The Fight by Norman Mailer book review.

LeftCentral Book review © all rights reserved.

Image © Susan

“Ali even motivates the dead”. (Don King)

On the 26 March 1974 in Venezuela, George Foreman defended his heavyweight title against Ken Norton. Muhammad Ali sat ringside with commentator Bob Sheridan; even as a non-combatant, Ali dominated the event. Ali greater than the sport itself, given the role he played in reviving boxing. Nevertheless, through years of exile, after his refusal to fight in South-East Asia, Ali received little thanks; the boxing establishment froze him out.  His own sense of justice always acute, as his response as a youth, living in Louisville, to the murder Emmett Till in Mississippi (1955) indicates.  A name change and subsequent religious conversion followed, built on an outlook shaped by Marcus Garvey, a philosophical interest emanating from his father, Cassius, Sr.  And it would be back in Africa, 40 years ago, that Ali would remedy a personal injustice with universal relevance.  Read more of this post

Karl J Trybus @The Central: Exclusive extract from recent publication.

Karl J Trybus @The Central

The Rosary, the Republic, and the Right: Spain and the Vatican Hierarchy, 1931-1939 works to establish a nuanced view of the actions of the Vatican hierarchy in relation to Spain’s tumultuous Second Republican and Civil War periods.  With the assistance of Secret Vatican Archival materials, this work aims to highlight the differences between the publicly understood goals of the Spanish Catholic hierarchy—which wanted the Republic to fall and conservatives to control the Spanish state, from the Vatican hierarchy—which faced severe pressures from a variety of actors.  Internal Vatican materials show the complexity of the relationships between the Holy See and the Republican and Rebel governments at various points through this period.  Private communications amongst Church and State representatives help to highlight the awkward and often problematic position facing the Vatican hierarchy in relationship to Spain.  The Holy See did try to find possible solutions during the turmoil, but it was the Spanish Right that rejected peace and reminded the Holy See of the imaginary crusade launched against an invented dangerous atheistic horde.  In the end, the Vatican remained publicly silent, but pressures placed upon its leadership by outside sources forced the Church’s hand more than many might have previously understood.

The following extract is from Chapter 8 “Bombings and Civilians: Rebel Rejection of Mediation.” In this chapter, Vatican sources are used to highlight the private lines of communication used by the Holy See to see if any form of a negotiated peace settlement or even brief truce could be established in late 1938, as the Republican cause seemed doomed.  As this portion shows, the Holy See did attempt to end some bloodshed, but even the Vatican hierarchy understood that any power to stop this violence rested solely in the hands of the Rebels—and they did not want peace.  Read more of this post

Aitana Guia@the Central: Exclusive sample of her most recent publication.

Aitana Guia@the Central 

The Muslim Struggle for Civil Rights in Spain: Promoting Democracy through Migrant Engagement, 1985–2010 demonstrates that a key factor left out of studies on the Spanish transition to democracy—namely immigration and specifically Muslim immigration—has helped reinvigorate and strengthen the democratic process.  Despite broad diversity and conflicting agendas, Muslim immigrants—often linking up with native converts to Islam—have mobilized as an effective force. They have challenged the long tradition of Maurophobia exemplified in such mainstream festivities as the Festivals of Moors and Christians; they have taken to task residents and officials who have stood in the way of efforts to construct mosques; and they have defied the members of their own community who have refused to accommodate the rights of women.  Beginning in Melilla, in Spanish-held North Africa, and expanding across Spain, the effect of this civil rights movement has been to fill gaps in legislation on immigration and religious pluralism and to set in motion a revision of prevailing interpretations of Spanish history and identity, ultimately forcing Spanish society to open up a space for all immigrants.

The following extract is the final section of Chapter 4 “Mosque Building, Catalan Nationalism, and Spain’s Politics of Belonging, 1990-2003.” After discussing why Barcelona is, together with Athens (Greece) and Ljubljana (Slovenia), one of the last three large European cities without a great mosque despite significant Muslim population in the region, the chapter discusses the pressures to culturally assimilate Muslims migrants experience in Catalonia.  Read more of this post

The Lost World of Rhodes by Nathan Shachar book review

Mike Guilfoyle

Image © Mstyslav Chernov

I was immediately drawn towards Nathan Shachar’s evocative and moving book on the formative historic influences that have he notes contributed so much to the diverse and richly textured socio -cultural inheritance of the Greek Island of Rhodes, the largest of the twelve Dodecanese islands situated near to South-Eastern Turkey (remarkably it only became a part of Greece in 1948!).  An Island that has been so memorably shaped and contoured by the confluence of epochal storied events ably detailed in this deeply humane and insightful narrative.   Read more of this post

Wadjda – a Film Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Arria Belli

[The review contains plot details.]

The child’s perspective provides the film director with an opportunity to observe and implicitly comment on a situation with an unencultured and potentially critical eye.  This device has been used in films such as Offside (2006, dir. Jafar Panahi ) where an Iranian girl attempts to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro) where fantasy plays alongside the horrors of war in 1944 fascist Spain, and numerous others.

In Wadjda (2012) the female writer and director Haifaa Al Mansour employs this technique to comment on cultural norms, particularly those affecting women, in present day Saudi Arabia.  The film is the first official Saudi Arabian submission to the Oscars and the first feature length film made by a Saudi female.  To avoid problems when filming with mixed genders Al Mansour had to direct some outdoor scenes via radio when concealed in the back of a van.   Read more of this post

Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, a Review

Lincoln Green  

Image © Weglinde

Simon Reeve’s series of 4 programmes broadcast on BBC2 attempts to explain why pilgrimages take place, particularly in an age of scientific rationalism and relative medical competence.  The presenter is deeply affected by the physical beauty of the holy sites, the architecture of our great buildings and the hospitality of pilgrims and their supporters.  Nevertheless the programme frequently appears little more than a travelogue broken up with interviews and meetings with kind and courteous eccentrics.  Despite the superficial treatment of its content the programme does however introduce a number of issues and helps the viewer to understand why huge numbers of people of many faiths have felt the need to participate in what could be potentially a very onerous and life-changing journey. Read more of this post

Miliband, the Mail and antisemitism, some points arising

Robin Richardson

Image © CC-BY

Antisemitism, it has often been said, is a light sleeper. Sometimes, though, and in certain places and circumstances, it slumbers for quite a long time, and is not immediately or widely recognisable when it wakes up. For whilst dormant it was taking on new tones and colourings, was acquiring a new repertoire of signals and cues, new nods and winks, it was fashioning new dog whistles. Those who give voice to it when it wakes after a longish sleep may not be consciously aware of what they are doing, or of the effect their words, references and imagery have on others. Read more of this post

Review of Simon Schama – The Story of the Jews Episode 5: Return

LeftCentral Review

This final episode deals with the creation of the state of Israel, it begins on Yom HaShoah. We hear a siren wail; symbolically life comes to a stop, busy traffic, hospitals, colleges all the bustle of daily life grinds to a halt. People desist from chatter, as they are filmed standing in complete silence, attempting to remember an event which as Simon Schama says, is beyond words. He then explains that the state of Israel contains 50% of the world’s Jewish population, six million people, each survivor representing a defeat for the Nazi programme of total extermination. The Holocaust, argues Schama, finally made the moral case for the creation of Israel. Not only because of what the Nazis did but what everyone else failed to do. Read more of this post

Review of Simon Schama – The Story of the Jews 2: Among Believers

Lincoln Green

Image © Michael D Beckwith

Holidaymakers towing caravans towards the Lincolnshire coast via the A46 will notice Lincoln Cathedral at a high point to their right.  The image, in bright sunlight or possibly glowing in the dark, will mean different things to different people.  Simon Schama’s account of the Jews in medieval times under Christian and Islamic rule, first broadcast on BBC Two on 8 Sep 2013, will change perceptions of that building and its art in a manner suggested by Schama’s Landscape and Memory (1995).  In this earlier work he discusses the interrelationships between culture and landscape, how the one informs and is a reinterpretation of the other. The TV programme, which is still available on BBC iPlayer, promotes reinterpretation through Schama’s identification of the less emphasised and indeed misrepresented impact of Jews on life in medieval Lincoln. Read more of this post

The Wind That Shakes The Barley…Directed by Ken Loach.

Image © Terence wiki

Nora Connolly

I first saw this movie in 2006 and recall people leaving the cinema in tears. A powerful film directed by a master of the craft, Ken Loach. The last fifteen minutes deeply moving, as Teddy O’Donovan (Padraic Delaney) fails to persuade his brother and former brother-in-arms Damien (Cillian Murphy) to join the ranks of the pro-Treaty forces and give up his anti-Treaty comrades. Teddy O`Donovan orders Damien`s execution, granting the condemned man time to write a letter to Sinead (Orla Fitzgerald). In the early hours Damien meets his death, Teddy O`Donovan dressed in his Free State uniform, commands the firing squad to kill his brother. A scene of betrayal realistically portrayed. We then see Teddy go to Sinead with the letter; Sinead breaks down (a beautiful performance by Fitzgerald) and orders O`Donovan off her land. Sinead becomes a metaphor for Ireland, the Cathleen ni Houlihan of the film (TWTSTB has more in common with O`Casey than Yeats). It deserved its critical acclaim but as a piece of history it`s flawed. Read more of this post

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