V.S. Naipaul, RIP

He wrote four masterpieces: A House for Mr. Biswas; Among the Believers; Guerrillas; Miguel Street. That is many more masterpieces than many of us will write. He was, apparently, a cantankerous fellow, but what I loved most about him was this interview he gave about his kitty (oddly, the kitty is not mentioned in the headline). He understood the love of a cat. His feelings about Augustus are the feelings I had (and have) for all the cats of my life.

Thank God for the Atom Bomb

Every year at this time, I re-read Paul Fussell’s magnificent “Thank God for the atom bomb.” If you haven’t read it, you must, and if you have read it, you must read it again and again. I am so tired of the sophomoric posturing that goes on at the mention of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Harry Truman’s difficult, necessary and, yes, courageous decision.

I love this quote – it makes me think of my uncle who died at Falaise gap. 

Experience whispers that the pity is not that we used the bomb to end the Japanese war but that it wasn’t ready in time to end the German one. If only it could have been rushed into production faster and dropped at the -11- right moment on the Reich Chancellery or Berchtesgaden or Hitler’s military headquarters in East Prussia (where Colonel Stauffenberg’s July 20 bomb didn’t do the job because it wasn’t big enough), much of the Nazi hierarchy could have been pulverized immediately, saving not just the embarrassment of the Nuremberg trials but the lives of around four million Jews, Poles, Slavs, and gypsies, not to mention the lives and limbs of millions of Allied and German soldiers. If the bomb had only been ready in time, the young men of my infantry platoon would not have been so cruelly killed and wounded.

If you don’t know history (and most people don’t), learn it – a good place to start is by reading the aforelinked essay.

Die Trapp Familie

My dear regular readers know how I love The Sound of Music. Well, through the wonders of the internets I discovered another version of the true story, a German film made in 1956. If is quite good, though it lacks the magic of little Gretl and Julie Andrews and, of course, the glory that is our Canadian icon of handsomeness, Christopher Plummer. It also lacks the perfect score, though having listed many “lacks,” I still recommend it. A different tone, of course, being German, but very good nonetheless. First part below – following parts should show up in the sidebar.

Claude Lanzmann

If you haven’t seen “Shoah,” you really must. May Lanzmann rest in peace. He was harsh – he had to be.

One of the most harrowing interviews Lanzmann did was also among the briefest in Shoah — Yitzhak Zuckerman, a leader of the Jewish resistance in Warsaw, who survived Treblinka and saw untold numbers of friends and comrades die. He told Lanzmann bitterly, “if you could lick my heart, it would poison you.”

At the film’s premier, the French journalist Jean Daniel told Lanzmann: “This justifies a life.”

The emphasis is mine, and I utterly agree with Jean Daniel’s comment.

Update: please read Paul Berman’s tribute and also BHL’s.

Bernard Lewis

I’m late to post about the great scholar of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May. This is a fine tribute (though there are certainly others) and in particular, Nordlinger points out that Lewis was a great friend of the Arabs. I love this:

A book by Lewis was translated into Hebrew and published by the Israeli defense ministry. The same book was translated into Arabic and published by the Muslim Brotherhood (unauthorized). In his preface to the Arabic version, the translator said, “I don’t know who this author is, but one thing about him is clear: He is either a candid friend or an honorable enemy, and in either case is one who has disdained to falsify the truth.”

I believe Lewis was one of the only academics who truly understood modern Turkey and the woes of Islam’s (and Islamism’s) relationship (such as it is) with modernity. Full disclosure: he was a friend of my Significant Other, who had him up to Toronto as a speaker on many occasions. I’ve been trying to convince him to write about Lewis, but so far, to no avail. Should that change, will let you know here.

An Irish Michelangelo

Two clips of my adventures in falconry. In both clips you get to see why one should always pack one’s flat-iron, and in the first you get to see a) my slow-mo “Wow” and b) my bulbous Irish nose and sagging double-chin. Seriously – am starting to resemble the late Tim Russert (but when he was alive). The magnificent Harris’s hawk’s name is Michelangelo and he truly is a work of art. Thank you, Killarney Falconry (linked above) and Sheen Falls Lodge for this experience. [Thanks to Nick Morelli @icantgetnosleep — on instagram — for the first video and Aparna Pednekar for the second.]

 

Ireland

Dear readers, I am back from a wonderful trip to Ireland, about which I will be writing here (and in other places) anon. I wanted to start with a picture of myself taken on Whiddy Island, Ireland. I rarely post — and even more rarely appreciate — pictures of myself. But I truly like this photo, because I think it sums me up in a frame. I will write more about this photo later, and in particular this cat, but for now I would just like to thank my colleague Hermann Low for taking and sending it. Danke.

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