Gifts for progressives – Part 1: Brian Hanley on books and films of the year… December 22, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Film, History, Irish History.
A seasonal guest post from Brian Hanley…
Readers of the Cedar Lounge Revolution seem to enjoy stories about splits, factional disputes, bitter rivalries and occasional violence: If so then Henry Martin’s Unlimited Heartbreak: the Inside Story of Limerick Hurling (Collins Press) should be right up their street. It was certainly the most enjoyable read of the year for me.
In Dublin’s Stephen’s Green there is a fountain dedicated to the ‘Save the German Children’ campaign. I’ve occasionally wondered why there was such a campaign and what motivated those who set it up and consequently I found R. M. Douglas’s Architects of the Resurrection: Ailtiri na hAiseirghe and fascist ‘new order’ in Ireland (Manchester) very illuminating. Based on an exceptional primary source, the personal papers of Gearoid O Cuinneagain, the founder and leader of Ailtiri na hAiseirghe, Douglas makes a very strong case for the attraction of fascist and anti-democratic ideas in the Ireland of the 1940s. He also suggests, and I tend to agree, that early news about the brutality of Nazi rule in Europe made little impact on public opinion here.
Staying with the Second World War, I saw the French film Army of Crime this autumn. Not to be honest, the greatest movie ever made, but certainly a great story about the role of immigrant fighters in the resistance in Paris. The occupation authorities made much of the ethnic origins of what they labelled the ‘army of crime’ many of whom were Eastern European Jews, Spanish and Italian anti-fascist refugees or Armenian communists. After I had seen the film I thought Tommy Tiernan might benefit from repeated viewing of it (and why is it that twenty years ago comedians who made fun of immigrants, Gypsies and Jews were usually called racist but now they are considered cutting edge?) Anyway, Army of Crime did inspire me to seek out The Resistance: the French Fight Against the Nazis (Simon and Schuster) by Matthew Cobb, which provided a warts and all overview of the role of the Resistance in all it’s varieties. It also opens with a great quote from Resistance veteran Pascal Copeau:
‘A word to young historians- when we read your studies about our underground world, they appear a bit cold. Without wishing to be pretentious, you should not be afraid of dipping your pens in blood: behind each set of initials you describe with academic precision, there are comrades who died.’
A lot of discussion on Irish revolutionary politics talks about the importance of the ‘Fenian tradition.’ An interesting collection of essays was published this summer, edited by Fearghal McGarry and James McConnel entitled The Black Hand of Republicanism: Fenianism in Modern Ireland (Irish Academic Press) and while not agreeing with all the conclusions presented within it, the book paints a very vivid picture of a fascinating movement.
As I write the Catholic Church are ducking and diving in order to avoid the consequences of decades of abuse while several more horrific cases of sexual violence are in the news. I intend to read Diarmaid Ferriter’s Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland (Profile) over the holidays, if only to try and gain some perspective on all of this.
Finally I’ve always thought that Ken Loach’s films which were political with a small ‘p’ worked more than his polemics (hence Kes was a lot better than Hidden Agenda). So I really enjoyed his Looking For Eric this summer, which brought back a lot of good memories and featured a few familiar faces. Unfortunately those memories are now tinged with sadness as a good friend and comrade from those days died suddenly during September. Slan Dave, you won’t be forgotten.