Sunday 30 January 2011

Bucharest is a woman

‎"Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual." Angela Carter
Bucharest is a blowzy but beguiling woman of a certain age, faded but flirtatious, fingers beringed. She landed her job because she was the mistress of the Director-General in the 1980s.

A pal asked me what my favourite sentence was in English.

I wasted eight minutes finding it in google.

There are no fields of amaranth on this side of the grave : there are no voices, O Rhodope ! that are not soon mute, however tuneful : there is no name, with whatever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of which the echo is not faint at last. (Landor.)  
 Quoted of course in '84, Charing Cross Rd', that enchanting play, then book and then film. 

My friend shocked me by asking who Landor was. Really, the world is becoming very philistine. Walter Savage Landor, he who threw his cook out of a first floor window into the garden below and then said, 'Oh God I forgot the daffodils.' 

Two more favourite sentences:

Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back, Wherein he puts alms for Oblivion. Troilus and Cressida

Life affords no human felicity more acute than that of a bishop from the Western United States when at a London dinner party he hears himself addressed for the first time as 'My Lord.'  
G.W.E. Russell

All the great man are dead. I don't feel so well myself..

The age of collectivism was formed by individuals: Lenin, Hitler, Einstein, Freud. The age of individualism is dominated by mediocrities. An age that worships celebrities has so very very few men of substance.The Western world seems to have been in decline since 1945 as far as literature and the arts are concerned. Have any great books been written in English since 1945? I mean ones comparable with the 30 best 19th century books? Declined even more as insofar as self-belief is concerned, It has produced no new ideas and very few great men. Yet people are richer and in many important practical ways freer (though in many ways less free) than ever before. Are they happier than in 1945? It has been the triumph of the bourgeoisie, especially the new class, the public sector bourgeoisie, whose values and interests dominate, and of technology. The amazing post 1950 economic miracle had nothing to do with new ideas, just old fashioned boring, vulgar, petit bourgeois, private sector ones.

I suspect Western civilisation is in a decline yet economically materially and technologically it flourishes. Gibbon starts the Decline and Fall with Marcus Aurelius - will a future Indonesian or Malay historian begin Decline and Fall of Western Civilisation at 1989?

Thoughts on the Revolution in Egypt, time for a female Caliph

I doubt if any Arab country is ready for representative government or democracy in the true sense. I hope I am wrong. Of course I feel full of hope and excitement but our chief concern should be British interests and peace in the region. It is difficult not to get swept up in euphoria about what is happening but the mob is not an attractive thing and young men are being killed like in Romania so that the first tier can be replaced by the second tier of the political class. Or worse by the Muslim Brotherhood. All the clever men tell us the Brotherhood are not a big factor but but this is not so. They won 20% of the vote in the recent rigged elections. The clever men (deliberate use of non-inclusive language) all pooh poohed the possibility of Egypt repeating Tunisia. Two very important points. Aid from the USA sustained the regime. Should we abolish foreign aid as Peter Bauer argued? And Tunisians aged between 15 and 24 made up 21 percent of the population in 2005.

The Telegraph has evidence that the Americans were working to achieve regime change. Like the USSR was in Romania in 1989. Whether true or not they may be punished for their public support of Mubarak.

All this is the result of the Liberals' decision to prefer Russia to Turkey as an ally before 1914. Disraeli was right to favour the Ottoman Empire (he would have had no truck with an ethical foreign policy) and its demise is cause of half the problems in the world today. The Russian Hapsburg and British Empires are also tragic losses. If a British Minister were advising a Khedive would things be better for Egyptians?

A shame the British allowed the Caliphate to come to an end. HM the Queen is a descendant of the Prophet. Caliph would make an excellent one of her subsidiary titles along with Defender of the Faith and Queen of France