Supposedly Human, the World’s Shame

Between Enemies
Andrea Molesini, trans. Antony Shugaar and Patrick Creagh
Allen & Unwin
November 2015
AU $29.99

between_enemiesAndrea Molesini’s Between Enemies is an eloquent tale of occupation, collaboration and resistance set in WWI.  Based on true events, it follows the aristocratic Spada household as their property is requisitioned by German soldiers, then Austrians.  Their village is occupied.  Eventually the whole household as well as several villagers are drawn to resist the occupiers.

Told from the perspective of 17-year-old Paolo, writing as an adult some ten years later, the story is full of high drama, but also nostalgia and melancholy.  Because the narrator is a teenage boy during the events, the story is also sadly filled with the objectification of Paolo’s crush Giulia.  While this is probably realistic, it’s a little tiresome to read, especially when the novel purports to say something about the natures of men and women and their relationships*.  This is usually by way of commentary delivered by Paolo’s eccentric but wise grandfather, and manages to be the same sort of thing supposedly wise men always say about women in stories of this kind.  If authors** could stop doing that, that would be swell. Continue reading

Alternative history: Strangelove, 1962

Strangelove, 1962mrblo

1945: During post-war efforts to bring scientists who worked for the Third Reich into the United States, the US War Department obeys President Truman’s order to exclude scientists who supported Nazism, rather than rewriting candidates’ files to conceal the evidence. The United States and the Soviet Union divide the German scientists with more equality. In particular, the Soviet Union acquires Arthur Rudolf, former operations director of the Mittelwerk factory at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camps.

 

January, 1946: Rather than anticipating a post-war crisis of overproduction in the USA, Soviet economists predict that the United States will try to avoid the crisis by maintaining its wartime military industry and trying to open the new Europe and Asia to free trade. Based on their advice, Stalin now views the United States as the chief threat to the Soviet Union, instead of the reemergence of Germany or Japan. Continue reading

Grendel’s Mum

BEOWULFbeo

J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien

Mariner Books, August 2015

 

A thousand years on, the sharpness of Beowulf‘s images still strikes us. Longships cruise amid icy spray. A king stares with fear amid the riches of his hall. Then comes the fiend Grendel stalking across the moors. Tolkien’s translation weds to these visions the rhythm and grandeur of language that rumbles even as it exults, which rolls like the swells of the sea. Continue reading

The Scandinavian Wit

KILLING HOPEkill

Blum, William (Common Courage Press, updated edition October 2008, ISBN 978-1567512526)

In 2009, President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” [1]

Many thought the prize undeserved – on the grounds that Obama appeared too much the enemy of peace. Had he won it, they asked, for prosecuting a war in Afghanistan? Or instead for his proposal to expand the United States military? Or for his plan to send “at least” two additional American combat brigades to Afghanistan? Continue reading

Volkswagen

A SCANNER DARKLYscanner

Dick, Philip K.  (Doubleday, 1977, ISBN 0385016131)

My grandfather bought the Volkswagen in 1968. He imported it direct from Germany and shifted the steering column over to the right-hand side.

A year later man set foot on the moon. Continue reading

Walter

WALTER
mrblo

My brother travelled through Cambodia with a psychopathological German named Walter who always wore yellow and black bike shorts. Walter refused to take his shoes off at sacred sites. At the Killing Fields south of Phnom Penh, Walter rebuked a local tour guide for failing to stand up to the Khmer Rouge.

South Central Idaho

gods_smuggler

GOD’S SMUGGLER, THE LAND OF THE KANGAROO, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT ITHE 1990s, others

Brother Andrew, Elizabeth Sherrill, John Sherrill and Pope John XXIII (Chosen Books, 2001, ISBN 9780800793012), Thomas Knox (W. A. Wilde & Company: Boston, 1896, ISBN (reprint) 9781409970385), Peter Townrow and Ron Martin (editors) (Routledge, 2002, ISBN 9780117023659)

A wearisome ancient practice requires the journalist to begin his description of any country or region by describing it as “a land of contradictions”.

The charitable view sees this as the journalist’s admission that he hasn’t comprehended his subject. That he views the disparate facets he’ll go on to describe as contradictions, comprehending too little about the country or region to harmonise them. Continue reading

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      THE WELL Catherine Chanter   ISBN: 9781922182685 Published 11th March 2015, Text Publishing Ever heard the call of nature? No, I don’t mean the loo for crying out loud – trees, the countryside, that sort of thing. I’ve always wanted a little cottage with a parlour and a lavender garden and … Continue reading