Archive for February, 2021

The Cure binge!

Posted: February 26, 2021 in Chat

Ok, I admit, I’ve been quiet for a little while.
But then I turned on the TV, and there were The Cure at their 40th Anniversary concert, from 2018.

I’ve not really paid them much attention before now.
And so, it’s binge-time!

It’s the tangle and range of emotions they navigated, from early work to later, that caught me: here was something beyond the usual gamut of anger, or schmaltz.
Something to play again, and again, and again.


Posted: February 17, 2021 in John Stammers Page
Tags: , , , ,

I have never been one wowed by military campaigns, or an avid devotee of battles, wars, the armed forces. I hope I never will.
Every so often, though, something strikes home, and the cost of the courage of people makes an impact.
Here’s one example.

The date; March – May 1944
The place: Kohima, Nagaland, India
The event: WW 2 battle between Indian-British troops and a Japanese regiment
Importance: turning point on Japanese front
People:  men from modern-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Japanese forces Rowland (seated, centre) with members of the Punjab regiment, pictured in Bangkok in 1945I was astonished to read this account, of how Indian-British soldiers held off a far superior number of Japanese soldiers for three months.
The impact was to be tumultuous: … by June 1944, with more than 7,000 casualties and almost no food supplies left, the Japanese division retreated and returned to Burma.
This was the first time the imperial Japanese forces had been defeated. The impact on everyone’s morale was huge.

No matter what you think of war, combat, but what these men went through – yes, I am aware of how little choice played in the matter – has to be honoured. 1500 Indian’British troops went through sheer living hell for three months defending Garrison Hill’s strategic entry point to Manipur and Assam, against more than 15,000 so-far invincible, Japanese troops. There was aerial bombardment, and ending in hand-t0-hand fighting.
The relief Punjab regiment-British troops arrived in May. I should think they expected to find a massacre. The scene had that about it, but troops survived, held out, and had held off. The Indian sub-continent was saved.

The relief troops were ordered to pursue the retreating Japanese troops. Cholera and malaria cut down many in retreat, but the main killer was starvation.
These are shocking details. This is the reality of war, fighting. There was no honour in death, here. Were any remembered, except by grieving families who never knew what had happened, or where?

This is very different, however, from the forced Death Marches of concentration camp internees.

Commemoration? Partition swept away a lot of commitment to such memorials. And the new India, Pakistan, later Bangladesh, saw it all as clouded in colonialism.
For whatever reason, the Indian regiment fought and died courageously.

The special bond between deadly enemies is also a thing of surprise, wonder: “When the Japanese and the British veterans of Kohima met, they hugged each other and started crying,” he said. “These were the soldiers who had fired at each other, but still they showed a special bond. It was spontaneous and we didn’t expect it.”
Many from the Nagaland region helped with intelligence and ground knowledge, as well as fighting with the troops. They were hoping for British help in establishing their own Nagaland independence. They felt very aggrieved when in the aftermath of the war this was not even a consideration.
This, also, is a consequences of war – when nations fight, and territory becomes re-ordered, the concerns of smaller bodies become lost, destroyed. No matter what they gave.

Wiki tells us:
In 1944 during World War II the Battle of Kohima along with the simultaneous Battle of Imphal was the turning point in the Burma Campaign. For the first time in South-East Asia, the Japanese lost the initiative to the Allies, which the Allies then retained, until the end of the war. This hand-to-hand battle and slaughter, prevented the Japanese from gaining a base from which they might have easily gone into the plains of India.

Kohima has a large cemetery known as the War Cemetery in Kohima for the Allied war dead maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The cemetery lies on the slopes of Garrison Hill, in what was once the Deputy Commissioner’s tennis court which was the scene of intense fighting, the Battle of the Tennis Court

A song from the 1990s, by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

I thought… title, at least, appropriate.

The Judge and the Hangman, by Friedrich Durrenmatt, Pushkin Press, 2017.
ISBN 978 1 78227 341 7

Occaisionally I dabble with crime novels. Ok, splurge – I was a big fan of the Janwillem van Der Wettering, his Grijpstra and de Gier, novels at one point. A Dutch author; the series was written in English. He lived in America for the latter half of his life.
His biography cites periods of time as working part time with the Amsterdam police force, but also as a Zen Buddhist. And so it was very surprising/dismaying to see how sexist, even racist at times, he could be.
His books are, however, always full of vicarious learning: we find out about Friesland indepedence, and sloe gin; we learn how the furniture import trade works.

Then of course there are the Cormoran Strike novels. Except for the last one, very well written as it is, some of the subject matter….
I do not read to solve the crimes, but to enjoy the craft and skill of the writing.

Pushkin Press, that excellent publisher, brought The Judge and the Hangman to my attention.
And at 126 pages, it is a quite a gem, bijou, and impactful.
Originally published in 1950, revised 1952, it was first translated into English in 1955.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt greatly disliked the early crime-game novels, where ‘You set up your stories logically, like a chess game; all the detective needs to know is the rules, he replays the moves of the game, and checkmate…. This fantasy drives me crazy.
And so he set out to create a different kind of novel, and the novels he wrote in this genre were more psychology-led, more devious, like people, surprising, and full of with-held knowledge.
His compatriots in writing are cited as the French New Wave of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s The Erasers.

There is also lovely, lyrical writing. Set in post-War Switzerland, The Judge and the Hangman gives us:
The storm had relaxed, and suddenly, by the Muristalden, Barlach found himself steeped in blinding light: the sun broke through the clouds, disappeared, came out again, and was caught up in a rollicking chase of mists and clouds, huge bulging mounds that came racing in from the West to pile up in front of the mountains, casting wild shadows across the city that lay spread out by the river between forests and hills…. his eyes glittered as he avidly drank in the spectacle: the world was beautiful.’

Inspector Barlach was an ageing police inspector, mostly stationed in Berne. He had travelled in his life, though, spending time in Turkey, and other points in Europe. His talent was criminology. HIs last posting was Frankfurt am Main, in 1933; he had to leave hastily: ‘his return… was a slap he had given a high-ranking official of the new German government. There is a dry humour in this, as well establishing political credentials.
His boss Dr Lucius Lutz, had also travelled, and forever compared deplorable Swiss police methods with his time in Chicago. Yes, those years, of John Dillinger et al.

The big turn-around in the story is very skilfully plotted, and comes with an in-take of breath, from the arch-villain of the piece, as for the reader.

And there is a follow-up book on Inspector Barlach, Suspicion.
I look forward to reading this.