Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Harold Pinter - The Nobel Lecture

Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture is live on the Nobel Prize site. There's also a link to a 46 minute video of him reading his lecture. He couldn't make the ceremony.

Very very worth the time to sit and listen to it. Or read it.

HTML link here

PDF link here

High bandwidth video link here

Low bandwidth video link here


In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?


the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.


Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.


The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.


I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.


What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead?


When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Zeus in New York?

My dad always maintained that the Greek gods were alive and kicking after all these years, but he never told me they were in New York!

Well, according to "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" a children's fantasy novel written by Rick Riordan the Greek gods migrated from Mount Olympus to the US because they have moved with "the heart of the West," which was first in Athens, then in Rome, and finally in New York City.

More here.

Murder in Byzantium

What fun! Another Julia Kristeva novel, Murder in Byzantium

From the Columbia University Press website:

Murder in Byzantium
A Novel

Julia Kristeva
Translated by C. Jon Delogu

"This is a novel of which we have not seen the like since Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose"
—Bernard-Henri Levy, Le Point

"Julia Kristeva gives us a stimulating, joyous book. In a word, a great Byzantine novel."
—Christine Rousseau, Le Monde

In this absorbing, suspenseful novel Julia Kristeva combines social satire, medieval history, philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, and autobiography within a gruesome murder mystery. Murder in Byzantium deftly moves from eleventh-century Europe, wracked by the turbulence of the First Crusade, to the sun-dappled, cultural wasteland of present-day Santa Varvara, threatened by religious cults, gangs, and a serial killer on the loose.

This killer is murdering members of a dubious religious sect, the New Pantheon, and leaving a mysterious figure eight drawn on their corpses. Meanwhile, Sebastian Chrest-Jones, a noted professor of human migrations, clandestinely writing a novel about the Byzantine princess-historian Anna Comnena, disappears on a quest to learn more about an ancestor who roamed across Europe to Byzantium during the First Crusade. Kristeva's recurring characters, detective Northrop Rilsky and the French journalist Stephanie Delacour, step in and desperately try to piece together the two-part mystery in the midst of their unexpected love affair.

In the tradition of Umberto Eco, Susan Sontag, and Ian McEwan, Kristeva skillfully weaves philosophical and critical ideas into her fiction. Peering into the mores, obsessions, and excesses of contemporary society, Kristeva offers an engrossing portrait of Santa Varvara, a paradoxical place of sunshine and pollution where skeletons lurk in the closets of politicians and oil company executives. Her descriptions of the First Crusade and the Byzantine Empire vividly evoke a distant past while speaking to such contemporary concerns as immigration, fundamentalism, terrorism, and the East-West divide. Murder in Byzantium is also the only work in which Kristeva explores her Bulgarian roots. In the midst of this rich, multilayered historical novel, Kristeva also presents three stunning, closely observed, and interlocking portraits of characters struggling with loss and emptiness in their personal histories and day-to-day lives.

About the Author

Julia Kristeva is a renowned psychoanalyst, critic, and professor of linguistics at the Université de Paris VII. She is the author of many acclaimed works and of three previous novels, including The Samurai, The Old Man and the Wolves, and Possessions. In 2004 C. Jon Delogu is professor of English at the Université de Lyon III—Jean Moulin.

And a review

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Dating Aphrodite by Luke Slattery

Description of Dating Aphrodite: Modern Adventures in the Ancient World by Luke Slattery

'Greece has a profound and permanent message to mankind; it is humane and progressive and affects not only art but the whole of life.' Australian classicist Gilbert Murray

'Dating Aphrodite' is a modern celebration of the classics of ancient Greece and ancient Rome - their wisdom and humour, as well as the insights they offer our contemporary world.

In the best tradition of Alain de Botton and Simon Schama, journalist and traveller Luke Slattery illuminates the classical ideas underpinning so much of modern civilisation - our literature, art and architecture, our democracy, science and even our religion - with a cheeky sense of irony.

A combination of travel book, history book and a meditation on what it means to be living in the media-saturated twenty-first century, 'Dating Aphrodite' takes you to the actual places where the big ideas of Western civilisation were born. Slattery shows you the real landscape and explains how, even today, the spirit of these places and the meanings that can be found there shine through.

'Dating Aphrodite' follows 'the footsteps of the ancients on a journey in search of ourselves'.

Review in Sydney Morning Herald