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Index: History & Travel

A book of Bessie and Sallyann.

Paul Holman: ‘So I stand before this master of all the king’s horses, who has diminished over the centuries to become a transmission through a ghost box, a spook to prank kids. His face, beheld at last, is that of a patrician bully, smooth with the untroubled assumption of power…’

Arabia Felix.

Jonathan Gorvett: ‘In Dubai, and the UAE more generally, a further aspect to this consists of the fact that the largest corporations and the government are essentially the same thing. The boards of all the big enterprises – typically in oil and gas, construction and real estate – also consist of the same people who constitute the ruling families of the “government”.’

A resumé of Resistance.

Ian Seed: ‘”Curriculum Violette” offers us a fleeting and yet powerful portrait of the life of Violette Szabo (1921-45), a French-born British agent who fought alongside members of the French Resistance and who died in Ravensbrück concentration camp.’

The Iron Pier.

John Matthias: ‘She remembers a cold November night when she was in her bath with the curtains drawn across the window in strict adherence to the blackout rules. She hears a foghorn out at sea, which she thinks strange because the night is clear. Suddenly the door bursts open and her mother rushes in waving a telegram. “Darling it’s over, it’s over,” she shouts.’

Dionysus in diaspora.

Matt Hanson: ‘In generations past, the steps to Kehila Kedosha Janina were consecrated by the profound nostalgia of a people linked to their beloved city. In its synagogue, Greek- speaking Jews prayed for the land which had been synonymous with the community itself for a thousand years. For its descendants, whether religious or not, Kehila Kedosha Janina stands as a doorway of return, and more, as a spiritual mirror that reflects in each and every individual the significance of who came before them.’

Candid Camera.

Christopher Landrum: ‘“Greater love,” says the Gospel of John, “hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I don’t know if Chris Arnade crossed the threshold into feeling love for his subjects (though he did rescue the body of a dead back row acquaintance from the anonymity of a pauper’s grave). But no reader of ‘Dignity’ can deny that its author did lay down his career and dared to listen to back row individuals and let them speak for themselves.’

Why is the sea salt?

Nigel Wheale: ‘Ian Crockatt has translated all thirty-eight of Rognvaldr’s surviving verses, which were preserved in the (textually complex) Orkneyinga saga. Rognvaldr may again have been profoundly innovative here, as one of the earliest Norse authors to have his vernacular work preserved in written form, rather than recited from generation to generation…

The Jinn of Failaka.

Martin Rosenstock: ‘After forty-five minutes on grey and choppy waters, I see the coastline and some low-slung buildings strung out along it. The harbor of Failaka appears to have silted up, for we anchor off the coast and a smaller boat comes alongside to ferry us to a make-shift pier of plastic pontoons. The air here is crisp with a touch of salt.’

Pages from the Croatian Notebook.

Franca Mancinelli: ‘My body has an open texture from which hangs a thread. Someone at the other end, without even noticing, pulls it, and slowly I grow thin. The absence beckons me. I approach the spirits of the cold, that white wordless nucleus which governs this earth. I close my eyes, as if pervaded by a flat colorless sea.
I’m starting to translate snow…

Mauritius.

Emma Park: ‘This is my European disease, to wake up at night, tormented by the fear that I have not done enough, have not spent my time wisely — that the places where I have lived have remained and will always remain indifferent to me. I cannot bear the thought that my existence will have left no more of an impression on the path of history than a moth’s wing. Even though, if I had proper humility, I should remember how many people there are in the world, even on this distant island, and accept that there is little enough reason why I of all of them should be remembered.’

The Champions.

Peter Jerome: ‘It began with the hooked blade and another gesture of appreciation to the crowd. The contestant shrugged the gown he had been wearing from his shoulders, and surrendered his naked form to us all. He appeared unafraid and bold in his nudity, not at all as if he was preparing for bed or passing waste in the commode. This was a gallant nudity as seen in beasts of the wild.’

Leaving Sidi Bou Said.

Lorand Gaspar: ‘Things and events are at every moment what they are and nothing else. We are, each and every one, like the furrow of a drop of bird-life looking for a passage in the currents that alternately lead and threaten us.’

11.11.11.18.

Nigel Wheale: ‘Now it is time for the silence, two minutes that seem unending. Leaves fall onto the mass of people, the only movement. I shiver, not from the cold. A boy tugs at his mother’s sleeve, imploring. Across one hundred years, precisely, a final silence. ‘

Butchering the language in Rwanda.

Tom Zoellner: ‘Historical arguments about the Rwandan genocide will likely never end, and one source of continuing disagreement is the degree to which the French foreign ministry and and military were complicit in the slaughter in the name of propping up the shaky government. ‘

The dreams and nightmares of four civilisations.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘The image of the ideal man takes us to the core of a civilisation’s aspirations and particularly its system of power. For, in the four examples I have chosen, we are looking at the rulers, the elite who preside over a civilisation and are meant, to a certain extent, to be exemplars for the other 95 percent of the population.’