Thomas Carlyle

December 4, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Books, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Carlyle by Millais

(December 4, 1795 – February 5, 1881) “His venerable appearance, his utter independence, his doomladen view of the folly and triviality of the world, his powerful and idiosyncratic command of language, to which a strong Scottish accent lent unfamilar emphasis…were all manifestations of genius to which the Victorian imagination readily responded…”* “Injustice pays itself with frightful compound-interest.”^ “Robespierre was sitting on a chair, with pistol-shot blown through not his head but his under-jaw; the suicidal hand had failed. With prompt zeal, not without trouble, we gather these wrecked Conspirators; fish up even Henriot and Augustin, bleeding and foul; pack them…

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Joseph Conrad

December 3, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Books, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Born 3 December, 1857; died 3 August 1924 Mistah Kurtz might be dead, but Joseph Conrad lives on in his great novels: Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Under Western Eyes, The Secret Agent, and, of course, Nostromo. Walter Allen, in The English Novel, thought that a good case could be made out for considering it the greatest novel in English in the 20th Century, a claim made even more remarkable by the fact that English was Conrad’s third language.  A great moraliser (a favourite saying of his was that ‘nobody can escape his fate‘), Conrad could be wise and sharp…

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Tutankhamun’s Tomb Desecrated

November 26, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | HISTORY, Non-Fiction, WRITING & LITERATURE |

26 November, 1922 at Luxor: the antechamber to Tutankhamun’s tomb is found, and the tomb is “officially” inspected the following day. Carter wrote: “Slowly, desperately slowly it seemed to us as we watched, the remains of the passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway were removed until at last we had the whole door clear before us. The decisive moment had arrived. With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left hand corner. Darkness and blank space, as far as an iron testing-rod could reach, showed that whatever lay beyond was empty, and not…

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Lucan

November 3, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Books, HISTORY, WRITING & LITERATURE |

AD 39, 3 November: Lucan born. Lucan spoke truth to power.  This from the Pharsalia: “These nations, Caesar, if now the fire does not consume them, with the earth it will consume, with the waters of the deep it will consume. One pile in common is left for the world, destined to mingle the stars with its bones.”

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Frank, My Dear, We Don’t Give a Damn

The Nuremberg boys (Hans Frank in the dock's front row, with arms folded, wearing dark glasses)

East West Street, written by Philippe Sands (2017) “To do a great right, do a little wrong” (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1) It was a dilemma – in the smoking ashes of WWII, there were several handfuls of Nazi insiders scooped-up by the Allied forces. What to do with them? Hitler and his main henchmen were gone, bullets in their brains or cyanide caps twixt their clenched teeth (sometimes both) – and the residue claimed the time-honoured defence, ‘Befehl ist Befehl.’  Whilst the ‘odious apparatus’ of the Third Reich assiduously documented their outrages, prosecutors yet faced awesome…

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