible corner. Suddenly there was a dull crash followed by a white dust cloud. A square yard of the ceiling had fallen. Several slugs from automatics buzzed through the opening and crashed into the attic flooring but Haddon, unmindful, leaned forward to peer down. Springer shouldered him aside roughly. The top of the safe was heaped with fallen plaster, as was the floor beside it. Two huddled forms were slumped against the wall. Springer detected sudden movement and dragged Haddon back as one of the two fallen men jerked half erect and emptied a clip from his rod at the faces above him. Feet dashed across the floor below. Rods spoke their death word and the gangster, riddled anew, pitched forward; lay there quietly. “Come on—it’s the finish.” Springer snatched at Haddon’s arm and raced to the stairhead. In the club-rooms below they came upon a scene none of the living participants forgot for days. Five wounded or dead police lay in a corner where they had been dragged by their comrades out of the line of Bull’s murderous fire. The door and partition between the two rooms were splintered wrecks. The steel shield, used first by the defenders and then by the attackers, lay overturned near the doorway. Hardly an inch of its surface had escaped a scoring by flying lead and steel. Back of it lay one of the police, one side of his face shot away by a long burst of fire. Within the inner room the walls and furnishings had been torn to fragments by the hail of bullets. Bull had left open the big doors of the safe as an added protection against police guns. The drawers and pigeonholes were wrecked, their contents smashed and torn until they were mere heaps of waste paper and rubbish. Three dead gangsters lay in a corner back of a heavy oak table which they had up-ended to use as a shield. Another lay beside the safe, at the left. A policeman caught at a pair of feet protruding from behind the safe and dragged out a wounded man. His head was smashed, but he still breathed—horribly, bubblingly. Springer wriggled through the press and caught Bull’s inert form by the collar. The gang leader was badly slashed about the head, either by grazing bullets or falling plaster. Blood gushed, fountain-like, from a wound in his left shoulder. One wrist was smashed. The hand hung, grotesquely, like a wet glove. The movement roused the gangster to consciousness. He gazed, dazedly at first, at Springer. For a moment hope leaped into his eyes. Then he saw the police uniforms and realization came to him. Hate distorted his blood smeared features; his hand clawed at his trousers band for the spare rod he carried there. “You damned, stinking, lousy rat!” he whispered. “Turned stoolie—gave me up to the bulls, damn you! I’m goin’ out—but I’m takin’ you with me.” Bull’s great body surged forward, his right hand clutching at Springer’s throat. Then, forgetful of his wounds, he tried to put his weight on the smashed wrist. The bones grated against the floor; sent him crashing back onto his face. The others were gathering up the injured policemen, only Haddon standing by. Springer jerked Bull erect into a sitting posture again. The gangster’s eyes shifted to Haddon’s face. “Another—rat!” he whispered. “Stool! Snitch! And I—I was warned. You—Shorty—lice, both of you!” Springer leaned forward until his face was within inches of that of Bull. Hatred blazed in his eyes. “No, not Shorty, Bull,” he snarled. “His double. Eddie Springer, son of one of the cops you and your rods knocked off two weeks ago. Take that down to hell with you—and see how it tastes for a kid to make things square for his old man.” Bull’s eyes widened in utter unbelief. “Liar!” he mumbled. “You’re Shorty—and a stool.” He sagged back hopelessly. Springer shook him viciously. “Your mob’s gone,” he gritted. “Every one at the warehouse, everybody here. They’re all finished—like you’ll be in a minute.” Bull sighed. Suddenly his body went limp. The Bull Coleman gang was wiped from the roll of “men wanted for major crime.” V Shorty’s Awakening Daylight! Shorty Breen awoke, shivering in his underclothing in the silent cell. Slowly his mind grasped his predicament. He was A.W.O.L. with Bull. That meant he’d have to duck the town or take a one-way ride with some of his former pals. Damn old McGrehan! Just like a thick-headed cop to get a fellow into a jam like this. Feet resounded eerily down the corridor. Shorty strained his ears to hear. Then he leaped upright, gibbering with fear. His senses told him that he was sitting erect on the hard board in the cell, yet there he stood outside the locked door, dressed in his everyday suit, peering in through the bars at himself! For the first time in years, Shorty made the sign of the cross. The figure outside stood leering at him, wordlessly. Shorty tried to mouth a question—ended with a shrill scream. The words would not form in his mouth. His throat was a frozen waste. With the sound the other Shorty moved soundlessly aside, disappeared. Long minutes passed. Never ending minutes. Once Shorty thought he heard whispering in the distance. The boy fought to still the trembling which shook his every nerve and muscle. He lay back, eyeing the steel grating above him. It was a trick, a dream; something they were doing to crack his nerve. Well, damn them, he’d fool them. Then, while he promised himself they wouldn’t frighten him again, there was a loud click. He snapped erect, gazing in wide-eyed horror; burst into a shrill torrent of screams. The other Shorty—his counterpart—was back, unlocking the door—coming in after him. He covered his eyes with his arms, cowered back against the cold steel wall of the cell. The other was inside now; probably come to take him down into hell. A heavy hand clutched his shoulder, dragged him up, and out, and into the corridor. It was more than even gangster flesh and blood could stand. Convulsively, squirming like an eel, Shorty broke the hold, ran down the corridor at a shambling pace, rounded the cell block—smashed full into the burly form of Captain McGrehan. Clyde Breen, ex-speedball and gangster, burst into tears. He forced himself to look into the eyes of the double who now stood at his side. His face was bloody, his hands gory and torn. “Get goin’; the Commissioner’s waitin’.” Captain McGrehan was speaking for the first time. “Here he is, Mr. Commissioner,” said McGrehan, thrusting the half clad Shorty opposite the official. For a long moment the Commissioner stared appraisingly into Shorty’s eyes. Finally he spoke. “Of all the Coleman gang, Breen, you only are alive today.” Shorty stared at him, unbelievingly. The toneless voice continued: “We trapped them in the warehouse raid, surrounded Bull and the others over Finnegan’s in the hangout; killed every one of them. Captain McGrehan saved you—for your mother’s sake.” “Why? How?” The words were whispered. Shorty’s world had come tumbling about his ears. “Why did we clean them out?” The Commissioner’s tone was savage. “Well, you know why. You drove the chopper car on the raid on The Yid’s trucks. That night two policemen were killed. One of them was the father of Springer here—this boy who wore your clothes, pretended to be you tonight—and drove one of the cars to the warehouse.” Shorty turned and stared wonderingly at Springer. Within his mind he said one word. It was “Guts!” The Commissioner’s dead voice continued tonelessly. “Better men than you’ll ever be, died tonight, Breen. They’ll lie and mold in their graves while you go on living, breathing, maybe loving. “Captain McGrehan convinced me we should save you for two reasons. The first is to keep your mother’s heart from breaking. The other is that you’re going to sit down now and tell a stenographer about everything you know that the Coleman gang did in a criminal way, including the death of the two policemen. You hear me?” “I hope he says ‘no,’ Mr. Commissioner. I want a chance to slap him down until he’s only two feet high.” Captain McGrehan, fists clenched, was advancing from the doorway. “Get square, kid; start all over again—we’ll all help.” It was Springer who drove the clinching nail. “I’ll do it,” he said. Shorty saw the Commissioner but once more. That was the day when Mom and Captain McGrehan went before the good Father O’Grady and rectified the mistakes of their younger years. The Commissioner was best man. Shorty gave the bride away. At the end of the ceremony, the Commissioner said good-bye to Shorty last of all. “Keep your head up, boy,” he said earnestly. “You’ll make it all right.” “An’ damn well you know it,” his new father growled. “He’s ji’nin’ th’ Navy tomorruh.” “Uh—uh—why, sure!” Shorty replied. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
creative writing / literatureMaking it as a script writer in Hollywood is not easy. There is a whole support industry for creating stories, classes on almost every corner in Tinseltown. One of the more dedicated teachers of the craft is professor Ken Dancyger of New York University. We spoke to him about his work as a teacher of writing, and about the realities of the business. When did this notion of a “script guru” become common? What sets such a person apart from, let’s say, a professor of literature? Professor Dancyger: The “script guru ” for me started with Syd Field. I remember going to see him in Toronto along with 400 others and being outraged by his ideas about scripts. He made me define where I stand on the vital issues about how to write a strong script. At that point I myself had written, alone or with partners, 10 scripts. The first secured me a Hollywood agent, the second sold to Canadian television. I seemed on my way. A script guru is very different from a Professor of Literature. A Professor of Literature is well-read and has an area of interest. He or she may or may not be a novelist. Script guru is much closer to the popular arts i.e. the media. Certainly the guru may borrow ideas from literary critics such as Northrop Frye but his or her knowledge base is strongly rooted in the hundred plus history of Film. The earliest writers about script were often playwrights and so ideas about plays, their structure, was much more likely to influence Script gurus than Academic Professors of Literature. They must get their ideas from somewhere? Do you read a lot of academic literature, and then translate this into practical advice? Or have you done the empirical work yourself? Professor Dancyger: I read a lot of history as well as literature and see many plays and of course I see every film I can, always with an eye to what makes the work compelling. The scripts I’ve written, the writers I’ve worked with, the classes I’ve taught are all laboratories where I define and refine my ideas about storytelling and what constitutes a strong screenplay. If you were to give a little praise to one of your colleagues or competitors, who would that be, and why? Professor Dancyger: I like David Howard from USC and Judith Weston who teaches acting for Film and Television. David is very good on character-driven stories and Judith is excellent on character arcs and their importance. Both have written strong books. The late Syd Field was famous for his 3 act-theory. Robert McKee also presents a lot of rules about what constitutes a good script. What is your main dictum on how movie scripts should be constructed? Professor Dancyger: My approach is as follows: In a feature length screenplay a character changes. What is the issue (crisis) when we meet the main character? How does the character change by the resolution or end of the screenplay? Who/what changes him (relationships and plot)? Next what will the dramatic arc (plot) be? Every genre has a different dramatic arc. What genre is your story? Genre is pliable in terms of how it is used. What tone will you use? (light, realistic,dark). Will you alter any genre expectations? (How you begin or end, the nature of relationships). Screenplay that succeed often surprise is in our expectations. Will your screenplay defy our expectations? Can you really create a norm for what a good script is? If you look at prose, some writers excel on plot construction, like Agatha Christie, others on their poetic qualities? Wouldn’t the same thing be true for a movie script? Professor Dancyger: There is a norm for expectations of what a script will be. This is based on how particular story forms have been used over time. Writers differ, some are strong on plot, others on character, yet others on dialogue. Robert Towne is very good on dialogue, David Rayfiel is very good at story construction, Francis Coppola is very good at tone. Each is unusually gifted in their area but few writers are good at every thing. What is the best way of breaking into the hollywood script business? Do you just email your script to someone? Or do you need to know a lot of people in order to make it? Professor Dancyger:  Working in the business at all levels is the way into a career. Schools help as you can make a good short film that will get you attention. At that point the door may well open for you. Have a well written feature film script written. That too will help. At the moment CONTENT is king in Film and Television. The opportunities are abundant. It remains tough but this is a good time for writers. I have seen European writers and directors go from a nominated foreign film to a Hollywood opportunity. This is the competition students who graduate from Film Schools face. When your script has been bought, it may be reworked by someone else, might it not? So the end result doesn’t really have to look anything like you originally intended? Isn’t this frustrating? Professor Dancyger: The realities of the industry is that many voices will impact your script, in both Film and Television. It might be frustrating but my advice is get over it. Its the way of this world.. When I was a student, my professor told me a story about the Irish Nobel laureate, Samuel Beckett, and how he was rejected many times, only to become famous as a mature man. At what point should one give up, and simply accept the fact that perhaps one’s talent isn’t sufficient for a career in Hollywood? Professor Dancyger:  Persistence is more valuable a trait for a writer than in many fields. There is no one path. Everyone has talent, not everyone is persistent. You must have read thousands of scripts, what would you say is the most common mistake that young or novice writers make? Professor Dancyger: The most common mistakes early writers make are, in order: Excessive reliance on dialogue.  Not understanding how much change in the main character has to take place in the Feature film and how many barriers to the main character’s goal need to be overcome in the course of the screen story. That plot an external pressure on the main character, needs to be deployed and that it should have surprising twists and turns. Tone is how your unique voice underlies the story. Genre or story form matters and given its plasticity it can make your story seem fresher. What is the best movie script of all time, and why? Professor Dancyger:  The best movie script of all time is a tough nut. I have many favorites: Casey Robinson’ NOW VOYAGER for story construction Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD for character and dialogue Samuel Raphelson’s SHOP AROUND THE CORNER for sheer pleasure Federico Fellini’s 8/1/2 for creativity Elem Klimov’s COME AND SEE for daring and passion I could go on but will stop… Like this:Like Loading... [...]
creative writing / literatureSometimes everyone who writes get frustrated. You search for different ways of improving your writing, and of understanding what it actually is. There is a whole support industry for writers, with all sorts of meta theories, methods and ideas. But which ones to choose? decided on a different approach: we would seek out a genuine clinical psychologist and ask him or her some questions. Of course, there is the a chance that we might not be asking the right questions. But that’s what psychologists are for, isn’t it? We were fortunate enough to get in touch with professor Elena Grigorenko. And we got some things clarified at least: even a distinguished professor may struggle with writing. ……..Also, I think our questions could have been better. Some people write diaries or journals, does this have any proven psychological value? Elena Grigorenko: This is a very broad question. Psychological value in general? Or as a component of something else, for example, treatment for aphasia or dysgraphia or depression? With regard to the former, it depends on how the writer frames diary and/or journal writing for him/herself. The subjective value attached to this exercise does matter a lot. It could be viewed as an autobiographical tool, as a self-efficacy tool, as a writing development tool, and all these tools are improvable—the more you practice, the better you get. With regard to the latter, yes, writing is used effectively in various treatment approaches and there is a corresponding literature for that. Does it matter whether you write by hand or on a keyboard? Elena Grigorenko: The writing mode one uses does matter. Consider a number of parameters here. The first is speed. When adults speak, they produce 120-180 words per minute, when they type—60-90 words, when they handwrite—18-24 words. The second is coordination—while writing by hand, we need to coordinate multiple modalities, there is a substantial fine motor element to hand-writing which is very important. The third is editability; when we type, it is much easier to edit, compared to handwriting. Finally (among many other possible dimensions of comparisons, I suppose), there are esthetic features to writing. Calligraphy was considered a type of art; not quite like painting, but… not that different, really. Typing has never been appreciated for its esthetic features. So, it does matter; different types of writing engage different (although overlapping, of course) sets of psychological processes. What about writing literature, being creative and constructing scenarios that have nothing to do with your personal experience? Elena Grigorenko:  What about it? This opens different dimensions for us to consider, among which are “gift with words” (this type of writing is different from creating grocery lists) and “gift of storytelling.” This is not only about the skill of putting words on paper or on screen. There is much more to it! Is there an optimal way of writing, things that one should or should not do? Elena Grigorenko:  Writing for what purposes? Developmentally, writing acquisition is a very important component of developing mind-hand coordination, so hand-writing is very important. In the everyday adult world typing saves time, makes people much more effective in expressing their thoughts quickly (and sometimes sloppily). There are different (very different!) goals for which different modes of writing are used, and it is important to differentiate these goals. When I was a student, I found that writing had an impact on memory. For instance, if there was a lecture, whether I remembered its content or not often depended on whether I took notes. Regardless of whether I actually consulted my notes afterwards. Is this true? Elena Grigorenko: Yes, it is true. Note-taking gives you a chance to process the information twice, initially orally and then when you put your thoughts on paper. This means you have encoded the information twice (and therefore, will remember it better). Many writers have different rituals that they perform before beginning their daily sessions. Does this have any proven value? Elena Grigorenko:  I, unfortunately, do not know much about these routines, but I assume that these are used as self-organization devices, so people get themselves into states of mind that they consider effective for the goals they want to accomplish. It is, probably, not that different from musicians or athletes or professors—all have to get into modes of maximum performance. What does writing tell us about the way we externalize and organize ideas? Elena Grigorenko:  Are you asking about judging the quality of thinking of an individual based on his or her writing? Sure, that can be done. That is why writing is used diagnostically in school settings, admission to higher education settings, and job performance settings. Yes, writing is a good diagnostic tool. And it could be used to diagnose different skills–critical thinking and creative thinking, among other things. If we regard writing in terms of brain function, have we discovered anything new in recent years about the phenomena of writing? Elena Grigorenko:  Writing does involve the brain and there are specific pathways (partially overlapping with and partially different from those used to substantiate reading and math). Are there differences between the effect of different types of languages, for instance English and Chinese? Elena Grigorenko: Yes, of course. Writing necessitates the mastery of a writing system, alphabetic or not. As systems differ, so does writing, both developmentally (i.e., how we learn it) and functionally (i.e. how we use it). What about your own methods of writing? You have written several books; did you follow any of your own advice? Elena Grigorenko: No, unfortunately, I do not have a recipe. Writing is difficult for me, it is hard work. And all I do to get better is practice as much as I can and solicit feedback as much as I can. And try to get better at it. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyI 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!”. by Michael Henrik Wynn 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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... [...]
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. 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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... [...]
historyThe greatest city on earth in medieval times was not London, Paris or Rome. It was probably Angkor Wat, the Cambodian giant temple complex that was eventually swallowed by the jungle and forgotten by time. However, there exists a first-hand account of the Angkor culture at the peak of its power, from the pen of Zhou Daguan, a Chinese diplomat who later published a book entitled The Customs of Cambodia. Solang Uk has translated this rare work into English, and we asked him to describe the journey  Zhou Daguan would have taken. What sort of man was Zhou Daguan, and why was he selected to go on this long trip to Angkor? Solang Uk: He must have been a young Han Chinese (Han is the major ethnic group) in search of an adventure. The Emperor at the time was a Mongolian (not a Han). Maybe he was selected to be a delegation member because he was a young intellectual with keen eyes and good at recording. Were there strong trading links between China and Angkor? What sort of place did Angkor have in regional politics? Solang Uk: Of course, for a long time – Chinese records about the region existed since the 3rd century although the country was called different name by the Chinese. Zhou (the surname of Zhou Daguan – all Asians write surname first) wrote about Produce (chap. 19), Trade (chap. 20), Desirable Chinese Goods (chap. 21). Angkor was a major power on the mainland Southeast Asia. Recent lidar imaging have revealed that Angkor was a gigantic urbanised empire. I know China too was pretty developed, but was Zhou in any way impressed by what he saw? Solang Uk: Zhou did not mention canals, but he talked about huge artificial lakes called Baray. There are known three large Barays (the East, the West, and the North or Indratataka). In chapter 1, “On the City Perimeter”, he talked a lot about huge monuments with golden towers. His words: “Maybe this is the reason why foreign merchants often talk about the rich and noble Zenla”. What do we know about the king he visited, Indravarman III ? Solang Uk: Indravarman III is the son-in-law of the preceding King Jayavarman VIII. He was a General of the latter whose daughter (Indravarman III’s wife) stole the King’s royal sacred sword and gave it to her husband. The crown prince (son of Jayavarman VIII, name not known) plotted an attack on the General, but the plot was discovered, he was arrested, jailed, and had his toes cut off. Upon the King’s abdication in his old age, the General took the throne as Indravarman III (his other name is Sri Srindravarman). “I was told by the locals that the king goes up to sleep inside the golden tower every night. Inside there is a nine-headed snake spirit that is the lord of the land for the whole country, and is in the form of a woman. Every night she sees the king first, sleep; and couples with him. Even the queen would not dare go in. The king leaves at the ‘second drum beat’. Only then can the king sleep with the queen or with the royal concubines. If the snake spirit does not appear one night, the time of death for the king has arrived. If the barbarian king fails to go up one night, then disaster will certainly happen.” Zhou Daguan Were the people of Angkor literate like the Chinese? If so, has any of their literature survived? Solang Uk: Do you think the people who can build an empire that rivals the Chinese were less literate than the latter? Alas, the books did not survive the hot and humid tropical climate. Describe to us what Zhou would have seen in Angkor? Solang Uk:  In addition to the two gigantic lakes mentioned by Zhou, all monuments have surrounding moats 100m – 200m wide. The city of Yashodarapura known today as Angkor Thom is square shape of 3km each side surrounded by a moat 100m wide. There are dozens of temples outside Angkor Thom all surrounded by moats, the famous one being the well known 7th wonder of the world, Angkor Wat with a moat 200m wide and a perimeter of 5.5km. What sort of religion did the people of Angkor have? What sort of diet did they have, and what were their life expectancy? Solang Uk: Zhou mentioned three concurrent religions – Buddhism, Hinduism (predominantly Sivaism, occasionally Vishnuism), and ascetism. They ate fish and rice, obviously. We are talking about the 13th century world – who is to know people’s life expectancy! Do we know anything about the past times of the people of Angkor? Solang Uk: Zhou mentioned that practically every month of the year, there are different sorts of entertainment: 4th month, the ceremony of ball throwing, 5th month ceremony of welcoming/washing Buddha, 7th month, the ceremony of burning freshly ripen paddy, 8th month festival of music and dance, and pig fights and elephant fights, etc. The bas-relief sculptures on the Bayon temple are full of daily life scenes with dancers, musicians, pig fights, traders, tea shops, soldiers, and war scenes, etc. How important has Zhou Daguan’s book been to Cambodians and their understanding of history? Solang Uk: Zhou’s Record is very important for Cambodia as it is the only surviving written document on Cambodia in the 13th century. It fills the gap in the Cambodian history. Other documents of the time that were written on animal skin or palm leaves did not survive the tropical climate – moulds and bacteria love the hot and humid environment of Angkor. Other parts of Cambodian history were deciphered from stone inscriptions in Sanskrit or in ancient Khmer, and they refer mainly to the good deeds of Kings and high officials. What happened to Daguan after his return to China? Solang Uk: Soon after his return to China, Zhou must have had his Record published in his native province of Zhejiang, but the date is not exactly known. The Record was subsequently republished by different editors. According to the French sinologist, the late Paul Pelliot, there are now seven different versions of Zhou Daguan’s Record on Cambodia, but all are based on single archetype. Zhou Daguan was not well known in China. To China, Cambodia (although Angkor was well known then) was not so important as Japan, Korea, Mongolia where the threat of invasion/war is its main constant preoccupation. In 1296 AD, Chinese traveler Zhou Daguan visited Angkor-capital of Cambodia’s powerful Khmer Empire-as a member of a diplomatic mission sent by Emperor Temur Khan. Today, Zhou’s written record of his residency is the only surviving eyewitness account of that extraordinary and mysterious time and place. Customs of Cambodia – Zhou Daguan Paperback, is published by is published by DatASIA and available from Amazon     Like this:Like Loading... [...]