The Man Who Saw Too Much, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer presenter, producer and director Alan Yentob and Jill Nicholls.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000bqt9/the-man-who-saw-too-much

The story of 106-year-old Boris Pahor is a eulogy to the twentieth century. The man who saw too much and experienced too much is a testament to man’s inhumanity to man. He wrote a memoir, Necropolis- City of the Dead about his incarceration in a little-know Nazi concentration camp, Natzweiler-Struthhof in the mountainous regions of Alsace, France.

He was also sent to Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Dora, Harzungen, Ironically, Natzweiler was one of the first concentration camps liberated by the Allies, but it was empty. Prisoners were sent to Dachau, but it was Natwieler he judged to be the most cruel. His account is illustrated by drawings by fellow prisoners.

Pahor’s ability to speak several languages, his native Slovenian, Italian, French and I imagine a bit of German saved him. It allowed him to get a job inside the barracks as a translator for the camp doctor an Austrian, who also trained him to be a diarrhoea nurse. Almost half of the 52 000 prisoners were executed, died of illness or malnutrition or died outside working in the granite quarry in sub-zero temperatures. A mountainous region, each step going up the graded slope to work was recalled as the equivalent of Christ on the road to Calvary.  The camp produced a particular type of red stone favoured by Hitler’s architects who created public buildings in honour of the thousand-year Reich.

Pahor was sent to the camp because he was considered to be an anti-fascist. He was arrested in September 1943.

Fascism comes from the term fasces, a bundle of rods with a projected axe blade, a symbol of the magisterial power in ancient Rome.

The neologism fascism was associated with the rise of Mussolini in Italy, Franco in Spain and Hitler in Germany. A megalomaniac belief in the strong-man theory of history. A contempt for the democratic process and calls for its suspension so the great man can act on behalf of the people.

Pahor, for example, recalls his upbringing in the cosmopolitan Slovenian port city of Trieste with access to the Adriatic being taken over by Italy after the first world war. As a precursor to Kristallnacht, Mussolini’s blackshirts burned down the Slovene cultural centre, closed their schools and banned the speaking of their language in public. School lessons were in Italian. Pahor, the anti-fascist was drafted into Mussolini’s army to fight the anti-fascist Allied forced.

Fascism = Capitalism.

Mussolini, the former Communist and man of the people, had a mandate to rule given by aristocracy, landowners and the moneyed classes. In contemporary terms it was based on deregulation. The bogey men of communism and working men organising themselves into trade unions was outlawed. Deregulation meant no regulation, the whip hand was with the rich and only the poor paid taxes.

King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy’s intervention in the second world war and his late backing of the Allied forces led to the arrest of Mussolini at the end of July, 1943. One fascist force replaced another. The German’s sprung Mussolini from prison and took control of the defence of Italy and split the country among fascist and non-fascist supporters.

An estimated 600 000 joined the anti-fascist resistance movement in Italy, around 70 000 of whom were women. Pahore was caught with a typewriter and accused of producing anti-fascist leaflets. So begins his odyssey in the death camps.

Primo Levi, Italian Jew, in his memoir, If This Is a Man asked a question what is it to be truly human?

Necropolis –City of the Dead is the answer. Them and us.  The ersatz category of subhuman that fight each other over a finger-tip of bread while mining pink-coloured rock that has decorative value. Capitalism in its purest form can be found here. Fascism and the strong man theory of history have made a dramatic comeback. Boris Pahor tells it like it is. He saw too much. We understand too little. This is a Boris you can trust.   

Book Week Scotland, Karen Campbell (2019) The Sounds of the Hours, presented in Parkhall library.


Long story. I was in Dalmuir library yesterday. For some reason I wanted to check out Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Diaries.

As you know Gramsci was leader of the Italian Communist Party.  Gramsci writes about how capitalism mutates and appropriates art and literature to establish a cultural hegemony. If that sounds pretty long-winded it’s probably because I don’t understand it either. Gramsci did. And it’s increasingly relevant today. The working class (that includes me) lost the propaganda war. What’s normal, just seems so.

Gramsci was imprisoned when Benito Mussolini’s blackshirts marched on Rome, which is the kind of lie Gramsci would recognise as myth making. Mussolini who wore a bowler hat and spats when taking flying lessons and petted a lion club in his lap, while his driver chauffeured him around the streets of Rome is a leader who sounds vaguely familiar. His switch from supporting the Communist Party to supporting Fascism also resonates with leaders whose only ideology is self-glorification.

Fascism shorn of its spats and bowler hats and lassez-faire disguise sounds to me just capitalism with added imperialism. Making Italy great again, by invading Ethiopia.   Making Germany great again by Anschluss and Lebensraum and seizing the lands of the lesser nations to give the German people breathing space.

Volksfuhrer, Adolf Hitler, demanded Jews and Communists be kept apart and concentrated in camps, caged as Trump cages refugees and immigrant children.

Business leaders’ demands of the fascist leaders were deregulation and a cutting of red tape.  Deregulation = no regulation.

Work makes you free. Himmler’s SS were paid a fixed fee by employers such as Volkswagon for them to provide labour. The SS provided food and accommodation and took a fee, in much the same way Sports Direct Workers or Amazon workers are not employed directly be the company. Zero-hour contracts, mandatory.

Short story. The Prison Diaries wasn’t in Dalmuir library.  Library staff said they’d purchase a copy, even though it’s been long out of print. There’s something beautiful in that.

I noticed there was a leaflet for an author, sponsored by Book Scotland, who was selling her book The Sound of the Hours in Parkhall library.

I couldn’t be arsed going and it was cold outside. But I’d been there. I’d did a gig 2016, Book Scotland, Dalmuir Library, when I was a writer, trying to sell my book Lily Poole (West Dunbartonshire library book of the week).  I decided to go to Parkhall and show solidarity with my fellow worker.

Karen Campbell was great. She talked about her journey as a writer. The Sound of the Hours was her seventh book, but her first historical novel. There were things I can relate to, her setting was often Glasgow, and her having been an ex-cop, but admittedly, not a very good one–write what you know –  she’d wrote detective novels. She also wrote about immigrants and the homeless.

The Sound of the Hours was a harder sell. It was set during the Second World War in Italy, but the Glaswegian part of Italy. Barga. You’ve probably spotted the contradiction. She told me things I was vaguely familiar with, how immigrants from the poorer Southern regions had come here to work, mainly to sell ice-cream and chips to the Scottish working class. A niche market and culture.

They were immigrants like my Da from Ireland, standing outside shipyard gates waiting for that call.

My hand was first up when she asked if we’d any questions. I said, ‘My Da, when he was drunk would always shout about the Gothic Line. That we should get on the blower to Paki.’ Paki I explained, was an Italian and was called Paki because he had black hair. I guess we could say those were more innocent times, but I’d be lying.

‘Was the place she was writing about anywhere near the Gothic Line?’ I asked her ‘Because that’s were my dad served in the army and watched his pals die’.

‘Aye.’

Barga was the Gothic line. Italy is mountainous. The Germans when they’d freed Mussolini from his hilltop prison split Italy like the Brexit vote. She said she’d thought about having the word Gothic line in her title. I was a step ahead of her here. That would have put her in the wrong camp, with Dracula and co.

We don’t judge a book by its cover. She admitted her cover was of the Friday night coup d’état from Bloomsbury order. I’m reminded of Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy in Truth & Beauty: A Friendship discussing how a bad cover can kill your book. And many of my readers reminded me the best part of my book was the cover. So I’m up to speed on the cover issue and she admitted on the foreground it’s got hanging branches with lemons. That fruit doesn’t grow anywhere near Barga, or Italy, generally.  A bland, blue-greenish cover is a bitter lemon for any author to swallow.

Luckily, I was already hooked. I bought a copy…Having read the first few chapters…well, that’s another story. Let’s just say I wouldn’t have, usually, have picked this type of book. Read on.     

Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed by Ursula Macfarlane.

harvey weinstein.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p07hbyjc/untouchable-the-rise-and-fall-of-harvey-weinstein

I watched this with interest. For those of you that don’t know the story, Bob and Harvey Weinstein came from rags to riches, rent-controlled housing, worked hard and lived the American dream. They created a media monster, Miramax, named after their mum and dad, which was gobbled up by an even bigger player, Disney. And they went on to live happily ever after in La La land.

Harvey never really had any friends. What he had a genius for was bullying and marketing. Deterrence did not deter him. No doesn’t mean no.

Paz de la Huerta, ‘You put on a happy face, but inside your dying. I wanted to take back what he stole from me.’

Hope d’Amore, ‘Nobody would have believed anything I said. He used to say he owned the cops in Buffalo.’

Journalist Andrew Goldman was a minor causality when he was put into a headlock and punched in the head by Harvey Weinstein. His girlfriend got a quote that sums up Weinstein (and Donald J Trump). ‘I’m glad I’m the sheriff of this shit ass fucking town’. Partygoers took plenty of pictures of this altercation, but none emerged to support the reporter’s claims.

Untouchable, appeasement is not just between nations but begins at home and is a come-on for the bully boy.  Wars break out not because a country becomes reckless. Countries go to war because they continue to do what they’ve always done. Weinstein’s brute strength wasn’t in his obese frame overwhelming a hundred pounds of female flesh, but in the economic strength he projected.

We know the story of how he worked. Like Michael Jackson it’s told here again and again. Pattern recognition: An invitation of a lift home. The offer of a part in movies. The sore neck that needed massaged. The locked door. The penetration. It wasn’t a secret. It wasn’t a lie. People knew, but most weren’t talking.

One of his victims summed it up by saying she was a nothing, he was a ten. But Weinstein was no longer a ten when he voluntarily placed himself in custody. He was no longer, like the pussy-grabber and moron’s moron in the Whitehouse, king of the hill. Disney had let Miramax go, and after spectacular early success, Bob and Harvey had blown $1.2 billion of other people’s money on film flops. They were vulnerable. Harvey was especially vulnerable. Sure they still had millions of dollars to throw around intimidating victim with smear campaigns, litigation and phone calls in the middle of the night, but he was no longer ‘the sheriff’, in the way that the moron’s moron is still President.

Those of us that stood around whistling and waiting with foreboding for the latter’s impeachment are gloomy. The floppy haired grabbers just keep going on grabbing to fill their oversized egos. Women are fair game, the weaker sex.

Benito Mussolini and his fascist troops occupied Ethiopia and a bit of France. There’s a sense of national histrionics and entitlement recognisable in that other caricature of humanity this side of the Atlantic in Boris Johnston. No ideology but self. The strong man. No coherent plan. Waiting to see what way the wind blows and humanity be damned. Women be fucked.

Weinstein is the lesser monster of our imagination. One that is behind bars is never that threatening. If he was up for re-election, we’d have something to fear. Stupidity is contagious, appeasement continues and it’s not too early to say the future of the world is at stake. If I’m still alive in ten years I hope and pray there’s an outbreak of common sense and a documentary about the women the moron’s moron has raped and his ever-growing, multiple, abuses of power. Trump’s still at ten in his power base, eleven even. Few sitting Presidents up for re-election lose. We need to wait for the fall.  Weinstein be damned. Weinstein is history.