Saturday, 9 February 2013

Defaming Lawrence Durrell

Under the headline 'Book of a Lifetime' the novelist Jim Crace has written an article in The Independent saying how much he enjoyed reading The Alexandria Quartet when he was a young man, how much he enjoyed reading it again later, and how much he looks forward to reading it yet again.  

But also Jim Crace confesses that he is 'embarrassed to enjoy Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet so much', for he associates the pleasure with a more 'callow' and 'less judgmental' version of himself.  The Quartet 'is still for me a brave and brazen work, more ready to take risks than take excessive care', says Jim Crace.  But that is not good enough, and the rest of Jim Crace's article is an exercise in how a grown up man in England these days learns to keep his tail between his legs.  The Quartet, he says, is 'an early passion of mine and one I revisit for the blowsy comfort it provides'.  Well, that is all right then, Jim.  The cultural police will let you off this time. 

For anyone curious to read Jim Crace's own account in The Independent of his struggle against exciting writing, click here.

An embarrassed Jim Crace
Not that I have written this post to draw your attention to the solitary practices of Jim Crace.  Instead my eye was caught by his remark that Lawrence Durrell's private life has been 'peeled off to reveal a predatory and sleazy man'.  If I were Jim Crace I would be embarrassed to have made that remark. 

I have answered it by adding a comment at the end of his article in The Independent, which you can see online and I repeat below.

'It is remarkable that Jim Crace can write that Lawrence Durrell's life has been 'peeled off to reveal a predatory and sleazy man'. Having written about Durrell myself, and being engaged in writing his biography, I can say that Durrell has been the victim of certain predatory and sleazy people out to make a buck. In due course their deceits will be exposed and they will be publicly shamed in my book. Meanwhile it would be good if Jim Crace exercised his critical faculties before re-blabbing whatever blab he has picked up from the literary sewer.'

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Michael Haag's Book about the Templars and the Crusades Reviewed in the BBC History Magazine

'Helen Nicholson explores an unusual, but contentious, account of the effect that the crusades had on the Middle East.'  So runs the headline to Helen Nicholson's review of Michael Haag's The Tragedy of the Templars in the February 2013 issue of the BBC History Magazine. Dr Nicholson is reader in history at Cardiff University and author of A Brief History of the Knights Templar.

The narrative of the crusades as told here differs from the norm. Most books on the crusades concentrate on the western European Christians (the ‘Franks’) and say very little about the Muslims. Haag’s work describes in detail the divisions between Arabs and Turks, and Sunnis and Shi’ites, explaining the history of their conflicts. The fractures between the peoples of the Middle East are made clear, and readers can understand how the crusaders and other European settlers fitted into the politics and culture of the Middle East.

Haag traces the history of Islamic-Christian relations in the east before the crusades and explains the basis for the western Europeans’ expedition to Jerusalem at the end of the 11th century. He argues that, contrary to popular belief, most of the people of the lands the crusaders conquered were Christian, not Muslim. He describes how the western Europeans and local Christians lived alongside each other in the Middle East and argues that the Europeans were much more tolerant than the Muslims in their dealings with the local peoples. 

Muslim pilgrims queuing to enter the tomb of Jesus at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Islam regards Jesus as a mortal prophet and a precursor of Mohammed.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

BBC Podcast: Michael Haag Talks about the Templars and the Crusades

BBC History Magazine has done a podcast of Michael Haag talking about his new book, The Tragedy of the Templars.

The podcast can be listened to by clicking here.

The talk with Michael Haag begins at 16 minutes and 24 seconds into the podcast and lasts for half an hour.

Or go to the list of podcasts on the BBC History website by clicking here, and then scroll down to 17 January 2013.

The podcast seems to work best with the Chrome browser.