Thursday, 28 April 2016

PALMYRA, COUNTERPOINT, CONSCIENCE - and a little girl.

Because it was on display for such a short time, on a picture-postcard Spring day I went to Trafalgar Square to see the Palmyra arch. I haven't posted an image, partly because there are so many online, but also because it would have been spoilt by so many people posing for selfies. The replica looked so startlingly new, but then as a colleague on Facebook so  wisely pointed out, that's how it would have looked when it was first built, only then it wouldn't have had the small missing bit at the top. I was surprised to find it so apparently, unprotected and open to the public, although there were one or two 'heavies' walking around.

Curious about Digital Archeology, I walked over to the information centres and had a look around. Apart from the technical stuff (which was fascinating - the amount of work that went into this project was phenomenal), there were two stacks of cards. On one, you could write a general message of peace etc in Syria; on the other, you could write messages that would be conveyed directly to the Syrian archeologists who'd been involved in this project. I did both. It was so moving, especially knowing what had been done to the elderly curator by Isis. If, ten or fifteen years ago, anyone had suggested the world might be involved in a major war based on religion and ancient gods, I think most people would have felt that this was the stuff of fantasy fiction. Now it's actually happening.

Last night, I watched the big Shakespeare bash from Stratford on Avon, on the bard's birthday. It was enjoyable, in spite of the fact that I dislike compilations and variety shows. The extract from MACBETH has been haunting me - it's the fact that, in spite of the fact that he's just committed bloody murder, he has a conscience, which is why he's suffering and will continue to suffer, as will Lady M eventually, and this got me wondering... if your culture allows, and even glories in, advocates, sadism and murder, might any literature at all come out of this (again thinking of Isis with its ghastly beheadings...) We're deeply involved with Macbeth because he's so human, so like us; without his ambition-driven actions and consequent remorse, there'd be no story. Did Hitler feel remorse? Did Stalin? Pol Pot? Many of the Roman emperors, and, more currently, Isis? It was Macbeth's immediate  horror at what he'd been forced to do which moved me last night.

I've very recently completed editing and revising a novel: 'COUNTERPOINT', which I first began writing twenty five years ago. It's been a very strange, and often painful, journey, communing with the writer I was then, so much fuller of passion and energy than the person writing this blog, and for the first time ever, I had the manuscript read, edited and criticised by a professional colleague who was interested enough, and kind enough, to offer. It was an enlightening experience. She picked up oddities I hadn't even noticed, and gave me a perspective which I could never have achieved for myself, however much I assumed I was doing so.  Her name is Rosalie Warren, and she's a very interesting, talented and unusual writer - do Google her latest book: LENA'S NEST, imagining a future in which the science of robotics has advanced beyond anything we have today (and we're certainly going that way).

'COUNTERPOINT' was accepted for publication back then, but for personal reasons I withdrew it. The prospective publisher had even sketched out a possible cover image, and written a publicity blurb, which I meant to post here but Blogger won't recognise it as an image. I'd decided to publish under a different name - Sian Lewis, which I may well still do. On the other hand, I have quite a track record as a children's author. Thoughts on this dilemma are most welcome.  And as there's no relevant image available, I'm posting one of my daughter aged around three and looking very thoughtful - not at all relevant, but rather nice (as it's black and white, you have to imagine her ginger hair). She is now one of the shakers and movers of Pipeline Theatre, based in Cornwall, which has just received yet another Arts Council grant. look out for these people in Edinburgh this year - they are seriously good.

 
 







 

7 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

I would have liked to see a photo of the Palmyra Arch in your blog post, Enid, even though there were selfie snappers on it.

Sandra Horn said...

Hmm. I wonder if literature - or any other form of art - can ever come out of absolute certainty? I suppose that Pol Pot, ISIS, etc. believe absolutely that they are doing something 'right' under an unquestionable imperative, so they wouldn't reflect on it critically or, later, with remorse. Is it that ability to reflect, to question, to unpick and imagine anew that is the key to creativity? Thank you for waking my brain up this morning, Enid! Grea post!

Wendy Jones said...

That must have been an amazing experience. I would love to have seen it. Good luck with the manuscript

Susan Price said...

I suggest that a sort of epic literature can come out of belligerant certainty - 'We smote them, stole their women, seized their land and it was great.' - 'Sweet and glorious it is to die for the Father/Mother land.'
And no, I don't think that Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot ever felt a moment's compassion for the millions they murdered. They didn't matter: what Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot wanted did.
I've been doing a lot of reading/research about psychopaths, that is, people who simply don't have a conscience. They know that what they do will be thought wrong and hurtful by others - but they just don't care. If it gets them what they want, then they'll do it.
Shakespeare gave the Macbeths consciences because he had one, and because most of his audience did - and because the drama of remorse fits his play - but people with empathy and conscience don't act as the Macbeths do. Iago would have been a better fit for the murderer of Duncan.

Enid Richemont said...

It was the first time I'd ever realised how much remorse Macbeth was suffering at that terrible moment. Lady M's attitude comes closer to Isis, and the ghastly practicality of Hitler and his ilk - 'job done, crown secured,let's move on.' And, of course, if you're 'that' kind of religious, there's always a pleasant and rewarding afterlife to look forward to.

On the subject of religion, do go, if you can, to see THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT - original, wonderfully blasphemous and wonderfully funny. It begins with the line: God is alive. He lives in Brussels. EU referendum, anybody???

Dennis Hamley said...

Enid, don't be Sian Lewis. Stay being yourself. You do have a track record and it's a good one so you must add to it for all to see. Reb recently put a lovely review of my 'Bright Sea Dark Graves: The Guns of St Therese' on Amazon (thanks, Reb), in which he said, 'Dennis Hamley sails under his own flag'. He wasn't talking about pen names, and that's how I like it.

I loved your remark about Macbeth. I agree with Sue. I'v just been reading about Stalin for my long-delayed completion of the Ellen Trilogy. How well the books I've consulted. . show his absolute lack of remorse. Hitler too - and Pol Pot was even worse. That's what makes Shakespeare pretty well godlike.

Enid Richemont said...

It was the witches wot done it! If you could be guaranteed no consequences to you, up to and including death, what might you do? And they didn't even produce any diabolical small print in the contract for him not to read - clever, that.

In THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT, God's daughter reveals everyone's death date, so if you knew you'd be leaving on a certain fixed date but not before, you could do ANYTHING. Interesting.