Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Romania, like every country, needs an elite

Foreign rule of Romania by the E.U. is of course on the whole better than rule by the local political class although it brings all sorts things I passionately hate, rules about slaughtering pigs and riding horses and carts and a thousand other infringements on freedom and attacks on tradition including teaching in schools modish Western ideas about feminism and homosexuality. The problem is not only that Romania has such an execrable political elite but that it has an execrable elite - her elite was destroyed often literally by Communism. That is what Romanians have to rebuild starting with the intellectuals and the journalists and the historians many of whom are very compromised figures, inevitably.

Nowadays the elite in the West for some reason disapprove of elites and elitism and indeed they have have made the idea of an elite look pretty bad.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Books read (and films seen) this year of grace 2012

The High Window*, Raymond Chandler
The Long Goodbye*, Raymond Chandler

Muhammad, Karen Armstrong
Stalingrad Anthony Beevor 
Defying Hitler, Sebastian Hafner
Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler’s Capital 1939-45, Roger Moorehouse
This Business of Living: Diaries 1925-50* Cesare Pavese
Relapse into Bondage Alexandru Cretianu
Friends and Heroes*, Olivia Manning
Waugh in Abyssinia Evelyn Waugh

History of the Roumanians* R.W.Seton-Watson 
A History of Romania Kurt Treptow

Bold means I loved it. An asterisk means I have read it before. 

What a masculine, middle-aged, philistine and shamefully short list. I am even reading military history, which is the last refuge of the middle-aged male. In fact I tried Beevor's Stalingrad on a recommendation from an aesthete friend but it bored and repelled me. 

I read Chandler for the prose style not for the plot, though he is  a good storyteller. I thought when 14 that The Long Goodbye was too long and too much trying to be a proper novel. Now I absolutely loved it except the ending with the silly twist which I merely skimmed without attempting to understand it.

Karen Armstrong is not worth reading as she does not mention that the evidence for her subject's life is extremely late indeed (two centuries after the event) but the new book by Tom Holland on the origins of the Koran sounds good. Holland apparently went to my college years after me and took a Double First in Classics and History and has many books to his credit. I try not to be jealous.

Hafner's book, to my great surprise, an account of his uneventful life in Berlin in 1933, found among his papers and published ten years ago, is absolutely wonderful. It is beautifully written and deeply horrifying because of the sheer normality of his life as he describes it in Berlin in 1933 and the ease and rapidity with which Germans accepted Nazism and Nazi indoctrination. I hope it becomes a classic and is read in a hundred years' time as it deserves to be. People follow like sheep. I saw a somewhat faint parallel with another totalitarian ideology with a whiff of sulphur, political correctness, which has made cowards of us all in recent years. 


The Moorehouse book is not particularly well written or strikingly insightful, but it efficiently covers the ground. The story of Stella Kübler, the beautiful blonde Jewess who was used by the Nazis as bait to uncover Jews hiding in Berlin, chilled my blood. One solitary Jew was permitted to survive in the Jewish cemetery burying Jews according to Jewish practice. He was still alive when the Russians came. This is what a friend of mine Madeleine Farrar-Hockley calls Hitler porn but my excuse is that I know very little about German domestic history during the Nazi period, the subject is important and I am interested in biographies of cities, writing as I am one a book on Bucharest. 

Olivia Manning's third volume in the Balkan trilogy, set in Greece, which I reread while spending the weekend in Athens and Hydra, inclines me to think that the reason I like the first two so much is because of my love of and interest in Romania not Manning's writing. She does not create characters. Her characters are clearly drawn from life in many cases and therefore do not come alive. It is the invented ones like Yaki who live, although Dennis Deletant tells me most of her characters were amalgams and Yaki is partly based on a free-loader in their set.

Please click here for my review of Waugh in Abyssinia which I strongly recommend to everyone who likes Waugh.

I am ashamed that only now after owning the book eight or nine years have i read Seton-Watson all the way through. A very good book which is still the leading work in English after Keith Hitchens. And written in clear prose as if for the intelligent layman not for other historians, as books were written in the 1930s. T.S. Eliot wrote in the 30s about the dissociation of sensibility that took place after the Renaissance when men were up to date on everything from poetry to astronomy but since the 1930s this dissociation of sensibility has gone a very great deal further. Reading Seton-Watson inspired these thoughts.

Keith Treptow gave me his History of Romania in 1999 and I never read it until now, thinking it looked light-weight, but on reading it I found it taught me a lot. it is disfigured by some big mistakes and bad proof-reading and sometimes by terrible prose but it is lively and stimulated thought. Dennis Deletant has explained to me that it was not really written by Treptow but a group of Romanian historians and was written in a great hurry for Adrian Nastase to be able to distribute copies as presents when the visited the USA as Foreign Minister in the 1990s.

This Business of Living: Diaries 1925-50 by Cesare Pavese, seemed to me at 23 a remarkably deep book but now I find it uninteresting and read it simply to understand his depressive psychology rather than to understand the world. He did coin some wonderful aphorisms but I did not find any of them in these diaries. Here are some:

A man is never completely alone in this world. At the worst, he has the company of a boy, a youth, and by and by a grown man - the one he used to be.

Artists are the monks of the bourgeois state.

He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.

Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic.
No woman marries for money; they are all clever enough, before marrying a millionaire, to fall in love with him first.

One stops being a child when one realizes that telling one's trouble does not make it any better.

'No woman marries for money; they are all clever enough, before marrying a millionaire, to fall in love with him first.' Thackeray said this before him, I am almost sure.

Films seen

The Blue Dahlia (1947)*
The Brasher Doubloon (1947)
Albert Nobbs (2011)
In a Better World (2011)

Sunday, 24 June 2012

"By a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like."

"By a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like. That is not my notion of freedom."

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

This is why the Equality Act and all similar legislation is an infringement on freedom along with many other so called human rights laws which restrict freedom while giving entitlements.

Pola Illéry

Posting Ivor Porter's obituary reminds me I forgot to post this obituary of Romanian Jewess Pola Illéry, who died in February aged 103 and is thought to have been the last leading lady from the silent films. Even though tastes in beauty change over generations, her picture is still arresting.

The Daily Telegraph obituaries are the best things in that fine newspaper and probably in English journalism. They form a history of the twentieth century comparable with John Aubrey's Brief Lives, an analogy that was very much in the mind of the paper's great Obituaries Editor, the much-missed  Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd. I regret that I did not take the opportunity to work for him.

Pola Illery

Ivor Porter has died

Ivor Porter

I forgot to post here the obituary in the Daily Telegraph of Ivor Porter, an English hero who who died a few days ago, aged 98. He knew Olivia Manning and her husband, Reggie Smith, in Bucharest when he was a junior lecturer at the university and a few years back published a very good biography of King Michael, which I recommend. I had always hoped to meet him and Patrick Leigh Fermor but, as Gorbachev said, history punishes those who delay. The obituary is by Porter's friend, Professor Dennis Deletant.

Porter's nephew by divorce writes about Porter here. I look forward very much to Dennis's book on the SOE in Romania during the war where no doubt we shall learn more about Porter.

Nowadays the British Council which once gave paid employment to all sorts of odd people who needed to live now tries to sell language classes for a greater profit than its competitors. Such is the impression I have from meeting the head of the British Council in Bucharest the other day at the Jubilee Party. Ill fares the land...

Ivor Porter, Ramona Mitrica, London February 2009 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Television is good for you

I switched the television on yesterday for the first time in three or four years, to catch up on the Nastase suicide attempt story. It is invaluable for breaking news stories but what is more  Euronews keeps me much better informed than the internet. I actually absorbed some news about the resignation of the Paraguayan President, I who was once au fait with every country in the world but who thanks to the internet am now very ignorant.

In a more general sense though, television keeps one in touch with reality or what passes for it. perhaps reality is a socially agreed construct and television is the instrument by which it is constructed. . The trouble is televison's so damnably passive and prevents you thinking - which is I suppose the point of it.

I had forgotten how delightful the folk music in Etno TV is yet unlike my neighbours I find after three or four minutes I want to switch over. I don't know why. I had also forgotten female Romanian television presenters and how many, in a country of brunettes, are blondes. And what blondes. They bring to mind the immortal words of Raymond Chandler:

She was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Former Romanian prime minister Adrian Nastase shoots himself

  • Yesterday was a red letter day or red letter early evening.  Mr. Nastase sent to gaol and  Mrs. Udrea charged with plagiarism. The day before, the job of this month's Prime Minister became in jeopardy because he (allegedly) plagiarised his doctoral thesis. Could the whole Romanian political class be forced to resign and/or be sent to prison?

    The Romanian friend I had dinner with last night refused to believe the court had sentenced Mr. Nastase  to gaol. I did not believe he would stay in gaol more than a fortnight before falling ill and being released. 

    This morning I wake up to see Mr Nastase tried to kill himself. This is not just political smoke and mirrors. The blood is real.

    Which Prime Ministers killed themselves? The only one who comes to my mind is Count Paul Teleki after Hitler invaded Hungary's ally Yugoslavia. Castlereagh was never Prime Minister. Did Mubarak attempt suicide? He threatened it but he was a former President not Prime Minister.

    Even I have to feel sorry for him. This is not about a bad conscience but loss of face, which hurts much more in Romania and the Near East than in Western countries. 

    Nastase's suicide attempt will be a turning point in Romanian history, just when every cynic in Romania, which means virtually everyone in Bucharest, was saying of course he will not go to prison and it is all a farce for public consumption.

    But I hope very much that this does not get Victor Ponta off the hook by distracting us from the allegations of plagiarism. Is there any possibility that these could bring him down? People who know about these things tell me not but they said there was no chance Adrian Nastase would go to prison.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The creation of Romania and the Arab Spring; conservatives, liberals and neo-cons

Re-reading R.W.Seton- Watson's History of the Roumanians (1934), I was struck by the support given by Mr. Gladstone and Lord Robert Cecil (later Gladstone's great conservative opponent, Lord Salisbury), after the end of the Crimean War, to the idea of parliamentary government in the 'Danubian Principalities'  - Wallachia and Moldavia, which later formed Romania. I see parallels with British and Western attitudes towards last year's Arab Spring. Cecil, supporting a motion introduced by Gladstone in the House of Commons in May 1856, welcomed "an opportunity which might never recur of establishing those institutions to which we owe our own happiness."   Wallachia and Moldavia  deserved parliamentary rule and would benefit from it, he and Gladstone argued, just as people last year argued that Arabs deserved democracy and the rule of law.

The Eastern Question ('Eastern' meaning the Near East, European Turkey or the Balkans) bedevilled international politics between 1821 and 1914, rather as the Middle Eastern question has done in the last sixty years, and ended in dragging the world into the devastating war which, in many senses, was the end of civilisation. Both the Near East and the Middle East are attractive but backward places, not especially important in themselves, but the decline of Ottoman power and the emergence of nationalism left them highly unstable. Over the Eastern Question hung the question of whether Constantinople should one day be Russian, Bulgarian, Greek or remain Turkish. Finally in 1915 England agreed that Russia should have Constantinople and the long-held Russian dream of Mass in the Hagia Sofia seemed at last to be close to fulfilment. Whoever had Constantinople controlled the Straits but control of the Straits and the Black Sea was of limited importance in an age of colonies and later the Suez Canal. Likewise, now the Cold War is over, it is hard to see why the Middle East is accorded so much importance. The Middle East has very much oil, of course, as during the Second World War had Romania, but so have Russia and other countries. 

Of course the Romanians were not ready for democracy in the 1850s or half a century later and perhaps the Arabs are not ready yet but Romania benefited from representative government. It is not yet clear whether representative government will take hold in Egypt or Tunisia and, if so, whether this will be a benefit. (Iran after all had until recently a greater measure of democracy than any other country in the Middle East except Lebanon and Israel). In Syria and Libya the odds are very much against free institutions, in my opinion. 

Home rule was a good thing for Romania and independence  de jure instead of de facto for Romania did not unduly unbalance the balance of power in Europe. It did little harm, except to ten thousand soldiers killed in the War of Independence, those maimed and their loved ones. It was a war not sought by Romanians but fought bravely by them, largely for the benefit of Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia. King Carol I distinguished himself by being the last European monarch to command an army in battle at the battle of Pleven, in Bulgaria, where he won a famous victory against the odds. Romania was given part of the Danube Delta and a small stretch of impoverished coastline, the Northern Dobrudgea, sparsely inhabited by a motley mixture of nationalities, but her ally Russia annexed Southern Bessarabia, now the Republic of Moldova, a sore which still hurts to this day.

By contrast, the overthrow of the dictatorships in the Arab World seems at the present moment likely to do much harm to the countries concerned and to the West, by bringing to power Muslim extremists and perpetuating in Libya chaos. It is a great pity that monarchies cannot be reintroduced into Egypt, Libya and Iraq as they were in the Balkans. Even better perhaps, if I am allowed a flight of fancy, were princelings like Carol I of Romania available to be sent to the Middle East as constitutional monarchs in the nineteenth century sense, with real powers, to take a large part in the governance of their backward kingdoms, but the spirit of the age would not permit it.

I wonder whether the Arab countries will ever have good government and even whether Islam and parliamentary systems can co-exist. Turkey is a Muslim exception that seems to prove the rule, as the Ataturk settlement rested on secularism enforced for the army and, for many years, by a dictatorship. In democratic Turkey the Ataturk settlement is crumbling and political Islam becoming more powerful but we hope that moderate Islam and democracy can be combined. On the other hand, the pro-British monarchies in the Middle East, before Israel and Nasser, were stable parliamentary systems and Egypt in the early 1920s even had a Jewish Minister of Finance.  Islam is therefore not always incompatible with representative institutions, at least in countries which were clients of imperial Britain. 

At one point during the Austro-Piedmontese War of 1859 the idea was floated for a moment of compensating Austria for the loss of Venice by giving her Wallachia and Moldavia. This idea died in thinking, but a period of Austrian rule, unlike Ottoman rule, and unlike Hungarian rule of the kind Transylvania endured after 1867, might have had advantages for Romania. This was what Bosnia enjoyed as a Hapsburg protectorate after 1878 (governed jointly by the two halves of the Dual Monarchy). It would have united Romanians on either side of the Carpathians and would have raised the cultural and economic level of Wallachia and Moldavia.  

Home rule and independence in Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, by contrast with Romania, led to wars, pogroms and ethnic cleansings. They destabilised the region for many years and not only the region. The First and Second Balkan Wars were followed by a third Balkan War which we know as the First World War. It began in Bosnia and ended in Bulgaria, where the Central Powers were finally defeated. Flanders was only an inconsequential side-show. It might be called the War of the Ottoman Succession.

Romanian independence was not very problematic because Romania had never really been  part of the Ottoman Empire, though shown as such on the  maps, and had always been ruled by Christian princes, without any settlement by Muslims. The Sultan was a sort of suzerain rather than the direct ruler of Wallachia and Moldavia - a suzerein status they shared, among the Sultan's domains, only with the Lebanon.  From 1812 the Tsar had treaty rights to interfere in the Principalities and so the Principalities were effectively Turkish protectorates which were also Russian protectorates. Romania is therefore in some senses not part of the Balkans. 

Romania's small 'Turkish' Muslim minority was acquired, along with other minorities, only after independence, when the  Northern Dobrudgea was awarded to Romania. Before independence Muslims had been forbidden to settle in the Principalities. No pogroms were therefore carried out by Muslims on Christians or vice versa, as happened in Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece and, worst of all, with the massacre of the Armenians in Anatolia by the Young Turk government. Romania's large minority at the time were her Jews, who had immigrated in the preceding two generations from Russia and the Hapsburg Empire. Their position was only affected by independence insofar as the Great Powers were not prepared to recognise independence without the Jews being granted civil rights, something the Romanians, both the politicians and public, resisted fiercely but unavailingly. 

It was perhaps a pity in some ways that, from 1917, after the Tsar was overthrown and the USA entered the First World War, 'democracy' was suddenly adopted by the Allies as an agreed standard for good government in the white world. This, in time, came to be applied to colonies in Africa and Asia, regardless of whether developing societies were ready for one man one vote. Universal suffrage in the twentieth century has become seen as the sine qua non for political legitimacy, even though the UK only got manhood suffrage in 1918. In fact, a property franchise made very good sense in early 20th century Romania and a household franchise worked well in early 20th century England. An electorate confined to graduates or to the literate or to property owners would lack legitimacy nowadays but in the Arab world and elsewhere it would, in itself, make good sense.

Disraeli's attitude to Romania's war of independence in 1878 was very different from Gladstone's or Salisbury's twenty years earlier.  Disraeli was a conservative of the school of Metternich and Kissinger, whereas the heirs of Gladstone are Woodrow Wilson, whose fourteen points were disastrous for Central and Eastern Europe, and, ultimately, George W. Bush and the Neo-Cons. 

Disraeli had no love for Russia and publicly claimed Romania was amply compensated at the Congress of Berlin for losing Bessarabia, but he had told Queen Victoria in a letter that  "the compensation allotted to the rebellious tributary states for their alliances with Russia would be as meagre as possible." Dizzy promised Bessarabia, among other things, to Russia in return for Russia's giving back to Turkey the Greater Bulgaria created by the Treaty of San Stefano, yet when he returned to England 'with peace in our time' he 'hoodwinked' (Seton-Watson) British public opinion by complaining (accurately but disingenuously) that  the Tsar had broken international law by annexing Bessarabia. 

Disraeli sympathised with Turkey as a legitimate monarchy and a force for stability. Seeing what chaos, bloodshed and ethnic cleansing resulted from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and in the Middle East it is not easy to say he was wrong about this though it partly cost him the 1880 election. He had no sympathy for Romania and tried to ensure she received as little as possible in return for rebelling against the Sublime Porte. Disraeli was a true legitimist and a higher conservative than Lord Salisbury. I am a legitimist too, but to Romanians and to me Gladstone and Salisbury emerge out of Romanian history much better. 

Disraeli was a Protestant convert but perhaps his Jewish background, as well as his happy memories of 'the pleasure of being made much of by a man who is daily decapitating half the country' when he was the guest of Ali Pasha in Albania as a young man in the 1830s,  made him less biased in favour of Christians and against Muslim Turkey than other statesmen. On his deathbed, he was said to have been heard to mutter Hebrew prayers. During the Eastern Crisis, Gladstone wrote of Disraeli to the Duke of Argyll, "He is not such a Turk as I thought. What he hates is Christian liberty and reconstruction."

How interesting it is that events almost never have the consequences clever statesmen think they will have. Napoleon III worked for the unification of Italy and Romania, which both became the allies of Austria and Germany (secretly in Romania's case) and therefore enemies of France. Russia nearly caused a  European war in 1878 by trying to create an independent Greater Bulgaria. The other powers, though not Gladstone, feared Bulgaria would be a Russian poodle, which is why Disraeli was prepared to fight. In London, the hit song in the music halls, sung by The Great MacDermott, went:

'We don't want to fight,
'But by jingo if we do,
'We've got the ships,
'We've got the men,
'We've got the money too.'

Yet in the two world wars Bulgaria fought against her Russian elder brother and against England and France. Other examples are legion.

An in some ways comparable mistake was made by President Eisenhower in 1956 in not backing Britain and France's admittedly duplicitous invasion of Nasser's Egypt. This enabled America to take from Britain and France the leading role in the Middle East but left the region the source of grave instability that it has remained and led to Egypt, Libya and Syria becoming Soviet allies.It also precipitated the overthrow of the pro-British Iraqi monarchy and the eventual emergence of Saddam Hussein. Three years later Eisenhower, who had opposed Anglo-French imperialism in Egypt, was faced with his own rebellious vassal state in Castro's Cuba. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who had been 'first in and first out' of the Suez venture, expressed much sympathy with Eisenhower, but then Macmillan was the greatest beneficiary of the American sabotage of his predecessor, Sir Anthony Eden.

The Conservative Disraeli was pro-Turkish and the Liberal Gladstone pro-Christian but the Conservatives, in opposition from 1905 till 1915, gave up their preference for Turkey over Russia. From 1914, allied to Russia and ruled from 1915 by an all-party coalition, England fought the Ottoman Empire. The consequence is today's Middle East. 

In the First World War and the early 1920s Lloyd George retained enough of his previous radicalism to be a passionate pro-Hellene.  Lloyd George and Clemenceau very nearly succeeded in killing, but only with very great difficulty, the allegedly Sick Man of Europe (Kemal later administered the coup de grace). Lloyd George then encouraged Greece in her ambitions to create a Greater Greece in Anatolia. This proved a fatal mistake for the Greeks who were driven out of their ancestral homes in Anatolia by Kemal bag and baggage, to use the phrase Gladstone, the Liberal leader, used a generation and a half earlier to describe his hope for the ethnic cleansing of the Turks (i.e. the Muslims) from Bulgaria and Macedonia. In the early 1920s, the Turks were driven out of Greece at the same time as the Greeks were expelled from Turkey. Interestingly, in view of later British history, the Conservative British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, took the view that ethnic minorities never lived happily side by side and were best separated by force.

Had we remained friendly to the Sublime Porte and avoided allying with France or getting drawn into war with Germany in 1914 the history of the world might have been very different and much happier.

How different nineteenth century diplomacy was from that of our day, made in secret and concerned with realpolitik and not principles or the interests of the common man. And yet was it so very different? I just finished reading Victor Sebestyen's book Revolution 1989. I read, though it was not news, how George H.W. Bush tried to shore up Jaruzelski, Gorbachev and the USSR against Solidarity and the reformers in Poland and Russia on the ground that Gorbachev provided stability. He also offered Gorbachev a free hand in Romania but, at least ostensibly, Gorbachev allowed Romania to go her own way.

Stability sounds a sell-out but it has its virtues. The last nine years in Iraq have taught us how valuable stability is, more valuable perhaps than almost anything else. 

For forms of government let fools contest
Whate'er is best administered is best.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Olivia Manning

'There seemed nothing remarkable about travelling a lot. All you needed were money and energy.' Olivia Manning, Friends and Heroes

I'll find the exact quote tonight.

The Wikipedia article on Olivia Manning is terrifying: 

Manning's books have received limited critical attention; as during her life, opinions are divided, particularly about her characterisation and portrayal of other cultures. Her works tend to minimise issues of gender, and are not easily classified as feminist literature. Nevertheless, recent scholarship has highlighted Manning's importance as a woman writer of war fiction and of the British Empire in decline. Her works are critical of war, racism, colonialism and imperialism..
She is deemed a good writer because in many ways progressive though unfortunately not a feminist. It's like living in Lenin's Russia. Despite the Cold War the far Left is winning after all.

I failed in my duty to become a don and to do battle with these forces of Beelezebub which have occupied the universities of England and America. 

James Joyce in Bucharest

James Joyce was a partner in the business which owned three cinemas, including the Doina cinema in Str. Doamnei, Bucharest, opposite the National Bank of Romania, yards from where I live. I missed the Bloomsday celebrations in Bucharest on Saturday because I was at a birthday barbecue in an idyllic village, in the foothills of the Carpathians, but I can mark the day by telling the world this pregnant fact.

I cannot remember which lady told me Joyce once managed the cinema in Str Doameni - I knew she was wrong but the internet showed that she was almost right. The company in question owned the cinema in Bucharest and one in Trieste and wanted Joyce to open for them their third cinema, the first cinema in Dublin, The Volta Cinematograph. Before the Great War, being a cinema manager was rather a cool thing to be, not the lack lustre job it is in our time.

I want to read Ulysses - I now realise you have to. I when young thought nothing written before 1900 at the latest was compulsory. I read The Dead. I have not read Lawrence either. I love George Moore's Celibate Lives. If Joyce is better than that he is great indeed.

A  friend quoted to me these lines from Joyce: 
'What puts me off about going to heaven is knowing the Dean of Chapel will be there.' 
'You must remembered he will be transfigured.'

Basques are Neanderthals?

I was very amused in the mid-80s to read John Hooper in his book The Spaniards saying the Basques are so ancient a race that some have suggested they are not homo sapiens at all but descended from the Neanderthals. 
This morning before work I suddenly and quickly  read up on the theory. The internet is a wonderful thing. 

I mention it now purely in the hope of being amusing.  I am not particularly interested in the origins of Man (nowadays Person) and, lest I be suspected of being a racist, I do not believe in the 19th century theories about race of Gobineau or God knows who. Didn't Ambrose Bierce say 'goke' after attempts at humour? 

He also suggested using what he called a “snigger point” — \__/ — to convey jocularity or irony. But Ambrose Bierce was so leaden and unfunny. I feel sad just remembering The Devil's Dictionary.

As for the Neanderthal theory, perhaps it is true. Judge for yourself here.