Argentinian poem on Falklands/Malvinas war


This music video by British anarchist punk rock band Crass says about itself:

Crass – Sheep Farming In The Falklands

28 jun. 2007

Some images and footage from the Falklands War… just as stupid and needless as the current Iraq war… Politicians take note… 1 2 3 4 We Don’t Want Your Fuckin’ War.

The lyrics of this song are here.

Poem by Argentinian Leo Boix, living in England:

Archipelago

Saturday 2nd April 2016

I was seven

when the teacher

unfurled the map

for us all to see:

“The Malvinas are Argentine.”

And I so little,

imagined those islets,

as savage beasts

as swimming dogs

facing that immensity,

of all the oceanic

blue.

So small

the lost islands,

a war

we watched as a family

on a 22 inch

Hitachi

television,

in full colour

illuminating the dining room

and the armchairs made of cane.

Little lead soldiers

in a frozen landscape,

bombs fell,

ships sunk,

we played

a battle

inanimate

of the opposing sides,

under the shadow of the flowerless

rubber trees.

“The Malvinas are Argentine,”and nearby

the neighbours

put together

a rag doll

of the Iron Lady,

filled with paper and dry straw,

with old high-heel shoes

and buttons sawn to the head.

She had a stitched

bag, and was tied to a stick

to keep her

so imposing.

But still

the fire

ended up consuming

rapidly

the effigy

Thatcher.

And we the children danced

in a circle singing

while the soldiers fell

on the road to Port Stanley,

flashes in the sky,

wounded,

the battle

Goose Green,

the general announcing: “We are winning.”

But the dead kept coming

upon us

as if unearthing shame.

And when the deceit

ended,

the screen announced

Argies go home.”

Nobody won,

we all lost,

and they did not come back from the South Atlantic.

It’s hard to believe,

I was seven

and still remember

that freezing April,

the box of chocolates

that we sent

to the islands,

so that the cold

wouldn’t end up

freezing

the apathy

of bewilderment.

British novelist Lydia Syson on history, fiction and young people


This video from Britain is called

By Lydia Syson from Britain:

Narratives should speak volumes about the past

Thursday 24th March 2016

The books we read as children are often the stories that stay with us for the rest of our lives, says novelist LYDIA SYSON, and that’s why good fiction is so important in sparking a lasting interest in history for young people

JUST as history has to be rewritten in every generation because the present always changes, so too does historical fiction for the young.

This truth came home to me when I realised how little my children’s generation knew about the anti-fascist struggles of the 1930s. I grew up with Jack and Moira Gaster, grandparents who talked to me about taking part in the Battle of Cable Street and of friends who died in Spain.

Moira encouraged me to learn poetry by heart in case I found myself in a prison cell without a book — that can happen after a protest, she explained.

But now there is nobody left alive in Britain who fought with the International Brigades. Aid for Spain is a distant memory and the Spanish civil war barely gets a mention in school history lessons.

So when I started work on A World Between Us, the story of a nurse, a journalist and a young communist East Ender who go to Spain in 1936, I felt a great sense of responsibility.

I hoped the book would spark a life-long interest but I knew it might be the only one many teenagers would ever read about Britain’s involvement in the Spanish civil war. I had to get my facts absolutely right. But I also had to keep those pages turning.

Twilight, the series of fantasy romance novels, was all the rage among young people just then. Any kind of history, let alone radical history, was a hard sell in the burgeoning young adult fiction market.

Faced with a readership obsessed with vampire love affairs, could I sweep them away into the heady, idealistic politics of interwar Europe? Could I convey how easy it is to fall as passionately in love with an idea as with a person?

Luckily for me, historians like Angela Jackson had begun to uncover two aspects of the Spanish civil war that are now getting even more attention — the history of women in the war and also the history of medicine.

As I read about the breakthroughs in blood collection and front-line transfusions, A World Between Us began to write itself. Throughout republican Spain, villagers, city-dwellers, nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers all rolled up their sleeves to give blood for the cause of democracy and progress.

What a powerful image, a gift to a novelist! The nurses whose accounts I plundered even spoke of themselves as vampires.

I already had my opening chapter, in which nurse Felix and wounded protester Nat Kaplan meet during the clash between demonstrators and police when Mosley’s blackshirts tried to march through the Jewish East End 80 years ago. The cry at Gardiner’s Corner was taken straight from the streets of Madrid: “No pasaran! They shall not pass!”

Felix pursues Nat to Spain, and her admirer George sets out to bring her home. But he cannot remain neutral in the face of the horrors he witnesses. Plotting my characters’ stories and emotions against the key events of the war — the siege of Madrid, the battle of Jarama, Guernica, Brunete, Teruel, the Ebro — I worked out a subplot of sabotage and thwarted hopes.

A World Between Us was published in 2012 by an innovative new publisher Hot Key Books. They were so enthusiastic about promoting the radical history behind the novel they even produced an enhanced iBook edition, available on iTunes, with interviews, archive material, photographs, maps and music.

One thing always leads to another. School students I talk to always recognise photographs of Hitler. Some manage Mussolini, and a few Franco, but I’ve yet to meet one who can identify Oswald Mosley, the charismatic leader of the British Union of Fascists.

They gasp when I show a picture of British crowds giving a fascist salute to a procession during the 1935 Royal Jubilee. It’s easy to forget that in the summer of 1940, when invasion threatened Britain, fears of fifth columnists and quislings — home-grown fascists who would welcome the enemy with open arms — were all too real.

Spy fever raged. Pacifists were abused. National unity could hardly be taken for granted. This is the atmosphere I tried to recreate in That Burning Summer, my second novel. It’s set on Romney Marsh in Kent during the Battle of Britain and its hero is a Polish pilot who has lost his nerve.

I returned to epic romance for my next book. When talking about A World Between Us a few years ago for a World Book Day school event, we sang the Internationale, the anthem which united international brigaders from 53 different countries.

The Internationale was written at the fall of the revolutionary Paris Commune of 1871, from which at least four brigade battalions took their names. Two commemorated the commune’s best-known heroine, Louise Michel.

It was obvious from the success of Les Miserables that love, revolution and barricades would always be an irresistible combination for teenagers. I had the germ of a new novel, Liberty’s Fire.

The eloquence of so many former volunteers for liberty made A World Between Us a relatively easy book to write. In taped interviews, letters and memoirs, women and men like Patience Darton, Penny Feiwel, Aileen Palmer, Reginald Saxton and James Neugass described their experiences in extraordinarily vivid and often poetic terms. Making the world of the Paris Commune live and breathe was a much harder task.

Between 10 and 20,000 communards were massacred on the streets of Paris in May 1871 when French government troops brutally invaded the capital.

The dead can’t tell their story. Many of the survivors, particularly working-class women, were illiterate or left no records. Imagining their voices sometimes felt an impossible challenge.

I also had to disentangle the confusing politics of the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune. And this for a young audience who perhaps knew a little about the 1789 French revolution but nothing at all of the four that followed.

Once again, my focus was on character and the detail of the everyday. I stared at photographs of women in prison accused of arson, the notorious — and probably mythical — “petroleuses.” I tramped the streets of Paris, eyeing up paving stones. I marvelled at how thoroughly and quickly the violence of the final days of the Commune was erased, its memory repressed.

Property speculation in London is now forcing ordinary workers ever further from the capital’s centre. Zero-hours contracts are the new norm. Women still don’t have equal pay for equal work and the arts remain dominated by an elite. Shades of Second-Empire Paris? The Commune’s social justice agenda continues to resonate and you can feel its spirit in movements like Occupy and the Indignados.

Some young readers will notice these echoes and ask questions. Others might have picked up the book in search of a love story. They’ll find that but also more, I hope.

Though I don’t write novels to provide lessons, but to sow seeds, seeds do take time to grow. In later life, my grandfather Jack said he was a romantic socialist before he was a political one.

Passion is essential to politics and if you want to understand how the two are connected, historical fiction seems to me a very good place to begin.

Lydia Syson will be discussing her work with archivist Meirian Jump at 7pm on March 31 at the the Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1 as part of the library’s Children and Socialism series, details: marx-memorial-library.org www.lydiasyson.com @lydiasyson

Novel on Paris Commune, review


This August 2015 video from Britain is called Liberty’s Fire by Lydia Syson and The Quietness by Alison Rattle.

By John Green in Britain:

Days of the Commune come thrillingly to life

Thursday 24th March 2016

Liberty’s Fire
by Lydia Syson
(Hot Key Books, £7.99)

WRITING fiction for teenagers is a particularly difficult task. Pitching a story so that it does not come across as too childish, or reeks of the musty adult world, takes great skill.

The question becomes even more acute when the subject matter is historical. How can a writer bring history alive for a younger generation without over-simplifying or becoming bogged down in explanatory detail? And then there is the gender question — do you offer romance or swashbuckling action?

Lydia Syson manages to achieve a delicate balance between all those contending issues in this novel about the Paris Commune.

Liberty’s Fire may take a while to get off the ground but the reader is very soon swept up into the turmoil, drama and conflict during the siege of Paris in 1871 when the reactionary French government, led by Adolphe Thiers and supported by his erstwhile enemy the Prussians, crushed the popular take-over of the city.

The Commune was the first workers’ revolution with a radical, socialist agenda. It lasted for just over two months and was suppressed with the utmost brutality by the French ruling class. Between 20-35,000 people were killed, with 4,000 deported to the French colonies and many more imprisoned or driven into exile. Marx and Engels viewed the Commune both as an event that validated their theories and as an experience from which the working-class movement could learn.

Syson brings this pivotal episode of 19th-century history glowingly alive.

Through the eyes of the young violinist Anatole and the orphaned working-class girl Zephyrine, both recent arrivals in the city, we experience the refusal of Parisians to accept the French government’s servile capitulation.

Instead, they decide to run the city themselves.

The couple, meeting on the street in unusual circumstances, soon fall in love. Both are unwittingly sucked into the turmoil and soon become actively involved in the defence of the Commune.

With its defeat, Anatole manages to escape to exile to England via Geneva, while Zephyrine is transported to New Caledonia.

Romance is at the centre of a book which even so never becomes sentimental.

The love story is firmly embedded in the historic fabric of the events, with the reader learning about a historical process while following the riveting fate of the two protagonists.

There is a marked feminist element, with strong women playing central roles, not as mere decoration, and perhaps this may make it a novel which appeals more to girls than boys.

But, as the anniversary of the Commune is marked over the coming weeks, this is a great read for young people — and adults for that matter — irrespective of gender.

Lydia Syson will be discussing her work as part of the Children and Socialism series of events at the Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1 on March 31, details: marxlibrary.org.uk.

‘Shakespeare’s skull was stolen’


This video from England says about itself:

TRAILER: Shakespeare’s Tomb | Saturday 8pm | Channel 4

21 March 2016

William Shakespeare‘s grave has long been subject to rumour and intrigue, but has never been investigated, until now

Find out more here.

From the BBC:

Shakespeare‘s skull ‘probably stolen’ from Stratford grave

23 March 2016

A hi-tech investigation of William Shakespeare‘s grave has concluded his skull was probably stolen.

The discovery gives credence to a news report in 1879, later dismissed as fiction, that trophy hunters took the skull from his shallow grave in 1794.

A team used a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) scan to look through the grave at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford in the first archaeological probe of the site.

It allowed investigators to see below ground without disturbing the grave.

Archaeologist Kevin Colls of Staffordshire University, who carried out the project with leading geophysicist Erica Utsi, concluded: “We have Shakespeare’s burial with an odd disturbance at the head end and we have a story that suggests that at some point in history someone’s come in and taken the skull of Shakespeare.

“It’s very, very convincing to me that his skull isn’t at Holy Trinity at all.”

The investigation was carried out to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The documentary Secret History: Shakespeare’s Tomb will be shown on Channel 4 on Saturday 26 March at 20:00 BST.

The playwright’s final resting place has long been the subject of argument among historians and archaeologists, because it is too short for an adult burial.

It also carries no name, only the chilling curse: “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

Key findings of the investigation

Evidence of a significant repair to the head end of the grave, leading to the theory that it was needed to correct a sinking of the floor possibly caused by a previous disturbance

The repair gives new credence to a story published in The Argosy magazine in 1879 claiming Shakespeare’s skull was stolen from his shallow grave

The survey found the playwright, his wife Anne Hathaway and other relatives were not buried in a large family vault deep underground, as has long been thought, but in shallow graves beneath the church floor

Shakespeare and his wife’s graves are less than a metre deep

His grave was found to be significantly longer than his short stone – extending west towards the head end, making it the same size as the other family graves

The GPR also found no evidence of metal in the area of the grave, such as coffin nails, suggesting they were not buried in coffins but simply wrapped in winding sheets, or shrouds, and buried in soil

Investigators went to another church, St Leonard’s, in Beoley, Worcestershire, where legend has it a mysterious skull in a sealed crypt is that of Shakespeare‘s.

A forensic anthropological analysis revealed it to belong to an unknown woman who was in her 70s when she died.

Mr Colls said: “It was a great honour to be the first researcher to be given permission to undertake non-invasive archaeological investigations at the grave of William Shakespeare.

“With projects such as this, you never really know what you might find, and of course there are so many contradictory myths and legends about the tomb of the Bard.

“The amazing project team, using state-of-the-art equipment, has produced astonishing results which are much better than I dared hoped for, and these results will undoubtedly spark discussion, scholarly debate and controversial theories for years to come. Even now, thinking of the findings sends shivers down my spine.”

Ancient Greek poetess Sappho, new book


This video says about itself:

Sappho: Love and Life on Lesbos (2015) | Maya Vision International

Papyrology expert Margaret Mountford goes in search of the truth behind the legend of Sappho – the most controversial writer of the ancient world and the first authentic woman’s voice in western history. The mysterious discovery of a lost papyrus containing the words to songs unheard for seventeen hundred years sends Margaret on a journey to explore the truth about Sappho.

Was she indeed the first lesbian, a priestess, prostitute, a stern schoolmistress or an aristocratic lady of leisure as readers over the centuries have variously alleged? We ask how each generation’s view of the archetypal liberated woman of letters tells us as much about us and our fears and concerns as it does about her.

By Lucasta Miller in Britain today:

Searching for Sappho by Philip Freeman, book review: A valiant attempt to uncover the identity of the poet

Freeman uses Sappho’s poetry as a way in to exploring her culture, especially the experience of its women

“Burning Sappho” as Byron called her, remains an enigma. The first – or rather the earliest known – female poet, she came from the Greek island of Lesbos and was active during the late 7th and early 6th-century B.C. One century younger than Homer (whoever he was), she created a voice very different from his epic sweep. Achingly intimate in their first-person love confessions, her lyrics beg the question “who was she”?

In Searching for Sappho, Philip Freeman, an American academic, admits that it is impossible to write the real Sappho’s biography. Even the reconstruction of her oeuvre is trammelled by the fact that it exists in fragments mostly deriving from quotations in the works of much later Classical literary critics. Some of his most intriguing stories relate to the discovery by modern-age archaeologists of scraps of papyrus containing new examples of her work.

Apart from the texts themselves, everything we know about her is a myth. She was said in a Byzantine encyclopaedia to have been married to a wealthy merchant named Cercylas. But this turns out, more likely, to have been a dirty joke, as the name in Greek signifies “Mr Penis from Man Island”. Ovid disseminated the legend that she committed suicide out of lovesickness for a mysterious ferryman, Phaon, who had rejected her advances. Yet Sappho’s extant work includes recently discovered lines that suggest that she outlived the intensity of youth to reach old age (or what passed for old age in an era of low life expectancy).

Sappho is, of course, associated with above all with erotic passion. From her we get the words Sapphic and Lesbian. Her intense portrayal of same-sex eroticism is like nothing else in literature, especially her extended metaphors for physical arousal (Freeman points out that in the phrase usually translated “I am greener than grass”, the word “green” in fact means wet and dewy). And yet she clearly also had a husband as her poetry refers to her beloved daughter Cleis. Sexuality was more fluid in the days of the ancient Greeks. We learn here that their verb “to lesbianize” refers not to woman-on-woman activity but to blow-jobs.

Some have suggested that Sappho’s first-person lyricism was a sophisticated theatrical projection. Freeman asserts on the contrary that her work must have been based on authentic personal experience, although he can offer nothing more than his gut feel to support this argument. What he can do more objectively is to use her poetry as a way in to exploring her culture, especially the experience of its women. Sappho must have belonged to an economically privileged strata, given her education and that she alludes to a sea-faring merchant brother in poem. But in all walks of life, Greek women’s existence was founded on the family and marriage. Her work bears testimony to the wedding rituals of the era and also pays tribute to the intense emotions mothers felt for their children in a time and place when childbirth was as dangerous as the battlefield.

This short book provides an admirably clear and compact introduction to Sappho, while offering as a bonus a complete new translation of her frustratingly incomplete known oeuvre (one fragment reads simply “and I to you … of a white goat”, leaving the mind to boggle). It will whet your appetite, but leave you in a state of unsatisfied desire.

Anne Frank’s diary, new film


This German video is the trailer of the new film The Diary of Anne Frank by Hans Steinbichler.

By Bernd Reinhardt in Germany:

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4:

Flight and persecution—yesterday and today (The Diary of Anne Frank and Meteorstraße)

14 March 2016

This is the fourth and final article on the recent 66th Berlin International Film Festival

“Only a few subjects in the world are known globally. Anne Frank is someone who one can speak to a Muslim about, and they know who you are talking about. Or people from Africa, they also know Anne Frank,” observed director Hans Steinbichler about his new and valuable film version of Anne Frank’s diary.

Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl appeared for the first time in German in 1950 (and in English in 1952) and has moved generations ever since. It has been translated into more than 60 languages.

Little more than 70 years after the death of the refugee Jewish girl—arrested in the Netherlands after escaping the Nazi threat in her native Germany—at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, millions of people are now fleeing from war and the lack of hope for the future around the world.

Refugees stranded in Germany with no perspective is the subject of a second memorable film, Meteorstraße by Aline Fischer.

The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the best known and moving testimonies of life under Nazi rule in Europe. Together with her parents Otto Frank (Ulrich Noethen) and Edith (Martina Gedeck), and sister Margot (Stella Kunkat), Anne (Lea van Acken) flees from Frankfurt in 1933 to the Netherlands to escape the Hitler regime. No longer safe in Amsterdam, the Jewish family conceal themselves in 1942 in the back rooms of an unused part of Otto Frank’s business.

Two families and a Jewish dentist from Berlin, a total of eight people, live in 50 square metres for two years until their hideout is betrayed and discovered in August 1944. Only Anne’s father Otto survived the concentration camp and ensured the publication of the diary.

The material has been adapted for the theatre and filmed numerous times. The George Stevens’ film with Millie Perkins (1959), based on a play, is one of the most prominent. There is also an opera based on Anne’s story.

Hans Steinbichler’s moving new version focuses directly on the ever-present lack of space: darkened windows, hardly any private sphere, rarely any relaxation. There is always the fear that workers in the floors below will hear something. Only during their dinner break, at nights and weekends is it possible to move freely and speak normally. Even the use of the toilet is strictly regulated due to the sound of flushing. The only contact with the outside is via a radio and with close collaborators, who at extreme risk procure the daily necessities of life for the hidden families. The atmosphere becomes increasingly tense as time passes, arguments break out over trivialities and the group become less careful.

Lea van Acken is very convincing as Anne Frank, an adolescent girl for whom any kind of confinement is insufferable. She resists regulations, and is also firmly against any intellectual restraints. Her entire being is directed towards life, to the future. She is contemptuous of her mother due to her patience and Petronella van Daan (Margarita Broich) for her narrow-mindedness. Anne stubbornly defends her writing as it becomes clear to her that her diaries are more than just a pastime. The actress’ sensitive portrayal focuses on the fragile, uncertain and unforgiving in Anne. It is precisely her contradictions that reveal her potential. The ending is thus even more brutal, when Anne peers at the camera with a shaved head.

The film makes clear that people who were in all respects no different from other Germans were turned into the hunted and into victims by the obligation of wearing a yellow star on their clothing. Only such a star on clothes left on a beach incites a group of young Dutch Nazis to force a girl swimming in the sea to leave.

Jewish traditions play a very subordinate role in the Frank family. At birthdays, the popular German song “Many best wishes and blessings” is sung. Anne goes to a Montessori school until the Nazis ban it. Otto fought as a German patriot in the First World War. When it emerges during their arrest that the man standing before the SS soldier is a former German officer who fought for his “fatherland,” the soldier is somewhat confused, and even shows a certain respect.

In a morbid way, the arrest initially appears for a short moment to be somewhat liberating, from the unbearable and inhumane situation. One of the Nazis cannot believe the family lived concealed for two years. Bathed in sunlight, they emerge onto the street for the first time after this long period, only shortly afterwards to climb into a darkened truck to be deported.

The contemporary significance of the film is obvious and also intentional. Walid Nakschbandi, one of the producers, was born in Afghanistan. In the early 1980s, his parents sent him and his siblings to Germany for a better future. A German teacher recommended Anne Frank’s diary to the 14-year-old Walid to help improve his German language skills. Prior to this film, he helped produce the television series My Daughter Anne Frank (directed by Raymond Ley, 2015) about Otto Frank.

This January, on the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day, Eva Schloss, the step-sister of Anne Frank who lives in London, publicly compared the situation facing Syrian refugees with her own during the Nazi era. The Auschwitz survivor declared that she was shocked that so many countries were closing their borders. “Fewer people would have died in the Holocaust if the world had accepted more Jewish refugees.” Eva Schloss stated that Anne Frank and her family would probably not have died if the United States had approved Otto Frank’s desperate application in 1940.

This fact is hardly known and not referred to in the film. It also emerged only a few years ago that the Gestapo officer Karl Josef Silberbauer, who arrested the Frank family, was able to continue to work in his area of expertise after the war. Now under a “democratic” flag. He worked for the notorious Gehlen organisation (named after Wehrmacht general Reinhard Gehlen, one of the leading figures in German intelligence during World War II), the West German spy agency set up by the CIA in 1946 to spy on the USSR and Eastern Europe. The Gehlen organisation employed many former Nazis, including several implicated in war crimes. Silberbauer later worked directly for the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service.

Hardly anyone was held accountable for the Frank arrests and deaths. An investigation into Silberbauer was halted in 1964 because the SS man had acted under orders. He died in Vienna in 1972 without ever having been convicted. According to Enttarnt by Peter-Ferdinand Koch, Silberbauer’s boss in Amsterdam, only known as Wilhelm H., continued working for the BND after the war. Later, the jurist became a senior government official in the Bavarian ministry of the interior.