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Echo and Narcissus

This Saturday we have a treat for you. It’s the last weekend before the General Election and our print magazine – Bella #4 – is packed with great writing. It’s so packed we had to leave some of it out. Get it from all good newsagents for only £1 tomorrow.

As the swirling shambles of Parody Britain reaches a new low of emptiness, political rhetoric has abandoned facts and figures for myth and symbol.  This is post-truth British politics. In this issue George Gunn takes on the myths of Brexit Britain and  the shambles of the dependence parties leadership, Paul Tritschler writes on the need for contemplation and solidarity in the face of the madness surrounding us, and author AL Kennedy embraces being a Citizen of Nowhere:

“The EU is not by any means perfect, but the reasons for Britain’s abandonment of EU membership, its threats to remove us all from the protection of the European Court and its hatred of Europe as an idea are clearly not based in a desire to be newly creative, outgoing, humane or just. They are simply an expression of political loathing – magnified by a corrupt and crippled media an increasingly undemocratic parliament and a handful of millionaires with specific agendas, strongly tainted by fascist world views. Their loathing is turned against the world and against our nearest neighbours most of all. But do not make the mistake of thinking that it does not also inevitably condemn us at home. The poor, the sick, the old, the refugees, the immigrants, the non-white,the non-Christian, the non-compliant – these are all citizens of Nowhere … A post EU Britain may involve a collapse of peace in Northern Ireland, an unpredictable progress towards an independent Scotland, aplunge further to the right in England and Wales, searing levels of poverty and pain – all kinds of potential mass turmoil.”

On the day we hear that Donald Trump has abandoned the future Kennedy concludes:

“Denial of the world is a manifestation of permanent culture shock, of a narcissism, which has become pathological. It echoes with the anxieties of public schoolboys banished from their parents and taught they’re entitled to rule without effort and to lookon love as weakness. The rhetoric of Brexit, matches that of our mass media and of our small but influential Far Right. It relies on a silent assumption that somehow Britain will soon have access to a time machine and a world-beating navy. Each morning our headlines bring grubby little telegrams from an age when Britain owned the world and could colour enough nations pink for round-the-globe proof of our specialness. When you have no love, ownership must suffice. White men have burdens – and everyone else must carry them. The only option for writers of all orientations and genders, all races, all religions and none must be to resist this.”

Also in this issue: Neil Cooper on the ongoing attack on live music in the capital; Hugh MacDonald interviews Robert Craig of the Scottish Football Museum about how unlocking memories of the beautiful game in Scotland are at the cutting edge of dementia therapy; From Dawn till Dusk with director and playwright Cora Bissett; a look ahead to the Fringe’s Made In Scotland showcase; What’s on in Scotland this month with Nadine McBay; and Five-Minute Tea Break with composer, painter, performer and producer Ela Orleans.

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Comments (8)

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  1. scrandoonyeah says:

    What an amazing cover……..whoever designed it deserves a dram or two and a big thank you hug

  2. Archie Hamilton says:

    I enjoyed the content of issue #4 but whilst I don’t want to be petty I feel driven to pick up Paul Tritschler on one aspect of his otherwise fine article. Refering to Saint Valery (en Caux, not to be confused with the other, sur Somme) he mentioned praying for the Grandfather of his partner and others “who died in those early days of June, 1940, around Dunkirk”
    Speaking as the son of one Gordon Highlander, who, along with the remainder of the 51st Highland Division, was captured at Saint Valery en Caux, I would stress that Saint Valery is some considerable distance from Dunkirk. Further, that the events which took place there occurred well after the last lift from the beaches at Dunkirk.
    For many of those who were there it became something of a sore point that as Dunkirk commemmorations came round each year little or nothing was ever said about the 51st’s sacrifices. Even now, with the shortly to be released film epic about Dunkirk, I expect them to be forgotten.

    1. Paul Tritschler says:

      Thanks Archie. I agree with your facts and your sentiments entirely: I did quite a bit of research on the entire episode over the years, and was made quite aware of the omissions often made. I don’t know if you found this, but I encountered many who wanted to unearth the truth and tragedy of those days, and others who wanted to bury it – or at least to bury it for the time being. In the end, though I didn’t mean to conflate the two events – most people simply refer to Dunkirk – I decided against going into too much detail, and put much of my research in the desk drawer. The ‘neighbourhood’ I referred to, incidentally, was of course the graves.

      1. Archie Hamilton says:

        Hi Paul, Thanks for your reply and apologies if my comments detracted from the main focus of your article. Regardless of my earlier thoughts I was pleasantly surprised to see the photo of the 51stHD stained glass memorial and then to read your article.

        Incidently I don’t know if you are aware of it but a book has just been released which gives a very good account of the experiences of the men of the 51st HD whilst in captivity.

        1. Paul Tritschler says:

          Thank you Archie. I would love to read it, and will try to find it.

          My father’s brother, Ferdinand, spent much of the war in captivity, but unfortunately said very little about it. He was a priest, and he may have had his ‘ethical’ reasons. Be that as it may, I encountered some marvellous reminiscences some years ago in the course of my readings around the subject, one of my favourites being of a man who evaded capture; if memory serves, he got to (I think), Holland, and managed to jump on a lift home to the north east on a Buckie Drifter.

          Thanks for your kind words.

  3. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    Got the National with Bella supplement today. Appreciated it.

    George Gunn’s ‘Echo & Narcissus: The Brexit Myth in Scotland’ contains a rich and humorous extended metaphor. Sorry the article wasn’t rather longer.

    The space allocated to AL Kennedy’s expansive and compassionate “pro-cosmopolitan” essay was certainly more generous. Though I confess to wondering at the end of all its enjoyable literary globetrotting whether Scottish independence or language had earned themselves even a nod of endorsement.

    AL Kennedy quotes the highly memorable words of Primo Levi:

    “…a country is considered the more civilised, the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak, or a powerful one too powerful.”

    And Paul Tritschler’s ‘Hopeful things’ is an absorbing, poignant meditation of a veteran socialist on disparate-but-dovetailed matters such as the Miners’ Strike, Dunkirk, the point of praying, and the influence of John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) on existentialism and postmodernism.

    The above all brings to mind a few links, perhaps of interest to some:

    Prof Alexander Broadie has online a 2010 audio lecture (Royal Society Edinburgh) regarding the influence of John Duns Scotus on the Declaration of Arbroath:

    A Primo Levi novel, and two other modern Italian novels, have just been published in Irish (all translated by Matt Hussey):

    Primo Levi, ‘Il Sistema Periodico’ (‘An Tábla Peiriadach’)

    Alberto Moravia, ‘L’Amore Coniugale’ (‘An Grá Pósta’)

    and magnificently…

    Umberto Eco, ‘Il Pendolo di Foucault’ (‘Luascadán Foucault’)

    1. Thanks – great links and connections.

      You say “I confess to wondering at the end of all its enjoyable literary globetrotting whether Scottish independence or language had earned themselves even a nod of endorsement” – this is possibly true, though I confess that not every article we publish has to be, or will be, about Scottish independence, because, frankly, that would be really tedious. Part of our remit, as we understand it, is to relate our struggles and processes to the wider world.

      1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

        I completely accept that, and agree with the outlook. Though I did realise that what I wrote was vulnerable to misinterpretation.

        AL Kennedy’s article was essentially a cri de cœur for, and celebration of, access to world literature. As I read it I quite naturally found myself pondering anew whether my own interests in Gaelic and Scottish independence were compatible with the admirable aspirations expressed. Of course they are, was my updated conclusion.

        Yet glancing back through what was a fairly extensive article, I was intrigued that AL Kennedy had apparently offered not a phrase of encouragement for anyone with my views.

        I may indeed be entirely wrong, but this article (and again, many are its merits) has left me with the strong impression that AL Kennedy is politically a Brit (fair enough). But also, more to the point, that the access to world literature envisaged is via English translation.

        In practice, of course, that course will remain the default. International literary “content” periwinkled out of resistant foreign shells and rewrapped in convenient English cellophane. Sure. But the taste can never be the same.

        So let us celebrate all literatures. Let us also celebrate all languages.

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