Wednesday 29 November 2023
Thursday 26 October 2023
In the early 1980s I saw a television adaptation of Paul Scott's The Jewel in the Crown. I came away thinking that it was a poignant love story but nothing more. It had an exotic setting and was entertaining as a romance.
Now I have read the novel from which the television series was adapted. Not for the first time I am struck by how badly novels are served by film adaptation. The original novel from which the Jewel in the Crown television production was taken is among the most intelligent and complex novels I have ever read. There is a love story of sorts within it, but rather than being the point of the book it is just the thread upon which everything else depends.
By "everything else", what I mean is an exceptionally wise and perceptive portrait of what being involved with British rule in India did to mostly well-intentioned people - and, of course, what it did to Indians themselves. The novel is told from a number of points of view and that I think makes its title absolutely perfect - we are looking at the Raj as if it were a gem stone and seeing it from the many different angles the stonecutter has created on its surface.
A gem stone is the wrong analogy, however, as Scott does not present British rule as benign and excellent. Nor does he condemn it. What he does is create numerous vivid characters and take the reader into each one's way of seeing the world. He shows us how, while most of those involved were not intending to do harm, many were pretty unimaginative and mainly interested in the benefits they received from being in India as servants of Britain. Even those who had reservations about the system, such as Miss Crane and Deputy Commissioner White, were not able to either change anything, nor to fully understand it - or, in Miss Crane's case not until very late in the day.
After reading the book, I wanted to find out about Paul Scott, because I was in awe of his wisdom and skill. I was saddened to discover that he died unrecognised and that his writing was a struggle that seems to have cost him his happiness and health. I urge anyone looking for a superb novel to give The Jewel in the Crown a try. I feel we owe Scott that. He may no longer be alive but I hope he will continue to be read and appreciated. I hope this both because his work is superb but also because I would like to know that his efforts were not in vain.
Wednesday 13 September 2023
This charming Tweet, (or whatever the things formerly known as Tweets are now called), reminded me of what may be Charles Causley's most famous poem - the one about a dancing bear.
In 1985, to my astonishment, I saw a dancing bear. It was in Belgrade, in an underpass near the BIP - (Beogradsko Industriuja Pivo) - factory (was there ever a more enticingly named beer?) and the rehabilitation hospital where men from whatever socialist conflict Yugoslavia was then supporting in Africa lay on loungers contemplating their lost limbs and the perpetual snarls of traffic on the spaghetti junction beside which the institution was positioned.
Years later I encountered Causley's poem for the first time. He captured perfectly the expression in the eyes of the bear I saw, sadly. It was one of the most melancholy things I've ever witnessed:
Thursday 7 September 2023
The trilogy "takes us inside a world that would usually be closed to us and explores the complex relationships within a dysfunctional family, allowing us to see below the surface and understand something of the world the members of the family inhabit."
Monday 21 August 2023
Recently I've noticed the phrase "whisper it" creeping into articles and features. Here is an example:
Saturday 19 August 2023
I am not posting something from the Financial Times this time - possibly this one is from the Telegraph, although I didn't make a note so can't be sure. Anyway it is an enchanting little poem by a pre-World War I phenomenon:
Perhaps I find this poem moving because the opening pages of my first novel contain moth references, suggesting I have moth inclinations. Or, more likely, it is because the question the poem asks is such an interesting one.
Thursday 17 August 2023
I bought a copy of the Financial Times. As it is difficult to access it on-line, I am posting the articles I read in it that strike me as worth sharing.
This one touches on the extraordinary trivialisation of news reporting in Britain. The BBC is so tabloid it is breathtaking. As the writer of the article says:
"The Sahel, that luckless area stretching from Senegal to Eritrea, is nearer to Europe than America is. Maybe its slow impalement by the pincers of jihadism & secular banditry will turn out to be of no external consequence but it seems a subject deserving more than indifference."