The Nuclear Propaganda Machine gets ‘Busted’

In the same year as the classic Simpsons episode, New Kids on the Blecch, James Bourne, Matt Willis, and Charlie ‘Simpson’ hit the cover of Smash Hits. Seemingly out of nowhere, prior to even releasing a single, the band were branded “Bigger than Rik Waller”.


With the threat of the cold war far behind, the large pro-nuclear weapon segment of the government and population needed a new angle to keep our minds focused on our need for WMDs

Written by Thomas Fletcher, James Bourne, Bary Gray, Matthew Sergeant*, and Charles “Simpson”, the catchy tune Thunderbirds are Go, will be the main focus of this essay.

Though I attempted research on the song, “” was limited in its political discussion.

So the opinions presented below are purely speculative.


“Five-four-three-two-one, Thunderbirds are go”

A classic rocketry countdown paints the “Thunderbirds” as friendly missiles.

“Spring break’s come around and there’s more heroes to be found”

“Yvan eht nioj”, classic subliminal messaging. “heroes” here of course referring to enlisted soldiers, “spring break” showing the young demographic targeted.

“There’s something major going down on Tracy island, island”

Tracy Island represents one of the many secret nuclear stations, the source of the missiles. The line itself creating anxiety over the mysterious “something major”.

“Rockets underground keeping our planet safe and sound
If someone evil’s coming round they should be frightened, frightened”

Barely needs explanation, this is subliminally pressing the idea that nuclear weapons are still required in the new millennium, an idea many activists were clear to give up.  However the boys still employ the Cold War fear tactic in “someone evil”, a fake villain for a fake nuclear fear.

“‘Cause now the boys are back in town
No strings to hold them down, down”

Though released in 2004, the year in which Bush was reelected, I believe this line refers to the Republican party as a whole, “The boys” were back, with unrestricted access to nuclear Armageddon. Lets remember a decade ago when the track was released WMDs were the talk of the world, the we needed public opinion to invade Iraq, and the fear of nuclear destruction is what turned the tables.

“Don’t be mad please, stop the hating,
Just be glad that they’ll be waiting,”

There was however, one restriction, the public opinion of nuclear use was still varied. The creation of the “Trident” system in the UK had created an outcry that Busted seeks to avoid. Instead asking us to “stop the hating” and be glad with mutually assured destruction.

“Friends we have are ever changing though,”

A common argument against the UK’s nuclear weapons was that we could rely on NATO and our allies for protection against a strike, an argument this line seeks to stop.

“There’s no need to battle, no, when the thunderbirds are go

An appeal to the pacifist in all of us, the idea that nuclear power wards off conventional warfare, who needs soldiers when you have nukes?

“Kids are learning fast they know the T-birds kick some ass, “

Indoctrination of the youth, glorification of the military in the same vein as Action Man.

“Be sure that there’s no coming last cause you’re on their side, their side”

Diversion of the population, vilification of anyone anti-nuclear. Plus, you wouldn’t want to get bombed, would you?

“It always looks so cool when spaceships come out of the pool,
You know that you’d just be a fool to be a bad guy, bad guy”

Similar point as before, making war look “cool” and a threat towards anybody campaigning for nuclear disarmament.

“‘Cause now the boys are back in town,
No strings to hold them down, down

Don’t be mad please, stop the hating,
Just be glad that they’ll be waiting,
Friends we have are ever changing though,
There’s no need to battle, no, when the thunderbirds are go

Thunderbirds are go

Don’t be mad please, stop the hating,
Just be glad that they’ll be waiting,
Friends we have are ever changing you,
Now the lead’s about to blow, when the thunderbirds are go”

The lyrics are repeated, to be a conventional pop song and reiterate the subliminal message. However the last line here is different, the culmination of the song adds even greater anxiety,  directly creating links to warfare with its explosive language “blow”.

“Thunderbirds are, thunderbirds are go
Thunderbirds are, thunderbirds are go
Thunderbirds are, Thunderbirds are,
Thunderbirds are, thunderbirds are go”

*A note on Matthew Sargent, I can’t find him at all on Google, though he’s credited for the song, I can only guess that his surname is an invented nod to Lieutenant L.T. Smash.

The Nuclear Propaganda Machine gets ‘Busted’

19/10/16 – To what Extent is the Wife of Bath appropriate for the Teller?

Unrelated – Sorry for the delay in any uploads recently, I’ll soon be uploading weekly on each short story from “This Side of Reality” – a book of Czech 20th century short stories and extracts.

Due to the fact that it was written in the 15th century The Canterbury Tales present the modern critic with many issues in its overall form. A debated question is how far the Wife of Bath’s Tale is related to the character of the wife that we have been introduced to in the prologue. I believe overall the tale is suited to the teller as whilst the language and themes within the tale can seem new to what we’ve seen of the wife, it carries on her main point and any new arguments added in the main body of the tale are easily suited to the wife when one is not trying to find differences.

  In James Winney’s introduction he states the “choice of fairy-tale is at best improbable”, yet there is evidence in the text that directly contradicts this viewpoint through the wife’s frequent and casual use of folk-lore and earthy imagery as she offhandedly references the idea that “the cow is wood” to infer one magical folk story to make a point, it stands that she could make another in the main tale. In fact it perfectly fits the down to earth wife who would “hold a mouse’s hert not worth a leek that hath but one hole to stert to” to not only have political allegories in one genre. When the wife asks “who paintede the leon” we must not only take this as use of a suspenseful dramatic device and link to the altered mythology in the main text, where Mydas’ Wife, rather than barber, spreads his secret, but remind ourselves that, unlike what the anti-feminist literary fashion of the era would support, the wife was knowledgeable enough to mention Theophrastus and Ovid, and should not so easily be thrown off from being “involved in a serious philosophical debate on the nature of gentillesse”. If this  is in reference to the hag’s long speech, we must remember that this is exactly the demeaning punishment given to the wife by her own young husband, and so it makes sense for the Wife, who we see end stories wishfully in the prologue where a bout of domestic violence can be “accorded by us selven two”, to have a motive of justice and revenge against men and their long arguments, which finally brings us back to her overall point at the beginning of experience against authority.

A disruption in the link between teller and tale that is often cited is the change of “voice” used in the prologue compared to the tale, it is true that the tale lacks the explosive “ben’dic’tee”s and fillers such as “but Lorde Christ”, yet we must realise the careful overplacement of these within the prologue only strengthens the anti-feminist idea, propagated by scholars such as St Jerome, of rambling women who find it impossible to get to a point but rather spread to their “gossib” and chatter like magpies, an anthropomorphised trait admitted by the wife, whose humility, especially within the context of the chain of being, adds further evidence for her alteration in the digression of the story of Mydas’ ears. These digressions add to the connection between the wife and the tale where whilst less frequent within the latter we see her digress into the first person with her own views on a “tale not worth a rake-stele”, which reflects the prologue where Chaucer presents the wife as often going on rampling statements followed by quick  returns to the main theme. A second criticism is seen in that the voice within the tale has very different motives, of criticising  “gentillesse” rather than the attack on the church and authority that the “bourgeois” Wife spouts in the prologue. However, this forgets the very means in which the wife has been able to acquire her wealth which is inherently based within the authority supported morality of nobility which allowed for her marriage at a young age to “old dotards” a fact she sees as intolerable, whilst her own “bigame” even in “husbandes at the chirche door”, which would mean legitimacy in her own slightly twisted interpretations of the Bible.

The connection of youth does not end here for the wife who’s age “hath biraft my beauty”, and obviously sees herself in the character off the old hag. Whilst critics might say that the hag is more of a mouthpiece for Chaucer’s own opinions and separate from the wife, it’s evident he uses the Wife of Bath as the Teller in which to make his opinions more valid. If for example he is aligning with the anti-feminist agenda, it would make sense to present the opinions from the other, female, side, and we see the wife herself do this through her corrupting of when “t’apostle saith that I am free” is said to justify her multiple marriages, in that really St Paul would not condone it. More directly we see the wife is placing herself in the Hag, who is rewarded for her ability in upwards social mobility in a young man of nobility, and who states that it is far better to have a wife who is chastise and ugly, although the former part of this statement does not link to our idea of the wife, but this is a romanticized fantasy of the Wife’s, which could even be a link to her own conquering of Jankin, that she achieved through deceit, as the antifeminist regime would say characterises her, when she would rather have won through knowledge and logic, as the Hag does, and as she attempts to in the prologue in her argument in the origin of virginity in line 72.

    Due to the obvious link in the motive the wife carries through both parts I believe it is a well suited tale for the teller. Not only are there reflections of themes and language in both, but points are carried through from one to the other, and whilst it is admissible that the language used does change, this can be attributed to careful exaggeration of the qualities thought of in women rather than a low amount of certain idioms being used to justify a complete rehaul of the intent.

19/10/16 – To what Extent is the Wife of Bath appropriate for the Teller?

05/09/16 – Does The Ontological Argument succeed as a proof for God’s Existence?



  The Ontological Argument holds much of its strength in its own properties of being a deductive and logical priori argument working with the , as Descartes suggests innate definition of God and his qualities. However this strength also plays into its greatest weakness through, as Karl Barth criticised of all arguments made in intellectu rather than from revelation through Jesus Christ, is that it comes from a mind that is inherently varied, corruptible, and does not always provide a valid basis for reason.

    Guanilo appeals to us the fact that this deductive form of thinking found in the Ontological Argument can be applied to anything that could exist, such as a perfect island, that which Anselm would say would create the property of existence simply from its definition  of perfection in the human mind. The Saint replied to this criticism with the idea that as God is a necessary being; compared to the contingency of an Island that relies on geography and the biology found there, God is viewed as something necessary that does not rely on other beings, therefore the ontological argument cannot be applied to anything, which would obviously be impossible.

    However, the property of necessity is not limited to our classical christian God, many cultures view their own God as “That than which nothing greater can be conceived” and therefore should all be able to follow the same logic as Saint Anselm as a theodicy for their own monotheistic God, this would be unacceptable for a propositionalist and for example would break the Muslim Shahada which states there is “No God but God”, though modern theology is often following a more interpretive view of faith that would allow for different understandings of God through different religion, it still shows a major flaw as a proof for a God for many believers.

    A second criticism by believers comes from the opposition of needing a “proof of God’s Existence.”, especially one that comes from the human mind.Whilst Aquinus claimed the flaw lies in God’s extra-natural origin, an existence that B. Davies believes cannot be proved by analysing a real concept, voluntarist Christian Karl Barth believed that as more proof for God is used, less faith is needed so the belief is weaker, this follows Hick’s idea of a perfect epistemic distance for faith where we have an equal chance of God’s existence and non existence, Kierkegaard would agree that a greater risk of God’s existence would lead to greater faith. Buber adds to this by stating that we cannot analyse our faith with God as it changes our relationship form an “I-thou” to “I-It” where God is considered an item, and so is not representative of true God.  However this does not apply to all voluntarist ideas, a person following Pascal’s wager would be completely in favour of a “proof of God’s existence” as it would increase the win rate of their game, whist non-voluntarists such as William Clifford would state that to make a decision without sufficient reason is immoral, we can see a modern day example that also shows the weakness in Pascal’s wager with fundamental Islamic Jihadism where some would say proof of God, and more importantly his instructions to us, is taken without reason and leads to a worse and more immoral fate than that which would have been created with a more skeptical agnosticism.

    Followers of the Ontological argument however would say this ignores a core value of the theodicy in that we have proof for God through the fact that God’s existence is self evident without external measurement as, put by Descartes, that God cannot be separated from existence just as how three angles cannot be separated from the idea of a triangle. Although this attempts to diminish the role of empirical evidence it is not satisfactory for many thinkers.

    To conclude, as a rationalist the argument has a strong basis in which much of the issues can be resolved through greater theological thinking on God’s properties, such as how God is a necessary being with whom we share an I-Thou relationship, and through modern ideas such as a globalised spiritualism interpreted as God, although many would passionately seek to distance themselves from this line of theology. However not only can voluntarist believers reject the priori argument, but actively resent it as an attack on faith through our attempt to “prove” God with our fallen minds, added to this, an Empiricist would see the argument as flawed in finding a synthetic existence through worldly means. Overall the ontological argument makes a stronger case for why we might find ourselves believing in God than as an outright proof of their existence.   


05/09/16 – Does The Ontological Argument succeed as a proof for God’s Existence?

22/04/16 – Comparison on the ways the writers present the theme of power and social hierarchy in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’


Power, to whom it is allocated, and what represents the power we have, constitutes as a main theme within both novels. The social hierarchy and how it applies itself to an individual on the basis of economic wealth, education, physical power, and most importantly for the formidable feminist figures of Shelly and Atwood, gender, is critical in readings of both novels. Both of these authors assess the use of power and social hierarchy to question its acceptance in society but also to provide criticism to those fighting the structures of the time, such as the political and sexual revolutions of nineteenth and twentieth centuries respectively. However whilst Shelly faces the problems within the boundaries of classes, in what is now frequently linked to Marxist ideas, and through science’s destruction of the social systems built into humans, Atwood instead uses religion not as a pre-established system in which characters can fit into its Milltonian structure, but as an instrument of oppression, and asks us to question the oppression of women within our society.

The authors question the power a woman holds in their relative societies; Shelly presents the reader with members of Victor’s family at home, Elizabeth and Justine in particular fill classical female roles of the time. Elizabeth is “presented to me[Victor] as a gift” and appears to be the perfect homemaker in passivity and being “a possession of my own”. Elizabeth seems to be the ideal feminine figure of “sensibility and intellect” who suffers due to be physically powerless against the Monster, Victor’s creation, that murders her. Infact Elizabeth is constantly held below not only Victor as a possession, but even beneath Victor’s scientific endeavours, which follows into the theory that Mary Shelley, gave Elizabeth, as with many other of her characters, traits of her own life, and used her to explore her own emotional trauma at Percy Shelley’s reluctance to create a family with her. In A Handmaid’s tale Atwood also deals with a woman’s place in a family in a time of rapidly changing family values, between the opposing forces of feminist movements such as the Equal Rights Amendment, and right wing christian wives such as Beverly La Haye, of whom the character of Serena Joy serves as a satire. Whilst Frankenstein uses science to erode moral standards, The Handmaid’s tale sees organised religion as taking an impact on the ethical code of living. One of the ways the Gileadean regime controls its subjects is through the removal of family, Offred is a direct victim of this and feels to have lost power by being outside of the traditional family, she claims to “have been obliterated” by losing the role of motherhood for her child.

Offred’s power, and what keeps her from becoming “unwoman” is only her fertility. Philip K Dick’s dystopian novel “The Game Players of Titan” dealt with the theme of fertility through the removal of traditional family values, the wife only being a traded role to increase chances of conception, Atwood has built on this through the removal of all sexual power that woman held. The commander states that the sex was too easy” and Gilead persecutes any non-reproductive sexuality, including executing gay and lesbian people, and doctors who take part in abortions, this is an extrapolation of the political opposition to the growing sexual activism, which the character of Moira represents. Infact Atwood also warns against the exploitation of sexual freedom in the use of “Jezebel’s” where Moira finally gains her goal of outright sexuality, but at the same control and oppression by the patriarchal society as Offred herself receives. The other aspect of female activism comes in the form of Offred’s mother, who, to the anger of her fellow feminists, reproduces. Offred’s mother however only allows men power within the act of reproduction, where they can “just do the job, then bugger off”, adding that she can “afford daycare” and thereby uses women’s newly found power to be socially accepted as a working mother as a way to place herself above males. Shelly approaches the idea of single-parenthood from the opposite angle, Victor’s scientific advancement removes women’s biological purpose in procreation, Anne Mellor states that Frankenstein is “what happens when a man tries to have a baby without a woman”, Victor himself has been claimed to show homosexual tendencies in modern readings, and many critics claim that The Creature’s monstrosity is due to the lack of maternal input. Mary Shelley would feature this to reflect the death of her own mother and its affect on her life, and to show how although a women’s role in motherhood is often . To add to this, it is only the monster that shows true sexuality, he holds the urge to reproduce and yearns for a wife to do this with, here we see the power of reproductive rights return to Victor as the embodiment of the patriarchy, who thinks only to the creation of “a race of devils” rather than the “sympathies” the monster seeks. Victor represents the male power who at the time set out social rules over when a woman can and cannot reproduce, such as when out of wedlock.

An audience finds within Shelley’s writing aspects of class representation, and many modern critics find it appropriate to include Marxist ideas within the novel, with Victor representing the bourgeoisie, owing to his admittance that his “family is one of the most distinguished”. Meanwhile the monster represents the proletariat, forced by his place in the social hierarchy to rely on the DeLacys and his own experience to gain education and class consciousness rather than an education financed through inherited wealth such as that received by Victor. Mary Shelley would include the stark differences between the lifestyle of the Frankensteins compared to that of the DeLacys, who suffer the too easily given out charges of treason of the time. Lord Byron and Percy Shelley both criticized the politics of the time used to ensure England didn’t suffer an anti-aristocratic revolution as was seen in France and the American Colonies, and Mary channelled these criticisms through the treatment of The Creature by its creator, and to reflect the bourgeoisie treatment of the proletariat they had created through the industrial revolution, even when The Creature achieves a high level of education and sophisticated language Victor lashes out at him for his circumstances of birth. Atwood’s novel also sees woman stripped of education and language as means of keeping them oppressed. Offred claims to be suffering from “pen is envy” as a freudian reference to the power of education granted to males, and infact Offred is only granted education by her oppressor in the Commander, who in an act of educational hyperbole and irony teaches her the latin phrase for “don’t let the bastards grind you down”. The idea of the role system employed in Atwood’s dystopia is the highest use of class separation, and many of the restrictions Offred suffers from reflect the activism of the twentieth century. Even the one power afforded to Offred over her own life is limited, and she envies the richer wives of the previous societies for their means to use sharp objects and have control over their lives, and lives nostalgically for the liberties previously afforded to her such as to have “money I had earned myself”.

Ultimately both authors interpreted the different strains of power in their own lives to interpret them to literature. Whilst Shelley saw injustice in the inherited wealth systems and use of science to destroy moral values,  Atwood instead understood religion to be the oppression tactic employed against her gender and generation. Both realise that it is through education that power and social hierarchy is established, and that the upper class often take for granted their right to be well educated. As strong feminist figures of the time Atwood and Shelley include powerful ideas about man’s overwhelming want for a patriarchy or even single sexed male societies, and the role of the mother and father within a family, although whilst Atwood’s Offred does not suffer from her single parentage, Shelley’s Creature shows the reader the impact of the loss of the matriarchal figure. Overwhelmingly the idea that the holder of sexual power is more powerful in the social hierarchy is prevalent in both novels, the strive for reproduction whilst an ingrained human desire is highlighted within the books to question our over reliance on the value we give to sexuality and more importantly the reproduction seen to be vital to give us a purpose within life


22/04/16 – Comparison on the ways the writers present the theme of power and social hierarchy in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

10/03/16 – My View on the Monster Of Frankenstein


Shelley’s Frankenstein reveals to us a quandary within our classical ideas of storytelling, the book uses epistolary form to shroud the point of view that we should follow, George Levine wrote that “by the direction of its three separate narratives, and the fates it spells out, it to be explicitly anti-heroic”. Shelley herself, it might be argued, was unsure on who she wishes to present to us as the monster she set out to create. Although at a first look it seems obvious that the creature is intended as the villain, we must make sure to remember how the creator and mankind are presented to us, and how events in the author’s life would influence her to communicate a story of monstrous humanity.

A critic of humanity would almost certainly begin with the fact that all of the creature’s misdeeds are owing to his treatment from his creator. At the monster’s birth Victor flees and provides for it only hate, Mellor wrote that “Frankenstein is a book about what happens when a man tries to have a baby without a woman”. Mary wrote this from her understanding of the theory of Locke’s Tabula Rasa, where someone is born as a blank slate and influenced by humanity. The monster confirms that “for a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow,… but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased”, we see here that the monster, as an allegory for humankind, was born without sin, and it is only through his rejection, first by Victor and later the De Lacey family that he learns hate, it is Felix who “struck me violently with a stick” , and causes the monster’s violent descent. However David Soyka writes that “his creator .. makes it impossible for the De Laceys to accept him”, and in fact it is not Felix who the monster blames, but his “Cursed creator”, for as Victor rejected his own family in the scientific pursuit leading to the monster’s birth, he rejects his creation. Not only does Victor act monstrously in his neglect to teach the monster right from wrong, but outrightly creates a monster in the way that he views the creature, later in the book we see that any form of diplomacy, through the creation of a wife, is unavailable to Victor because of his prejudice against his creation. However, equally, now that the monster accepts himself as a “wretched outcast” he takes it upon himself to “declare everlasting war against the species” and so we must judge the creation for mirroring his doppelganger in Frankenstein.To return to Victor as a God however we find another flaw in that he refuses to create for the monster a wife, for he fears he will become the creator of “a race of devils”, this could be seen as his prejudice and a monstrous quality that leads to the death of his wife. However I instead find the evil in this within the creature, the monster himself we know is obsessive over his own looks, and in Victor’s words “loathed his own deformity” and yet Alton Frank writes that the monster is rejected “for his appearance, not his nature”, the fact that the monster yearns for “sympathies necessary for my being” shows that he himself can only find his being within his appearance, and not his nature, for Frankenstein even realises that the wife might “turn with disgust from him”, the monster’s own obsession with his apparel is his own misguidance, and as far as we can blame Victor’s well founded reason for not creating a wife as leading to the death of Elizabeth, it is the monster that commits the deed, and within the attack claims dominance over the bride not through his nature but in making her appearance closer to him through “pale and distorted features”. We can see that even if Victor created a wife in the perfection he originally intended, to the monster’s self obsession she would not suffice.

On the humanist side however one realises that the they the reader would act in much the same way as Victor when confronted with the animalistic “Yellow eye.. yellow skinned” beast, and infact it falls to the monster to redeem himself from what we naturally see as monstrous and evil, it is at this point in which i will call the difference between Shelley’s story and that of Genesis, as to blame Victor as we blame God is unfair due to the fact that humanity was created through agapic love and in God’s image, whereas Victor is faced with a monster not born from love but through his desire for a “new species that would bless me as its creator”. To give this allowance however we must recall that God does not abandon his creation, and instead treats it with the love that is absent from Victor, therefore we must instead provide analogy with Milton’s Paradise lost, where the creator casts out his own “devil”. In both cases we sympathise with the victim and take a heretical standing against God. This is reflective of the original title of the novel, “The Modern Prometheus” however, is it the monster that stands against his God in Victor, or is Victor the Promethean figure stealing the secret of life from God and being punished for his hubris. Anne Mellor brings up the idea that Mary Shelley “perceived in Percy an intellectual hubris”  and reflected him in Victor, in fact, she claims that all of Romanticism works as Frankenstein does through their “mythopoeic vision”, therefore it is not the monster that is even the victim, but Victor through his art against nature to create something for the betterment of mankind, sprouting originally from his influences of Agrippa and Paracelsus. A regular criticism of modern interpretations of the story is how they fail to portray the intelligence of the monster, Victor himself is guilty of this, often naming him as “brute” or “wretch”. However this allows us to ask why the monster cannot use his reason to discover virtuous behaviour and still acts brutishly. For Shelley’s true antagonist throughout the novel is the promethean fire itself, Rieger argued that Shelley “skips the science” yet I would place Victor’s clawing aspirations of science at the root of the tragedy. Alton Frank wrote that “we worry about scientists having too much knowledge” and I believe this is a core theme of the story. Shelley focuses on both Victor and the monster’s virtues as a man, but never allows for praise to his academic achievements, even creating the character of Clerval (or walton, really can’t remember sorry) as a comparison to Victor without the hubris that causes his downfall, in a way, his appearance is to the monster as Victor’s intelligence is to himself, a barrier, and catalyst for monstrous traits.

I believe that Shelley did not set out to attack any single feature of the society of the time the book was written, instead she allowed influence from a range of factors from the social situation of the day, her own family life, to the mythology she was versed in. In essence, to attack the monster is to attack mankind as the monster is portrayed as a caricature of mankind’s traits, and the traits of the classical monster are reminded to us by Shelley of their reflection within society. Victor and his monster have been ranged in the description from sworn enemies to a Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, each is subject to their own God and physicality or intellectual urges. Therefore both the monster and humanity are tied together in description of monstrousness, and each advantage one holds is mirrored in the other, eventually we must find the evil within the traits held by both, I believe Mary Shelley used the book to warn us about the dangers of overindulgence in intellectualism or appearance, hubris, and how we allow our environment to influence us as beings.

Sources and stolen content (To be updated properly) :

10/03/16 – My View on the Monster Of Frankenstein

11/02/16 – Vânătoarea regală (The Royal Hunt)


The Royal Hunt – by D.R. Popescu

My second book of the year took me back to the Eastern Bloc. My previous encounters were with Kundera, Klima and Hrabal, all of which I enjoyed greatly, partly due to being set in such a period of social and political turmoil. This is an aspect captured as perfectly in The Royal Hunt as it is in the acclaimed Book Of Laughter and Forgetting, both books also share slight admission of magical realism, although not to the extent of Marquez, but still enough to allow for the story to happen without the restrictions of the real world. What The Royal hunt does give us however is a flowing accessible narrative, allowing us to experience clever, often very funny characters and scenarios, whilst also giving a chilling allegory about how fear works within our phycology on an individual, the community, and nationally.

The book is taken from the perspective of a child who himself plays a very minor part in the story, he does however spend a majority of his time walking on enormous stilts. This allows him to report to the viewer most interactions between the townspeople with childlike innocence. The narrative feels like looking through a keyhole, through another keyhole. I say this because firstly we are viewing a small politically isolated town, who receive snippets of the larger political picture, within this town we see a localised shadow of the grand scheme, of which the reader then receives snippets themselves through the narrator. This adds elements of mystery and intrigue, and sets the foggy background to the sinister events.  Due to the unbiased narrator the reader can emphasise greatly with the characters of the town, who themselves can be synonymous with multiple counterparts in similar events in world history. The generalised Doctor, Nurse, Gypsy, Professor, and fabled politico can be extrapolated to fit into any of the numerous political turmoils of the 20th century.

So we accept the book has no classical protagonist, yet surprisingly it has the most dangerous antagonist of the modern world, that is even more relevant in today’s media and politics, this hidden enemy is fear itself. The Town is in a constant state of trepidation and like the viral rabies that drives each cynophile to cynocide this fear spreads from man to man, infecting them with the same hysteria and, as rabies drives one from the water they need, the fear keeps each man from the rationalism that would cure them. Popescu realises that mankind has been venerated by this unknown scourge for centuries and  places historical fact into his fiction, this makes the novel all the more horrifying when we realize the created witch doctor is practising medicines used throughout history, including the cringe inducing description of the dissection of the “lingual frenulum”, or to those of us without a degree in medieval medicine, cutting the bit under your tongue. In fact the story Popescu executes has its roots deep in real life, both literally when men have committed suicide from the diagnosis of rabies, and figuratively where the popular, or self, opinion of one being infected (an infection in this case being that of political ideology) is of equal measure to the consequences of the practical infection. The fact that Popescu can weave these social, political, and medical worlds together creates a truly enchanting thirst to open the door and go through the keyhole to discover more about the time and influences featured in The Royal Hunt.

11/02/16 – Vânătoarea regală (The Royal Hunt)

14/01/16 – The Journey to The East

The Journey to the East – Heinrich Hesse

When I started the book I expected from the description an allegory dressed as a story, it to be all one grand metaphor, reading Kafka’s The Castle, and me interpreting it all to be a metaphor for heaven, probably lead me to think like this, however even with me expecting to be tricked and mislead to a revelation, I still “fell for it”.

The book achieves this in multiple ways, even the preface lead me down this route, suggesting the book is a way to explain a psychedelic drug experience, so I was lead to believe this is a “journey” into the mind, and more accurately the eastern “nirvana” or at least a zen state of realisation. The book itself has very little story, it comes at even less than 100 pages, we see “H.H.” as a part of an illuminati for the liberal arts, “The League” acts as a secret sect of poets, philosophers, and generally those leading to what we would see as a greater understanding of the world. H.H., as part of an excursion in which each member has his own role, his being to marry the princess Fatima, travels across europe meeting other parts of the League and experiencing multiple surreal events, along the way a member, Leo, goes missing, and the group falls apart, we see H.H. as he attempts to sum up his part of the league, before finding Leo, who takes him on what we later discover are tests, ending with H.H. being judged by the League and being found guilty of multiple crimes in abandoning his search for enlightenment, his punishment ultimately being discovering his own worth as a man.


What really comes across to me from this book is the whole absurdity of the idea of us searching for this enlightenment, the League itself could stand as a metaphor for this, one must give up bureaucracy and become independant, whilst still being in giant sect?

H.H. represents many of us in our attempts to reach this “better human” form, the disillusions we face, giving up, feeling alone and finding that actually we’re part of a community of loneliness, our reliance on an easy way, and the circumstances we face taking away from our true goal, are all parts of the search within oneself. The phenomenon i find this book sums up the best however is how when searching for something one can become so caught up in their own opinion of the right way that they lead themselves completely off the path, this is addressed in the book as a main feature of the league being to always explore different routes, and to help those around you to reach their goal, as they will also help you indirectly.


What you take away from the book varies greatly, is it a guide? Are we to think we should try to be part of this league. Is it satirical? Are we, as students of the arts, to avoid becoming the League? The values I took away is that the book gives slight advice, it warns us how easy it is to fall away from our goals and stresses constant critical thinking about our decisions, through us learning the regrets of H.H., because of this it separated itself from any group, it’s not a religious guide, it doesn’t only pertain only to those who meditate daily with incense swinging from their dream catchers, we all continue to grow mentally throughout our lives, and “A journey to the East” sparks our minds about how we should control this.

14/01/16 – The Journey to The East

08/01/16 – 100 Years Of Solitude


100 Years Of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez

After getting 50 pages into Love in The Time of Cholera without being intrigued, the idea of spending more time on the Colombian author did not come to me as anything but a chore, but being 300 pages long and a way to get through my reading list, I thought I might as well troll through it. Greeted first by a basic family tree I expected very little – a nice gimmick, Marquez, but who actually looks at those? However the next reader of my copy will find the corners of multiple pages folded, and the family tree in bloom with notes and highlights as I untied the beautiful story of 100 Years Of Solitude.

The book is the tale of a family across about a century, as they found and experience the town of Macondo, the jungle around it: Gypsies, Turks, Frenchmen, and Americans, war, love, and acts of magic seeming so natural in Marquez’s world that one accepts it as one accepts that the sky is blue. Marquez uses colour, animals, and the weather to create a world to confuse the English student, where we can’t say the rain is a technique to show the town is sad, for in Marquez’s world, it’s pretty likely the rain is physically there because of the town’s suffering.

The setting of the family within South America may hold significance for the historian, the politics, wars and massacres, even the town itself may be real; unfortunately I have no knowledge in the area but am sure that it draws from true events. However, my ignorance is a blessing, the ancient Inca jungle is a place so foreign and wild to me that it allows for Marquez to draw from his knowledge of folklore to create this mystical place, so that the illusion and immersion the ignorant reader can achieve is unlike any other. This magic realism allows Marquez to completely invest himself in storytelling, without the restraints of the real world, if it’s more interesting for a character to live to 150, they are free to, and the story is much better off because of it.

The idea of following the Buendia family allows the reader to invest themselves within the politics of the small town. We find ourselves with favourites and grudges, and with a tale of so many twists and surreal, unpredictable events, we are never able to be complacent in our character’s predicaments. The characters themselves are some of the deepest I’ve found in a novel, each with their quirks and flaws, and true character development and story arcs intertwine and conclude without the constraints of a chronological timeline to restrict them.

The complicated family politics are enough for the reader to find themselves flicking back through the pages, let alone the fact that Marquez decided to allocate just two male names across seven generations, though this is a part of the story, and Marquez does briefly reference it. The complexity does provide a small hump to get over, I found myself remembering each character by their deaths, as through their lives, their actions and character virtues often overlapped. Again, this is part of the story, as traits flow between generations and this adds to one of the main themes of the book, our goals and dreams.

The town itself is a dream of the original patriarch of the Buendias, who dreams of the city it could become, online I’ve read that this “city of mirrors” he imagined is a metaphor for South America itself, although I didn’t think about this myself in my run through. Through the generations we see each member of the family with their own predetermined plans for themselves, and how nearly always these fall apart, for good or bad, but never what was originally intended, save, for the original predictions of the matriarch and how we eventually find the whole saga predicted by the ghost gypsy Melquíades. The book offers to the reader, and any character of the book who studies their past, multiple hints at how the story will progress, as through solitude the internal influences are sure to produce repeated results, infact, many of the deaths are told to us as we meet the character, this neither spoils the book, as it is carried by exquisite story telling and descriptive language, nor does it take away from the magical twists Marquez allocates through the story, time seems randomly allocated and the deaths are nearly never when you would expect, and the death of a character does not stop the story, for they are often still in it through ghosts or genetic heirs. Marquez explores the theme of prediction through all aspects of life, card reading, myths, and political reasoning, are all exploited in the town to try and find what is next for them, and whilst looking ahead we take away the message that they should instead look at their history, without the flaws of self interpretation the members of the family suffer from so harshly. I would not describe the book or the family of having the feeling of being doomed from the start, but instead the story seems to neatly tie itself closed, we do feel degradation in the last quarter of the book, but never is it without times of growth, monetarily or spiritually, and because of this the reader walks away happily, pretending that we, like every other character thought, knew the ending all along.

08/01/16 – 100 Years Of Solitude