Tag Archives: Revolution

Of Tyranny and Violence

The people disappeared in Syria’s military prisons do not have graves, but they do have names. They may not have been accorded funeral rites, but they have faces and stories and their families have memories of their presence. The war which has destroyed much of Syria can be localised: to a family, to a single person, to a face. And within the wider war lurk stories of cruelty and barbarism which affect individuals but whose effects spiral outwards. These specific instances of savagery become institutionalised. Continue reading

Abdelbasset al-Sarout and Inspiration

Inspiration can be still be found in the depths of war. And for me, inspiration of a kind has been found in the Syrian conflict. This is not the inspiration of a happy warrior, a ghoulish spectator to events, but rather the genuine sense of fellow feeling which can be found in observing others doing good and hoping for better. Continue reading

The Sieges of Syria and History

Earlier this month in Syria, a siege was broken. Rebels in Aleppo, aided by more religiously extreme elements and passively supported by humanitarians the world over, succeeded in meeting – ceremoniously shaking hands, like the Allies during the Second World War at the river Elbe in 1945 – by breaking the lines of those troops loyal to the Assad regime and its foreign backers. Continue reading

William Gerhardie: The Beauty of Futility

Certain novels and novelists remain unknown for a reason. They lack the basic skills required to hold the attention of readers; they are too pedestrian ever to say anything of value; they lack originality, verve and everything else which can make the written word transcend the ordinary. In rare instances, however, obscurity is simply undeserved, but it has still come to pass. In one particular case, that of William Gerhardie, this fate is – at least initially – somewhat surprising. He had a fortuitous start: his work was acclaimed by critics and esteemed by fellow writers (he was famously praised by Evelyn Waugh); and his work, perhaps more importantly of all, had real vitality, genuine energy and poise. Michael Holroyd highlights the following endorsement: ‘“For those of my generation,” wrote Graham Greene, “Gerhardie was the most important new novelist to appear in our young life.”’ Continue reading

Stalin the Terrible

The century just gone was, in Robert Conquest’s telling phrase, a ‘ravaged’ one. It bore witness, as did millions of people, to some of the most extreme political conditions, most devastating wars and most evil figures in the history of the world – and I believe that word is justified. But more evil, more extreme and more ravaged by war than any other state and nation was the Soviet Union, a creation of the early 20th century which did not survive its close. If anything stands to symbolise those hundred years – more so than the Nazi regime which lasted for a mere twelve – that particular entity, Ronald Reagan’s ‘evil empire’, should do it. Continue reading

Sympathy for the Devil

History is not meant to be an emotional tutorial. It is not, I think, supposed to instruct us exactly how to live. The past may not be a foreign country, but it is certainly remote, distant from us in our current age. The lessons of history are over-rated, and in any case, if not for teaching us the nature of life, what are novels and poetry for? Continue reading