Sunday, April 30, 2017

Witness For The Prosecution

A quick Sunday blog as here in Australia, a new adaption of Agatha Christie's Witness For The Prosecution hits the screens.

As a long-time fan of Agatha Christie (thanks Mum), I have read all her books, plays, short stories, and seen many of her works translated onto the screen, whether as a film or TV series. But one of my all-time favourite films was, and still is, Witness For The Prosecution - the Billy Wilder version starring Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power. I have this on VCR and DVD.

Synopsis: young man, older woman, murder. Most of the drama takes place in the court room or the offices of legendary barrister, Sir Wilfred Robarts (Laughton). It is suspenseful, dramatic, sometimes entertaining (due to Wilder's direction) - and nothing is revealed until we reach the climatic end.

Now the novel was originally published in January 1925 as Traitor Hands before being re-published in 1933 as part of stories before being expanded on by Christie in 1953 for the play version.

Witness For The Prosecution (1953 play)
The 1953 play opened in London on 28 October 1953 at the Winter Garden Theatre, and starred:

The play opened on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theatre, New York City on 16 December 1954, starring:

Witness For The Prosecution (1957 Film)

This 1957 film version was presented as a typical courtroom drama with film noir elements directed by Billy Wilder, set in the Old Bailey in London. The film, based on the play of the same name by Agatha Christie, deals with the trial of a man accused of murder. The first film adaptation of this story, it stars Tyrone Power (Leonard Vole), Marlene Dietrich (Christine Vole / Romaine), and Charles Laughton (Sir Wilfrid Roberts), and features Elsa Lanchester (Miss Plimsoll - she was also Laughton's wife, starring in many films together). Also look out for Una O'Connor (Janet - I loved her in the Flynn version of "Robin Hood" and  also in "The Informer"). The 1957 film was adapted by Billy Wilder from the play of the same name.

Side note: Billy Wilder was responsible for such hits as "Some Like It Hot", "The Apartment", "Double Indemnity", and of course - "Sunset Boulevard". You can view Wilder's extensive filmography HERE.

Then there is the 1982 film version, which is considered to be more faithful to the original story, starring: 

And now to the 2016 mini-series which was adapted by Sarah Phelps and directed by Julian Jarrold  This version is again based on Agatha Christie's original short story. The cast this time around are:

There is no Sir Wildred in this rendition - there is only John Mayhew with Sir Charles Carter prosecuting. And, according to the tabloids, "The biggest coup of the BBC's festive adaptation was that not only did it revert to Christie's original twist, but added considerably to it, making for a far more emotionally ending […which…] transformed a tale of moral turpitude and greed into something of much greater depth and contemporary resonance." 

Whichever version of the story, whether film, play, mini-series, I highly recommend tracking down a copy for yourself.  You won't regret it.

See also: Agatha Christie's - Witness For The Prosecution

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Death, Cinema & Post War Italy

From The Spectator - reviews of two books on post-war era Italy:

Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome by Shawn Levy
Shawn Levy .... turns his attention to the regeneration of post-war Rome. It starts in 1953 with a half-naked female corpse washed up on a beach outside Rome. The drowning was put down to misadventure, though why Wilma Montesi should have been missing her stockings and suspender belt was never satisfactorily explained. Levy chronicles the investigation, the rumours and the scandal but, like others before him, fails to draw meaningful conclusions.

Cinecittà, the home of Italy’s film industry, was the third largest employer in Rome after the Church and the government. These were the years of Hollywood sul Tevere. Day after day they filed into the city, the actors, extras, troupes of dancers and make-up girls. Cinecittà welcomed them all — the foreigners with hard currency, the fly-by-nights, the star-struck suburbanite wanting her moment in the sun.

Italian Cinema: Arthouse to Exploitation by Barry Forshaw
In Barry Forshaw’s history of Italy’s cinematic traditions, he sees sex and individualism as key motivating factors. He explores the spaghetti sesterns and gialli (thrillers) and the video nasties, or horror flicks, pioneered by Dario Argento. (Sexualised female corpses feature heavily and controversially.)

Read entire article by Lilian Pizzichini here @ The Spectator

See also:

Victorian Doctors Thought Reading Novels Made Women "Incurably Insane"

Now there's a traffic-stopper of a headline!  Reading makes you - young women - insane.  But not just insane, but "incurably" insane.  Well, lead me to Bedlam!

Read some excerpts from this devilishly insane article from History Buff:
In 1886, homeschooling pioneer Charlotte Mason wrote that “the girl who sits for hours poring over a novel to the damage of her eyes, her brain, and her general nervous system, is guilty of a lesser fault of the nature of suicide.” Strange as it may sound, Mason's belief that reading fiction was physically dangerous for girls and women was actually held by many medical doctors of her day. 

A few years earlier, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg—the same guy who invented corn flakes in an attempt to "cure" people of masturbation—called novel reading “one of the most pernicious habits to which a young lady can be devoted. When the habit is once thoroughly fixed, it becomes as inveterate as the use of liquor or opium.”
Read entire article here @ History Buff and learn more about Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam) here @ All Day.

New Book Examines Military Legal Expansion In World War I

A new book by University of New Mexico School of Law Professor Joshua E. Kastenberg is the first published history to explore the military legal expansions of Major General Enoch Crowder, Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army. Kastenberg also examines the development of the laws of war and the changing nature of civil-military relations.

“To Raise and Discipline an Army: Major General Enoch Crowder, the Judge Advocate General’s Office, and the Realignment of Civil and Military Relations in World War I,” has been released by the Northern Illinois University Press and is available from various book stores, including Amazon.

The book was reviewed by Fred L. Borch, regimental historian and archivist, US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, who comments, “No book has ever told the story behind this remarkable expansion of military legal talent. Kastenberg shows that the influential work of army lawyers significantly altered civil-military relations in the US. He should be commended for his exhaustive use of primary sources.”

An Interview with Catholic Sci-Fi Author John C. Wright

Angelo Stagnaro interviews Catholic Sci-Fi author John C Wright for the National Catholic Register. Excerpts below:

I initially came to know John C. Wright in the same way most people come to know him―through his science fiction and fantasy novels. I knew I wanted to read more of him and possibly meet him when I found he had converted to Catholicism after having been an atheist for many years.

In 2015, Wright received five Hugo Award nominations―another important award for s-fi writers―including three in the Best Novella category ("One Bright Star to Guide Them," "The Plural of Helen of Troy," and "Pale Realms of Shade"), a fourth for Best Short Story ("The Parliament of Beasts and Birds"), and a fifth for Best Related Work ("Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth.")

Sci-fi isn't about ray guns, alien brain-eating invaders and exploding rocketships―even though that's the fun part. Rather, good sci-fi is about social commentary and as Wright is a devout Catholic, his writing gets to the core of what our society has become and the moral disasters which might ahead of us all the while holding forward a Christian moral and spiritual ideal to which we, and society, might aspire.

Read full interview at the National Catholic Register

Cairo Inside Out

“Cairo Inside Out” is unlike any other book. It is not a travel book, nor a guide, nor a memoir, and neither is it a history book nor a coffee-table book. It attempts to grasp what the Spanish call “el no se que” and the French, “je ne sais quoi” — expressions which have no exact equivalent in English.

From one page to another, we move on to medieval Cairo, which is mostly intact. The contrast between past and present pervades the atmosphere; you see men wearing the same clothes and eating the same food as their ancestors and yet they are talking on a smart phone.

This book takes you to the heart of Cairo. [Trevor] Naylor conveys in words and pictures the moods and light of a city steeped in history, a city that is both eternal and ever changing.

Read full review by Lisa Kaaki at Arab News

African Kaiser by Robert Gaudi

Anyone interested in 20th-century culture is bound to spend some time thinking about World War I. Yet while most of us are aware of the horrors of trench combat and the thousands lying dead in Flanders fields where poppies blow, what about the war outside Europe? What about German East Africa? 

Still, the war in Africa was more than a sideshow. A brilliant guerrilla strategist, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck forged his fanatically loyal Schutztruppe — a small colonial infantry consisting of largely black soldiers — into “a highly efficient fighting force, aggressive and completely self-supporting,” and one that was “the first racially integrated army in modern history.” As von Lettow bluntly said, “Here in Africa we are all equal. The better man will always outwit the inferior and the color of his skin does not matter.” These words were not mere lip service, either: His actions show that he genuinely believed them.

Read Michael Dirda's full review at the Washington Post and see more reviews on Amazon

Killing Kings: Patterns of Regicide in Europe, AD 600–1800

Killing Kings: Patterns of Regicide in Europe, AD 600–1800” by Manuel Eisner, is a statistical study of the demise of 1,513 monarchs in 45 European monarchies over the period 600 to 1800. It reveals that almost a quarter (22 per cent) of all royal deaths were bloody – accidents, battle deaths and killings – and that 15 per cent of all deaths were outright murder.

As a criminologist, Eisner divides his gruesome statistics for kingly killings into four broad scenarios. Top of the list is murder as a means of succession; next up is murder by a neighbouring ruler and competitor, attempting to gain territory or seal a military victory; personal grievance and revenge, fueled by rape, murder or insult committed by the ruler, rank third as scenarios; and finally, the outsider killing.

Read full article here at Medievalist and an abstract of the published paper at British Journal of Criminology

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Bentley Rare Book Museum Opens

The Bentley Rare Book Museum, housed within the department of museums, archives, and rare books at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, made its debut this past weekend. Formerly known as the Bentley Rare Book Gallery, established on campus in 1986, this re-branded space provides a free and open-to-the-public place to celebrate the written and printed word--the first ‘rare book museum’ in metro Atlanta. 

The Bentley Rare Book Museum holds a collection of about 10,000 items, with particular strengths in culinary history, Georgia authors, fine press books, Cherokee language materials, medieval manuscript leaves, and early printed books. 

The museum, located on the ground and second floors of Kennesaw’s Sturgis Library, is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Read more here at the Fine Books & Collections Blog

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Gun In Cheek by Bill Pronzini

Damn you Bill Pronzini! I was jotting down authors names before I reached the back and discovered and neatly listed bibliography. I had every intention of taking your advice to seek out these B-grade gems of the mystery fiction genre, after-all, many a B-grade film has, with time, become a cult classic.

I liked the way Bill uses his chapters to tackle the different aspects of the fictional mystery - the amateur detective, the police investigator, the private eye, the gentleman rogue, the evil oriental - as well as the spy story. We gain an insight into the publishing - and specifically Phoenix Press, who apparently published the majority of these gems (see page 91). There are comparisons between more popular characters with, often, their not so well known contemporaries and imitators.

Pronzini peppers each chapter with some of the best (??) of the writing of these featured authors:
"He keeps on waiting awhile longer. Then, at five o'clock, he gets up, locks the office door, and goes out (in that order)." "Tomorrow was another day." (Robert Twohy's "Slime"). Even some of our more well-known authors make the list (ie: Spillane, West, Basinsky, Brown, Leroux).

The titles of some of these works border on the fantastical and highly imaginable (No Coffin For The Corpse, The Clue of the Leaning Chimney, The Face on the Cutting Room Floor, When Last I Died, No Luck With The Hanged Man) ; the men are invariably rugged, macho and mysoginistic; the women sport bazooka bras and ooze sex appeal; the dialogue is cliched; the villains suitably nefarious. They were quick reads - they were escapism. But don't be fooled - many of these B-graders were at the height of popular fiction during their day and were prolific in their writing - these were the authors that contributed to what we now refer to as "pulp fiction".

"The good mystery gets all the credit, all the attention .... But what about the bad mystery?" Well, Pronzini has certainly brought together the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in such a way that you may look twice at some of the lesser gems. I know I have.

Review also posted @ Goodreads

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Blurb by Simon & Schuster:
A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters.

Review by Virginia Denucci @ Steamboat Today

Growing up in the Ak-ha tribe in the 1980s was not easy for a woman. Li-Yan’s life was immersed in cultural taboos, superstitions, restrictions and curses. When she became pregnant out of wedlock, Li-Yan was forced to abandon her child, leaving her newborn daughter at the door of an orphanage, with no more than a tea cake from her secret, ancient tea trees. 

Several themes were intricately woven into this amazing story. See immerses the reader into the Chinese tea culture, from small village harvesting to a world-wide business. Enter the world of tea connoisseurs, who discuss vintage, harvests, seasons, geographic source, weather and, of course, age, as it relates to taste.

Review by Deborah Donovan @ Book Page:
See’s ambitious novel touches on Chinese cultural history, the centuries-old intricacies of the tea business and both the difficulties and joys of Chinese-American adoptions. But ultimately it’s a novel about the strength of mother-daughter ties—peopled, as is each of See’s novels, with strong characters with whom the reader empathizes from the first page to the last.

Review by Emily Kim @ the Washington Times:
The best-selling author of “Snow Flower and The Secret Fan” and “China Dolls,” Ms. See is known for writing historical fiction about the Chinese female experience. However in her new novel, Ms. See diverges from writing about the Han, China’s ethnic majority. Here, she focuses on a Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha.

Ms. See gradually gives information about the Akha’s culture, not overwhelming the reader with information. However, the beginning is most heavy with rituals, beliefs and taboos that the narrator, Li-yan reveals.

Review by Terry Hong @ Book List Online:
See, herself partly of Chinese ancestry, creates a complex narrative that ambitiously includes China’s political and economic transformation, little-known cultural history, the intricate challenges of transracial adoption, and an insightful overview of the global implications of specialized teas. The only possible flaw is that some may consider her magic-wand ending unbelievable. 

J Charles Wall - Relics From the Crucifixion

For centuries, people have been fascinated with, and have fought over, the relics of the Crucifixion. When researching St Helena, I discovered a woman who, late in life, made this her mission - to find these sacred relics, and bring them back to the newly Christianized Roman Empire.

The book covers the history of the cross, starting with traditions about its origins (via Eden and the Pool of Bethsaida) and focusing in detail on the centrality of its recovery during the Crusades. The volume also treats the legendary histories of the nails, the “INRI” board, the crown of thorns, the holy lance and grail, Veronica’s veil and (albeit too briefly) the Shroud of Turin.

Among the things you’ll discover in these pages:
  • The miracle that revealed to St. Helena which of the three discovered crosses was that of Jesus
  • The horse’s bit made from a nail of the True Cross, and the successes it brought the horse’s rider
  • The nails — and why there are so many in existence today
  • A history of the fortunes the Crown of Thorns to those who held them, and a list of towns where thorns are found
  • Where, in 1492, workman accidentally discovered again the actual board on which “King of the Jews” was written
  • The modest Frenchman who saved a holy nail from profanation during the French Revolution
  • Drawings of the spear of Longinus, and reports of its later use in battles
  • Relics of Jesus’s actual blood from the Crucifixion: and why it makes sense that some still exists
  • The veil of Veronica, Christ’s seamless robe, and much more!
In these gripping pages, you'll not only learn about the tree from which the Cross was made and the Cross itself, but as well of the Nails that bore Jesus's battered body, the Crown placed on his head, the Thorns, treasured by Christians for generations, and even the very blood of Jesus caught in vessels by those who loved Him and preserved down to this day.

Too easily we skeptical moderns dismiss the authenticity of relics, particularly relics of the kinds that have often been forged. Author Wall here cites so many reliable sources about relics of Christ's Passion that you will put down these pages with doubts about your doubts, and find in yourself a new and growing desire to look upon them yourself and to receive the many graces that - as Wall also reports here - regularly flow from them for the benefit of souls.

More on the True Cross:
Archaeologists in Turkey believe they have found a small piece of the cross used to crucify Jesus. It was discovered in a stone chest on the site of seventh-century Balatlar Church in Sinop and tests are now being carried out to try to determine its authenticity. Legend has it that the cross was discovered in 325 AD and parts were sent to religious leaders around the world and this may explain how the piece ended up in Turkey.

The veneration of relics is not a question of proof or science but an act of faith. Throughout history, there has been an unbroken chain of tradition in the veneration of relics and reference can be found in both the Old and New Testaments where the Holy Scriptures fully supports the true virtue of relics and the request to honor them. (See II Kings 13:20-21, Exodus 13:19, Mark 5:25-29, Acts 5:15-16). 

Helena (c 249-c 329) was the mother of Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor. She is held up to reverence as the discoverer of the Cross upon which Jesus was crucified.

Helena was almost 80, however, when, in 327-8, she made her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jerusalem had been desecrated in 130 by the Emperor Hadrian, who had built a pagan temple on the supposed site of Jesus’s tomb near Calvary.

Helena ordered its demolition, and then selected a spot close by to start digging for relics. Three crosses were found, and the true one identified when a sick woman was cured after touching it. Nails and a tunic were also discovered. 

But in the last half of the 19th century, a French independent scholar named Charles Rohault de Fleury assigned himself the task of tracking down and measuring every surviving relic of the True Cross.

In 1870, de Fleury published his findings in a book, Mémoire sur les Instruments de la Passion. De Fleury concluded that if all the surviving relics of the True Cross were somehow reassembled, there would not be enough lumber to crucify a man, let alone build Noah’s Ark. 

The Pyramid Hills and Other Wayside Discoveries

Photographer Thomas Nolf has  .... embarked on an adventure to explore the famous so-called “pyramids” of Visoko, discovered in 2005 by a controversial self-styled archaeologist. Nolf’s upcoming book The Pyramid Hills and Other Wayside Discoveries – put together from his perspective as a sociologist-turned-photographer – presents an alternative history of the country based around the pyramids and set apart from familiar narratives of nationalism and ethnic hatred. 

Mr Osmanagić
After all, he says, the romantic notion of an ancient civilisation in Bosnia – one claimed to be more advanced than that which built the pyramids of Egypt – “might be better to believe in than the craziness that is going on here today”.  Nolf acknowledges concerns that the excavations have disturbed genuine archaeological sites from Bosnia’s medieval kingdom, which was seated in Visoko, and he gives space to critical essays in his book.

So what and where are these famous Pyramids of Bosnia??
Not just any pyramid, but what Osmanagich calls the Pyramid of the Moon, the world's largest—and oldest—step pyramid. Looming above the opposite side of town is the so-called Pyramid of the Sun—also known as Visocica Hill—which, at 720 feet, also dwarfs the Great Pyramids of Egypt. A third pyramid, he says, is in the nearby hills. All of them, he says, are some 12,000 years old. During that time much of Europe was under a mile-thick sheet of ice and most of humanity had yet to invent agriculture. As a group, Osmanagich says, these structures are part of "the greatest pyramidal complex ever built on the face of the earth."

An archaeologist known as 'the Bosnian Indiana Jones' claims a group of hills in his home country are actually the world's oldest man-made pyramids. Once his research in the Visoko Valley in Bosnia and Herzegovina is complete, Semir Osmanagic believes one of the pyramids will be shown to be taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt.  The theory - which has been dismissed by experts as a 'cruel hoax' - was first proposed by Mr Osmanagic in October 2005.

Despite mainstream archaeologists saying they are just natural rock formations, Mr Osmanagic has made another bold claim that he has found Nikola Tesla’s so-called "torison fields of standing energy" at the Bosnian Pyramids site, which means we could now "communicate with aliens".

Mr Telsa was a Serbian-American inventor, physicist, and futurist, who contributed to the design of the AC electricity supply system in 1888. His ideas became more left-field and experimental towards the end of the 1800s, and he devised the theory of "standing waves" of energy coming from Earth that meant electricity could be transmitted wirelessly over long distances.

Mr Osmanagić has claimed the alleged discovery at one of the "34,000 year old" pyramids he calls the Pyramid of the Sun "changes the history of planet" and could lead to intergalactic communication.

On his work, Dr Osmanagich says: "You have not only the first pyramids in Europe, but also the biggest on the planet. This is shocking to many archaeologists as most people like to keep the status quo when you come up with new and progressive ideas."

But experts are sceptical. They believe the pyramids are nothing more than a cluster of natural hills.  Archaeology professor Curtis Runnels from Boston University, for instance, says that he is "not persuaded" by the arguments in favour of the so-called pyramids because cultures capable of producing such "colossal buildings" came about in that region only about 2,500 years ago.  Even then, they did not construct buildings of that size and form, he told The Straits Times.

While he concedes that the notion of such colossal structures in the region defies accepted history, Osmanagic is adamant that the pyramids are real.  But a pantheon of archaeologists disagrees.

Prominent Bosnian archaeologists entered the scrum early on, denouncing the dig and lobbying to shut it down.  Anthony Harding, president of the Czech Republic-based European Association of Archaeologists, has dismissed Osmanagic's ideas as "wacky" and "absurd."   Garrett Fagan, of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, has slammed the project. He says that the dig will destroy bona fide archaeological sites in the area.

Archaeological discovery of the century? The experts say probably not. Where Osmanagić sees all the elements of a ceremonial megastructure–four perfectly shaped slopes pointing toward the cardinal points, a flat top and an entrance complex–professional archeologists see an angular mound and an overactive imagination. Osmanagić’s critics accuse him of promoting pseudo-scientific notions and damaging a legitimate archaeological site–a medieval walled town sits atop the “pyramid”–with his excavations. Throughout all the negativity, Osmanagić remains determined to prove his case. The dig continues.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

My Arthurian Renaissance

Picture, if you will, a time, long long ago, when there were no such things as personal computers, kindles or other e-readers.  Picture the time of 'the book".

Many, many years ago, I was in a reading cycle - meaning, I would light upon a subject and read only books relevant to it until I had all be exhausted everything on the library shelf.  Thus I embarked upon epic reading journey encompassing the likes of crime fiction (Christie, Conan-Doyle, Marsh, Hammett etc); historical biographies (from anywhere and any time); Irish political history (my forte - having devoted much  of my earlier writing to politics), which lead me onto Celtic mythology and history (Berresford Ellis, Markale, Squire) and finally the Mythological Cycles (Mabinogian, Irish Mythological Cycles) and Arthurian Romances (de Troyes, MaloryTennyson) - and any novel that fell within that reading extensive parameter (Marion Zimmer Bradley, Diana Paxon, Kenneth Flint, Morgan Llywellyn to name but a few).  Many of the books that I initially read have found aplace on my own personal library.

Which leads me to my current renaissance and my journey of rediscovering not only the mythological texts but the historical texts covering the Arthurian cycle. So here's the condensed version.

An eminent historian and Arthurian scholar, who offered us the location of Cadbury castle and Camelot, and was most noted for his books "The Quest for Arthur's Britain" (slightly dated now but was one of the go-to books of its day) and "The Discovery of King Arthur" (using the Chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth as his starting point, Ashe goes on to prove through literary & historical sources, that Riothamus, an actual 5th-century British monarch, is the historical Arthur).  Ashe also was a contributor to "The Arthurian Encyclopedia" by Norris J. Lacy.

A Professor of Archaeology, Alcock undertook a major excavation of Cadbury castle - the supposed site of camelot.  His "Arthur's Britain History and Archaeology AD 367–634" was the pre-eminent scholarly tome on Britain in the 4th to 7th centuries, using many sources including archaeology, historical sources and providing a critical analysis of the evidence.  It is still regarded today.
See: obituary in the Telegraph and the Guardian

Moffat has written not only on Arthur but extensively on Scottish history which no doubt lead to his book "Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms".  Here Moffat  "rewrites the legend of King Arthur, radically relocating Camelot and the sites of his brilliant victories" - and by relocating, we mean further north towards Scotland, and that rather than a king, he was a cavalry general!

Senior lecturer in Ancient History at University College London, and founder and first editor of Past and Present, his work "The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650"  was widely criticised by contemporary scholars for the lack of sources, which were published 4yrs after his death.  Like all books of the day, it has been superseded by other well-researched tomes.  This has place on my Arthurian bookshelf.  It is a comprehensive work (over 600pages) on the political, social, economic, religious and cultural history in Britain from the fourth to the seventh century. 

Christina Hardyment
A Senior Associate Member of St Anthony's College, Christina Hardyment has brought forth a captivating study of Sir Thomas Malory, author of "Le Morte d'Arthur. Known as both "Malory: The Knight Who Became King Arthur's Chronicler" and "Malory: The Life And Times Of King Arthur's Chronicler", Hardyment uses evidence from new historical research and deductions from the only known manuscript copy of Malory's celebrated work, and cleverly resolves the contradictions about an extraordinary man and a life marked equally by great achievement and devastating disgrace.
Review by Richard Barber (author of King Arthur: Hero & Legend ) @ the Guardian

Founder of Boydell Press and a noted historian who has written extensively on British history as well as Arthurian legends, most notably "King Arthur: Hero and Legend", "The Arthurian Legends", and "The Legends of Arthur".

British archaeologist more recently known for his appearances on the TV show Time Team, Pryor has written a number of books, included "Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons".  Here he digs into historical and literary sources and archaeological research, to create an original, lively and illuminating account of Arthur.  A scholarly work that for those whom history and archaeology is not their fotre, may find a little "dry".  To be read in conjunction with this first in the series, "Britain BC: Life in Britain and Ireland Before the Romans".
Pryor's Blog - In The Long Run

Now we come to my two most recent reads:

An author and journalist, who from a discovery of an ancient Latin text in the British Library (Nennius' Historia Brittonum and the Annales cambraie) that listed the twelve battles of King Arthur, believes he has convincingly found the locations for all of Arthur’s battles.  "King Arthur's Battle For Britain" is the result.  Walmsley himself states that he has "attempted to flesh-out the bare skeleton of Nennius' battle-list in the style of a war correspondent's report from the battle-front, covering the action of friend and foe alike."

I found it an interesting and plausible read that attempted to assign each of the battles to specific locations.  The accounts of the battles are Walmsley's own sytylised version - and he's upfront about that from the start. The only contention for the true scholar is the lack of sources - he is not a historian as such, but has spent some considerable time in researching his work.

John Matthews and Caitlín Matthews
"The Complete King Arthur: Many Faces, One Hero".  Where was this book 20 years ago??  This is one work that uses all the historical records, scholarly research (both past and present), and the epic poems to strip away the fog that has surrounded Britain during the time directly following the Roman departure.

The authors between them have written over 150 works mainly steeped in Arthurian substance and this is the culmination of 40 years of research.  The Matthews write convincingly, exploring all known works (oral and written) and seeing how they fit with the Arthur of legend.  Taking known research and analysis of the social, cultural and military histories, they build up a realistic portrait of the man at the centre of the myth - a man with many faces.

The authors also take an in-depth look into the sources themselves, and discuss how an oral tradition was extended and added to each time it came into contact with other cultures - and nowhere is this more apparent than in the cycle of the great traditional Arthurian romances of Chretian de Troyes, Robert de Boron, Ambrose Firman-Didot's "Fisher King" stories, Gottfried von Strassburg's epic "Tristan" stories, through to Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur", Edmund Spenser's "Faerie Queen" down to Tennyson's "Idylls of the King".  Even today, Arthur and his knights hold a spell over writers, judging by the prolific works (fact and fiction) dedicated to him.

I am mentally exhausted - in a good way - after reading this book.  There was just so much information to absorb, and I now want to now go back and read everything Arthurian I can lay my hands (novels, poems, epic sagas, the histories).  The seed in my mind has begun to germinate and it needs tending.  I have no hesitation in recommending this work - I will be adding it to my own personal library.

See also: King Arthur: Dark Age Warrior and Mythic Hero by John Matthews (nice entry level introduction into the Arthurian mythos).

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Battle for Rama: Case of the Temple at Ayodhya

The sanctity of Ayodhya as the birthplace of Lord Rama, which has been questioned repeatedly by leftist historians, has been vouched for by not just "Hindu religious scriptures" but observers of diverse stripes across time.

From Persian works of the Medieval era to sanads issued by Mughals in the eighteenth century, ‘Muslim’ sources that acknowledge the disputed territory as Ram Janmabhoomi, for instance, have seldom been cited in mainstream discourse.

Meenakshi Jain’s The Battle for Rama includes an account of various such sources in history, shining a new light on the city, and also counters popular arguments.

read more here @ Swarajya