June 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
“It’s like Band of Brothers meets I, Claudius.” The above phrase was elicited from Simon Sebag Montefiore when he was on a book tour promoting his book Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar, and the interviewer asked him if he saw a movie deal in the making. At the time I only understood the first half of his statement. Now having completed both I, Claudius and Claudius the God (and read Montefiore’s biography of Stalin) I commend him on his apt description. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
Exhausted and morose. That is what I felt upon completing, Meredith’s history of Africa. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
One of the highest literacy rates in Africa. Excellent infrastructure and a claim to the title of “rainbow nation” long before South Africa. How did Zimbabwe plummet from such heights to its current infamous reputation: a currency so hyperinflated that you require a wheelbarrow of cash in order to purchase a loaf of bread; cholera epidemics; food shortages; starvation; and rampant unemployment? Robert Mugabe. The world’s most infamous nonagenarian. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
“I wish there were a better word than victims to describe what these people are. It seems so inert, so passive, and weak. And that is not what they are at all. There is dignity to their suffering. Even as they tell me how they have fled, how they have hidden, how they have been humiliated and mocked, there is little self-pity here. Survivors, I suppose defines them better. Again, and again, as I play stenographer to their suffering, I offer to conceal their names or geographical districts to prevent them being identified. But again, and again, they volunteer their names, and make sure I spell them correctly. They are proud of their roles in all of this, at the significance of their sacrifice. And they want it recorded.”
An excerpt from The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe by Peter Godwin. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 24, 2015 § 2 Comments
Stalin the affectionate father. Stalin the charmer. Stalin the flirt. Stalin the benevolent friend. Hardly the images one associates with Joseph Vissarionovich Dzugashvili, better known to the world as Joseph Stalin. We grapple with trying to understand men such as Stalin because the distilled evil that he embodies is beyond our comprehension. But it’s far too easy to dismiss him as a sadistic, paranoid schizophrenic. By reading The Court of the Red Tsar a more rounded picture of the Georgian emerges: here was a man driven by belief (in Marxist-Leninist ideology) and ambition. Stalin believed in Russian chauvinism (Orwell was right when he said that nationalism arises in the periphery). He fervently believed in the ideology that his party espoused. Stalin was more like a local mafioso, as opposed to the demagogue that Hitler was, and that he knew he had to work his way to the top; maneuver deftly, look after his associates, and build his court. He was no plodding mediocrity. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 24, 2015 § 1 Comment
The Russian words for “red” and “beautiful” share the same root; hence the colour red having the most complimentary connotations. To the Bolsheviks it signified the blood of the workers. Yet after reading A People’s Tragedy it is difficult not to imagine the very soil of Russia taking on a red hue: the amount of blood spilt is nauseating. The Bolsheviks may have considered themselves atheists and non-believers, yet the fact remains that they were religious fanatics and fundamentalists. Fervent advocates of Marxist-Leninist ideology, they believed that whatever the cost may be it was worth paying in order to build a socialist utopia. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 19, 2015 § Leave a comment
Some readers may have been offended and angered by Hitchens’ polemics against religion or Mother Teresa; others may have admired him for those very same polemics. You may have disagreed vehemently with him on his stance on Iraq; or chuckled at his witty response to the occasional imbecile in the audience. But Hitch was a voice, and a mind, to be reckoned with; as many of his debating partners found out. His essays and his diatribes were infused with wit and humour; delivered with panache; and supported by an unfailing memory.
His rogues’ gallery included the likes of George Galloway, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, god, and the aforementioned Mother Teresa. In his last published work, Mortality, he took on death. In particular, that malady that is so inextricably linked in our minds with death: cancer.
Hitch’s writing is witty, insightful, and regarding the superstitious beliefs that will forever exist when it comes to death, if not due to: scathing and vitriolic.
To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?
In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light.
My so far uncancerous throat, let me rush to assure my Christian correspondent above, is not at all the only organ with which I have blasphemed.