Sir Vidia on El Dorado

August 15, 2019 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | HISTORY, Non-Fiction, WRITING & LITERATURE |

V.S. Naipaul (17 August 1932 – 11 August 2018) was fairly down on colonialisation, perhaps because he correctly divined its attendant psychology.  Here he is on Columbus, Robinson Crusoe and the quest for El Dorado: “The facts about Columbus have always been known. In his own writings and in all his actions his egoism is like an exposed deformity; he condemns himself. But the heroic gloss, which is not even his own, has come down through the centuries…In this adventure, as in today’s adventures in space, the romance is something we ourselves have to apply…But the black legend of Spain…

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Bohemian Rhapsody (by Lesley-Ann Jones)

“Bohemian Rhapsody.  The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury” (by Lesley-Anne Jones) (1997; recently re-issued) This biography (not to be confused with the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody – click here for our review) is a sympathetic look at the life of the Queen front-man, from his lonely boyhood as Farrokh Bulsara, diligent Parsee schoolboy at an Indian boarding school, to his lonely death at age 46 as Freddie Mercury, adored British rock star. Some of those from his Zoroastrian background do not see this as an upward trajectory – his cousin Diana said, “He gave up his family name.  He did not…

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The Righteous Mind

December 18, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | LIFE, Non-Fiction, POLITICS, RELIGION, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

'Resurrection of the Righteous and Coronation of the Virgin' by Francesco Bassano the Younger

(Or “Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion“) (written by Jonathon Haidt) (2012) Yes, TVC knows that our reviews are not up-to-date: this book was published in 2012 and it is now several years hence.  Note that we reviewed Indoctrinaire (1971) this year, as well as A Farewell to Arms (1929), and Those Barren Leaves (1925) for example. Why, we only got around to reviewing The Brothers Karamazov (1880) last year. So give us a break – especially since recent events across the world (particularly Tr(i)umphalism, Trump Derangement Syndrome, Brexit, the crisis in Syria, and the Yellow-Jacket revolt in France) have made…

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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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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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