Sunday, January 28, 2007

Go Shilpe!

Occasionally I do allow myself to make a post about things that are outside the sphere of books! I must admit that I feel quite proud that Shilpe won Celebrity Big Brother and that for once, we have a chance to reflect on the distasteful aspect of English culture that we see in so-called celebrities such as Jade.

I must admit I still have a soft spot for Jade, she is just ignorant and has been taken advantage of for not being bright. The issue we have is that when it comes to racism a lot of people depend on being told what is rascist, rather than going out and finding out what is really going on. Too many people are happy to accept that we can create a 'wordlist' of rascist terms and that as long as we don't say these words they are not rascist.

This is not the case when we have 'poppadom' being a rascist word. All of a sudden the PC 'big brothers' are rushing out and modifying their word lists in a huge panic, I find it quite amusing. The reality is that rascism is not about words, it is about tolerance and acceptance and treating people with dignity. Shilpe has been a perfect example of this, she has shown how forgiveness and kindness can make someone strong.

If Tony Blair wants to find out what is wrong with the UK, he only has to look at Celebrity Big Brother. He has to realise that the education system has failed Jade and it is failing a whole generation. It has failed to teach people how to think, it has failed to give people values. It is too concerned with giving people an education 'they can use' rather than giving an education 'to make them a person'.

The problem is that the subjects that teach us how to find values, how to think are exactly the same subjects that have been victimised as being 'pie-in-the-sky'. It is history, literature, philosophy, religion, art, music that help us to be better people and it is these subjects that have suffered the most because vocational subjects have become the big thing.

I am proud that Shilpe won, I am proud that we had three non-UK people in the last three and all three of them were disgusted with how British people behave.

I still feel sympathy for Jade, even if that totally contradicts my entire argument!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Welcome to my new layout

Guess what:

Welcome to tictac!

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Never, in short, was there a great warrior of any nation, Roman, Greek, or any other beyond the pale, save only of Portugal, who was not at the same time a man of science and learning. I say it not without shame, for the reason why none of us stands out as a great poet is our lack of esteem for poetry. He who is ignorant of art cannot value it. For this reason, and not for any lack of natural endowment, we have neither Virgils or Homers; and soon if we persist in such a course, we shall have no pious Aeneases or fierce Achilles either. And worst of all is the fact that fortune has made us so uncouth, so austere, so unpolished and remiss in things of the mind that many are scarcely interested even that this should be so, or concern themselves at all with such matters."

Here at the end of Canto 5 from 'The Lusiads' Camoens states that heroes are dependent on poets because it is only through poetry and art that we see what it means to be a hero and what it means to be brave. When a nation loses touch, loses interest in art and poetry it no longer has the ability to know what bravery or heroism means. We see this today when a new war film comes out, it tries to inspire, tries to uplift you. When I see a good film I walk out wanting to be a better person.

Camoens foretold the downfall of Portugal, soon after their discovery of India they became corrupt and greedy and lost all the power and pride that their skills had developed. They lost the ability to know what it means to be a hero. I think this is a good way of explaining why we need the arts - because we are not able to remember heroes without artists or poets.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Lusiads

A few years ago I found William C. Atkinson's 'A history of Spain and Portugal'. I wasn't sure about it but it was a Pelican (published 1960). Atkinson graduated from Queen's in Belfast and ended up teaching hispanic studies in Glasgow. Apart from anything else it is very well written and I was fascinated to read that he had produced a translation of the Portugese epic 'The Lusiads'. Ever since I have been searching for a copy, thinking I would find a copy in a secondhand shop. I have just decided to purchase a copy over Amazon and at last I have a copy and it is wonderful.

One thing that did make me very frustrated was that I noticed that Penguin Classics had re-published it briefly around 2003 and then removed it. Especially as it sounds so exciting:

"Camoens' poem, the national epic of Portugal, is the story of a people who in the space of a century and a quarter spread over the waters of the globe, carried their flag and their faith from Brazil to Japan, and established not merely an empire but a new conception of empire based on mastery of the ocean routes.
The lusiads is more, however, than the mere narrative of that achievement; it is also an interpretation of the underlying greatness of those who achieved it, and as such the best possible introduction to Portugal and the Portuguese. It is concieved in essentially poetic terms."

Add to this that this is a prose translation of what was originally in ottava rima, ie in 8 line verse. I can't understand why all previous translations have tried to imitate this, it must have been very constricting to keep this going for over a 1000 lines. This is an epic heroic tale of the first navigators. Add to that it also features the mythical 'love island'. Venus awards the heroes with an Island populated by Tethys and her nymphs. Many Camoens' scholars have spent time trying to locate this 'love island' in reality. Just imagine somewhere in the Indian Ocean, perhaps near Goa (governed by Portuguese) or somewhere like that.

As soon as I started to read the poem I realised why Penguin Classics had removed it (from the poems dedication to the Portuguese King Sebastiao):

"Let Africa and the seas beyond begin to feel the weight of your armies and their exploits, until the whole world tremble. The Moslem fixes his eye on you in terror, recognising the symbol of his destruction"

Obviously in the 16th century the Portuguese were only concerning with fighting against Africa and the middle east. Things have changed now, you would like to think and we shouldn't let this cloud our judgement over classics of literature.

You can imagine the big boss of Penguin reading this in horror and imagining something like what happened to the Pope happening to Penguin and the book was quietly removed from the publication list breathing a sigh of relief that hard line muslim fundamentalists don't read Penguin Classics.

Such a shame though that we can't put the conflicts of the 16th century behind us and be able to read what looks like such an incredible and awe-inspiring poem.