Death and the King’s Horseman: A Play by Wole Soyinka

bookshelves: nobel-laureate, play-dramatisation, radio-3, published-1975, afr-nigeria, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-richer, summer-2014, tragedy, colonial-overlords

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 12 to 14, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0495nrm

Description: In celebration of Wole Soyinka’s 80th birthday, a drama based on a real event in 1940s Nigeria. A colonial district officer intervenes to prevent a local man committing ritual suicide

Death And The King’s Horseman is considered to be Professor Soyinka’s greatest play. In awarding Soyinka the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the Swedish Academy drew special attention to Death and the King’s Horseman as evidence of his talent for combining Yoruban and European culture into a unique kind of poetic drama.
Composer and Musical director, Juwon Ogungbe.

Fab production this, what with all the choruses, poetic prose, and the mention of buttocks cannot help but endear. Yet take away all the flippery and one is left with a very sad sacrificial tale that is not on its own is it! Sati in India is a parallel – then the Viking warriors were oft joined by their very much alive wives, not to mention Chinese and Egyptians.

From wiki: In the play, the result for the community is catastrophic, as the breaking of the ritual means the disruption of the cosmic order of the universe and thus the well-being and future of the collectivity is in doubt. The community blames Elesin as much as Pilkings, accusing him of being too attached to the earth to fulfill his spiritual obligations. Events lead to tragedy when Elesin’s son, Olunde, who has returned to Nigeria from studying medicine in Europe, takes on the responsibility of his father and commits ritual suicide in his place so as to restore the honour of his family and the order of the universe. Consequently, Elesin kills himself, condemning his soul to a degraded existence in the next world. In addition, the dialogue of the native suggests that this may have been insufficient and that the world is now “adrift in the void”.

Another Nigerian playwright, Duro Ladipo, had already written a play in the Yoruba language based on this incident, called Oba waja (The King is Dead)

The Invention of Brazil by Misha Glenny

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2014, nonfiction, travel, politics, filthy-lucre, anthropology, casual-violence, environmental-issues, fradio, gangsters, slaves, under-10-ratings, true-grime, south-americas, sleazy, revolution, religion, recreational-drugs, radio-4, music, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, colonial-overlords, bullies, brazil, art-forms, architecture, adventure, plague-disease, roman-catholic, sport, suicide

Read from May 02 to 19, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042jcxs

Description: Forget the beach volleyball, carnival, and the rest – here’s the truth about Brazil. The murder rate is among the highest in the world. The economic inequality is visible wherever you go. Behind the happy cultural imagery there lies a much darker Brazil, the result of an extremely dark colonial history when this land was little more than a giant farm worked by slaves.

Misha Glenny and producer Miles Warde travel from the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro up the coast to Salvador, the first capital of Brazil, and then back to Sao Paulo, economic powerhouse of the south. On the way they meet contributors including the anthropologist Peter Fry; Americo Martins of Rede TV; historian Lilia Schwarz; and bestselling author Laurentino Gomez. Further contributions from Luciana Martins, David Brookshaw and Patrick Wilcken, author of Empire Adrift.

From the team behind The Invention of Germany and The Invention of Spain.

Salvador. Most of the slaves to Brazil landed here. At that time, Salvador was the capitol.

São Paulo is a sprawling mass and is the modern economic hub of this vast country. It was from this area that the slavers worked to capture indigneous indians. Think ‘The Mission’, Portugeuse style.

Episode 1: BBC DESCRIPTION: In The Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny traces the gaps between the image and reality, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. More slaves were transported to Brazil than anywhere else, more than the United States, more than anywhere. “There were many Africans who served as interpreters,” Joao Reis explains, “who could tell the slaves: ‘You are not going to be eaten by those whites’. And that was the African fear – that they were being brought to an unknown world by whites where they would be eaten.”

Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America.

The favela borders Gavea, one of the richest areas of the city. The contrast is stark.

Episode 2: BBC DESCRIPTION: Misha Glenny continues his exploration of the little known but extraordinary events that have shaped Brazil. This week, two unexpected events in Brazil’s path to independence. The first occurred in 1808, when the entire Portuguese court moved across the Atlantic to escape Napoleon. They lived in Rio de Janeiro, which they enjoyed so much that they stayed on for another 13 years. The second occurred in 1822 when the King of Portugal’s son, Dom Pedro, declared ‘Independence or Death’, breaking Brazil free from her European overlords. We reveal that the British were heavily involved in both events.

Episode 3: BBC DESCRIPTION: From giant factory farm for Europeans to modern BRIC economy, the story of Brazil’s transformation is captured in this final programme in the life of Getulio Vargas – moderniser, dictator, and finally democratically elected president. In the final part of the Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny explores the life of Vargas, the man who changed Brazil.

“I was struck by how short he was … the crowd went wild with adulation, an enormous mass of people. Their spontaneous shouts made me think I was in Italy, watching one of those fascist rallies.” Unnamed public official, seeing Vargas for the first time.

Vargas came to power in 1930 and proved an expert at keeping himself in power. Initially he styled himself on Mussolini – the story of why he took Brazil into the Second World War on the side of the Allies is central here. As also are the events leading up to his suicide while still in power. With contributions from anthropologist Lilia Schwarz, Professor David Brookshaw, Peter Fry, and author Ana Maria Machado whose father was arrested by Vargas several times.

“As quid pro quo for escorting the Portuguese across the Atlantic, the British ended up arm twisting the Portuguese royal court into signing a very one sided treaty, which in fact ended up giving the British more rights than the Brazilians themselves.” Patrick Wilcken, author Empire Adrift.

I enjoyed this three part documentary, however flister Laura, a Brazilian herself, rated this 2* so maybe this is not a rounded portrayal.

My Tibetan Childhood: When Ice Shattered Stone by Naktsang Nulo, Angus Cargill (Translation)

bookshelves: e-book, net-galley, translation, tibet, nonfiction, autobiography-memoir, history, spring-2014, buddhism, bullies, casual-violence, censorship, colonial-overlords, families, gangsters, ipad, lifestyles-deathstyles, ouch, politics, rid-the-world-of-tyrants, true-grime, published-2007, racism, religion, bucolic-or-pastoral, execution, superstitions, tragedy, war

Read from May 08 to 11, 2014


Translation provided by Angus Carghill and Sonam Lhamo

Including a foreword by The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

Description: In My Tibetan Chldhood, Naktsang Nulo recalls his life in Tibet’s Amdo region during the 1950s. From the perspective of himself at age ten, he describes his upbringing as a nomad on Tibet’s eastern plateau. He depicts pilgrimages to monasteries, including a 1500-mile horseback expedition his family made to and from Lhasa. A year or so later, they attempted that same journey as they fled from advancing Chinese troops. Naktsang’s father joined and was killed in the little-known 1958 Amdo rebellion against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the armed branch of the Chinese Communist Party. During the next year, the author and his brother were imprisoned in a camp where, after the onset of famine, very few children survived.

The real significance of this episodic narrative is the way it shows, through the eyes of a child, the suppressed histories of China’s invasion of Tibet. The author’s matter-of-fact accounts cast the atrocities that he relays in stark relief. Remarkably, Naktsang lived to tell his tale. His book was published in 2007 in China, where it was a bestseller before the Chinese government banned it in 2010. It is the most reprinted modern Tibetan literary work. This translation makes a fascinating if painful period of modern Tibetan history accessible in English.

The author and his brother in Chinese clothing at their first government school.

Opening to the Prelude: It was hot at noon that day. We were making our way wearily across a river when we heard guns firing repeatedly from up ahead. We had no idea what was going on, but we were all frightened. Everyone dismounted except for me. Some Tibetan gazelles, startled when they saw us, sprinted to the top of a mountain. I rode over and looked down to the road beneath. It was a Chinese military column, so long that you couldn’t see the beginning or the end of it. They were on horseback.

This autobiography opens out with Nulo’s early memories when there were many battles between the tent peoples, or nomads, on the grassy plains: one chiefdom or clan against another, and retributions sought. Another hazard was the nightime roving of armed bandits.

Written from the memory and onto the page, My Tibetan Childhood is a straight forward and compelling look at old Tibetan customs being smashed to pieces under the Chinese wrecking-ball. There are no hysterics here, nothing mawkish to clutch at pearls and weep into embroidered hankies about – the plain facts are too awful for that sort of pantomime. Just a plain recounting through a young man’s eyes.

Pranks, adventures, superstitions and some tears before bedtime: the story of youth everywhere. It was enjoyiable to read about Nulo’s young escapades and the hazards that life on the grassy plateau threw at him. However, as the Chinese troops come nearer the read becomes darker and infinitely vicious and some parts are tough to read.

This is an important book, one of the defining reads that makes one want to say ‘if you haven’t read this, then we have little in common.’

Sky burial details, murder and torture may disturb, not least because the words are unembellished, however the squeamish can quickly skim over the facts.

The Northeastern part of Amdo was where our author was born. Today, The Han-Chinese is a majority in the eastern part of Qinghai and the provincial capital Xining.

A Tibetan Intellectual, Naktsang Nulo, Shares His Thoughts on Self-Immolations in Tibet (from Jan 2013)

About the author: Naktsang Nulo (born in 1949) worked as an official in the Chinese government, serving as a primary school teacher, police officer, judge, prison governor, and county leader in Qinghai province, China, before retiring in 1993. Angus Cargill was formerly a Lecturer in the Department of Tibetan Language and Literature at Minzu University of China, Beijing.

Trivia: Coral plays a great part in Tibetan culture. It must be that at one time Tibet must have been covered with ocean.

“With little comment or condemnation, [My Tibetan Childhood] records the price paid in lives and lifestyles by the author’s family and community for their incorporation into modern China. . . . In many senses, it is a naive story, the chronicle of a world seen through a child’s eyes. But to readers within Tibet, it was a revelation. It told of epochal events that had rarely if ever been described before in print.”— Robert Barnett, from the introduction.

“As Naktsang tells it, the 1950s were a time of tremendous change: violence, war, exile, survival, and life and death defined so much of the everyday in Amdo and indeed across much of the Tibetan plateau. Told from the perspective of a child, his tale takes us into the complex and at times violent world of Tibetan clans and chiefs. We travel with him and experience the dangers faced on the road: bandits, soldiers, ferocious storms and cold fronts, and hungry wolves. . . . [And we] learn much of the violence that accompanied the ‘peaceful liberation’ of Amdo and the subsequent ‘reforms’ in the late 1950s.”—Ralph A. Litzinger, from the foreword.

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Arauco by John Caviglia

 

Description: Set in a land of earthquakes and towering volcanoes, weaving history with myth, Arauco tells of war, sorcery … and a love demonstrating that a man can embrace what he was seeking to destroy. When in 1540 Pedro de Valdivia headed south from Peru to conquer lands and gold, he took with him his beautiful mistress, Inés de Suárez. With him also rode his secretary, Juan de Cardeña, whose hopeless love of Inés stems from the same romances that inspired the Quixote. Having crossed the Atacama Desert, the Spanish encounter the indomitable resistance of the Mapuche people…. For the first time, Arauco recreates the Spanish invasion of Chile from the native perspective as well, so that its pages include: Lautaro, the Mapuche youth who led his people to an epic victory; Ñamku, albino shaman; his enemy, the sorcerer Kurufil … and Raytrayen, the Mapuche girl Juan de Cardeña comes to love…

Villarrica Volcano, Chile

Opening lines from the prologue: THE BEGINNING (Mapu)

The sun was dying in fucha lafken, the great sea, but Ñamku, shaman of the Mapuche, did not see it. Behind him, the sacred volcanoesof the ancestors soared into the sunrises of the past, and he did not see them. Breathing deep, he removed his mask. Opening his eyes, he spread his arms to embrace darkness. This night the pillañ – the ancestors – would speak to him.

THANKEE DON, so kind of you. I have two weeks to read this before the invitation expires; pretty sure that will be just dandy given your 5* and the epic storyline.

The story opens out in Sevilla, Andalucia 1539 with Juan de Cardeña, together with his travelling companion Pedro Gómez de San Benito, admiring the opulance of the south of Spain.

It’s all in here: coming of age, swashbuckling, comradeship, brutality, foul-mouthed and sexy, heart-breaking and chivalric. A veritable pot-pourri of adventure: Rag Tag and Bobtail doing a hop, skip and jump, and the range is so sprawly that at times I felt I was a fully paid up member of the Where The FuckRwe Tribe?

The Authors blog

olla podrida seems to be equivalent to pottage, anything and everything gets chucked in.

• “The Monocli have just one huge foot. And they jump like fleas. They are called the Umbrella Foot Tribe because in hot weather they lie on their backs and rest in the shadow of their foot.”

he Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels

Read from April 02 to 03, 2014

 

Book 1 – The Notebook

Book 2 – The Proof

Book 3 – The Third Lie

Three novellas rolled into one of the most powerful reads I have experienced about how ordinary people try to cope from day to day in times of war and political upheaval. Does it still have relevance in today’s world? You just have to look at Crimea to arrive at the correct answer to that particular question: within a week the area changed nationality, a perimeter minefield was dug in, barbed wires fences raised, old troops replaced by foreign troops, people executed or gone missing, certain books, songs and flags have become unacceptable, curfews in place and Whoosh!! a time-zone change. I bet the people there have either fled or are having to use new tactics just to survive.

I’m thinking a re-read will be needed now I know the story; a little more attention to detail to see if there were any cracks I could have prised open earlier.

A fantastic trilogy that was utterly jarring on the emotions and galling in its dispassionate cruelty.

For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World’s Favourite Drink

bookshelves: nonfiction, autumn-2012, history, published-2009, biography, colonial-overlords, victorian, recreational-drugs, war, fraudio, china, india, gardening, pirates-smugglers-wreckers

Read on November 05, 2012

Read by the author herself.

Blurb – A dramatic historical narrative of the man who stole the secret of tea from China.

In 1848, the British East India Company, having lost its monopoly on the tea trade, engaged Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, botanist, and plant hunter, to make a clandestine trip into the interior of China’s territory forbidden to foreigners,to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing. For All the Tea in China is the remarkable account of Fortune’s journeys into China; a thrilling narrative that combines history, geography, botany, natural science, and old-fashioned adventure.

Disguised in Mandarin robes, Fortune ventured deep into the country, confronting pirates, hostile climate, and his own untrustworthy men as he made his way to the epicenter of tea production, the remote Wu Yi Shan hills. One of the most daring acts of corporate espionage in history, Fortune’s pursuit of China’s ancient secret makes for a classic nineteenth-century adventure tale, one in which the fate of empires hinges on the feats of one extraordinary man.

Camellia sinensis:

Robert Fortune, the tea thief. From wiki: Robert Fortune (16 September 1812 – 13 April 1880) was a Scottish botanist, plant hunter and traveller, best known for introducing tea plants from China to India. Robert Fortune was born in Britain on 16 September 1812, at Kelloe, Berwickshire.

This does have the tang of ‘must publish my dissertation or bust’, feeling; the author delivers this in rather a dramatic and staccato’d fashion.

Can’t fault the historical research and it is enjoyable enough for a solid 3*