Ordeal by Fire

from DW Griffith's Intollerance

From DW Griffith’s film Intolerance

Ordeal by Fire 

Il Trovatore, music by Giuseppe Verdi, conducted by Richard Farnes, Director David Bösch, Royal Opera House, 4th December 2016, first revival of David Bösch’s 2015/2016 production, reviewed by Leslie Jones

In our review of the 2015 production of Il Trovatore (see QR, July 5, 2015), the absurdity and incomprehensibility of Salvadore Cammarano’s libretto was noted. The Illustrated London News (29 March 1856) described the subject of the latter as “not only revolting in itself, but confused and obscure in its treatment”. Only outstanding vocal performances, it would seem, can make up for the deficiencies of the plot.

Il Trovatore is evidently not one of Verdi’s greatest operas, although as George Bernard Shaw pointed out, it tackles some stirring and elemental themes. We have immolation, infanticide, jealousy, the unquenchable desire for revenge (of Azucena and of Luna) plus the abiding love of a ‘mother’ for her (adopted) son. There is also the self-sacrifice of Leonora to Count di Luna (à la Floria Tosca) in a vain attempt to save her sweetheart Manrico, although, as she pointedly declares, “You will have my body but only as a corpse”.

In David Bösch’s revived production, the action is transposed to a contemporary war zone, possibly Yugoslavia during its bloody break up. We see snow, trees and a tank from whose gun barrel a hapless prisoner is duly hung. Trophy photos are taken when Manrico is captured. The caravan festooned with dolls: the pram: the motley crew in the gypsy encampment, including an oversized bride – how did we survive without them for an entire year?

The stand out performance on this occasion was unarguably mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, as Azucena. She has a rich, affecting and powerful voice and she deservedly received several spontaneous rounds of applause. The scene featuring Azucena and Manrico, performed by tenor Najmiddin Mavlyanov, was also compelling. Maria Agresta (Leonora) and Quinn Kelsey (Luna), after a somewhat tentative start, finished strongly and received generous applause.

Verdi’s disdain for the superstitious and intolerant elements of earlier Catholicism is another prominent theme of Il Trovatore, an idea taken up again by Puccini in Tosca. As Rachel Beaumont perceptively observes in the programme, “The music and libretto for Il trovatore are riven by allusions to fire”. For Director David Bösch, likewise, “every character is infected with this first image [of Azucena’s mother being burnt at the stake, several years before the start of the opera] – every character is wounded”. Intolerance of the “other”, an elderly gypsy in this instance, generates a self-perpetuating cycle of destructive emotions.

LESLIE JONES is the editor of Quarterly Review

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Government is the Cause of “Brexit-Trump Syndrome”

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 Government is the Cause of “Brexit-Trump Syndrome”

Stephen Michael MacLean delivers some home truths

The Powers that be never fail to demonstrate why they have earned the enmity of the average citizen. Bound up in a cocoon of self-satisfaction and self-denial, their political coup de grâce cannot come soon enough. This self-important élite are flummoxed by the people’s revolt in Britain and America, known respectively as Brexit and the Trump movement. A recent column dispatched from the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science amply displays their continuing bewilderment.

Coining the term ‘Brexit-Trump Syndrome’, British academics Michael Jacobs and Mariana Mazzucato claim that an inability to understand economic reality explains why average working-class citizens, who suffered lost jobs and wages and failed to bounce back from the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09 (despite billions spent in stimulus schemes), voted either to exit the European Union or put Donald Trump in the White House. Both described as ‘disastrous’ socio-economic choices. The implications drawn are that people were duped into voting against their financial interests. Au contraire. GDP growth is first examined. American ‘median household incomes are basically the same today as they were a quarter of a century ago’, the authors note, ‘even though GDP has grown by almost 80 per cent over this period.’ Similar statistics can be adduced for Britain, though this divergence is more recent. The problem, however, lies in the manner of calculating GDP, which includes both private and public spending.  Not only does this entail double counting, since government revenue is raised through taxing private financial gain, but government does not provide any good or service of added value to the taxpayer.

As the classical economist John Stuart Mill observed, nothing is more patently false than the political nostrum ‘that the more you take from the pockets of the people to spend on your own pleasures, the richer they grow . . .’ GDP exceeds median incomes because stats are swollen by coercive contributions to government redistribution and, adding insult to injury, to compensate the labours of ‘beneficent’ state redistributors.

The dispersal of corporate profit is the next culprit. Our scholars take issue with shareholder dividends and management salaries ‘in record amounts to boost share prices’ at the expense of maximizing profits to ‘reinvest in future productive capacity.’ Add to this the $2 trillion ‘sitting on the books of public companies in the US, rather than being reinvested . . .’

In the United States, government policy accounts for much of this distortion. When corporate taxes can be 35 per cent and applicable taxes of capital gains and dividends strike stock-owners rise to 15 per cent apiece — combined to a maximum tax of 30 per cent — it makes short-term economic sense for corporations to pay the lesser of the two and pay out to individuals rather than be penalised for growing the business. Government’s insatiable appetite for tax revenue makes it impossible for corporations to plan for the long-term and wary of capital-intensive investment. The American public — employers and employees, including state welfare recipients — are hurt by this artificial restraint on economic growth and prosperity.

Corporate tax cuts will repatriate overseas profits, reverse tax inversion, and encourage investment; meanwhile, a sensible tax code (such as a consumption or flat tax) will end the injustice of double taxation, where wholly ‘consumed’ income can be spent guilt-free but financial gains from ‘invested’ income that serves a public good get repeat visits from the tax-collector.

Ironically, Jacobs and Mazzucato’s third indictment of Brexit-Trump is reserved for government itself —that it does too little, rather than too much. Not only has capitalism failed the people, they say, but the commonwealth too, the people’s last, best champion.  ‘This private failure to invest is matched by a failure of public investment,’ the authors lament. Critics of government failure have focused on austerity to the detriment of marshalling stimulus in the service of sustained growth when, Jacobs and Mazzucato write, ‘unregulated financial markets are prone to misallocating resources and creating asset bubbles which must inevitably burst.’

So much for progressive economic insight within the academy, overrun with false prophets of the Keynesian faith. J.S. Mill had its measure a century ago. ‘The utility of a large government expenditure, for the purpose of encouraging industry, is no longer maintained,’ he wrote in 1844. ‘It is no longer supposed that you benefit the producer by taking his money, provided you give it to him again in exchange for his goods.’ Unless, that is, you live in ivory towers, where almost anything can be supposed. For it is a utopian fantasy to blame Wall Street financiers when Fed-issued fiat money, by its very ethereal existence, distorts production and causes malinvestment in scarce resources.

Don’t like Brexit-Trump Syndrome? Stagnant wages? Lack of corporate investment?  Failed stimulus? The antidote is simple. As are rising real wages, capital accumulation, and investment for economic growth and prosperity. It’s free markets, entrepreneurial innovation, and voluntary exchange. But it’s definitely not government intervention.

Stephen MacLean maintains the weblog The Organic Tory

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Hotel Tresanton

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Hotel Tresanton,
St Mawes, Cornwall

Hotel Tresanton exudes an air of cosy solitude and secluded intimacy. It is incredibly well located with wonderful St Mawes Castle just at the top of the hotel (accessed via 137 steps), and a little beach at the bottom of the hotel. A cluster of white stone buildings dating from 1760 at the earliest and linked by almost Mediterranean courtyards, terraces, flights of narrow steps and little covered passageways, it is a charming and wonderful hide-away that offers pure peace and relaxation, stepping back in time to a slower way of life.

The very approach to the hotel is quirky – one has to drive past the car park situated above the establishment, round past the castle and down to the bottom, and stop in a narrow road on double yellow lines, while the hotel sends a porter round to collect one’s luggage and park one’s car. Then it is up through the passageways and the flower-filled courtyards to the reception – a small area with polished wooden desk and a friendly greeting from the lady behind.

The hotel has several themes going – there is the inevitable preoccupation with the sea, which manifests itself mainly in the artwork – both in the lounge, which is full of thessalian works of art, and in rooms, with large and more modern coastal paintings; and there is the intriguing and gloriously cultured theme of antiquities. This is evidenced in the mosaics that comprise the floors and walls of bathrooms and the restaurant floor; the large fossil replicas that adorned stairwells; the drawings of The Great Bow and Odysseus and Penelope just outside our room door; a Poseidon mosaic in an entrance passage; and the occasional Ancient-Greek-style head dotted here and there throughout the hotel.

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The main body of the hotel was originally a sailing club, which morphed into a hotel before closing for a while, whereupon it was bought by the designer Olga Polizzi, who has carefully managed the design of the entire hotel, down to the individual rooms. Everything bears her individual stamp, which roughly translates as a well-considered and tasteful mixture of contemporary and old, with an emphasis on placing the hotel in its particular context (hence the nautical themes), and tapping into local arts and crafts (there are, therefore, several pictures from the Newlyn School dotted around).

Our room, reached via an impressive dark wooden staircase and along corridors of a colour somewhere between cream and beige, was spacious and yet snug, with a wide and deeply sumptuous bed, large windows offering views that look out to the sea and to St Anthony’s Lighthouse; a most gorgeously carved wooden Jacobean chair, a laudably small and basic television and DVD player (hurrah! At long last, somewhere that doesn’t place an emphasis on modern contraptions!); elegant furniture and a few well-chosen books. Actually, well-chosen books were another theme of the hotel – again, with a slight classical bias – and these could be found scattered around in numerous rooms and passageways, available for interested guests to browse. The decor of the room – as throughout the hotel – was sophisticated, classical and elegant – a well-judged mixture of old and new, but nothing too garish or outlandish – just pure comfort and grace. The bathroom sported a large marble sink, Ren toiletries and a shower in the bath.  Yes, there were a few faded corners in the bedroom and badly-patched-up mosaic tiles in the bathroom, but this did nothing to detract from the charm of the place. Tristan was all-catered for with a z-bed made up for him at the end of our bed, and a complimentary soft toy seal, which was an immensely thoughtful and highly appreciated touch (this has since become a favourite toy).

Although the hotel is child-friendly (and offers a playroom and children’s garden complete with playhouse), children are not allowed in the restaurant at dinner-time, except for a very early sitting (incidentally, I was pleased to note that they take dogs as well, with a special dog-friendly bar, which also caters for children after the hour in which they are not allowed in the restaurant), and so I was regrettably dining alone. But we all went down to the lounge together, first, for drinks.

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They were only too pleased to welcome Tristan here (in fact, several members of staff came in just to meet him!), and quickly brought wine lists and the menu for me to peruse. We settled ourselves in clean and smart grey sofas flanking the huge and ornate stone fireplace – which was blazing away with logs and coals, throwing a tremendous amount of heat out into the large, lemon-coloured room. There were various other tables surrounded by cosy-looking sofas and chairs; interesting furniture and ornaments, and piles of board games, books and magazines available for entertainment. The effect of the decor, ancient fireplace, furniture and lay-out was not a home-from-home, but the home one could only ever wish to have.

The wine list itself was good, with a wide range of wines broken down by country – a touch I rather liked, and with a good range of prices, although there were no descriptions for those less confident in their wine knowledge.

I chose a Yealands Gewürztraminer from the Awatere Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand. A very pale straw colour is contrasted by a very strong nose, with predominantly floral aromas – orange and apple blossoms but with a hint of the traditional Gewürztraminer lychee and rose. On the palate is a curious mixture of a texture that is refreshing, yet also thick and luscious. Incredibly smooth, it rolls over the tongue in a sumptuous wave, bringing with it flavours of lychee, those that were captured on the nose – including some fresh apples, more mineral tones – a touch of dry, crumbly chalk, and spice – with a fierce little bite at the end of ginger and pepper. All round, an excellent and impressive wine, with a perfect balance of a touch of sweetness and dryness.

Olives and salted cashews were brought, and we played a game of dominos, before I was taken through to the dining room. The walls, ceiling and delineating square pillars are all boarded in tongue-and-groove cream-coloured wood; whilst the nautical theme is brought back into effect by the wall lights, which emulate shells and by the wave-like ceiling lights. These latter were turned off to provide a more subdued and intimate atmosphere, which was enhanced by glowing candles set into stones and burning on every table. A contrast to the predominant white is provided in the form of plants in the corner, and rather lovely bird iron-work flanking the entrance door. Tables were dressed in white linen tablecloths; creamy-painted wooden chairs are padded with dark blue seats with matching blue banquettes, on one of which I was comfortably seated, with a few nautical-style cushions.

There was – refreshingly – no music in restaurant but enough entertainment was provided by the woman on the table nearest to me who insisted on not allowing any of member of her party to get a word in edgeways, and talking exclusively about herself, down to describing in detail her recent trip to the dentist (this was more of a horror film than a classic movie, however), and a description of her Romanian hairdresser in Hastings (did you know people go to their hairdressers every week?!). As my astonishment at this woman’s self-preoccupation turned to despair at humanity, I was provided with a flash of relief and amusement when, as she described a trip during which, in what was clearly an unprecedented feat of bravery and daring, she embraced a 40-foot whale, one of her companions commented wryly “and the whale never recovered from it”!

The menu is relatively short, with five starters (including Iberico ham), five fish and shellfish starters, and five main courses: three of which are fish, the other duck and a vegetarian mushroom and polenta dish.

Bread had already been placed on the table when I arrived, both brown and white, with the latter standing out, as an outstanding chewy sourdough with crunchy crust that went beautifully with the very strong-flavoured, spicy and grassy olive oil provided as a dip.

My starter of mozzarella, tomato and avocado was superlative – one of the freshest-tasting salads I have ever encountered. The tomatoes were heritage, and bursting with different flavours and colours; the salad leaves and basil were lightly dressed in oil and crunchingly fresh; the avocado perfectly ripe and enhanced by a touch of salt, and the mozzarella wonderfully creamy. It was a highly impressive start to the meal.

The high standard was kept up in my main of whole lemon sole. This was served with a side dish of crunchy buttery cabbage and Romanesco; and topped with slices of chorizo, capers and stir-fried tenderstem broccoli. The latter was the only element that I didn’t think worked particularly well – its oriental flavour seemed to jar with the otherwise Mediterranean air to the dish. The fish itself was extremely fresh; tender and delicate and perfectly cooked – the chorizo worked surprisingly well to add a needed salty element, as did the buttery cabbage which also lent a contrasting texture. I would have wished for more of the buttery sauce, but could not otherwise quibble with a beautifully-executed dish.

The dessert menu was equally short, with four desserts and a cheese plate, as well as some ice-creams and sorbets and dessert wines listed. To accompany my dessert, I had my arm ever so easily twisted to try a chilled sweet red wine that cut like a dream through the creamy richness of my chocolate delice. This was a crunchy-bottomed concoction, topped with luxurious dark chocolate and with an upper layer of creamy mousse. I had swapped the accompanying espresso ice-cream for praline ice-cream, which was almost as rich and exquisite as the delice.

The staff had been exemplary throughout the meal: polite, efficient, friendly, informative when I asked questions about the hotel, and ever so helpful. Tea, taken up to the room, was excellent, and accompanied by lovely truffles.

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Breakfast was served back down in the restaurant – a circular table provides fresh juices, pastries, cereals, fruits, nuts and seeds, and an excellent menu offers a variety of tempting hot options (including one featuring Welsh rarebit which I found hard to resist). Tristan was again well-looked after, and was offered hot chocolate when we ordered tea and coffee; and was given a choice of sweeter options off the menu, including the pancakes which we ordered for him, and he much enjoyed. Mr Marshall-Luck had perfectly acceptable smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and I had excellent smoked haddock on a bed of spinach with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce – which worked perfectly as a dish and was a healthy, delicious and nourishing breakfast.

This is an utterly enchanting place to stay, where nothing seems too much trouble for members of staff, who are delightful; and with the most wonderful food. To stay here just one night was a delight; to stay longer must be a little taste of paradise.

Em Marshall-Luck is QR’s Food and Wine Critic

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Polish Canadians, Searching for a Voice (Part 7)

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Polish Canadians, Searching for a Voice
(Part 7) 

Sociologist Mark Wegierski continues his analysis

Can an authentic, Polish-Canadian identity endure given the decline of the Polish language in Canada? In the statistics of the Canada Census over the last few decades, the percentage of persons of Polish descent familiar with the Polish language is around a third. In other words, knowledge of the Polish language is declining among the generations of Polish descent born in Canada. This places the Polish-Canadian newspapers, most of which appear almost exclusively in the Polish language, in a quandary. They appeal mostly to Polish-speaking immigrants, thus leaving out, from the outset, most of the persons of Polish descent born in Canada. In a situation where Polish immigration to Canada has slowed to a trickle and is unlikely to increase, this suggests that the Polish-Canadian community will become increasingly attenuated.

We live today in a globalized world, in which there exist numerous diasporic communities, especially within countries like Canada. Because of the ubiquity of the Internet, some of these communities can maintain close links to their ancestral homelands, and some of their members can function almost entirely in their ancestral languages. While Polish-Canadians could in theory surround themselves with Polish culture (such as Polish television, through boutique cable services), they tend to participate in the “mainstream”.

The era of émigré literature, written mostly in Polish, is evidently coming to an end. But can there be “intermediary” literatures and journalistic endeavours – such as Polish-Canadian written mainly in English, but with a “Polish spirit”? As a result of Polish immigration to Canada and the processes of assimilation, the majority of persons in the generations born in Canada do not speak Polish at a high level. Yet the few persons of these generations with a somewhat better knowledge of the language, could undertake serious, concerted efforts to write in English, but imbued with Polish or Polish-Canadian themes.

Especially significant as far as English-language, Polish-Canadian literature written by authors of a generation born in Canada, is Apolonja M. Kojder’s memoir, published in Marynia, Don’t Cry (1995) (the second memoir in that book is by Barbara Glogowska); and Andrew J. Borkowski’s short story collection Copernicus Avenue (2011) – which won the 2012 Toronto Book Award. Such writing is arguably more important for the construction of a Polish-Canadian identity than that of émigré authors who write in English, most notably Eva Stachniak. Aga Maksimowska, the author of the novel Giant (2012) (who arrived in Canada at the age of 11 in 1988), is someone who can be seen as neither typically émigré, nor typically Canadian-born. Such writing should at the very least deal with Polish themes. Jowita Bydlowska’s Drunk Mom is disappointing in that respect. And Ania Szado’s second novel also does not engage in Polish themes.

A possible breakthrough work as far as Polish impressions on the Canadian literary landscape is concerned is the forthcoming Polish-Canadian short fiction anthology from Guernica Editions, expected to appear late in 2016, or in 2017.

Insofar as there are so few Polish-Canadian authors and journalists in Canada, Polish-Canadian identity lacks an effective rallying point for the future. There is also the societal context to consider – the overwhelming of fragment cultures by mass-mediatized pop-culture; the lack of valorization of white ethnics in Canada today; and the shortage of cultural capital in the community itself.

It is remains possible that a Polish-Canadian identity could endure in Canada in the face of the decline of the Polish language. But only if alternative avenues for the mobilization and expression of that identity are created.

Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher. He was born in Toronto of Polish immigrant parents

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Get Acquainted with Augustine

Fra Angelico, Conversion of Saint Augustine

Fra Angelico, Conversion of Saint Augustine

Get Acquainted with Augustine

 Darrell Sutton considers a new edition of the Confessions

Ed. Carolyn J. B. Hammond. Augustine Confessions Vol I: Books 1-8, pp.413; Vol. II: Books 9-13, pp.446. Loeb Classical Library, LCL 26-27, (Cambridge: Harvard, 2014-2016).

John Chrysostom (344-407) has always been a favorite writer of mine. Relatively few of the Patristic authors are comparable. He wrote with panache, but it is not so easy to set down reasons for why one enjoys him. Maybe it was the beauty of how Chrysostom arranged his thoughts in Greek sentences. Maybe it was his eminence as an exegete of the Greek Scriptures. Of the many arguments that could be enumerated, these two at least represent motives behind the Greek Orthodox Church’s high estimation of Chrysostom’s value to them. Then again, maybe one delights in his writings, as well as in the letters of Basil (c.320?-379), simply because they were written in a language other than Latin.

Familiarity with the development of Latin is fundamental to understanding the formation of Romance languages. We often overlook the fact that for more than two millennia it was the language of science, liturgy and education. As late as the 19th century it was used by many as a spoken language. Presently, aside from the confines of the Vatican, there is a relatively small neo-Latin movement reviving the language for day to day communication. This is a noble endeavor and will gain footing among the linguistically gifted, but certainly will attract few others.

Some of the greatest works of literature were composed in this tongue. Because of fragmentary citations and inscriptions, it is safe to say that Latin language’s history spans nearly c.2500 years. Any dialect in use for so long undergoes modifications. These changes were scrupulously studied. Writings were exposed to judgments. Latin was divided into Gold and Silver ages by Quintilian. Nowadays these inappropriate descriptions of literary quality are designed more for the scholarly community than they are intended to convey truth. Nevertheless, the boundaries are set, undermined only by the ambiguities of literary criticism. An astute critic sees that the shades of language in Ovid’s Metamorphoses are no less expressive than idioms in Virgil’s Aeneid. The subtleties in nuance are all too painfully obvious. On first reading one must keep a Latin dictionary at-hand. Less amusing but far more enjoyable are the polished lines of Ovid’s Poems from exile.

The era commonly described as “Late Antiquity” spans the period c.300AD unto c.800AD. The designation is not too auspicious, but it is a title which found its coinage in the research publications of Peter Brown, an eminent Princeton professor of history. During this time-frame it once was believed that few masterminds or works of merit were born or invented: so the era was devalued by some scholars. One exception, to which all competent Patristic specialists would attest, is Aurelius Augustinus of Hippo (354AD-430AD). Esteemed alike by many Protestants and Catholics, Augustine is revered as a learned biblicist. Studies of his writings, The City of God etc., also are central to a proper interpretation of the formative ideas of Western Civilization, and although his main theological beliefs, such as his theory of inherited guilt and his deterministic views, have fallen on hard times within most of Christendom and outside of it, he still retains a notable place in the compendium of Latin Church Fathers.

His Confessions is a spiritual autobiography written in the form of an extended prayer. It is considered a “classic”, and will maintain its place on any list of important books that persons should read. Few writers in antiquity illustrated their life with such emotion, or against a backdrop of a mother’s tears and prayers for a wayward soul. Just like John Bunyan’s (1628-1688) memoir Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, it is an unforgettable book. And if in the near future there is a renewed acquaintance with Augustine’s admissions of his early errant life, Dr. Hammond will be partly responsible. She has published a respectable edition; although a few critical comments will be noted below.

Born in Tagaste, Numudia, Augustine was reared in the region of Africa that was popularized by Juvenal for being the locale where advocates were nourished {Sat.7.148}. Augustine was a master of rhetoric. This ability he utilized fully in his theological and devotional tracts: and his reputation is immortalized by successive generations of men and women who seek to build upon some sort of Augustinian foundation, which for him was not a foundation made in Greece.

The Greeks released men from the fear of almighty fate. Augustine, however, imposed a predestinarian outlook, one composed of some dreadful ideas. Augustine was a student of classical Latin texts. The depth of his knowledge of ancient Greek still is disputed. His theology was firmly based on considerations of philosophy. Stoicism aside, Aristotle’s (384BC-322) philosophical presuppositions gave frame of thought to later Greco-Roman writers who considered morality a distinct impossibility apart from the benefit of free will (Nic. Eth. 3.1). Didymos of Alexandria (AD313-398), a Coptic theologian, claimed that ‘man’s will was uninhibited despite all inevitability’. Needless to say, that idea is an adaptation of Platonic thought (Rep. 617E). Plato’s (c.429BC-347) principles resurfaced often in religious movements. Theorist R.W. Sellars (1880-1973), in his Reflections on American Philosophy from Within (1969), proposed that “Neo-Platonism in the Augustinian tradition was always strong in Protestantism as opposed to the Aristotelian perspective of Thomism”. Indeed, Augustine’s early struggle with the concept of free will ended with him being overcome by his discovery of an eternal law of necessary consequences and conditions, by a God that he believed predestined a select company of persons to go to heaven upon their death, while simultaneously abandoning [or predestinating] the remainder of persons to be condemned to hell.

Such was the doctrine of the eternal decree formulated by Augustine which, to his way of thinking, was designed for the glory of God. Double-predestinarian in aspect, it was a doctrine avoided by the Byzantine Church and not popularly affirmed by most of the western Roman church of Middle ages, but it was widely acclaimed during the Reformation; but not by Thomas Mϋntzer (1489-1525) and the Anabaptists. It was moderately acceptable in Roman Catholicism, but not within all catholic sects of the east. Notwithstanding, ancient Latin literature is rich in substance. It gave to posterity the dinner comedies of Petronius, Cicero’s Letters, poems and philosophy, the War Commentaries of Caesar and Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. These writers, though, all found a niche that was carved out by their predecessors. Augustine’s labors, on the other hand, are noteworthy for their uniqueness to his age.

Augustine’s Quest for Truth

Augustine told a long tale. His life consisted of twists and turns of sadness, sorrows and joy. For centuries readers took up and read his life-story. It is a soul-searching treatise of 13 books. One reader after another must have perceived a reflection of his or her inner self in its pages. This argument partly helps readers to comprehend the Confessions’ enduring value. The quest for knowledge is an absorbing venture. It is set in motion early in life: immediately at the time an infant opens his or her eyes and recognizes new surroundings.

Book 5 is of special interest and is vital to understanding Augustine. In 373 he entered into the sect of the Manicheans and further grieved his mother, Monica. Mani, the founder of the sect was believed to have been an apostle of Christ. The group’s beliefs were definitely infected by ancient Iranian ideas. Gnosticism played no little part too in Mani’s spiritual worldview and in his conception of the lives of Jesus in the Gospels. Augustine sought out Faustus, famous among the Manichaeans for his eloquence and wisdom. Augustine, however, did not find his reputation commensurate to his mind. So distressing to Augustine was his frustration that he removed to Milan. There he came under the sway and tutelage of Bishop Ambrose who ‘was teaching wholesome salvation’. In 386 he became a catechumen in the Roman church. His inward struggles continued.

For Augustine, his pursuit did not find its final resolution until he heard a child crying out Tolle Lege– ‘pick it up and read it’ [Hammond]. The text of Romans 13:13-14 became for Augustine a treasury containing many delightful things. Now illuminated, his restless heart had found peace.

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

Saint Augustine, by Philippe de Champaigne

Dr. Hammond’s Edition

In volume 1 after a brief preface (ix-xi), there follows a helpful introduction and other preliminary materials (xiii-xlv). She writes eloquently and adeptly. Text and translation follow: Dr. Hammond says J. O’Donnell’s three-volume critical text and commentary forms “the scholarly foundation for this volume” (ix). Volume 2 begins with Hammond’s affecting note on her battle with breast cancer and the difficulties the disease brought to her work on Augustine (ix-x). Subsequently a perceptive introduction and bibliography follow (xi-xlii). Text and translation follow: the margin to the right of her translation records biblical references cited by Augustine. The second volume terminates with indices (429-446). Hammond made use of several translations while she composed her version. Henry Chadwick’s (1920-2008) translation was a favorite; but William Watt’s (1590-1649) renderings are apparent on every page (cf. 7.6 ln.1), even if one considers that W.H.D. Rouse (1863-1950) had revised Watt’s text for inclusion in the Loeb series.

The Loeb Classical Library has evolved. Hammond’s ‘Introduction’ to each volume is reasoned and instructive. Readers will learn much. In newer or revised editions of Loeb volumes, ‘Introductions’ tend to be longer, much more informative than in volumes issued 40 or more years ago. However, in a new attempt at originality, Hammond plainly states (vol. 1 p.xxiii) that Augustine “gives the impression” [of his] “sexual immorality…, [that] “it may have included homosexual experiences”. The Latin text does not give that impression in any way. Besides, what is the purpose of attributing to him an attraction that was alien to his nature? Hammond’s proposal highlights the division between rigorous philological work and inventive literary criticism. The former requires control of fine distinctions of meanings, and the latter ingeniously re-imagines contexts, reconstructing them according to innovative theories (see her section entitled ‘Theories of Meanings’, pp.xxiv-xxxii). Conversely see H. R. Drobner, The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction (2007), 392, where he writes “During this time, as he states in the Confessions (2.3.6), Augustine’s sexuality awakened, which his father observed with delight in the hope of grandchildren in due course”. Question: would the expectation of the birth of offspring been a source of joy for Augustine’s father if Hammond’s suspicion was credible?

First-rate authors now supply the Loeb Classical Library with somewhat critical texts. In the past, the footnotes were rarely of much value, employing a minimalist apparatus; although several volumes were exceptional. In the main, authors presented scanty bits of information; the bottom of the page now may be used for liberal amounts of data. Hammond’s notes usually are sparing and inadequate. There are too few linguistic notes, and the inclusion of variant readings would have caused the two-volumes to appreciate in value for layman and scholar alike.

In one place there is an extraneous citation of Jane Austin’s Emma, “It was rather too late in the day to set about being simple-minded and ignorant” (vol. ii, p.xiii). As for the context of the footnote, in his discourse with God, Augustine had considered withdrawing from some of his skillful pursuits. He was frustrated. In the end he had become quite happy that he stayed with his interests. What a quotation of an English novelist of the 18th and 19th century might add to the discussion is of small substantive value and it throws no light on his literary dialogue with God.

Furthermore, in statements that are reminiscent of J.P. Kenney’s The Mysticism of Saint Augustine: Rereading the Confessions (2005), Hammond writes (vol. 2, p.xviii) “Augustine is more famous as a theologian than as a mystic…”. She proceeds to refashion him as a mystical character. The transformation was not easy for her and leads her to create several convoluted sentences: e.g., “The direction of bodily sight upon countless distracting physical stimuli is a weakness tending toward disintegration…” (loc. cit.). Her theory of cognition thrives on ambiguous and paradoxical terms. Yet in the performance of academic discussion, the ordinary use of scholarly language still is indispensable.

Loeb volumes are known for their effective translations which normally mirror the source-text on the facing page. Hammond’s version will be judged variously by differently people. Competent persons will acknowledge their debt to her. Her renderings are clear. Below I instance the place where Augustine speaks reverently to God of his mother’s death. It is a touching segment. Therefore, a sentiment of strong feeling should transcend the English, even down to describing the pangs experienced by his bastard son, Adeodatus, who was born during Augustine’s early years of profligacy. Here is Hammond’s paraphrase (9.28):

I was rejoicing and giving thanks to you because I recalled something I knew before—how anxious she had once been about her place of burial, which she had planned and made ready beside the grave of her husband. Because they had lived together in such harmony, she used to desire this one thing more (which shows how the human mind falls short of the divine): to be allowed in addition to that blessing, something other people would remember—namely, that after her travels abroad the mortal remains of husband and wife might be buried side by side.

I was unaware of when this vain wish had begun to vanish from her heart through the fullness of your goodness. I was surprised and delighted when she made this clear to me, though already in that conversation of ours by the window, when she said “What am I to do any longer in this world?” she seemed not to want her death to take place in her homeland. I heard later that while we stayed at Ostia, one day when I was not there she had spoken confidentially, as a mother might, with some of my friends about her scorn for this life and the blessings of death. When they were astounded at such courage in a woman (courage which you bestowed upon her) and asked whether she was frightened to let her body rest so far from her own people, she answered, “Nothing is far away from God, and there is no need to fear that when the end of the world comes he will not know where to raise me up!”

So on the ninth day of her illness, when she was fifty-six and I was thirty-three, that devout and faithful soul of hers was set free from the body.

I closed her eyes. A measureless grief welled up in my heart and was on the point of overflowing into tears. At the same time, by a tremendous effort of mind my eyes suppressed their flow at its source and remained dry. The struggle to do so was so great that its effect on me was dreadful. At the moment when she breathed her last, my boy Adeodatus cried aloud in his grief and was only checked by a concerted effort from all of us.

All due credit to Hammond: it is a highly emotive piece. Augustine’s Latin text is a remarkable representation of pointed diction and well placed words. There are none of the incredibly complex parallel clauses one can find in the Annals of Tacitus. Augustine’s expressions are straight-forward. Hammond does well to capture it all. She has kept to a rhythm that allows the Latin text to manifest itself in English dress while retaining the bare-bones grammatical aspects of its syntax. Latin writing has its own texture, eliciting specific sensations. Latinist Niall Rudd (1927-2015) stated as much in his volume Lines of Inquiry: Studies in Latin Poetry (2005). On the face of it Hammond’s translation may seem poetic. In fact, that extract probably could be reformatted in verse-form. The death of her husband was painful for her: Augustine’s mother felt that she had little left for which to live. She knew the resurrection of the dead would occur some day in the future. Overtaken by grief, that event could not come soon enough for her son and grandson. With reason, one could object to the length of the extract. I feel, however, that longer extracts, when carefully read, supply readers with protracted moments of contemplation. Augustine’s Confessions is a reflective book. It is a discerning study of human psychology and of the science of behavior, one to be studied, even mastered.

Since books were a primary means of learning in antiquity, ancient writers wrote biographical narratives for the purpose of imitation, in order that readers could study ideas and ideals, accepting some and rejecting others, thereby forming suitable patterns for living their own lives. This new edition of Augustine’s Confessions communicates that notion and more. Publications regarding Augustine remain steady. The fascination continues. But things are changing in Augustinian studies. And we would do well to remember the wisdom of John Owens (1564-1622), a master Latinist and a great epigrammatist, who produced, among other items of writing, a collection of epigrams. One of them offers a suitable benediction for an epoch whose ideas of patriarchy should not be revived: “Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis: “Times change and we change with them.”

For over 1500 years the field of Augustine studies was dominated by men. Inter-disciplinary researches have made ‘Classical Studies’ a wide-ranging field of study, one that includes to some extent creative writing. These studies now also appeal to women. This welcome development ensures the progress of studies, the tendering of newer perspectives and the submission of newer theses. Lately a spate of ‘companion’ books has entered the marketplace. Of the 38 chapters in Blackwell’s A Companion to Augustine (2012), 11 essays were written by women. Opportunities abound, so Hammond has reason to rejoice as do all other lovers of Augustine’s Confessions.

Biographies of this sort are no longer composed. Wishful thinkers long to see the genre revived; but none is capable of effecting its repair but the incomparable Doctor. So the renewal is just a faint dream because Augustine no longer survives, except through his Confessions.

Permit me, in conclusion, a final citation. In his book Life and Letters in the Fourth Century (1901), T.R. Glover (1869-1943) penned an appropriate thought, “Among all books written in Latin”, Augustine’s book, Confessions, “stands next to the Aeneid for the width of its popularity and the hold it has upon mankind.” Such a remark is strong praise for a Church Father who was truly Roman, truly Catholic and truly African.

Darrell Sutton is rector of the Tabernacle in Red Cloud, Nebraska, a small village in the Great Plains. He also teaches Semitic languages and edits an academic bulletin entitled ‘The DS Commentary on Books’

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Abducted by Love

Sibyl Sanderson as Manon

Sibyl Sanderson as Manon

Abducted by Love

MANON LESCAUT, opera in 4 acts, musical score composed by Giacomo Puccini, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, The Royal Opera House, 22 November 2016. First revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production. Reviewed by Leslie Jones

Manon Lescaut, by Giacamo Puccini, was first performed in 1893, in Turin. Its subject matter is the age old struggle between materialism and idealism, as my perceptive Italian colleague Alessandro Zummo, of www.playstosee.com, pointed out. Manon, the eponymous courtesan of the title, portrayed on this occasion by the outstanding soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, who deservedly received several spontaneous rounds of applause, is irresistibly drawn to romantic love but also fatally attracted to luxury. The former is represented by a student, the Chevalier des Grieux, played by tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko: the latter by the aging libertine and distributor of tax concessions, Geronte de Revoir (bass Eric Halfvarson). Manon’s ambivalence leads her initially to run away with Des Grieux but she subsequently plumps for Geronte, who sets Manon up in style in Paris, with fatal consequences.

The sets, designed by Paul Brown, were uniformly outstanding, ranging from the art deco inn of the first act to the broken flyover that terminates in mid-air of act 4, in a post apocalyptic landscape reminiscent of The Road. Likewise, in act 2, Manon’s gilded Parisian cage is brilliantly depicted, with a massive chandelier, opulent furniture and drapes.

In an informative essay in the official programme, ‘Giacomo Puccini; New Kid on the Block’, the music scholar Helen M Greenwald reminds us that Julian Budden regarded Puccini as Wagner’s “best pupil”. The prelude to Act 3, brilliantly worked by maestro Pappano, with its affecting leitmotif,  is particularly indicative here.

At this juncture, just one minor criticism. The producer Jonathan Kent arguably over egged his feminist take on Manon Lescaut. Women, in this production, are almost always depicted as mere meat or as commodities. In one scene, segmented staging reveals sex workers advertising their wares in the windows of a brothel. In act 2, ageing voyeurs sit in a semi circle gawping at Manon, done up like a barbie doll, apparently participating in the making of a porn film. Sexism and bourgeois hypocrisy abound. Again, in act 3, Manon and her fellow (female) prostitutes are summoned in a roll call before a baying crowd, prior to their deportation to America, in a scenario reminiscent of a TV game show. Ageism, however, is evidently still acceptable.

There are, to state the obvious, very dark moments in several of Puccini’s operas – the execution of Cavaradossi, Tosca’s suicide and the deaths of Mimi and Madama Butterfly, come to mind. But nothing quite matches the unrelenting gloom of the final act of Manon Lescaut, when the heroine dies in despair in the Louisiana desert, in what is possibly the longest death scene in opera. “Misery will never cease”, as Van Gogh once remarked.

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Leslie Jones is the editor of Quarterly Review

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Poems by Chad Norman

sea-scotland-rest-rock-65647

Poems by Chad Norman

To The Readers:

The following poems are all memories.
Mary is on the beach/shoreline where her Percy was cremated. She never actually visited the site.
Each poem opens with her in a different pose. Along with the “small sealed box” that she was eventually
given, it according to many, contained the ashes of Percy’s heart, which was plucked  from his funeral pyre.
She is looking back through the eight years they spent together.

A HYMN FOR A HYMN, 1816

Mary seated on a boulder;
a small sealed box in her arms

Break out the laughter for thoughts on Permanence.

The body’s wish to conquer,
overturn, easily erase
that final & trusted appearance,
the One

our shrunken circle saw as us:
as uncommonly solid:
as loyalty’s proof–
the mind opposes its own beauty!

Seal up the rupture & cracks lengthening in Love.

The eyes’ curse to recede,
surrender, kindly kindle
that unseen & awful shadow,
the Mystery
our current gloom dissolves in us:
in July’s desertions:
in ecstasy’s clasp–
the heart firms its own form!

Loveliness, full of awe, bring no words;
we end, one known by the needs of air,
and him, the sea’s bright child, free of vows.

Humankind, what a strange spell!

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ENDNOTES, November 2016

Stretcher Bearers, Battle of Thiepval Ridge, September 1916

Stretcher Bearers, Battle of Thiepval Ridge, September 1916

ENDNOTES, November 2016

In this edition: music of Remembrance by Ronald Corp * ‘Dice Mass’ from the Tallis Scholars * Ginastera from Chandos * Has Radio 3 gone Gaga?

The composer and conductor Ronald Corp has commemorated the season of Remembrance with a new recording on the Stone Records label. Determined that contemporary music should reflect a rapport between composer, performer and audience, Corp’s war music eschews the large-scale gestures of Britten’s War Requiem or Bliss’s Morning Heroes (a non-pacifist’s alternative to the more famous work by Britten) and, instead, creates a more intimate atmosphere, with a chamber ensemble drawn from members of the New London Orchestra. In Fields of the Fallen, we find settings of Julian Grenfell, Edward Thomas, Isaac Rosenberg – and impressions of war from the other side of the trenches: Ernst Stadler and Gerrit Engelke. Continue reading

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Driftwood Hotel

Driftwood Hotel

Driftwood Hotel

Driftwood Hotel

Em Marshall-Luck is smitten by a Cornish Hotel

Driftwood Hotel, Rosevine, Portscatho, Cornwall, TR2 5EW

A hotel that could persuade my city-girl little sister to leave the lights of London for a quiet area in the south Cornish countryside? Her recent and surprisingly relocation was, apparently, all down to Driftwood Hotel, and to not being able to bear to live so far away from this establishment. I went with high expectations – it had a lot to live up to.
Driftwood got off to a good start with its rather spectacular location, pretty much right on the Coastal Path on the lovely Roseland Peninsula, set in gorgeous gardens with grassy areas to roam, flower-filled terraces to explore, and a leading path down from the hotel to a little beach below. The building itself has a blue-coloured cladding that perhaps nods to its coastal setting – it is a large, handsome, traditional-looking house, with extensions so sensitively done it is hard to work out where exactly they are.

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Transgressive Technologies

Brave New World by Chris Smith Out of Chicago

Brave New World by Chris Smith, Out of Chicago

Transgressive Technologies

Mark Wegierski examines the key issues

There are a number of highly transgressive technologies on the horizon of development, which may prove to be the most fundamental challenges ever to the notion of a more stable human nature, and thereby, to what can seen to be “natural” to humankind. Such technologies can be a vehicle for the almost indefinite perpetuation of “the unnatural,” never allowing today’s societies to “catch their breath” and return to earlier, sounder bearings. For example, in the book, Posthuman Bodies (edited by Judith Halberstam, Indiana University Press, 1995), a group of ultra-radical, postmodern writers and scholars looks forward to the deconstruction of actual physical gender which could occur as a result of advancing technology. Continue reading

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