Canada Slim and the Harry Potter Fado

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Friday 11 October 2019

As you read what follows….

Download a fado piece.

Portugal’s most famous musical form, fado (Portuguese for “fate“) is urban music, of night and bars, of a yearning that is beautiful and melancholic, accompanied by guitarra and viola.

 

Above: Fado, José Malhoa (1910)

 

To the south, fado is feminine.

But in the north, fado is a man’s music, full of lusty lyrics and soaring vocals, and usually the most memorable fado of all is performed by the least advertised, the most anonymous, performer of all, where one’s identity is overwhelmed by one’s soul.

Fado is to the Portuguese soul as rich, deep and satisfying as a cup of Portuguese coffee or a glass of Porto port.

Fado is played on the radio, on buses, in taxis, cafés and restaurants, on TV and drifting down darkened streets from shadowy clubs.

Fado is fate and how fate has foiled the lover in love and in life.

Fado is the homeland that is missed or the longing for a lover that has left.

To sing fado, the singer must become fadista with an attitude that cries out:

I am a pessimist, a nihilist and everything that fado demands from me is me.”

It is the mourning of a devil cast out of heaven, a broken heart beyond repair, a spirit beyond redemption….

 

 

What the hell was she thinking?

This is a question that American Catholic theologians are asking J.K. Rowling the creator of the Harry Potter franchise….

 

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Above: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC – the largest enclosed church building in the world

 

Religious debates over the Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rowling are based on claims that the novels contain occult or Satanic subtexts.

 

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A number of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians have argued against the series, as have some Shia and Sunni Muslims.

 

Above: The Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia – the Muslim destination of pilgrimage

 

Supporters of the series have said that the magic in Harry Potter bears little resemblance to occultism, being more in the vein of fairy tales such as Cinderella and Snow White, or to the works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both of whom are known for writing fantasy novels with Christian subtexts.

Far from promoting a particular religion, some argue, the Harry Potter novels go out of their way to avoid discussing religion at all.

 

The Harry Potter logo first used for the American edition of the novel series (and some other editions worldwide), and then the film series.

 

However, the author of the series, J. K. Rowling, describes herself as a practising Christian, and many have noted the Christian references which she includes in the final novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

 

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In the United States, calls for the books to be banned from schools have led to legal challenges often on the grounds that witchcraft is a government-recognised religion and that to allow the books to be held in public schools violates the separation of church and state.

 

Flag of the United States

 

The Orthodox church of Bulgaria and a diocese of the Orthodox Church of Greece have also campaigned against the series, and some Catholic writers and officials have voiced a critical stance.

 

Church of St. George, Istanbul in 2010

Above: Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George, Istanbul (Constantinople)

 

The books have been banned from all schools in the United Arab Emirates.

 

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Above: Flag of the United Arab Emirates

 

Religious responses to Harry Potter have not all been negative.

Rowling notes:

At least as much as they’ve been attacked from a theological point of view the books have been lauded and taken into pulpit, and most interesting and satisfying for me, it’s been by several different faiths.

 

Rowling in April 2010

Above: J.K. Rowling, 2010

 

From The Times, 3 December 2018

The Harry Potter books gave birth to a global franchise, provided steady work to grateful British actors and created millions of new readers, convinced of the magical properties of a good book.

 

A large crowd of fans wait outside of a Borders store in Delaware, waiting for the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Above: Crowd outside a bookshop awaiting the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

 

They also created a generation of Americans who are more likely to believe that they are possessed by the Devil, with Catholic priests reporting that they are overwhelmed with requests to perform exorcisms.

 

When I was appointed 13 years ago, I probably received maybe 100 inquiries a year.“, said Vincent Lampert, the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Now I receive about 1,700 inquiries a year.

He thinks the Harry Potter books and films, which spurred a broad interest in magic, are partly to blame.

Magic is the focus on the individual, rather than having to deal with God.“, he said.

It encouraged “the belief that somehow the power is within them.

Even within the world of exorcism, the premise would be that God is not a bystander.

God is the main actor.

Priests who conduct exorcisms say occult practices and symbols can serve as doorways for a demon.

The Harry Potter books “disarmed Americans from thinking that all magic is darkness“, one unnamed exorcist recently told The Atlantic magazine.

 

Above: St. Francis Borgia performing an exorcism, Goya

 

Adam Jortner, a historian of religion in American life at Auburn University, Alabama, said it was not the first time that members of the church had feared the influence of children’s books.

The church had a go at C.S. Lewis for the Narnia books, a powerful allegory of Christianity itself.“, he said.

 

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Jortner agreed that interest in the occult had grown.

Harry Potter is responsible for mainstreaming magic.“, he said.

Exorcism had a clear history within the church and it sought to treat magic with respect.

He added:

The Catholic church has some of the most stringent rules about exorcism in the world.

Most Catholic exorcists are required to go through this long list of things to ensure that it is not a neurological problem.

Father Lampert said that all who sought his help were required to undergo an assessment by a medical professional, which ended most applications….

 

Above: St. Francis exorcising the demons of Arezzo, Giotto

 

When I read an article like this I am shocked to find that this sort of folly is taken seriously.

Putting aside for the moment the question of the existence of God, for which the largest defence is that God’s non-existence cannot be proven, and grasping with the notion that God possesses a team (angels) to battle another team (demons) led by His most bitter opponent (the Devil), then to further suggest that demons possess people….

This pushes rational credibility.

 

 

But then to blame the author of a series of children’s books for the rise in exorcism applications is utter poppycock in my opinion.

 

To play the Catholic advocate for a moment it can certainly be argued that children are gullible, easily influenced and misled.

But it insults the intelligence of our young people to suggest that they cannot discern the difference between a clever storyline and reality.

 

Could they believe in magic?

Sure, for there is much about existence that is difficult to explain.

But it stretches my incredulity that children, those poor deluded Muggles, would assume from a story that they too possess magical powers as the alumni and staff of Hogwarts do.

 

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Above: Model of Hogwarts, Warner Bros. Studio, Leavesden, England

 

Nonetheless, let us humour these men of the cloth for a moment….

Let us imagine (if that is even possible) that Harry Potter leads to the need for exorcism.

Over the years, some religious people, particularly Christians, have decried Rowling’s books for supposedly promoting witchcraft.

 

Rowling identifies as a Christian.

She once said:

I believe in God, not magic.

 

Early on, she felt that if readers knew of her Christian beliefs they would be able to predict plot lines of characters in her books.

In 2007, Rowling said she was the only one in her family who went regularly to church.

She was an adherent of the Church of England.

 

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As a student she became annoyed at the “smugness of religious people” and attended less often.

Later, she started to attend a Church of Scotland congregation at the time she was writing Harry Potter.

Her eldest daughter, Jessica, was baptised there.

 

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Above: Logo of the Church of Scotland

 

In a 2006 interview with Tatler magazine, Rowling noted:

Like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes about if my faith will return.

It’s important to me.”

 

Greene in 1939

Above: Graham Greene (1904 – 1991)

 

She has said that she has struggled with doubt, that she believes in an afterlife and that her faith plays a part in her books.

In a 2012 radio interview, she said that she was a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a province of the Anglican Communion.

 

In 2015, following the referendum on same-sex marriage in Ireland, Rowling joked that if Ireland legalised same-sex marriage, Dumbledore (Headmaster of Hogwarts) and Gandalf (of the Lord of the Rings series) could get married there.

 

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Above: Flag of the Republic of Ireland

 

The Westboro Baptist Church, in response, stated that if the two got married, they would picket.

Rowling responded:

Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.

 

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Above: Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas

 

Is Rowling then guilty of intellectual or spiritual manslaughter by unintentionally killing children’s beliefs in God?

Or taking the concept to its ultimate crazy extreme….

Was this death of the divine within our children pre-meditated by Ms. Rowling?

Is she guilty of spiritual murder?

 

To answer this question with any certainty we must ask ourselves how and why did Rowling write the Harry Potter series.

To answer this question, come with me, back in time, both in Rowling’s past and my own….

 

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Joanne Rowling (born 31 July 1965), better known by her pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author, film producer, television producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist.

 

Above: J.K. Rowling, 1999

 

She is best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series, which has won multiple awards and sold more than 500 million copies, becoming the best-selling book series in history.

The books are the basis of a popular film series, over which Rowling had overall approval on the scripts and was a producer on the final films.

 

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She also writes crime fiction under the name Robert Galbraith.

 

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Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.

 

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The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, divorce from her first husband, and relative poverty until the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in 1997.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Book Cover.jpg

 

There were six sequels, of which the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in 2007.

 

Since then, Rowling has written five books for adult readers: The Casual Vacancy (2012) and—under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith—the crime fiction Cormoran Strike series, which consists of The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013), The Silkworm (2014), Career of Evil (2015), and Lethal White (2018).

 

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Rowling has lived a “rags to riches” life in which she progressed from living on benefits to being the world’s first billionaire author.

She lost her billionaire status after giving away much of her earnings to charity but remains one of the wealthiest people in the world.

She is the UK’s best-selling living author, with sales in excess of £238 million.

The 2016 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling’s fortune at £600 million, ranking her as the joint 197th richest person in the UK.

Time named her a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral and political inspiration she has given her fans.

In October 2010, Rowling was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors.

She has supported multiple charities, including Comic Relief, One Parent Families, and Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, as well as launching her own charity, Lumos.

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Joanne Rowling was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, the daughter of science technician Anne (née Volant) and Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer Peter James Rowling.

 

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Above: View of Yate, Gloucestershire, England

 

Her parents first met on a train departing from King’s Cross Station bound for Arbroath in 1964.

They married on 14 March 1965.

 

A platform on the London Underground.

 

One of Rowling’s maternal great-grandfathers, Dugald Campbell, was a Scottish man from Lamlash.

 

Her mother’s French paternal grandfather, Louis Volant, was awarded the War Cross for exceptional bravery in defending the village of Courcelles-le-Comte during World War I.

Rowling originally believed Volant had won the Legion of Honour during the war, as she said when she received it herself in 2009.

She later discovered the truth when featured in an episode of the UK genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? in which she found out it was a different Louis Volant who won the Legion of Honour.

When she heard her grandfather’s story of bravery and discovered that the War Cross was for “ordinary” soldiers like her grandfather, who had been a waiter, she stated the War Cross was “better” to her than the Legion of Honour.

 

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Rowling’s sister Dianne was born at their home when Rowling was 23 months old.

The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four.

As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories which she frequently read to her sister.

 

Above: Duck pond, Winterbourne, Gloucestershire

 

Aged nine, Rowling moved to Church Cottage in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales.

 

Above: Church Cottage, Tutshill, Gloucestershire

 

When she was a young teenager, her great-aunt gave her a copy of Jessica Mitford’s autobiography, Hons and Rebels.

Mitford became Rowling’s heroine and Rowling read all of her books.

 

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Rowling has said that her teenage years were unhappy.

Her home life was complicated by her mother’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and a strained relationship with her father, with whom she is not on speaking terms.

Rowling later said that she based the character of Hermione Granger on herself when she was eleven.

 

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Above: Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, poster for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 

Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth, owned a turquoise Ford Anglia which she says inspired a flying version that appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

 

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Like many teenagers, she became interested in rock music, listening to the Clash, the Smiths and Siouxsie Sioux, adopting the look of the latter with back-combed hair and black eyeliner, a look that she would still sport when beginning university.

 

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Above: Siouxsie Sioux, 1980

 

As a child, Rowling attended St Michael’s Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More.

Her headmaster at St Michael’s, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

 

Above: Richard Harris (1930 – 2002) as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 

She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother worked in the science department.

Steve Eddy, her first secondary school English teacher, remembers her as “not exceptional” but “one of a group of girls who were bright, and quite good at English“.

Rowling took A-levels in English, French and German, achieving two As and a B, and was Head Girl.

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Above: Logo of Wyeburn School, Sedbury, Gloucestershire

 

In 1982, Rowling took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted and earned a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter.

Martin Sorrell, a French professor at Exeter, remembers “a quietly competent student, with a denim jacket and dark hair, who, in academic terms, gave the appearance of doing what was necessary“.

Rowling recalls doing little work, preferring to read Dickens and Tolkien.

After a year of study in Paris, Rowling graduated from Exeter in 1986.

In 1988, Rowling wrote a short essay about her time studying Classics titled “What was the Name of that Nymph Again? or Greek and Roman Studies Recalled“.

It was published by the University of Exeter’s journal Pegasus.

 

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Above: Crest of the University of Exeter

 

After working as a researcher and bilingual secretary in London for Amnesty International, Rowling moved with her then boyfriend to Manchester, where she worked at the Chamber of Commerce.

 

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In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry “came fully formed” into her mind.

When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately.

 

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Above: Clapham Junction Railway Station

 

In December, Rowling’s mother, Anne, died after ten years suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Rowling was writing Harry Potter at the time and had never told her mother about it.

Her mother’s death heavily affected Rowling’s writing and she channelled her own feelings of loss by writing about Harry’s own feelings of loss in greater detail in the first book.

 

An advertisement in The Guardian led Rowling to move to Porto, Portugal, to teach English as a foreign language.

JK Rowling moved to Porto in 1991.

 

A panned out image of city buildings.

Above: Porto

 

This was a difficult time in her life, as her mother had recently passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

And to rub salt in the wound, her house in Manchester had been burgled, and everything her mother had left her was stolen.

 

Eager for a change of scenery, she accepted a job teaching English as a second language in Porto at a private language school on Avenida de Fernão de Magalhães called Encounter English.

 

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Rowling spent her evenings teaching English to young teenagers, business people and housewives and spent her days working on the manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

 

The time Rowling spent in Portugal was in many ways a dark and painful period of her life, and one that she rarely talks about.

For this reason, it’s hard to know for sure exactly which elements of the Harry Potter saga were inspired by her experiences in Porto.

Nevertheless, the influence is clearly there.

 

Many people have speculated that Rowling took inspiration from certain Porto landmarks, shops and cafés.

Some of these supposed inspiration locations almost certainly did inspire her, while others require a stretch of the imagination.

Rowling may have been subconsciously influenced by them, even if she didn’t recognize it at the time.

She taught English-as-a-foreign language at the Encounter English School at night and began writing in the day while listening to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

 

Above: Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

 

After 18 months in Porto, she met Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes at a café and found they shared an interest in Jane Austen.

Arantes would later tell London’s Daily Express newspaper the story of his whirlwind romance and doomed marriage to the then-unknown Joanne Rowling.

 

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Above: Jorge Arrantes

 

It was a sexually passionate relationship that ended in violence and bitterness.

She was a 25-year-old teacher, he was a 23-year-old journalism student.

He spotted her drinking with some friends in a café, was drawn to her piercing, aquamarine eyes and tried to pick her up.

Immediately there was a connection between us.“, Arrantes said.

Joanne could not speak any Portuguese, but my English was good.

We both realized we had a great deal in common with our love of books.

I remember her saying she was re-reading Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which I had also read.

 

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Arrantes said she told him about an affair she had had with another Portuguese man and about a love affair with a man in England.

When the night ended, they exchanged telephone numbers – and a kiss.

 

Two days later, he said, they had their first date – and ended up in bed.

Before we knew what was happening, she was back at my flat and we spent the night together.

There was nothing sordid about it.

We were simply two young, independent people enjoying life.

After that night, Joanne and I saw each other two or three times a week.

It was an intense and passionate relationship.

 

It was also tempestous.

Their frenetic lovemaking was punctuated with furious arguments.

We were always either in Heaven or in Hell.

 

They moved into his mother’s apartment, a shabby two-bedroom flat with a tiny kitchen, on Rua do Duque de Saldanha.

 

Casa onde morou depois de ter casado com Jorge Arantes. Foi lá que Jessica, a filha de ambos, viveu os primeiros meses de vida e foi de lá que Rowling foi expulsa numa madrugada de Novembro de 1993

Above: Entry to Arantes flat, Rua do Duque de Saldanha, Porto

 

Arantes later claimed he had helped her come up with ideas for the Harry Potter novels, though she denies this.

Among the belongings she brought to their home, according to Arantes, was a well-thumbed copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings.

 

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Several months later, Joanne discovered she was pregnant.

It was unplanned and both were afraid of the responsibilities parenthood might bring.

 

According to Arantes, Rowling began writing her first Harry Potter book during this pregnancy.

She kept her writing secret for a time, then showed her work in progress to Arantes.

I am proud to say that I was the first person to read about Harry Potter.

It was obvious to me straight away that this was the work of a genius.

I can still remember telling Joanne:

‘Whoa! I am in love with a great, great writer.’

Even in those days, Joanne had a great talent for structure.

I never doubted it would be a success.

 

Arantes says they discussed the stories, which Rowling found helpful.

We studied each other’s work and made suggestions.

When I told Joanne to change something, she would usually make an alteration.

He claims she had planned the full series of seven books, because  she believed the number 7 has magical associations.

 

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But just as they had begun to look forward to the birth of their child, tragedy struck.

Joanne miscarried.

 

They married on 16 October 1992 and their child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (named after Jessica Mitford), was born on 27 July 1993 in Portugal.

 

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Above: Joanne and Jorge Arantes with baby Jessica

 

Two months after Jessica’s birth, Arantes admits, he ordered Joanne out of their apartment.

She refused to go without Jessica and, despite my saying she could come back for her in the morning, there was a violent struggle.

I had to drag her out of the house at 5 in the morning and I admit I slapped her very hard in the street.

 

The couple separated on 17 November 1993.

Biographers have suggested that Rowling suffered domestic abuse during her marriage, although the extent is unknown.

 

In December 1993, Rowling and her then infant daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be near Rowling’s sister with three chapters of what would become Harry Potter in her suitcase.

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure.

Her marriage had failed and she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating and allowing her to focus on writing.

During this period, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide.

Her illness inspired the characters known as Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book.

 

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Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless.”

 

Rowling was left in despair after her estranged husband arrived in Scotland, seeking both her and her daughter.

She obtained an Order of Restraint and Arantes returned to Portugal, with Rowling filing for divorce in August 1994.

 

She began a teacher training course in August 1995 at the Moray House School of Education, at Edinburgh University, after completing her first novel while living on state benefits.

She wrote in many cafés, especially Nicolson’s Café (owned by her brother-in-law) and the Elephant House, wherever she could get Jessica to fall asleep.

 

 

Meanwhile Arantes’ life was falling apart.

He lost his job as a television journalist and descended into a nightmare of drug addiction.

 

His 70-year-old mother, Marilia Rodrigues, told the London Daily Mail that Arantes stole family heirlooms and jewellery to feed his drug habit.

He still loved her very much and was heartbroken when they parted.“, Rodrigues said.

He still believes they could get together again and he would take her back at the drop of a hat.

He just wants her and his daughter.

 

Arantes says he has recovered from his drug addiction and lives in a small apartment in the Paris suburb of Clichy with his brother Justino, a travel agent.

 

Rowling rarely talks about her first marriage, but once told the Times of London:

I married on 16 October 1992.

I left on 17 November 1993.

So that was the duration of what I considered to be the marriage.

Obviously, you do not leave a marriage after that very short period of time unless there are serious problems.

I’m not the kind of person who bales out without there being serious problems.

My relationship before that lasted seven years.

I’m a long-term girl.

And I had a baby with this man.

But it didn’t work.

And it was clear to me that it was time to go, and so I went.

I never regretted it.

 

In a 2001 BBC interview, Rowling denied the rumour that she wrote in local cafés to escape from her unheated flat, pointing out that it had heating.

One of the reasons she wrote in cafés was that taking her baby out for a walk was the best way to make her fall asleep.

 

In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which was typed on an old manual typewriter.

Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evens, a reader who had been asked to review the book’s first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agency agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher.

The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.

A year later she was finally given the green light by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London.

The decision to publish Rowling’s book owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next.

Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.

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Harry Potter is now a global brand worth an estimated US$15 billion and the last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history.

The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages.

The Harry Potter books have also gained recognition for sparking an interest in reading among the young at a time when children were thought to be abandoning books for computers and television, although it is reported that despite the huge uptake of the books, adolescent reading has continued to decline.

 

On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Neil Murray (born 1971), a Scottish doctor, in a private ceremony at her home, Killiechassie House in Scotland.

Their son, David Gordon Rowling Murray, was born on 24 March 2003.

 

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Above: Joanne and Neil Murray

 

Shortly after Rowling began writing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she ceased working on the novel to care for David in his early infancy.

Rowling’s youngest child, daughter Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, to whom she dedicated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was born on 23 January 2005.

 

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Regarding Jessica’s career, she can best be described as an Instagram model who posts beautiful photos of herself as well as videos with her family and friends.

Jessica started her Instagram account in 2013 and instantly started sharing photos.

She has now managed to gather almost 7,000 followers.

Apart from that, Jessica owns a clothing line called Jc.closefit.

She also loves travelling and taking photos while on her exotic tours.

 

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Above: Jessica Arantes

 

Rowling’s life in Portugal clearly influenced aspects of the books:

 

Many of Potter’s spells can be easily understood by Portuguese speakers:

  • aguamenti (bring out water)
  • duro (make things hard)
  • protego (protect people)
  • silencio (to silence people)

 

One of Hogwart’s founding professors was Salazar Slytherin.

Dr. António de Oliveira Salazar was Portugal’s notorious dictator for much of the 20th century.

 

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Above: António de Oliveira Salazar (1889 – 1970)

 

There are also many similarities between Porto’s most colourful buildings and elements of Hogwarts, and as my wife (Ute) and I explored the city of Porto, I found myself trying to imagine Joanne Rowling’s life pre-Harry Potter fame and fortune.

I also found myself marvelling at her choice of a dictator’s name for one of the school’s founders.

Was her deciding to take the name of Salazar suggesting that despite his  nature he was partially responsible for making the place possible?

Without a Salazar could it have become what it eventually became?

Rowling’s relationship with Arantes did not end well though their union resulted in Jessica’s birth.

Perhaps Arantes was Rowling’s Salazar?

Perhaps the rumours of domestic violence are true, but perhaps Arantes’s claims of inspiring Rowling’s ideas are also credible.

What would Porto, through a Rowling lens, tell me about writing and inspiration?

What would it tell me about myself?

 

From the top left corner clockwise: Clérigos Church and Tower; Avenida dos Aliados; Casa da Música concert hall; Ribeira district; Avenida da Boavista business hub; Luiz I bridge and Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

Above: Images of Porto

 

Porto, Portugal, Thursday 26 July 2018

There are a number of sites in Porto frequently mentioned on Potterhead blogs that my mentioning will surprise no one.

The only difference I can offer is my perspective of them.

I shall briefly list them here and then offer my perspective:

  • Livraria Lello
  • Escovaria de Belomonte
  • Universidade do Porto
  • Café Majestic
  • Fonte dos Leones
  • Torre dos Clerigos

 

The Livraria Lello, Porto’s famous galleried Art Nouveau bookshop, with its neo-Gothic exterior and inner staircase just begging for a grand entrance, is a visual delight beyond words.

It was founded by the well-to-do Lello intellectual brothers in 1906 and specialized in limited edition books – many of which are still here.

The brothers now appear as bas-reliefs on the walls, alongside busts of great writers, including Eca de Queiroz and Miguel Cervantes.

The Lellos commissioned an engineer and fellow bibliophile Francisco Xavier Esteves to design the interior, which is simply stunning.

The ground level even has rails set into the floor for transporting book “carriages“.

 

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The impressive double, freestanding staircase (actually made of concrete) lures people upstairs where you can admire the extraordinary plasterwork ceiling, which resembles ornately carved wood.

Columns and a stained glass roof light add to the air of something far grander than a bookshop, the whole design having an almost organic feel, as if the walls and ceiling are the ribs and bones of a living creature.

 

 

The first floor was the traditional meeting point of artists and intellectuals and was frequented by Rowling during her time in Porto in the 1990s.

It is this, and the similiarity of the shop’s decor to some of Hogwarts’ more outlandish design characteristics, that has put the bookshop firmly on the tourist circuit, with up to 4,000 people visiting daily.

There are often queues to get in, but if you come first thing in the morning or in the evening shortly before closing time, you may be able to experience the place more as a bookshop than a tourist site.

 

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Porto’s famous galleried Art Nouveau shop has become a tourist site in its own right, but behind the crowds this still remains one of the city’s best bookshops.

There’s general fiction on the ground floor (including the Harry Potter stories in many languages), much of it in English, with reference and non-fiction (including travel) on the upper floor.

 

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You can also find rare editions of Portuguese books.

 

Look out for the original till, made in 1881, the first in Portugal to issue paper receipts and with prices in reis (the currency before the escudo and the euro).

 

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You get your €5.00 entry fee back on any purchase.

 

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In 1869, the Livraria Internacional de Ernesto Chardron was founded, from a shop on Rua dos Clérigos by the Frenchman Ernesto Chardron.

Following its founder’s death, at the age of 45, the firm was sold to Lugan & Genelioux Sucessores.

Alternately, in 1881, José Lello along with his brother-in-law created the firm David Pereira & Lello.

But, the following year, after the death of David Lourenço Pereira, the establishment began to be operated as José Pinto de Sousa Lello & Irmão, when he partnered with his younger brother (António Lello).

The brothers both became prominent members of Porto’s intellectual bourgeoisie by the turn of the century.

The brothers hired engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves (1864-1944) to construct the new bookstore on Rua das Carmelitas.

In 1906, the Livraria Lello was inaugurated.

By 1919, the bookstore was simply designated as the Lello & Irmão, Lda.

With the 1930 addition of José Pereira da Costa, the bookstore began to be known simply as Livraria Lello.

But, between 1930 and 1940, it once again became designated Lello & Irmão.

Beginning in July 2015, the bookstore began requesting entrance fees for visitors.

On 21 April 2016, an artistic mural was erected to conceal the scaffolding placed on the facade of the building, during its restoration, by graffiti writer Dheo and colleague Pariz One.

 

 

Dheo painted the central area of the mural with a pile of old books, a lit candle and a bottle of Port wine, while the rest was painted by Pariz One with geometric shapes, referring to the stained glass inside the bookstore.

The work took two months to produce.

On 31 July, following the restoration, the main facade of the building was uncovered, showing the laboratory-tested recovered primitive gray.

 

 

There is no denying that the woodwork and the glass art and the red winding staircase do make the Livraria Lello a beautiful place to visit and certainly there is a good case to argue that Hogwarts’ moving staircases and the interior of the Diagon Alley bookstore Flourish and Blogs were inspired by the Livraria.

 

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Above: Hogwarts’ moving staircases

 

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But therein lies the problem.

It attracts too many tourists and it knows it.

 

As a passionate bibliophile I certainly admire the architecture, but for me a bookshop should in some ways resemble a library, a sanctuary of literature, a temple of tomes, rather than a marketplace for mobs.

A person cannot linger in any one spot too long before some impatient patron will jostle and push you about the place.

One could make a grand entrance if the store were a little less crowded, but one loses one’s regal bearing very quickly after enduring long queues to get in, for the indignity of paying an entrance fee just to view the shop, down each and every aisle, up and down the staircase, and at the cash register….

This is not the place for those who dislike crowds in enclosed spaces.

And though the Livraria does offer rare Portuguese books I am not so certain the Lello brothers would have liked the changes that time and fame have wrought, for as wonderful as it is to see people eagerly seeking books to read in this awkward age of automation and animation, a sense of intellectualism no longer pervades this establishment.

The place feels like a souvenir shop at one of Walt Disney’s magic kingdoms of artificiality than it does a sacred reminder of Portugal’s literary past.

 

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Above: Disney World, Orlando, Florida

 

I doubt the American tourists who came to or left the Livraria had any conception of, or compassion for, the existence of a Portuguese literary history.

For the place is populated with Potterheads and nothing else seems to matter.

But suggesting such sacrilege to these Rowling fanatics is akin to being Cervantes’ Don Quixote tilting at thick stone windmills.

 

 

Pointlessly defending an honour long gone.

 

The Livrario made me think of St. Gallen’s Stiftbibliothek (Abbey Library) with its hefty admission fee and cramped interior when crowds congregate.

It is my hope that Rowling (or those of her ilk) never visit the Abbey Library and over-popularize the place with their writing, for the Library at least still maintains an aura of the sacred which the Livrario has long ago lost.

 

Above: The Abbey Library of St. Gallen

 

I was seeking a Porto version of Paris’ Shakespeare & Co., but got instead an amusement park souvenir shop.

 

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It was worth a visit for the heart but at a cost to the mind and soul.

 

The Escovaria de Belomonte (Brushes of Belomonte), founded by Antonio da Silva on 29 January 1927, is not, at present, part of guidebook description, but it is most definitively part of Potter lore and appears on every blog where Rowling and Porto are mentioned in the same breath.

Though the Escovaria de Belomonte has only existed for 82 years, they excel in the manufacture and restoration of industrial brushes.

Why buy new brushes when you can have your old ones renewed?

The Escovaria de Belomonte replenishes and renews any type of brush.

They create brushes for every kind of customized applications for all types of industries, including industrial factories, textile production, footwear producers, jewelry stores, cast moulding manufacturers, grinding establishments, water treatment plants, car washes, typographical firms, gastronomy, and the list goes on….

They make any and every kind of brush and broom.

Whatever your needs, Escovaria de Belomonte will help you find a solution.

 

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The handsome Belomonte brooms with their rustic luxurious look, many of them hanging from the store ceiling, handmade with high-quality wood and natural fibres, bear a striking resemblance to Harry Potter’s flying broom, the Nimbus 2000.

 

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It has also been suggested that the name of Harry Potter that graces the front cover of every Potter novel bears a striking resemblance to the lettering and design of Escovaria de Belomonte‘s street sign.

Visually it is a great store to visit, but I wonder whether Potterheads actually make a purchase here.

There is no entrance fee and I am certain the place is much photographed by Potterheads, but whether the Escovaria is pleased with being a tourist attraction more than a serious business establishment is debatable.

 

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It has been suggested by Potterhead blogs that the outfit worn by Universidade do Porto (University of Porto) students was the inspiration for the outfits that Hogwarts students were required to wear during academic hours.

The wife and I were not able to fit in a visit to the University, saw no one on the streets dressed in such attire and found very few photos of students dressed in this manner.

 

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What can be said about the University:

  • Founded on 22 March 1911, it is the 2nd largest Portuguese university by enrolled students (after the University of Lisbon) and has one of the most noted research outputs in Portugal.
  • It is ranked among the best Portuguese universities, is among the 100 universities in Europe and ranked 328th of the best 400 universities in the world.
  • Today, about 28,000 students (11,000 postgraduates) attend the programmes and courses provided by the University of Porto’s 15 schools (13 faculties, a biomedical sciences institute and a business school) each with a considerable degree of autonomy.
  • It offers 63 graduate degree courses, over 160 master courses and several doctoral degree courses and other specialization courses, supported by 2,300 lecturers and a technical and administrative staff of over 1,600 people.
  • Of those who can call themselves alumni or staff of the University are:
    • Richard Zimler (journalist / writer / professor)
    • Julio Dinis (1839 – 1871)(writer)
    • Jorge de Sena (1919 – 1978)(doctor / writer)
    • José Neves (billionaire businessman / founder of Farfetch)
    • Marisa Ferreira (artist)
    • Camilo Castelo Bianco (1825 – 1890)(writer)
    • Agostinho da Silva (1906 – 1994)(writer)

(This last mentioned I find inspirational:

What you need, above all, is to not remember what I said. 

Never think for me. 

Think always for yourself. 

Be sure that all your mistakes that you commit are, according to your own thinking and deciding, all more valuable than all your correct actions made according to my thinking, not yours.

If the Creator wanted to put us together we perhaps couldn’t have two different bodies and two different heads.

My counselling should serve you to confront it.

It is possible that, after this confrontation, you come to think like me, but, at this time, your thought is yours.

My disciples, if I have any, are the ones who oppose me, because in their deep soul they guard what truly animates and what I most want to transmit to them.

The wish is to not conform.“)

 

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Above: Agostinho da Silva

 

It is more likely that Rowling was inspired not by the University of Porto, but rather by the University of Coimbra – 1.5 hours south of Porto – whose students do indeed wear academic robes similiar to those of Hogwarts students.

We did not get to Coimbra.

We did not need to.

 

Above: University of Coimbra students in ceremonial robes

 

There are hundreds of places to eat and drink in Porto, from old town tascas and Art Nouveau cafés to riverfront designer restaurants.

Of these, the one place that attracts the Potterhead is the Café Majestic.

In 1916, Rua de Santa Catarina 12 was built on a paved shopping street.

Opened in 1921, the Café Elite was designed in Art Nouveau style.

The then Bohemian quarter of the city did not think the name “Elite” was appropriate as it was not part of the Zeitgeist that was the post-1910 revolutionary Portuguese Republic.

The coffee house was subsequently given the name it is still known by.

The Majestic became over time a place frequented by intellectuals and literary legends, including Gago Coutinho, Beatriz Costa, Júlio Resende, José Régio and Teixeira de Pascoaes.

 

 

(Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho, generally known simply as Gago Coutinho (1869 – 1959) was a Portuguese geographer, cartographer, naval officer, historian and aviator.

An aviation pioneer, Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral were the first to cross the South Atlantic Ocean by air, from March to June 1922, from Lisbon, Portugal, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)

 

Above: Coutinho (right) and Cabral (left) on the Lusitánia

 

(Beatriz Costa (born Beatriz da Conceição; 1907 – 1996) was a Portuguese actress, the best-known actress of the golden age of Portuguese cinema.)

 

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Above: Beatriz Costa

 

(Júlio Resende is a Portuguese pianist and composer.

He is active as a jazz musician (both as a bandleader and as a sideman for other artists) and is also involved in the Fado scene, having recorded a solo piano tribute to Amália Rodrigues and collaborating with singers like António Zambujo, Ana Moura and Aldina Duarte.

He is also the leader of Alexander Search, a rock band fronted by Eurovision Song Contest 2017 winner Salvador Sobral and inspired by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.)

 

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(José Maria dos Reis Pereira, better known by the pen name José Régio (1901 – 1969), was a Portuguese writer.

José Régio was the author of novels, plays, poetry and essays.

His works are strongly focused on the theme of conflict between man and God and between the individual and society, a critical analysis of solitude and human relations.)

 

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Above: José Régio

 

(Joaquim Pereira Teixeira de Vasconcelos (1877 – 1952), better known by his pen name Teixeira de Pascoaes, was a Portuguese poet.

He was nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.)

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Above: Painting of Teixeira de Pascoaes

 

In the 1960s, the Café experienced a decline, parallel to the increasingly repressive social situation of Portugal under the authoritarian regime of António de Oliveria Salazar’s Estado Novo (“New State“).

In 1992 the Barrias family decided to extensively restore the Majestic.

Using old photographs as their guide, the restoration was completed, a new floor laid and the Café reopened in 1994.

In the year prior to the commencement of the Majestic’s renovations, Rowling often visited the Café, writing her thoughts for her first Harry Potter novel on Majestic napkins.

The Majestic today is the best known of Porto’s belle époque cafés, with a perfectly preserved decor of celestial cherubs, bevelled mirrors, carved chairs and wood panelling.

 

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Waiters float to the strains of The Blue Danube.

Come for coffee or afternoon tea as we did.

 

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The Fountain of the Lions (Portuguese: Fonte dos Leões), is a 19th-century fountain built by French company Compagnie Générale des Eaux pour l’Etranger.

 

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Cast by the Val d’Osne foundry in France, it is a copy, in most part, of the fountain in the Town Hall Square of Leicester, England.

The fountain is located in an urban, isolated location, within the gardened Praça de Gomes Teixeira.

The central fountain has a cruciform layout with a group of sculptures at the base supported by four seated lions on the extremes.

Between each lion, the axis of the source has a column with base, shaft and capital.

To top, two central, circular cups superimposed and staggered, with a pine cone surmounting all.

The octagonal shaped granite tank has rounded edges.

The outer profile of the tank walls is corrugated.

The edge of the lower plane bowl is outlined in relief by a frieze with plant elements interrupted only by four cornets from which water flows.

 

 

It is thought by Potterheads that this fountain inspired Rowling’s choice of logo for the House of Gryffindor at Hogwarts.

 

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The Clérigos Church (Portuguese: Igreja dos Clérigos,”Church of the Clergymen“) is a Baroque church with its tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos, seen from various points of the city and is one of Porto’s most characteristic symbols.

 

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The main façade of the church is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment.

This was based on an early 17th-century Roman scheme.

The central frieze above the windows present symbols of worship and an incense boat.

The lateral façades reveal the almost elliptic floorplan of the church nave.

The Clérigos Church was one of the first baroque churches in Portugal to adopt a typical baroque elliptic floor plan.

 

 

The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763.

The baroque decoration here also shows influence from the Roman Baroque, while the whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles.

The tower is 75.6 metres high, dominating the city.

There are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors.

This great structure has become the symbol of the city.

 

 

Did the Torre dos Clerigos inspire Hogwarts’ Astronomy Tower?

Potterheads like to think so.

 

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At all of these sites, especially atop the Torre dos Clerigos, the visitor, headphones on, fado playing, can ponder how fado, Arantes, Rowling and yours truly all interconnect.

We have learned that Arantes probably abused Rowling as possibly did her father.

Fans who re-read Harry Potter as adults quickly realize that the behaviour of the Dursleys reads like child abuse: starvation, forced labour and confinement.

 

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Starvation has been a stranger to me, but forced labour and confinement I did know.

 

In the Harry Potter series, more explicit abuse is described when Harry learns through a Pensieve memory that Severus Snape’s father beat his son and wife.

Porto is a Pensieve for me….

 

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And then there is Rowling’s post-Potter writing….

 

In her novel The Casual Vacancy, Andrew is a restless teen who lives with his abusive, degrading father.

Rowling once told The New Yorker that Andrew represented her mindset as a teen, and although Andrew was not exactly based on her father, she said:

I did not have an easy relationship with my father.

 

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Above: Andrew Price, The Casual Vacancy

 

Abuse also finds its way into Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Credence has an adopted mother who hits him with a belt.

That resentment from his mother’s frequent beatings turns him into an Obscurial, a repressed being that the evil Gellert Grindelwald wants to use for dark magic.

 

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Often, but certainly not always, children who were abused by their parents often abuse their children when they become parents.

Perhaps this was the case in the behaviour of Arantes.

 

And, lest we forget, why Rowling chose António de Oliveira Salazar as the inspiration for the repressive Hogwarts co-founder Salazar Slitherin….

One overriding criticism of Salazar’s regime is that stability was bought and maintained at the expense of suppression of human rights and liberties.

Abuse on a national level.

Under Salazar’s authoritarian rule, he brought stability and prosperity to Portugal, but at enormous cost: censorship, imprisonment and torture.

 

Above: Salazar, 1939

 

Arantes was born in 1967.

Salazar’s Estado Nova lasted from 1932 to 1974.

Arantes’ father knew abuse and repression and so would Arantes.

 

It is hard to sympathize with those that abuse unless we realize that they were probably a product of abuse themselves.

Arantes lost the mother of his child and his daughter as well.

In the quiet of night as Arantes lies in his solitary bed in his brother’s Clichy apartment fado music plays inside his head.

Arantes is a pessimist, a nihilist, alone, and forever known for his greatest failure:

Losing the world’s most famous novelist as his lover and the child they made together.

 

We quietly walk through the wonders of Porto.

Fado fills the streets.

Sadness of memory fills my soul.

And sits upon my shoulders like an invisibility cloak.

 

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Above: Porto, night

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Facebook / Pocket Rough Guide Porto / Lonely Planet Portugal / Rough Guide Portugal / Matthew Hancock, Xenophobe’s Guide to the Portuguese / A.H. de Oliveira Marques, A Very Short History of Portugal

 

A poster depicting a young boy with glasses, an old man with glasses, a young girl holding books, a redheaded boy, and a large bearded man in front of a castle, with an owl flying. The left poster also features an adult man, an old woman, and a train, with the titles being "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Visionary

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 7 October 2018

I caution you.

Expect much!

(Hugo Gernsback, Electrical Experimenter, January 1919)

Gernsback portrait by Fabian, date unknown

Above: Hugo Gernsback (1884 – 1967)

 

In my apartment we have many things.

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These things seem so commonplace that we have taken this electrical world in which we live in for granted.

Amongst the flotsam and jetsam and choas that is a modern apartment, much is powered by electricity: the lamps and overhead lights, the computer upon which I type this blog, the TV and two radios, the toaster, the kettle, the dishwasher, the fridge, the freezer, my wife’s hairdryer and iron, the vacuum cleaner, and batteries and cables used for mobile devices.

Our apartment is by no means super-modern nor overly luxurious in terms of all the bells and whistles other flats might produce, but we are nevertheless grateful for the manner in which our lives are blessed, materialistically and otherwise.

There are names you might have heard of in regards to the history of electricity: Thales, Aristophanes, Euclid, Pliny, William Gilbert, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Priestley, Charles Coulomb, Luigi Galvini, Alessandro Volta, Humphrey Davy, André-Marie Ampère, Georg Ohm, Michael Faraday, Samuel Morse, James Prescott Joule, Thomas Edison and Heinrich Hertz.

I have even written at great length about Alessandro Volta….

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Above: Alessandro Volta (1745 – 1827)

(See Canada Slim and the Life Electric of this blog.)

 

There are names equally important to the development of electricity that you may have never heard of: Shen Kuo, Alexander Neckham, Pierre de Maricourt, Gerolamo Cardano, Cabaeus, Sir Thomas Browne (who first coined the word “electricity“), Otto von Guericke, Robert Boyle, Francis Hauksbee, Stephan Gray and the Reverend Granville Wheler, Charles Francois de Cisternay du Fay, Pieter van Musschenbroek of Leyden, Ewald Georg von Kleist, William Watson, C.M. of Scotland (still unidentifiable to this day), Georges-Louis LeSage, William Nicholson, Anthony Carlisle,  Johann Ritter, Gian Domenico Romagnosi, Thomas Young, Étienne-Louis Malus, Hans Christian Orsted, Johann Schweigger, Thomas Seebeck, William Sturgeon, Francesco Zantedeschi, Paul Schilling, Heinrich Lenz, Jean-Charles Peltier, Joseph Henry, David Alter, Alexandre Becquerel, James Clark Maxwell, John Kerr, Oliver Heaviside, Galileo Ferraris, John Fleming, Heike Onnes, Louis de Broglie and Martin Ryte.

To name a few….

 

There is one man who we might never had heard of were it not for his greatest fan’s determination to demonstrate to the world his hero’s legacy.

A legacy remembered in Croatia, Serbia, Austria, Hungary and America.

A determined traveller can find plaques and memorials to this man in Smilijan (Croatia), Zagreb (Croatia), Niagara Falls (USA / Canada), Baku (Azerbaijan), Wardenclyffe (USA), Manhattan (USA), Palo Alto (USA), Hamilton (Canada) and Belgrade (Serbia).

This great inventor has had his name given to a ship, a song, a high school, a planetoid, a crater on the Moon, a power plant, a museum-archive, an airport, a unit of measurement, an electric vehicle rally, three holidays, a rock band, an electrotechnical conglomerate, an electric car manufacturer and a major scientific award.

His name has endured in books, films, radio, TV, music, live theater, comics and video games, and most recently a new Hollywood film (The Current War) and a Netflix documentary.

But much like Sherlock Holmes needed Dr. John Watson for his fame, so we are grateful to Hugo Gernsback (“The man who invented the future“) for the fame of a man he called “the greatest inventor of all time“: Nikola Tesla.

Photograph of Nikola Tesla, a slender, moustachioed man with a thin face and pointed chin.

Above: Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943)

 

Were it not for Tesla’s eccentric personality and a poor sense of financial management, he might have ended up as famous as Edison or Einstein.

Tesla was the electrical engineer who invented the AC (alternating current) induction motor, which made the universal transmission and distribution of electricity possible.

 

This spring I spent six days, by invitation from my good friend Nesha, in Serbia, a country that everyone in the West thinks they know but hardly anyone in the West really knows.

(For a further description of Serbia, please see Canada Slim and the Holy Field of Sparrows & Canada Slim and the Land of Long Life of this blog.)

Flag of Serbia

Above: The flag of Serbia

 

Ask the average North American what little they know about Serbia and chances are strong they will mention NATO bombings, Milosevician atrocities and…. Nikola Tesla.

 

I have often believed that Americans are the world’s best marketers and there is a grain of truth to the song dedicated to the American metropolis of New York City, but applicable to America as a whole….

If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.

East Side of Midtown Manhattan, showing the terraced crown of the Chrysler Building lit at twilight

In other words, until America knows you, very few others will.

 

Were it not for Tesla’s work in America and Gernsback’s American technical science monthly magazine for which Tesla wrote for and in which his autobiography appears, the world might not remember as it does the name of Tesla.

 

Were it not for my visit to the Tesla Museum in Belgrade I might never have learned of the legacy of Tesla and his greatest publicist….

Despite a lack of enduring international recognition, Tesla remains a Serbian national hero and it is his face that currently decorates the 100 dinar note.

The Museum has captions in English and guidebooks available in Serbian and English.

Regular tours in English are given by the enthusiastic and knowledgable staff.

Some of the rooms relate to Tesla’s scientific work and have a number of hands-on displays and dynamic working models that are fun for children and adults alike.

Two more rooms are dedicated to the personal life of the physicist.

The urn containing his ashes is housed here too as well as his death mask.

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Above: Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrade, Serbia

 

Belgrade, Serbia, 5 April 2018

To say that Hugo Gernsback was a fan of Nikola Tesla is an understatement.

In Gernsback’s own words:

Nikola Tesla, in the opinion of authorities, today is conceded to be the greatest inventor of all time. 

Tesla has more original inventions to his credit than any other man in history. 

He is considered greater than Archimedes, Faraday or Edison. 

His basic, as well as revolutionary, discoveries for sheer audacity have no equal in the annals of the world. 

His master mind is easily one of the seven wonders of the intellectual world.

Tesla has secured more than 100 patents on inventions, many of which have proved revolutionary.

Science accords to him over 75 original discoveries, not mere mechanical improvements.

90% of the entire electrical industry pays tribute to his genius.

The question as to why the world at large does not know Tesla is answered best by stating that he committed the unpardonable crime of not having a permanent press agent to shout his greatness from the housetops.

Then, too, most of Tesla’s inventions, at least to the public mind, are more or less intangible on account of the fact that they are very technical and, therefore, do not catch the popular imagination, as, for instance, wireless, the X-ray, the airplane or the telephone.

Tesla is a man of extraordinary knowledge.

He is remarkably well read and has a photographic memory whereby it is possible for him to recite page after page of nearly every classical work, be it Goethe, Voltaire or Shakespeare.

He speaks and writes twelve languages.

He is an accomplished calculator, who has little use for tables and textbooks and holds the slide rule in contempt.”

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Nikola Tesla’s autobiography, My Inventions, appeared in Hugo Gernsback’s magazine Electrical Experimenter in six monthly installments (February to June 1919 and October 1919) and is in a hard cover book offered by the Nikola Tesla Museum, which has been in operation since the 150th anniversary of Tesla’s birth (2006).

To fully appreciate and comprehend both men and the Museum dedicated to Tesla and Tesla’s autobiography printed by Gernsback, we need to look back at not only both men’s histories but as well back to an age where electricity existed in a realm that lay somewhere between magic, science and commerce.

 

Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943) was born an ethnic Serb in the village of Smiljan, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Croatia.

Above: Tesla’s house, Smiljan, Croatia

 

His father Milutin was a Serbian Orthodox priest, his mother Duka was the daughter of another priest.

Above: Milutin Tesla, Nikola’s father

Milutin was the son of an officer who served in Napoleon’s army and, in common with Nikola’s uncle, a professor of mathematics, had received a military education but later embraced the clergy in which vocation he achieved eminence.

Milutin was a very erudite man, a veritable natural philosopher, poet and writer.

Nikola’s father had a prodigious memory and frequently recited at length from works in several languages.

Milutin often remarked playfully that if some of the classics were lost he could restore them.

His style of writing was much admired.

He penned sentences short and terse and was full of wit and satire.

 

Nikola’s mother, Duka, descended from one of the oldest families in the country and a line of inventors.

Both her father and grandfather originated numerous implements for household, agricultural and other uses.

Duka had a talent for making homemade craft tools and mechanical appliances and the ability to memorize lengthy Serbian epic poems, even though she had never received a formal education.

Tesla credited his eidetic memory and creative abilities to his mother’s genetics and influence.

Nikola was the 4th of five children.

 

Nikola Tesla was born during a lightning storm at the stroke of midnight on 10 July 1856.

His midwife is reported to have exclaimed:

He’ll be a child of the storm.

To which his mother replied:

No, of light.

How does the world’s greatest inventor invent?

How does he carry out an invention?

What sort of mentality does Nikole Tesla have?

Was his early life as commonplace as ours?

(Hugo Gernsback, foreword to Nikola Tesla’s My Inventions, 1: My Early Life, Electrical Experimenter, February 1919)

 

Our first endeavours are purely instinctive, promptings of an imagination vivid and undisciplined.

As we grow older, reason asserts itself and we become more and more systematic and designing.

But those early impulses, though not immediately productive, are of the greatest moment and may shape our very destinies.

(Nikola Tesla, My Inventions)

 

Nikola had three sisters (Milka, Angelina and Marica) and an older brother named Dane, who was killed in a horse riding accident when Tesla was five.

Nikola attended primary school in Smiljan and Gospic and middle school in the latter town.

View of Gospić

Above: Gospic, Croatia

 

In my boyhood I suffered from a peculiar affliction due to the appearance of images, often accompanied by strong flashes of light, which marred the sights of real objects and interfered with my thought and action.

They were pictures of things and scenes which I had really seen, never of those I imagined.

When a word was spoken to me the image of the object it designated would present itself vividly to my vision and sometimes I was quite unable to distinguish whether what I saw was tangible or not.

This caused me great discomfort and anxiety….

To free myself of these tormenting appearances, I tried to concentrate my mind on something else I had seen, and in this way I would often obtain temporary relief.

But in order to get it I had to conjure continuously new images….”

(Nikola Tesla, My Inventions)

 

In 1870, Tesla moved far north to Karlovac to attend high school where he became interested in demonstrations of electricity by his physics teacher.

Tesla noted that these demonstrations of this “mysterious phenomena” made him want “to know more of this wonderful force.”

Tesla was able to perform integral calculus in his head, which prompted his teachers to believe that he was cheating.

Nonetheless he finished a four-year term, in three years, graduating in 1873.

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This (mental imaging) I did constantly until I was about 17 when my thoughts turned seriously to invention.

Then I observed to my great delight that I could visualize with the greatest facility.

I needed no models, drawings or experiments.

I could picture them all as real in my mind.

(Nikola Tesla, My Inventions)

 

That same year, Tesla returned to Smiljan.

Shortly after he arrived, he contracted cholera, was bedridden for nine months and was near death multiple times.

 

In 1874 Tesla evaded conscription into the Austro-Hungarian army by running away southeast to Tomingaj.

There he explored the mountains wearing hunter’s garb, believing that this contact with nature made him stronger, both physically and mentally.

Tesla read many books while in Tomingaj and later said that Mark Twain’s works had helped him to miraculously recover from his earlier illness.

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Above: Tomingaj, Croatia

 

In 1875, Tesla enrolled at Austrian Polytechnic in Graz, on a military frontier scholarship.

The Schlossberg (Castle Hill) with the clock tower (Uhrturm), as seen from town hall

Above: Graz, Austria

 

During his first year, he never missed a lecture, earned the highest grades possible, passed nine exams (twice as many as were required), started a Serbian cultural club, and received a letter of recommendation from the dean of the technical faculty to his father, which stated:

Your son is a star of the first rank.

Tesla claimed that he worked from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m., no Sundays or holidays excepted.

 

(After Milutin’s death in 1879, Nikola found a package of letters from his professors to his father, warning that unless Nikola were removed from the school, he would die through overwork.)

 

At the end of his second year, Tesla lost his scholarship and became addicted to gambling.

During his third year, Tesla gambled away his allowance and his tuition money, later winning back his initial losses and returning the balance to his family.

When examination time came, Tesla was unprepared and asked for an extension to study, but was denied.

He did not receive grades for the last semester of the third year and he never graduated.

 

In December 1878, Tesla left Graz and severed all relations with his family to hide the fact that he dropped out of school.

His friends thought that he had drowned in the nearby Mur River.

 

Tesla moved to Maribor where he worked as a draftsman, spending his spare time playing cards with local men on the streets.

In March 1879, Tesla’s father went to Maribor to beg his son to return home, but he refused.

Nikola suffered a nervous breakdown.

Maribor's Old Town along the Drava River

Above: Maribor, Slovenia

 

On 24 March 1879, Tesla was returned to Gospic under police guard for not having a residence permit.

On 17 April 1879, Milutin Tesla died.

That year Nikola taught a large class of students in his old school in Gospic.

 

In January 1880, two of Tesla’s uncles put together enough money to help him leave Gospic for Prague, where he attended lectures in philosophy at Charles Ferdinand University as an auditor but did not receive grades for the courses.

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Above: Prague, Czech Republic

 

In 1881 Tesla moved to Budapest to work as chief electrician for the Budapest Telephone Exchange.

Upon arrival, Tesla realized that the company, then under construction, was not functional, so he worked as a draftsman in the Central Telegraph Office.

Within a few months, the Budapest Telephone Exchange became functional and Tesla was allocated the chief electrician position.

During his time with the BTE, Tesla made many improvements to the Central Station Equipment and invented a device known as the telephone repeater, a precursor to the modern wireless telephone.

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Above: Budapest, Hungary

 

In 1882, Tesla moved to Paris to work for the Continental Edison Company, in what was then a brand new industry, installing indoor incandescent lighting citywide in the form of an electric power utility.

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Above: Paris, France

Logo of Consolidated Edison

Management took notice of Tesla’s advanced knowledge in engineering and physics and soon had him designing and building improved versions of generating dynamos and motors, as well as sending him on to troubleshoot engineering problems at other Edison utilities being built across France and Germany.

In 1884, Edison manager Charles Batchelor, who had been overseeing the Paris Installation, was brought back to the US to manage the Edison Machine Works, a manufacturing division situated in New York City, and asked that Tesla be brought to the US as well.

Above: Charles Batchelor (1845 – 1910)

 

In June 1884, Tesla left Paris for New York City and the United States.

An amazing future awaited him.

Fame, fortune and amazing creativity would be both his bane and his blessing.

And there would literally be blood as two business magnates fought a merciless war for power….electrical power….with Tesla in the middle and Gernsback and the world as witness….

(To be continued….)

Sources: Wikipedia / Bradt Serbia / Nikola Tesla, My Inventions

Multiple lightning strikes on a city at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Family of Mann

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 12 August 2018

Perhaps I should have been recovering from yesterday’s Street Parade in Zürich, at present the most attended techno-parade in the world.

Officially it is a demonstration for freedom, love and tolerance attended by up to one million people.

In reality it has all the character of a popular festival, despite (technically) being a political demonstration.

The streets are packed, the music is loud and live, electronics throb and flash, dancing till dizziness, alcohol flows, drugs dispensed….

Somehow the message is we should all live together in peace and tolerance.

In my experience a mob of drunken stoned revellers doesn’t suggest peace and tolerance.

Instead I quietly celebrated a sad anniversary today.

 

On this day in 1955 the Nobel Prize-winning German author Thomas Mann died.

 

Kilchberg, Swizerland, 12 August 2018

German author Thomas Mann and his family made their home in Kilchberg near Zürich overlooking the Lake of Zürich, and most of them are buried here.

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As well, Swiss author Conrad Ferdinand Meyer lived and died in Kilchberg and is honoured by a Museum here.

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(Today was my third and finally successful attempt to visit this Museum.

More on this in a future blog….)

The chocolatier David Sprüngli-Schwartz of the chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Sprüngli died in Kilchberg, now the headquarters of the company.

(More on Lindt in a future blog….)

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Prior to moving to Switzerland in 2010, I had never met nor heard of anyone named Golo, which to my mind sounds like an instruction….

I’ll take the high road. 

You, go low.

In this region, Golo is associated with, among other things, Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955), the Nobel Prize (1929) winning author of Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain, and his brood.

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Above: Thomas Mann

Thomas and his wife Katia (1883 – 1980) had six children:

  • Erika (1905 – 1969)
  • Klaus (1906 – 1949)
  • Golo (1909 – 1994)
  • Monika (1910 – 1992)
  • Elisabeth (1918 – 2002)
  • Michael (1919 – 1977)

With the notable exception of Klaus who rests in peace in a cemetery in Cannes (France), Thomas lies buried with his wife and their other children in the same final resting ground of Kilchberg Cemetery just south of the city of Zürich.

 

Thomas, Katia, Erika, Monika, Elisabeth and Michael all share the same gravesite in the Kilchberg Cemetery.

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Though Golo is in the same cemetery, his grave stands separated away from the rest of his Kilchberg-interred family, in fulfillment of his last will and testament.

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There is no denying that Golo’s desire to be buried separately from his family made me curious….

 

During my convalescence in Klinik Schloss Mammern (19 May – 15 June) I took a day trip across the Lake of Constance to the German village of Gaienhofen with its Hermann Hesse Museum’s exhibition: “The Manns at Lake Constance“.

Above: Hermann Hesse Museum, Gaienhofen, Germany

(More on Hermann Hesse in future blogs…)

 

Also, I have long known that Golo Mann brought his family, in the summers of 1956 and 1957, to Altnau (the next town east on the Lake from Landschlacht).

Above: The guesthouse Zur Krone where Golo worked on his German History of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Altnau, Switzerland

 

In this day and age where many of us forget what we ate for supper without a photo on Instagram, many people (predominantly German speakers) still recall the name of Thomas Mann, but, as is common with the passage of time, we rarely recall the obscure names of the children of the more-famous parents.

 

Pop Quiz:

What were the names of the children of world famous William Shakespeare (1584 – 1616) or Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)?

Give up?

So did I.

I had to search on Wikipedia.

 

William’s:

Shakespeare.jpg

Above: William Shakespeare

Susanna (1583 – 1649), Hamnet (1585 – 1596) and Judith (1585-1662)

 

Albert’s:

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Above: Albert Einstein

Lieserl (1902 – 1903), Hans (1904 – 1973) and Eduard (1910 – 1965)

 

This is not to suggest that these six individuals are not worth remembering but rather that their memory is overshadowed by the fame of their fathers and the passage of time.

 

(To be fair, famous children have also been known to overshadow their progenitors.

Who knows the names of Sammy Davis Sr., Martin Luther King Sr., or Robert Downey Sr. without the fame of their sons?)

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Above: Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin, Air America, Iron Man)

 

So, I confess, my repeated encounters with the name of Golo Mann made me curious about him and his famous father.

 

Paul Thomas Mann (full name) was born in Lübeck, Germany, the second son of Lutheran Thomas Mann (grain merchant/senator) and Brazilian-born Roman Catholic Julia da Silva Bruhns.

Mann’s father died in 1891 and his trading firm liquidated.

Julia moved the family to Munich, where Thomas studied at the University of Munich to become a journalist.

Thomas lived in Munich until 1933, with the exception of a year spent in Palestrina, Italy, with his elder brother Heinrich.

Above: Heinrich Mann (1871 – 1950)

 

Thomas’s career as a writer began when he wrote for the magazine Simplicissimus, publishing his first short story “Little Mr. Freidemann” in 1898.

In 1901, Mann’s first novel Buddenbrooks was published.

Based on Mann’s own family, Buddenbrooks relates the decline of a merchant family in Lübeck over the course of three generations.

 

That same year, Mann met Englishwoman Mary Smith, but Mann was a friend of the violinist/painter Paul Ehrenberg, for whom he had feelings which caused Mann difficulty and discomfort and were an obstacle to marrying Smith.

By 1903, Mann’s feelings for Ehrenberg had cooled.

 

In 1905, Mann married Katia Pringsheim (1883 – 1980), daughter of a wealthy, secular Jewish industrial family.

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Above: Thomas Mann and Katia Pringsheim-Mann

 

Erika was born that same year.

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Above: Erika Mann-Auden (1905 – 1969)

Mann expressed in a letter to Heinrich his disappointment about the birth of his first child:

It is a girl.

A disappointment for me, as I want to admit between us, because I had greatly desired a son and will not stop to hold such a desire.

I feel a son is much more full of poetry, more than a sequel and restart for myself under new circumstances.

 

Klaus was born the following year, with whom Erika was personally close her entire life.

Klaus Mann.jpg

Above: Klaus Mann (1906 – 1949)

They went about “like twins” and Klaus would describe their closeness as:

Our solidarity was absolute and without reservation.”

 

Golo (remember him?) was born in 1909.

Above: Golo Mann (1909 – 1994)

 

In her diary his mother Katia described him in his early years as sensitive, nervous and frightened.

His father hardly concealed his disappointment and rarely mentioned Golo in his diary.

Golo in turn described Mann:

Indeed he was able to radiate some kindness, but mostly it was silence, strictness, nervousness or rage.

Golo was closest with Klaus and disliked the dogmatism and radical views of Erika.

 

Monika, the 4th child of Mann and Katia, was born in 1910.

Above:(from left to right) Monika, Golo, Michael, Katia, Klaus, Elisabeth and Erika Mann, 1919

 

Mann’s diaries reveal his struggles with his homosexuality and longing for pederasty (sex between men and boys).

His diaries reveal how consumed his life had been with unrequited and subliminated passion.

In the summer of 1911, Mann stayed at the Grand Hotel des Bains on the Lido of Venice with Katia and his brother Heinrich, when Mann became enraptured by Wladyslaw Moes, a 10-year-old Polish boy.

Above: Grand Hotel des Bains, Venezia

This attraction found reflection in Mann’s Death in Venice (1912), most prominently through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio.

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Mann’s old enemy, Alfred Kerr, sarcastically blamed Death in Venice for having made pederasty acceptable to the cultivated middle classes.

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Above: Alfred Kerr (né Kempner)(1867 – 1948)

 

That same year, Katia was ill with a lung complaint.

Above: Wald Sanatorium, Davos

In 1912, Thomas and Katia moved to the Wald Sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, which was to inspire his 1924 book The Magic Mountain – the tale of an engineering student who, planning to visit his cousin at a Swiss sanatorium for only three weeks, finds his departure from the sanatorium delayed.

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In 1914, the Mann family obtained a villa, “Poshi“,  in Munich.

Above: The Mann residence “Poshi“, Munich

By 1917, Mann had a particular trust in Erika as she exercised a great influence on his important decisions.

Little Erika must salt the soup.” was an often-used phrase in the Mann family.

Elisabeth, Mann’s youngest daughter, was born in 1918.

That same year, Mann’s diary records his attraction to his own 13-year-old son “Eissi” – Klaus:

5 June 1918: “In love with Klaus during these days“.

22 June 1918: “Klaus to whom I feel very drawn“.

11 July 1918: “Eissi, who enchants me right now“.

25 July 1918:  “Delight over Eissi, who in his bath is terribly handsome.  Find it very natural that I am in love with my son….Eissi lay reading in bed with his Brown Torso naked, which disconcerted me.

 

In 1919, the last child and the youngest son, Michael was born.

 

On 10 March 1920, Mann confessed frankly in his diary that, of his six children, he preferred the two oldest, Klaus and Erika, and little Elisabeth:

“….preferred, of the six, the two oldest and Little Elisabeth with a strange decisiveness.”

(Golo and Michael are not mentioned.)

17 October 1920:  “I heard noise in the boys’ room and surprised Eissi completely naked in front of Golo’s bed acting foolish.  Strong impression of his premasculine, gleaming body.  Disquiet.”

 

Klaus’s early life was troubled.

His homosexuality often made him the target of bigotry and he had a difficult relationship with his father.

 

In 1921, Erika transferred to the Luisen Gymnasium (high school).

While there she founded an ambitious theatre troupe, the Laienbund Deutscher Miniker and was engaged to appear on the stage of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin for the first time.

The pranks she pulled with her Herzog Park Gang prompted Mann and Katia to send her and Klaus to a progressive residential school, the Bergschule Hochwaldhausen in Vogelsberg, for a few months.

Increasingly sensing his parents’ home as a burden, Golo attempted a kind of break-out by joining the Boy Scouts in the spring of 1921.

Sadly, on one of the holiday marches, Golo was the victim of a sexual violation by his group leader.

 

New horizons opened up for Golo in 1923, when he entered the boarding school in Salem, feeling liberated from home and enjoying the new educational approach.

There in the countryside near Lake Constance, Golo developed an enduring passion for hiking through the mountains, although he suffered from a lifelong knee injury.

 

Klaus began writing short stories in 1924, while Erika graduated and began her theatrical studies in Berlin, which were frequently interrupted by performances in Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Bremen, and other places in Germany.

In 1925 Klaus became drama critic for a Berlin newspaper and wrote the play Anja und Esther – about a group of four friends who were in love with each other – which opened in October 1925 to considerable publicity.

Actor Gustaf Gründgens played one of the lead male roles alongside Klaus while Klaus’s childhood friend Pamela Wedekind and Erika played the lead female roles.

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Above: Gustaf Gründgens (1899 – 1963)

During the year they all worked together, Klaus became engaged with Pamela and Erika with Gustaf, while Erika and Pamela and Klaus and Gustaf had homosexual relationships with each other.

That same year Golo suffered a severe mental crisis that overshadowed the rest of his life.

In those days the doubt entered my life, or rather, broke in with tremendous power.

I was seized by darkest melancholy.

 

For Erika and Gustaf’s honeymoon in July 1926, they stayed in the same hotel that Erika and Pamela had used as a couple, with Pamela checking in dressed as a man.

 

In 1927, Golo commenced his law studies in Munich, moving the same year to Berlin, switching to history and philosophy.

Klaus travelled with Erika around the world, visiting the US in 1927, and reported about this in essays published as a colloborative travelogue, Rundherum: Das Abenteuer einer Weltreise (All the Way Round) in 1929.

 

Klaus broke off his engagement with Pamela in 1928.

Golo used the summer of 1928 to learn French in Paris and to get to know “real work” in a coal mine in eastern Germany, abruptly stopping because of new knee injuries.

Erika became active in journalism and politics.

 

Golo entered the University of Heidelberg in 1929.

Erika and Gustaf divorced.

Meanwhile Mann had a cottage built in the fishing village of Nida, Lithuania, where there was a German artists colony, spending the summers of 1930 – 1932 working on Joseph and His Brothers.

(It took Mann 16 years to complete this.)

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Above: Joseph the Provider, the 4th and last volume of the Joseph and His Brothers tetralogy (1943)

(Today, the cottage is a cultural centre dedicated to him.)

Above: Thomas Mann Cultural Centre, Nida, Lithuania

Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929.

That same year, Klaus travelled with Erika to North Africa, where they made the acquaintance of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a Swiss writer and photographer, who remained close to them for the next few years.

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Above: Annemarie Schwarzenbach (1908 – 1942)

 

In 1930, Mann gave a public address in Berlin (“An Appeal to Reason“) strongly denouncing National Socialism (Nazis) and encouraging resistance against them by the working class.

Golo joined a socialist student group in Heidelberg.

Meanwhile, Monika, after boarding school at Schloss Salem, trained as a pianist in Lausanne and spent her youth in Paris, Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin.

 

In 1931, Erika was an actor in the Leontine Sagan film about lesbianism, Mädchen in Uniform (Maidens in Uniform) but left the production before its completion.

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With Klaus, she published The Book of the Riviera: Things You Won’t Find in Baedekers.

 

In 1932, she published Stoffel fliegt übers Meer (Stoffel flies over the ocean), the first of seven children’s books.

That year, Erika was denounced by the Brownshirts after she read a pacifist poem to an anti-war meeting.

As a result she was fired from an acting role after the theatre concerned was threatened with a boycott by the Nazis.

She successfully sued both the theatre and a Nazi-run newspaper.

She had a role, alongside Therese Giehse, in the film Peter Voss, Thief of Millions.

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In January 1933, Erika and Klaus and Therese Giehse founded a cabaret in Munich called Die Pfeffermühle (the pepper mill), for which Erika wrote most of the material, much of which was anti-Fascist.

The cabaret lasted two months before the Nazis forced it to close and Erika left Germany.

She was the last member of the Mann family to leave Germany after the Nazi regime was elected.

She saved many of Mann’s papers from their Munich home when she escaped to Zürich.

 

Heinrich, Mann’s brother, was the first person to be stripped of German citizenship when the Nazis took office.

When the Nazis came to power Mann and Katia were on holiday in Switzerland.

While at Sanary-sur-Mer in the southeast of France, (where Monika joined her parents) Mann learned from his children Klaus and Erika in Munich that it would not be safe for him to return to Germany due to Mann’s strident denunciation of Nazi policies.

A view of the harbour and waterfront in Sanary-sur-Mer

Above: Sanary-sur-Mer, France

Golo looked after the Mann house in Munich in April, helped Monika, Elisabeth and Michael leave the country and brought most of his parents’ savings via Karlsruhe and the German embassy in Paris to Switzerland.

On 31 May 1933, Golo left Germany for the French town of Bandol.

He spent the summer at the mansion of the American travel writer William Seabrook near Sanary-sur-Mer and lived six weeks at the new family home in Küsnacht.

Above: List of literary celebrities who fled the Nazis and once lived in Sanary-sur-Mer (Not mentioned are Jacques Cousteau, Frederic Dumas and Ernest Blanc – oceanographers Cousteau and Dumas lived and invented the aqualung here while native Blanc was a famous opera performer.)

In November Golo joined the École Supérieure at Saint-Cloud (near Paris) as a German language teacher and wrote for the emigrants’ journal Die Sammlung (The Collection) founded by Klaus.

 

In 1934 Monika studied music and art history in Firenze, where she met Hungarian art historian Jenö Lányi.

In November 1934 Klaus was stripped of German citizenship by the Nazi government.

He became a Czechoslovak citizen through Czech businessman Rudolf Fleischmann, an admirer of Mann’s work, who arranged Klaus’ naturalization to his Bohemian town of Prosec.

Golo wanted to take the opportunity to continue his studies in Prague, but soon stopped the experiment.

 

In 1935, when it became apparent that the Nazis were intending to strip Erika of her German citizenship, she asked Christopher Isherwood (1904 – 1986) if he would marry her so she could become a British citizen.

Above: Christopher Isherwood (left) and W.H. Auden (right)

He declined but suggested the gay poet W.H. Auden (1907 – 1973) who readily agreed to a marriage of convenience.

Erika and Auden never lived together, but remained on good terms throughout their lives and were still married when Erika died in 1969, leaving him with a small bequest in her will.

In November, Golo accepted a position to teach German and German literature at the University of Rennes.

Golo’s travels to Switzerland prove that his relationship with his father had become easier as Mann had learned to appreciate his son’s political knowledge.

But it was only when Golo helped edit his father’s diaries in later years that he realized fully how much acceptance he had gained.

In a confidential note to the German critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Golo wrote:

It was inevitable that I had to wish his death, but I was completely broken heartedly when he passed away.

 

In 1936, the Nazi government also revoked Mann’s German citizenship.

Mann also received Czechoslovak citizenship and passport that same year through Fleischmann, but after the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia, he then emigrated with Klaus to the United States where he taught at Princeton University.

Klaus Mann’s most famous novel, Mephisto, a thinly-disguised portrait of Gustaf, was written this year and published in Amsterdam.

Die Pfeffermühle opened again in Zürich and became a rallying point for German exiles.

Auden introduced Erika’s lover Therese Giehse to the English writer John Hampson.

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Above: Therese Giehse (1898 – 1975)

Giehse and Hampson married so she could leave Germany.

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Above: Howard Castor as John Hampson (1901 – 1955)

 

In the summer of 1937, Klaus met his partner for the rest of the year Thomas Quinn Curtis.

Erika moved to New York where Die Pfeffermühle reopened its doors again.

There she lived with Klaus, Giehse and Annemarie Scharzenbach, amid a large group of artists in exile.

 

In 1938 Monika and Jenö left Firenze for London, while Erika and Klaus reported on the Spanish Civil War.

Erika’s book School for Barbarians, a critique of Nazi Germany’s educational system, was published.

 

Mann completed Lotte in Weimar (1939) in which he returned to Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther (1774).

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Katia wrote to Klaus (in Princeton) on 29 August that she was determined not to say any more unfriendly words about Monika and to be kind and helpful.

 

Monika was NOT her parents’ favourite.

In family letters and chronicles, Monika was often described as weird:

After a three-week stay here (in Küsnacht) she is still the same old dull quaint Mönle (her nickname in the family), pilfering from the larder….

 

Klaus’s novel Der Vulkan (Escape to Life), co-written with Erika, remains one of the 20th century’s most famous novels about German exiles during World War II.

Early that year Golo travelled to Princeton where his father worked.

Although war was drawing closer, he hesitantly returned to Zürich in August to become the editor of the migrant journal Maß und Wert (Measure and Value).

Monika and Jenö married on 2 March 1939.

On 6 March 1939, Michael married the Swiss-born Gret Moser (1916 – 2007) in New York.

With her he would have two sons, Frido and Toni, as well as an adopted daughter.

The outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939 prompted Mann to offer anti-Nazi speeches in German to the German people via the BBC.

Erika worked as a journalist in London, making radio broadcasts in German, for the BBC throughout the Blitz and the Battle of Britain.

Monika and Jenö left for Canada on the SS City of Benares, which on 17 September was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine.

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Above: SS City of Benares

Monika survived by clinging to a large piece of wood, but Jenö drowned.

After 20 hours Monika was rescued by a British ship and taken to Scotland.

Also in 1939, Elisabeth married the anti-Fascist Italian writer Giuseppe Borgese (1882 – 1952), 36 years her senior.

Above: Giuseppe Borgese

As a reaction to Hitler’s successes in the West in May 1940, Golo decided to fight against the Nazis by joining a Czech military unit on French soil.

Upon crossing the Swiss border into Annecy, France, he was arrested and brought to the French concentration camp of Les Milles, a brickyard near Aix-en-Provence.

Above: Camp des Milles, Annecy, France

In August, Golo was released through the intervention of an American committee.

On 13 September 1940, he undertook a daring escape from Perpignan across the Pyrenees to Spain with his uncle Heinrich, Heinrich’s wife Nelly Kröger, Alma Mahler-Werfel and Franz Werfel.

They crossed the Atlantic from Lisbon to New York in October on board the Greek Steamer Nea Hellas.

Once in the US, Golo was initially condemned to inactivity.

He stayed with his parents in Princeton, then in New York.

Monika reached New York on 28 October 1940 on the troopship Cameronia and joined her parents.

They showed little sympathy for her.

Monika’s traumatic loss of her husband and her attempts at a new beginning were ignored.

In October 1940, Mann began monthly broadcasts (“Deutsche Hörer“- “German listeners“), recorded in the US and flown to London where the BBC broadcasted them to Germany.

In his eight-minute addresses, Mann condemned Hitler and his “paladins” as crude Philistines completely out of touch with European culture.

“The war is horrible, but it has the advantage of keeping Hitler from making speeches about culture.”

During the war, Klaus served as a Staff Sergeant of the 5th US Army in Italy.

 

In 1941, Elisabeth became an American citizen.

 

Mann was one of the few publicly active opponents of Nazism among German expatriates in America.

In 1942, the Mann family moved to Los Angeles, while Golo taught history at Olivet College in Michigan.

Between 1942 and 1947 Michael was a violinist in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

 

Klaus became a US citizen in 1943 as Golo joined the US Army.

After basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, Golo worked at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)(forerunner of the CIA) in Washington DC.

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Above: OSS insignia

As intelligence officer, it was his duty to collect and translate relevant information.

From 1943 to 1952 Monika lived in New York.

After attempts to renew her career as a pianist she turned to employment as a writer.

 

In April 1944, Golo was sent to London where he made radio commentaries for the German language division of the American Broadcasting Station (ABS).

On 23 June 1944, Thomas Mann was naturalized as a citizen of the United States.

After D-Day, Erika became a war correspondent attached to the Allied Forces advancing across Europe, reporting from recent battlefields in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

 

For the last months of World War II Golo worked for a military propaganda station in Luxembourg, then he helped organize the foundation of Radio Frankfurt.

During his journeys across Germany he was shocked at the extent of destruction, especially that caused by Allied bombing.

In the summer of 1945, Klaus was sent by Stars and Stripes to report from postwar Germany.

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Erika entered Germany in June and was among the first Allied personnel to enter Aachen.

As soon as it was possible, she went to Munich to register a claim for the return of the Mann family home.

Arriving in Berlin on 3 July 1945, Erika was shocked at the level of destruction, describing the city as “a sea of devastation, shoreless and infinite.

She was angry at the complete lack of guilt displayed by some of the German civilians and officials that she met.

During this period, as well as wearing an American uniform, Erika adopted an Anglo-American accent.

She attended the Nuremberg Trial each day from the opening session on 20 November 1945 until the court adjourned for Christmas.

Above: Nuremberg Courthouse where the Trials were held

She interviewed the defense lawyers and ridiculed their arguments in her reports and made clear that she thought the court was indulging the behaviour of the defendants, in particular Hermann Göring.

Above: Nuremberg Trial – Hermann Göring (far left, 1st row)

When the court adjourned for Christmas, Erika went to Zürich to spend time with Klaus, Betty Knox and Giehse.

 

Erika’s health was poor and on 1 January 1946 she collapsed and was hospitalized.

She was diagnosed with pleurisy.

After a spell recovering at a spa in Arosa, Erika returned to Nuremberg in March 1946 to continue covering the war crimes trial.

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Above: Arosa

In May 1946, she left Germany for California to help look after Mann who was being treated for lung cancer.

That same year, Golo left the US Army by his own request, but nevertheless kept a job as civil control officer, watching the war crimes trial at Nuremberg in this capacity.

Also in 1946, Golo saw the publication of his first book of lasting value, a biography of the 19th century diplomat Friedrich von Gentz.

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Above: Friedrich von Gentz (1764 – 1832)

Mann completed Doktor Faustus, the story of composer Adrian Leverkühn and the corruption of German culture before and during World War II in 1947.

From America, Erika continued to comment on and write about the situation in Germany.

She considered it a scandal that Göring had managed to commit suicide and was furious at the slow pace of the denazification process.

In particular, Erika objected to what she considered the lenient treatment of cultural figures who had remained in Germany throughout the Nazi period.

Her views on Russia and on the Berlin Airlift (24 June 1948 – 12 May 1949) led to her being branded a Communist in America.

In the autumn of 1947, Golo became an assistant professor of history at Claremont Men’s College in California.

In hindsight he recalled the nine-year engagement as “the happiest of my life“.

On the other hand he complained:

My students are scornful, unfriendly and painfully stupid as never before.”

 

With the start of the Cold War, Mann was increasingly frustrated by rising McCarthyism.

As a “suspected Communist“, Mann was required to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) who accused him as being “one of the world’s foremost apologists for Stalin and company“.

Both Klaus and Erika came under an FBI investigation into their political views and rumoured homosexuality.

 

On 21 May 1949, Klaus died in Cannes of an overdose of sleeping pills, though whether he committed suicide is uncertain, but he had become increasingly depressed and disillusioned over postwar Germany.

He is buried in Cannes’ Cimetière du Grand Jas.

Klaus’s death devastated Erika.

In an interview with the Toledo Blade (25 July 1949), Mann declared that he was not a Communist, but that Communism at least had some relation to the ideals of humanity and of a better future.

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He said that the transition of Communism through revolution into an autocratic regime was a tragedy, while Nazism was only “devilish nihilism“.

Being in his own words a non-Communist rather than an anti-Communist, Mann openly opposed the HUAC allegations:

“As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends.

Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency’….

That is how it started in Germany.”

As Mann joined protests against the jailing of the Hollywood Ten (ten individuals working in Hollywood cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted after refusing to answer questions about their alleged involvement with the Communist Party) and the firing of schoolteachers suspected of being Communists, Mann found “the media had been closed to him“.

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In 1950, Mann met 19-year-old waiter Franz Westermeier, confiding in his diary:

Once again this, once again love.

(In 1975, when Mann’s diaries were published, creating a national sensation in Germany, the retired Westermeier was tracked down in the United States.

He was flattered to learn that he had been the object of Mann’s obsession, but was shocked at its depth.)

 

Due to the anti-communist red scare and numerous accusations from the McCarthy Committee, Mann was forced to quit his position as a consultant in Germanic literature at the Library of Congress in 1952, the Mann family left the US and moved back to Switzerland .

Erika began to help her father with his writing and became one of his closest confidantes.

Monika was granted US citizenship, but she had already planned to return to Europe.

In September she travelled with her sister Elisabeth’s family to Italy.

Elizabeth’s husband Giuseppe died that year and she would raise their two daughters, Angelica (b. 1941) and Dominica (b. 1944) as a single parent, though she would live with a new partner, Corrado Tumiati, from 1953 to 1967.

After a few months in Genoa, Bordighera and Rome, Monika fulfilled her desire to move to Capri, where she lived in the Villa Monacone with her partner, Antonio Spadaro.

In Capri she blossomed.

During this period she wrote five books and contributed regular features to Swiss, German and Italian newspapers and magazines.

Monika would remain in Capri for 32 years.

 

In March 1954, there were finally prospects of progress that Thomas Mann could buy a house in the old country road in the municipality of Kilchberg.

Above: Mann residence, Alten Landstrasse 39, Kilchberg

Kilchberg is an idyllic place, surrounded by meadows, vineyards and flower gardens.

The church on a hillside, with views over the Lake, dominate the place.

Mann would not live long to enjoy the home that was finally his.

Thomas Mann died on 12 August 1855, at age 80, of arteriosclerosis in a hospital in Zürich and is buried in Kilchberg.

 

Katia was not just the good spirit of the family, but the connection point that kept them all together.

She taught her children, was her husband’s manager, and was the family provider.

Katia outlived three of her children (Klaus, Erika and Michael) and her husband.

She died in 1980 and is buried in Kilchberg.

 

Erika died in 1969, age 63, of a brain tumor in a hospital in Zürich and is buried in Kilchberg.

 

Golo, after years of chronic overwork in his dual capacities of freelance historian and writer, died in Leverkusen in 1994, age 85.

A few days prior to his demise, Golo acknowledged his homosexuality in a TV interview:

“I did not fall in love often.  I often kept it to myself.  Maybe that was a mistake.  It also was forbidden, even in America, and one had to be a little careful.”

According to Tilman Lahme, Golo’s biographer, he did not act out his homosexuality as openly as his brother Klaus but he had had love relationships since his student days.

His urn was buried in Kilchberg, but – in fulfillment of his last will – outside the communal family grave.

 

Monika, after her Capri partner Antonio died in 1986, spent her last years with Golo’s family in Leverkusen and died in 1992.

She is buried in the family grave in Kilchberg.

 

Elisabeth was in the mid-1960s the executive secretary of the board of Encyclopedia Britannica in Chicago.

At the age of 52, she had established herself as an international expert on the oceans.

Elisabeth was the founder and organizer of the first conference on the law of the sea, Peace in the Oceans, held in Malta in 1970.

From 1973 to 1982, she was part of the expert group of the Austrian delegation during the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

At the age of 59, in 1977, Elisabeth became a professor of political science in Canada’s Dalhousie University.

She became a Canadian citizen in 1983 and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1988 at age 70.

Elisabeth kept up her teaching duties until age 81.

She died unexpectedly at the age of 83, during a skiing holiday in St. Moritz in 2002, and is buried in Kilchberg.

 

Michael, the youngest, made concert tours as a viola soloist until he was forced to give up professional music due to a neuropathy.

He then studied German literature at Harvard and later worked as a professor at the University of California in Berkeley.

Michael suffered from depression and died from the combined consumption of alcohol and barbituates in Orinda, California, in 1977.

He too lies in Kirchberg Cemetery, by the church on a hillside, with views over the Lake of Zürich, that dominates the town.

Kilchberg, 27 November 2017

It all began with an impulse.

As regular followers (both of them!) of my blogs (this one and Building Everest) know, I have, over the last year, retraced the “steps” of and written about the Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli using the literary travel guide, Zwingli-Wege: Zu Fuss von Wildhaus nach Kappel am Albis – Ein Wander- und Lesebuch, by Marcel and Yvonne Steiner.

(See Canada Slim and…. the Privileged Place, the Monks of the Dark Forest, the Battle for Switzerland´s Soul, the Thundering Hollows, the Road to Reformation of this blog.)

For various reasons, I have not always been able to follow the Steiners’ suggested itineraries religiously.

Their 8th itinerary (Wädenswil to Zürich) has the hiker travel above the hills of Kilchberg rather than visit the town itself, which I felt remiss of the Steiners.

I went off-book and decided to explore the town.

Though Kilchberg may lack Zwingli connections, it is both an aestically pleasing and historically significant place worth lingering in for an afternoon.

A windswept day finds me asking a black cemetery caretaker for the location of the Mann burial plot and the English teacher/wordsmith in me sees the irony of the English word “plot” being both the chronology of a story and a final resting place.

I marvel at the history of this remarkable family and see irony in Thomas’ first real success as a writer was based on the fictional retelling of his own family’s past in Buddenbrooks, when his own family’s real history was equally, if not more, fascinating post-Buddenbrooks.

I am also left with many other reflections:

  • I ponder the individual dilemmas Thomas, Erika, Klaus and Golo underwent in the expression of their sexual natures, and though in many Western nations in 2018 there is far greater openness and permissiveness towards non-heterosexual relationships, I can’t help but feel that there still remains stigma, confusion and miscommunication in mankind’s navigation of sexuality, gender and other boundaries towards loving relationships.  (Perhaps a new Buddenbrooks of Thomas Mann and his offspring needs to be written to explores this ageless dilemma that keeps so much of humanity lost and alone.)
  • I also wonder: What makes one person LGBT and another not?  Thomas and Katia produced six children: two openly gay, one a closet gay, the other three – to the best of what is known – probably straight.  So, what then determines a person’s sexual orientation? Genetics? Environment? Choice?
  • And then there is the wonder of individuality where six children all grew up together yet lived very different lives from one another.  How do we each develop our own separate personalities?
  • I ask myself whether Thomas and Golo were right to conceal their hidden selves, yet when I see how imperfect the lives of the demonstrative Erika, Klaus and Monika were, I wonder if being themselves truly made them happier.
  • I think of the Mann family and what comes to mind is conflict.  Conflict between what they desired and what they were allowed.  Conflict between their own expectations and the expectations of others. Conflict that results when speaking truth to power whether defying Nazis or HUAC.  Conflict against disease, both physical and psychological. Conflict between their changing values and the inflexibility of old hierarchies being challenged.

The Manns were a restless family living in relentless times.

Though they now rest in peace, the world they helped create remains conflicted.

Sources: Wikipedia / Facebook / Ursula Kohler, Literarisches Reisefieber / Padraig Rooney, The Gilded Chalet: Off-piste in Literary Switzerland / Steffi Memmert-Lunau & Angelika Fischer, Zürich: Eine literarische Zeitreise / Albert Debrunner, Literaturführer Thurgau / Manfred Bosch, Die Manns am Bodensee / Thomas Sprecher & Fritz Gutbrodt, Die Famille Mann in Kilchberg / Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Haus, Kilchberg / Friedhof Gemeinde Kilchberg

How to Train a Dragon: Canadians in China

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 23 March 2017

The further away a country is, the harder it is to know and understand that country.

China is such a country.

Flag of the People's Republic of China

So it is with caution that I express my opinion of the events that have so far transpired with China and its relations with the rest of the world.

Until this year I have had little exposure to Chinese people.

The only Chinese people I had known were second generation Chinese Canadians, more Canadian in character than Chinese as they have spent the entirety of their lives in Canada.

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I am not certain whether they have ever visited their parents’ homeland or even if they have wished to do so.

I have nothing against the three Chinese Canadians I have known, though whether they feel the same towards me remains debateable.

I know that Dicky and I have become more closer since our high school days and that he seems happy back in his hometown of Lachute and working for Air Canada at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montréal.

I am fairly certain that Walter from my college days became the international lawyer he wanted to be, though whether he returned to Québec City I do not know.

Things had ended badly between us and the only excuse I have in my pitiful defence is that we had known one another at a most difficult and painful time of my life.

Nonetheless I wish him much happiness and success but I don’t anticipate a happy reunion betweeen us anytime soon.

I am not at all sure where Jack, whom I knew from my travelling days, is or what he is doing these days.

I remember his face and stature as if he had been seen only mere moments before, but whether he found whatever he was searching for in his travels I know not.

Here in Switzerland I teach a young lady from Beijing twice a week and I occasionally meet another Chinese woman who works for a company I teach at once every two weeks.

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These two ladies have awakened within me a curiosity to know more about their homeland, but I remain uncertain about how I feel about visiting China one day.

As tourism goes, of course, there is much that attracts me about China…

I would love to walk the Great Wall, visit Beijing’s ancient Forbidden City and Summer Palace, parade amongst the army of terracotta warriors, explore the lush rainforest of Xishuangbanna, take in the sights and scents of Guangzhou’s evening spice markets, listen to the talented Chinese National Orchestra in live performance, watch a Zhang Yimou film without English subtitles, eat duck in Beijing followed by chá at a teahouse where my appearance might increase the level of gossip and intrigue within, hug a panda (if such a thing is even possible), dodge yet another of the endless array of construction sites, sigh as yet another Chinese student tries to practice his English upon me, gaze nervously at Tiananmen Square fearful that my rebellious thoughts betray me, wonder at a country which doesn’t only include an endless sea of Han Chinese but as well 55 other officially recognised ethnic groups…so much to see and experience one hardly knows where to begin.

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The Hall of Supreme Harmony (太和殿) at the centre of the Forbidden City

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Above: (from top to bottom) The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, The Terracotta Army, the tropical rain forest of Xishuangbanna, the skyline of Guangzhou, the logo of the Chinese National Traditional Orchestra, poster of Zhang Yimou’s 1991 film Raise the Red Lantern, Peking duck, the Yu Yuan Garden Teahouse of Shanghai, a giant panda bear in Hong Kong Zoo, Tiananmen Square

(I am curious about the rumor that generations of Chinese are still convinced that Western music is the Carpenters, Richard Clayderman, Kenny G and Lionel Richie and what the concert goers to Wham!’s Freedom Tour actually felt and understood.)

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Above: (from top to bottom) US musicians Karen and Richard Carpenter at the White House in 1971, French pianist Richard Clayderman (née Philip Pagès), US saxophonist Kenny G. (née Kenny Gorelick), US musician Lionel Richie and British pop duo Wham!

The little I know of China has been limited to newspapers and magazines and the occasionally travel account from writers like Paul Theroux (Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train through China) or books telling folks how to do business in China, and though this exposure has been interesting I am uncertain, despite the advent of the Internet, how accurate are these impressions.

And though I am aware that it is unfair to confuse the Chinese people with the Chinese government, much as it would be to label all Americans in the mold of Donald Trump, I must confess the politics of China does bother me, especially in regards to Taiwan and Tibet.

Why can`t the Chinese government let Taiwan go?

A red flag, with a small blue rectangle in the top left hand corner on which sits a white sun composed of a circle surrounded by 12 rays.

Above: Flag of Taiwan

Why must the Chinese continue to occupy Tibet?

Above: Flag of Tibet

I have met a handful of Tibetan people here in Switzerland and have read numerous accounts of the oppression that Tibet endures and the never-ending exile of their Dalai Lama and I find it difficult to reconcile my desire to see China with my sadness about the acts that are done in China’s name.

I also admit to feeling remorse about the correctness of the accusation that is often levelled at the West…

We simply don`t care about what happens outside of the West until it affects us.

Shortly before I began teaching Chinese students in St. Gallen and Herisau, I read of one Canadian couple’s experience in China and it is their tale I now wish to tell…

Vancouver, Canada, 28 June 2014

Su Bin, aka Stephen Su or Stephen Subin, the owner and manager of Beijing Lode Technology Company Ltd, an aviation technology company -based in China with offices in Vancouver, Kansas City, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xi’an, Shenyang and Changchun – a cable harness equipment company that served the aviation and space market and represented and distributed related aerospace products for a number of companies – is arrested today.

Su Bin a.k.a Stephen Su a.k.a. Stephen Subin

Su Bin, a Chinese businessman and permanent resident of Canada allegedly hacked into the computer systems of US companies with large defence contracts, including Boeing, to steal data on military projects including some of its fighter jets.

On 27 June, the Los Angeles branch of the FBI filed a complaint outlining the alleged participation of Su Bin in a conspiracy to unlawfully access computers in the United States.

The complaint provides an in depth look at an EaaS (espionage as a service) operation.

Su’s alleged role was to help his partners identify valuable military aviation technology to steal.

His company’s logo is almost laughably ironic: We will track the world’s aviation advanced technology.”

Lode Tech is also a representative and distributor of related aerospace products for a number of companies, including DIT-MCO of Kansas City which proudly announces that its equipment “was used on the early Hawk Missile, the first Transcontinental Atlas missile, Polaris missiles for the Navy, Titan missiles for the Air Force and the Patriot Missile used so successfully in the Desert Storm War, as well as almost all the aircraft used by the Air Force, Army and the Navy.”

DIT-MCO International

Prosecutors allege that Su Bin worked with two unnamed Chinese hackers to get the data between 2009 and 2013 and that he attempted to sell some of the information to state-owned Chinese companies.

This case underscore the importance for companies in high value technologies to:

a) Conduct in depth due diligence investigations on all of their vendors.

b) Restrict network access by implementing least privilege rules.

The three hackers targeted fighter jets, such as the F-22 from Lockheed Martin and the F-35 as well as Boeing’s C-17 military cargo aircraft program.

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As well, they stole 20 gigabytes of date from a US military contractor via the company’s FTP server, acquired a list of contractors and suppliers and had access to a Russian-India joint missile development program (Brahmos Aerospace?) by controlling the company’s website and “awaiting the opportunity to conduct internal penetration”.

Su Bin’s arrest marks the first time that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued an arrest warrant for a foreigner charged with an act of cyber-espionage via a network attack that had until now been attributed to states.

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While this is the first criminal complaint that describes “hackers for hire” or espionage-as-a-service, this type of criminal activity is neither new nor exclusive to China.

Hackers for hire operate in the following manner:

Their target selection is determined by the science and technology priorities of their potential customers.

The hackers establish “technology bases” and hop servers outside of their native nation and “machine rooms” with legal status in cities back home.

They focus on those contractors which are among the top 50 arms companies.

Cyber security companies who research cyber threats should study this criminal complaint closely.

Intelligence companies worldwide need to find ways to differentiate the activities of a nation-state with those of a for-profit hacker group, criminal organization or other alternative entities engaging in acts of cyber espionage.

US Department of Justice spokesman Marc Raimondi said that the conspirators are alleged to have accessed the computer networks of US defence contractors without authorization and stolen data related to military aircraft and weapons systems.

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“We remain deeply concerned about cyber-enabled theft of sensitive information and we have repeatedly made it clear that the United States will continue using all the tools our government possesses to strengthen cyber security and confront cybercrime.”

Boeing said in a statement that the company cooperated with investigators and will continue to do so to hold accountable “individuals who perpetrate economic espionage or trade secret theft against US companies.”

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“We appreciate that the government brought its concerns about a potential compromise of our protected computer systems to our attention.”

None of the claims have been proven in court.

The New York Times reported that Chinese hackers broke into the computer networks of the Office of Personnel Management earlier in March with the intention of accessing the files of thousands of federal employees who had applied for top secret security clearances.

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The hackers gained access to some of the agency`s databases before the threat was detected and blocked.

The Chinese community in Canada is one of the largest overseas Chinese communities, the 2nd largest overseas Chinese community in North America after the United States and the 7th largest worldwide.

Canadians of Chinese descent make up about 4% of the Canadian population, or 1.3 million people.

The Chinese Canadian community is the largest ethnic group of Asian Canadians – 40% of the Asian Canadian population.

Chinese have been a part of the Canadian mosaic as early as 1788.

The highest concentration of Chinese Canadians is in Vancouver, where 1 in 5 residents is Chinese, prompting other Canadians to nickname Vancouver “Hongcouver”.

Clockwise from top: Downtown Vancouver as seen from the southern shore of False Creek, The University of British Columbia, Lions Gate Bridge, a view from the Granville Street Bridge, Burrard Bridge, The Millennium Gate (Chinatown), and totem poles in Stanley Park

According to the Canadian Ethnic Diversity Survey of 2002, 76% of Chinese Canadians said they had a strong sense of belonging to Canada, yet maintaining a strong sense of belonging to their ethnic culture.

Chinese Canadians are active in Canadian society.

Many of them vote in federal and provincial elections and participate in gatherings such as sports teams or community organizations.

Sadly 1 in 3 Chinese Canadians reported that they had experienced discrimination, prejudice or unfair treatment based on their ethnicity, race, religion, language or accent.

Dandong, China, 4 August 2014

An obscure port tucked away in the corner of southeastern Liaoning Province at the confluence of the Yalu River and the Yellow Sea, Dandong‘s interest to travellers lies in the city’s proximity to North Korea and its convenience as a departure point for the Changbai Shan Nature Reserve eight hours distant by bus.

View of Dandong's skyline on the Yalu River

The North Korean city of Sinuiju (Chinese: Xinyizhou) lies on the other side of the Yalu River, so the Chinese come to Dandong (“red east”) just to see the border of their country.

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Above: Flag of North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

A strong Korean influence can be felt in Dandong, from shops to restaurants.

Yalujiang Park is an appealing riverfront park that is a favourite with tourists posing for the standard “I visited the Sino-Korean border.” shot.

After the start of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894, this region was occupied by Japan who built an iron bridge leading to North Korea.

From November 1950 to February 1951, this bridge along with a younger Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge was “accidentally” bombed by the United States during the Korean War.

(Americans also “accidentally” bombed the airstrip at Dandong.)

Even though the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge was rebuilt, the remains of the Japanese-built iron bridge remain and now serve as a war monument.

The Koreans dismantled the Japanese bridge as far as the mid-river boundary line, leaving only a row of support columns.

On the Chinese side, tourists can wander along the remains of the original Broken Bridge, from dawn to dusk, and see shrapnel pockmarks along the bridge until it ends mid-river.

The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge runs parallel to the remains of the Japanese bridge.

The Korean War, from the Chinese and North Korean perspectives, is recorded in the city’s huge macabre Museum to Commemorate Aiding Korea Against US Aggression in a compound northwest of the city, close to the 53-metre high square column Resist America, Aid Korea Memorial.

This gleaming museum, built in 1993, has nine exhibition halls on the Korean War, full of maps, plans, dioramas, machine guns, hand grenades, gory photographs, “Defeat Wolf-hearted America” spelled out on marble, a trench simulation, an impressive revolving panorama showing Korean and Chinese soldiers hammering American aggressors, North Korean folk art including dolls and children’s shoes and statues of valiant Chinese and Korean soldiers.

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Everything is labelled in Chinese and Korean, with the exception of the Chinese propaganda leaflets dropped behind enemy lines in which worried American wives wonder what their husbands are fighting for, and the United Nations official declaration of war – the only written record in the entire museum that mentions the small trifling detail that it was the North Koreans who kicked off the War by invading the South.

A couple of MiGs and Red Army tanks sit in a compound to the side of the Museum.

At the entrance to the compound, next to Chinese President Jiang Ze Min’s large plaque of calligraphy swearing eternal Sino-North Korean friendship, ice-cold Coca-Colas are for sale.

Behind the Museum, a gleaming structure marks a graveyard containing the remains of more than 10,000 Chinese soldiers.

The promenade along the Yalu River is packed with games, parks, modern restaurants offering freshwater fish or Korean barbeque and the Hong Kong Coffee House with strong Korean coffee and the latest North Korean news on TV.

One of Dandong’s top-rated destinations on TripAdvisor is Peter`s Coffee House, owned by Julia and Kevin Garratt of Vancouver and named after one of their sons.

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Peter’s Coffee House is a hub for expats, local Chinese curious about the outside world, state security agents suspicious of the staff and customers, and the occasional North American diplomat.

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“Down by the riverfront Peter`s Coffee House, at 103 Binjiang Zhong Lu, open from 0800 to 2200, Monday to Saturday, noon to 2200 on Sunday, is a friendly café run by a longterm Canadian expat family.

In addition to its excellent coffee, Peter`s serves milkshakes and sodas, authentic Western baked goods, a fine all-day breakfast, burgers and sandwiches.

This is also the place to go for local information and restaurant recommendations.” (http://www.peterscoffeehouse.com)

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Canadian Christian aid workers Julia and Kevin Garratt lived in China on and off for 30 years, raised their four children there and moved their family from Vancouver to Dandong in 2007.

Kevin Garratt and his wife Julia pose for a portrait in the backyard of a home they're staying at after returning to Canada. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Julia taught international trade and management at a local university while Kevin ran the café, organizing weekly “English Corner” language exchanges.

In their spare time, the Garratts volunteered around Dandong, often taking Chinese orphans ice skating.

The Garratts wanted to address the suffering of those living across the border by providing aid to orphanages and a school for the disabled in North Korea.

The Garratts considered China their home, as do the 300,000 Canadians living in China.

(Most Canadians live in Hong Kong, Beijing or Shanghai, so it can be imagined that the gritty border town of Dandong might have regarded the Garratts as highly unusual but generally not unwelcome.

For two Canadians remain etched in Chinese consciousness: Dr. Henry Norman Bethune and Dashan.

Norman Bethune (1890 – 1939) was a Canadian physician, medical innovator and noted anti-fascist.

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Above: Dr. Norman Bethune (1890 – 1930)

He first came to international prominence for his service as a frontline surgeon supporting the democratically-elected Republican government and their Loyalist troops during the Spanish Civil War, but it was his service with the Communist Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War that would earn him enduring acclaim.

Dr. Bethune effectively brought modern medicine to rural China and often treated sick villagers as much as wounded soldiers.

His selfless commitment made a profound impression on the Chinese people, especially the Communist Party of China’s leader, Chairman Mao Zedong.

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Above: Chairman Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976)

The Chairman wrote a famous eulogy to Bethune, which was memorized by generations of Chinese people:

“Comrade Bethune’s spirit, his utter devotion to others without any thought of self, was shown in his great sense of responsibility in his work and his great warmheartedness towards all comrades and the people.

Every Communist must learn from him.

We must all learn the spirit of absolute selflessness from him.

With this spirit everyone can be very useful to the people.

A man’s ability may be great or small, but if he has this spirit, he is already noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of value to the people.”

Bethune is one of the few Westerners to whom China has dedicated statues, of which many have been erected in his honour throughout the country.

There are hospitals across China named after him and the Norman Bethune Medal is the highest medical honour in China.

Dashan is the Chinese stage name of Canadian Mark Henry Rowswell (born, nine days after yours truly, on 23 May 1965 in Ottawa) who works as a freelance performer in China.

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Relatively unknown in the West, Dashan is the most famous Western personality in China’s media industry, where he occupies a unique position as a foreign national who has become a bona fide domestic celebrity.

Dashan is best known for his mastery of Mandarin Chinese and is considered a true cultural ambassador through his work as a TV host and stand-up comedian done in Chinese.)

This evening the Garratts were invited to a restuarant dinner by Chinese acquaintances who told them they wanted advice about how their daughter could apply to the University of Toronto.

But the dinner was a trap.

When the restaurant elevator doors opened onto a crowd of people, many holding video cameras, Julia and Kevin thought they had stumbled into a wedding party.

But this was no celebration.

In a flash, the Garratts were snatched by men and shoved into separate cars.

They did not know they were in the hands of China’s feared Ministry of State Security.

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Above: Logo of the Chinese Ministry of State Security

They would not see each other for more than two years.

The men drove Julia, 55, to an office building and demanded that she sign a document stating that she agreed to be investigated.

“Investigated for what?”, Julia asked.

It was only after a translator said the words “suspect” and “spy” that Julia understood.

“I seriously thought they would realise that they had made a mistake, they would say sorry and we would go home.”

In another room, Kevin Garratt, 56, was hearing the same chilling accusations.

Scared and bewildered, the Garratts signed.

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, 12 December 2016

Why were the Garratts taken?

The Garratts suspect they were unwitting pawns in a gambit by the Chinese government to prevent Canada from extraditing Su Bin to the United States.

Those supporting the Garratts say that the couple were simply chess pieces in a larger geopolitical skirmish.

“The Chinese made it clear that the Garratt case was designed to pressure Canada to block Su Bin’s extradition to the US.”, said James Zimmerman, an American lawyer in Beijing hired by the family to lobby Canadian and Chinese government officials for their release.

In an emailed statement about the Garratts’ detention, Global Affairs Canada, the department that handles Canada’s diplomatic relations, declined to comment on the question of an exchange, but said: “Senior government officials were raising the case at every opportunity.”

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The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa denied that the Garratts’ detention was linked to Mr. Su.

“We don’t think it is related to any other cases.”, an Embassy spokesman said in an email.

The Garratts’ account provides a rare glimpse into the workings of China`s opaque state security system.

Their interrogations also reveal clues about the vast reach of China’s global espionage network and the lengths to which the Chinese government will go to protect it.

During the couple’s months-long detention, they said they were frequently threatened with execution or told that they would be sent to a North Korean gulag.

The Garratts’ experience highlights the risks nations face in engaging with China.

According to the Garratts’ account, after signing the investigation document Kevin was driven to the couple’s apartment, where agents ransacked their possessions, grilled him about the contents of their kitchen cabinets and then carted off schoolbooks and computers in the family’s suitcases.

After a heated exchange, the men allowed Kevin to take a pair of Bibles back to the detention centre.

Julia was already at the compund, an extralegal detention centre on the outskirts of the city, confined to a separate isolation cell that had a couch, a bed and a small window covered in opaque plastic.

During the next six months, neither one knew where the other was.

But neither was ever alone.

Rotating pairs of guards sat on the couch in each of these cells, staring intently at them and writing down their every move.

Harsh lights remained on 24 hours a day.

To stay sane, Julia prayed, read books provided by the Canadian Consulate and each day drew a cryptic picture of something she was grateful for in the back of her Bible, afraid anything written would be confiscated.

They each faced daily six-hour interrogations by a team of three men.

Armed with years of emails, Skype messages and surveillance records, the interrogators accused the Garratts of “hosting” foreign diplomats at their coffee shop, taking orders from Canada’s intelligence agency (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service – CSIS) and stealing state secrets.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service logo.svg

The agents showed them photos of United States and Canadian diplomats who had visited their coffee shop.

The interrogators claimed Kevin’s photos of street scenes in Dandong and views of North Korea across the Yalu River were espionage, even though tourists on riverboats took the same photos every day.

Security officers used a variety of coercion tactics.

In one exchange, the interrogators described a 2009 meeting in Vancouver between the couple and a CSIS agent who had wanted to ensure their volunteer work in North Korea was not violating United Nations sanctions.

When Julia asked how the interrogators had known about the meeting, one of them said:

“We have people in the US, Canada, everywhere.”

Canadian officials declined to discuss the Garratts’ treatment, but the couple’s accounts squares with those of many people who have been in Chinese detention.

In February 2015, Julia was released on bail and returned to their apartment.

Meanwhile, Kevin was charged with espionage and transferred to a prison medical ward.

During the 19 months he spent there, a rumour circulated among the guards that he would be released as part of a prisoner exchange.

But in February 2016, Mr. Su waived his challenge to extradition and cut a deal with the United States.

Once that happened…

“Beijing was stuck with a weak case of espionage against the Garratts and little bargaining leverage to get much of anything out of Ottawa.”, said Mr. Zimmerman, the American lawyer.

At the end of August 2016, just days before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Hangzhou, China, for the 11th meeting of the Group of Twenty (G20) – an international forum for governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies, with the aim of studying, reviewing and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability – Julia was allowed to leave China.

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Above: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The G20 Hangzhou summit was held on 4-5 September 2016.

Two weeks later, Kevin was taken to court, where a judge read out an eight-page guilty verdict in Chinese.

The next morning, he was put on a plane bound for Tokyo, but only after agreeing to pay more than $14,000 in fines and signing a document promising not to speak with the news media about his detention.

Much of that money had been dedicated to a North Korean orphanage.

Julia and Kevin were finally reunited in Canada in September.

Though the Garratts are now back in Canada, they say they do not feel entirely safe, describing a series of unnerving incidents suggesting that the Chinese government may be trying to keep tabs on them and their relatives.

In recent months, relatives have encountered strange interference on their phones, computers have gone haywire and strange cars parked outside their homes drive away when someone approaches.

“Even now we live under a cloud.”, Kevin Garratt said.

Most of all, the Garratts feel grief at losing the lives they built over 30 years.

“That’s the sadness that overwhelms us.

We were just trying to help people in need.

That’s all we did.”, Kevin Garratt said.

So how should businesses and governments deal with China, a country that is both a strategic partner as well as a potential adversary?

A country that is surpassing the United States as the world’s largest economy?

Flag of the United States

A country whose investment in its military continues to rapidly increase, to perhaps achieve military equality with the US in 15 to 20 years?

A one-party socialist regime with a poor human rights record?

I personally teach for three companies in Switzerland which do business in China.

China is Switzerland’s top trading partner in Asia.

There are approximately 300 Swiss firms with more than 700 branches operating in China with a total employment of over 55,000 people.

China is the second largest foreign creditor of the United States, yet US President Donald Trump continues to make comments that strain Sino-American relations and have some Americans anticipating potential trade or military conflict between China and the United States in the near future.

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China is currently Canada’s second largest trading partner.

Trying to understand China feels as difficult as trying to train a dragon, but I believe if we can learn from those who have spent time there and those who have studied Chinese history and culture we might be able to find a solution that enables nations and individuals to have an economic partnership with the Chinese, while encouraging them to develop their country for all its people within their sphere of influence, improve their human rights record, govern well for the good of everyone and build a world that is safer and more secure.

If our leaders could admit that even the most capable must sometimes ask for help and that dragons need be handled carefully, then progress rather than destruction could be their legacy.

(To be continued…)

Sources: Wikipedia / Lonely Planet China / Rough Guide China / Jeffrey Carr,”Su Bin, Lode-Tech and Privatizing Cyber Espionage in the PRC”, Digital Dao (electronic blog), 14 July 2014 / CBC News, “Su Bin, Chinese man accused by FBI of hacking, in custody in BC”, 12 July 2014 / Dan Levin, “China freed Canadians, but ‘even now we live under a cloud'”, New York Times, 3 January 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Promised Land

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 21 January 1858

I am astonished more and more at the stupid extravagance…

Fashion rules so absolutely…

The people in the house would lend me any amount of flower garden bonnets if I would but go out in them.

This is so like the Americans…

They are generous and kind but will not let you go your own way.

 

Datei:Flag of the United States.svg

 

(Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, An American Diary: 1857 – 1858)

 

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 25 January 2017

There is something quite attractive at times about cutting oneself apart from all contact with the media, for catching up on the latest news in a newspaper or online often upsets me.

Reading Monday’s International New York Times:

No, I’m not over it.

On Election Day I felt as though I had awakened in America and gone to sleep in Ecuador, or maybe Belgium.

 

Flag of Ecuador

Above: The flag of Ecuador

 

Or Thailand, or Zambia, or any other perfectly nice country that endures the usual ups and downs of history as the years pass, headed towards no particular destiny.

 

Flag of Thailand

Above: The flag of Thailand

 

Flag of Zambia

Above: The flag of Zambia

 

It´s different here, or at least it was.

America was supposed to be something, as much a vision as a physical reality, from the moment that John Winthrop, evoking Jerusalem, urged the Massachusetts Bay Colony to “be a city upon a hill”.

 

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Above: John Wintrop (1587 – 1649), Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor

 

To be an American writer meant being able to share that sense of purpose, those expectations, and to flatter yourself that you were helping to shape it.

Nobody expects anything out of Belgium.”

 

Flag of Belgium

Above: The flag of Belgium

(Kevin Baker, “The America we lost when Trump won”, International New York Times, 23 January 2017)

 

Now this opinion piece annoyed me on many levels…

The suggestion that America has shaped history rather than being affected by it like everyone else…

That there is nothing to be expected of value outside of America…

That its present domination of the world means that only America has a claim to the concept of exceptionalism…

And though I understood Baker’s disappointed feeling that the spirit of America has indeed changed with the arrival of Donald Trump on the political landscape, his opinion piece, albeit perhaps unintentionally, comes across as arrogant and prejudiced.

 

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Above: Donald Trump (b. 1946), 45th President of the United States

 

Baker clearly needs to travel more beyond the shores of America, to see America through road-experienced eyes, to explore the world beyond the Holiday Inn and the B & B, longer than a two-week vacation or a weekend getaway.

For as much as it is admirable and understandable to celebrate one´s country…

As much as it is necessary to pick critically through one´s homeland´s history, even to the point of scourging the nation for its faults by exposing the worst of its contradictions and betrayals…

One´s love for one´s country should not blind us to the reality that our love for a country, our disappointments, expectations and dreams are not exclusive to us alone.

Our barometer of measurement, our claims to the possession of a moral compass when comparing ourselves with others, should not be based solely on a life only lived within our borders.

Though nations are individual, no one nation is exceptional.

 

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act One, Scene 5, Lines 167 – 168)

 

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Above: William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

 

What I have had to learn, what time and experience have taught me, is that we need to learn to appreciate what is where we are.

And that requires exploration and comparison and interaction, whether those discoveries are made at home or abroad.

When I once again read my journals from past travels, I am struck by how much I really didn´t know or understand, for my observations were restricted by my discomfort in exploring viewpoints other than my own.

Wherever I went, there I was.

I was not seeing Brussels as it was.

 

A collage with several views of Brussels, Top: View of the Northern Quarter business district, 2nd left: Floral carpet event in the Grand Place, 2nd right: Brussels City Hall and Mont des Arts area, 3rd: Cinquantenaire Park, 4th left: Manneken Pis, 4th middle: St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, 4th right: Congress Column, Bottom: Royal Palace of Brussels

 

I saw Brussels as I was.

And in this I find myself drawn once more to Charlotte Bronte’s experience in Brussels.

She saw Brussels as she was, not as it was.

 

(For the back story and background of both the Brontes and your humble blogger, please see:

Wooden Soldiers and Little Books

Canada Slim and….

  • the Teacher’s Travels
  • the Days Confused
  • Last Year’s Man
  • A Matter of Perspective.

 

Brussels, Belgium, 15 February 1842

It was a dull grey day.

The avenues were almost deserted.

The branches of the trees bare against an overcast sky.

Three weary travellers – a tall white-haired clergyman and his two daughters, young women in their twenties – could be seen walking down the Rue Royale.

 

 

The younger and taller sister had a dreamy look, as if she found her own thoughts as interesting as the sights of this strange city.

 

Above: The Bronte sisters, Anne, Emily and Charlotte (Anne remained in England.)

 

The elder, plainer and smaller sister noticed everything, storing it up for future use.

They walked to a little square opposite a park where a statue with the name “General Belliard” stood at the top of a long, steep and dark stairway.

Below was a quiet street at a much lower level and parallel to the Rue Royale, the Rue d’Isabelle – narrow with neat symmetrical rows of modest houses.

The trio stopped at a large building with tall windows.

A brass plate on the door announced “Pensionnat de Demoiselles Heger – Parent”.

Reverend Jenkins, the British Chaplain in Brussels, presented the trio to the directoress Madame Heger.

“Madame Heger, this is Mr. Bronte and his daughters Charlotte and Emily.”

Charlotte felt that “Brussels is my promised land”, “a beautiful city”.

 

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Above: Charlotte Bronte (1816 – 1855)

 

Charlotte wrote to Emily after the younger sister returned back to Haworth:

“I have tramped about a great deal and tried to get a clearer acquaintance with the streets of Bruxelles…

I go out and traverse them sometimes for hours together.”

 

Brussels, Belgium, 9 November 1996

Day Six in Europe, Day Four in Brussels and Belgium

A “grand bataille” with “Zoé”.

I dislike being ordered about, yelled at and being called “stupide” when I don´t respond to all her wishes immediately.

(Only years later would I realise that her “stupide” meant “silly”, not “lacking in intelligence”…or put another way I was stupid about “stupide”.)

During the visit to a brewery exhibit, tensions erupt.

No automatic alt text available.

 

I quickly vacate the premises, enraged, irrational, seeking escape.

At the SNCB (Belgian Railways) Bruxelles Centrale station I enquire about trains to Oostende – two every hour, journey of 1 hour, 45 minutes.

IMG 6001 Brussel-Centraal B.JPG

 

The train seems to be the best option to get to Oostende and a ferry to England and much preferred to Zoé’s chauffeuring me to the sea.

For reasons I don´t fully understand myself, I hesitate and don´t buy this ticket, this final gesture of farewell to her and her city.

I wander the streets, self-righteous in my fury, blind to my surroundings.

 

Brussels, Belgium, 15 February 1842

So, what brought the Brontes to Brussels?

Charlotte was 25, Emily 23.

A few years later they would write two of the world´s best-selling novels, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and they had since childhood always been compulsive writers, but they knew they had to earn a living and contribute to the family finances as their father was a poor clergyman and their brother could not be relied upon as he was never able to hold down a job for long.

 

The title page to the original publication of Jane Eyre, including Brontë's pseudonym "Currer Bell".

Above: First edition of Jane Eyre by Currer Bell (Charlotte Bronte)

 

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Above: First edition of Wuthering Heights by Ellis Bell (Emily Bronte)

 

Charlotte and Emily dreamed of being published writers, but the only paid work open to the girls was teaching or as governesses.

They had tried the latter, but they had not enjoyed the experience.

 

 

They were unhappy with the former for they became homesick whenever separated and away from their home in Haworth.

 

Above: Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, Yorkshire, England

 

Charlotte saw a possible solution.

They could open their own boarding school in Haworth.

While working as a governess in September 1841, Charlotte wrote home to her aunt about this project and about an idea suggested to her by the experience of her friends Mary and Martha Taylor who were improving their languages at a Brussels boarding school.

And Charlotte had another reason for seeing Brussels as her promised land.

After years confined to schoolrooms doing a job she hated, Charlotte was restless.

Her youth was going by and she had seen nothing of Life or the world.

Charlotte longed to experience the culture of a European city as Mary and Martha were doing.

She felt “such an urgent thirst to see – to know – to learn”. (Letter to Ellen Nussey, 7 August 1841)

Charlotte dreamed of romance…of a real life hero to take the place of the ones that had so far existed only in her imagination – in the books she read and the stories she wrote.

From the start Charlotte planned to take Emily with her, for even though Emily was always the most homesick of sisters when away from Haworth, she was still Charlotte’s favourite sister.

They would board at Madame Heger’s Pensionnat de demoiselles, attending classes with other students, receiving special instruction in French.

A deal was later struck with the Pensionnat that the sisters would receive tuition and board in exchange for teaching some lessons.

 

 

Brussels, Belgium, 9 November 1996

I wander the city asking myself why am I in Brussels.

I had searched for employment as a teacher in the Belgian capital, but was told that I was unemployable as I lacked the ability to converse in both Flemish and French and I lacked employment documents.

So I would be forced to be financially dependent upon Zoé.

At 30, I too felt my youth was going by, but unlike Charlotte I had already experienced much of Life and had explored much of Canada and the United States, but I too still possessed an urgent thirst to see more of the world outside an Anglo North America, a hunger to know things outside of my own experience, an itch to learn so much more than books and previous travels had taught me.

 

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It was my very first time in Europe and I had only briefly visited Paris before coming here to Brussels.

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Above: Tour Eiffel, Paris, France

 

I had enjoyed my romance with Zoé when she had lingered in Ottawa, Canada, the previous year.

 

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Above: Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

 

We were exotic to one another, she a Belgian in Canada, I an adventurer whose tales of past exploits excited her passions.

She represented a continent I had always longed to see.

I was a strange but wonderful souvenir she had discovered in a foreign land during an extended vacation.

When Zoé met me I was living and working in a youth hostel, simultaneously a part of normal Canadian life yet living the life of an international traveller.

 

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Above: Ottawa International Hostel (formerly the Carleton County Gaol)

 

In Brussels Zoé struggled to find her footing and romance needed to be tempered with the grim realities of earning a living.

But a romance a year past and an ocean away had transformed Zoé and I from intimate strangers to awkward companions whose differences now seemed more pronounced and unsettling.

Zoé had successfully drawn me to her and her home city and was determined to hold me within her grasp.

But I had just escaped my homeland and wanted to explore more of Europe than just the inside of a Brussels apartment.

Zoé saw me as a romance finally realised.

I saw her as a well-intentioned jailer, albeit with benefits.

And leaving her side felt more of a relief than a heartache.

I find my feet have wandered where they should not tread.

Without intending to, I am in a red light district, an area with lots of bars, sex shops and window display girls waiting for their customers in tantalizing postures wearing little to no fabric.

What the hell am I doing here?

 

Brussels, Belgium, July 1842

“I don’t deny that I sometimes wish to be in England or that I have brief attacks of homesickness, but I have been happy in Brussels because I have been happy in Brussels because I have always been fully occupied with the employments that I like.” (Letter to Ellen Nussey, July 1842)

In the Pensionnat, Charlotte and Emily studied diligently, attending lessons with 90 other girls and writing homework assignments and essays for Constantin Heger, the headmistress’s husband, who taught literature and French.

The Brontes were much older than the other students and though they were always together they felt “isolated in the midst of numbers” although they were not the only foreigners studying there.

Like expats and immigrants today who have trouble integrating in the host culture, Charlotte and Emily suffered from a fair amount of culture shock.

They in fact made no attempt to integrate.

They sought friends only among their English connections in the city.

 

A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue

 

The other girls found them odd.

They were particularly struck by the strange appearance of Emily who never followed the fashions.

Emily left no written record of how she felt about her stay in Belgium, but writing after her sister´s death, Charlotte said that Emily failed to adjust to Brussels.

“Emily was never happy till she carried her hard-won knowledge back to the remote English village, the old parsonage house and desolate Yorkshire hills.”

If Emily left no record of what she thought of the Pensionnat, Charlotte recorded her own feelings about it all too thoroughly.

In her letters and novels Charlotte hardly had a good word to say about anyone in the school.

She was dismissive of Belgians but did not spare other nationalities either.

Charlotte found both the girls and teachers lacking in principle, feeling and intelligence, insincere, frivolous and dull.

Charlotte’s analysis was simple.

They were foreigners.

 

Brussels, Belgium, 9 November 1996

With the notable exception of Zoé I confess to knowing little of the sexual life of the Belgians.

I had not seen the 1994 film La vie sexuelle des Belges, so much like famed Flemish director Jan Bucquoy’s autobiographical film, despite my travels I have remained mostly a clueless young bumpkin who tries to keep up with the times but always manages to be a few frustrating steps behind and I find myself far too often in decidedly dark and unglamourous settings in whichever country I am in.

Life can be at times far too anti-climatic and at times the life of my imagination is fuller with fantasy than my reality is.

And though many an opportunity has arisen when I could have freely sampled the fruits of the forbidden, I have often remained a passive outsider.

I claim neither to be a great lover nor a passionate person, but nonetheless I have always found meaning to life to help me cope during the mundane moments of reality.

But forbidden fruit does not appeal.

The only thing alluring and forbidding that I want to experience in Brussels is a magnum of Belgian beer out of over 800 types to choose from… and a huge dish of moules et frites (mussels and fries).

 

 

I pass a number of establishments advertising peep shows.

But I don´t go in, yet I wonder who does go into these places?

Foreign businesspeople?

Students on EU work placements?

 

Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background

 

Members of the European Parliament?

Would someone like “the Muscles from Brussels”, JCVD (Jean-Claude van Damme) have frequented such places?

 

Jean-Claude Van Damme 2012.jpg

Above: Jean-Claude Van Damme (b. 1960)

 

Wordplay flits through my thoughts.

Brussels…where one can find sax and violins…

(Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, came from here.)

 

Adolphe Sax

Above: Adolphe Sax (1814 – 1894)

 

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Above: A modern saxophone

 

(At the time of my 1997 visit, violins seemed the buskers’ instruments of choice.)

 

 

…as well as sex and violence (its districts and JCVD).

I return back to Zoé’s apartment inspired by the day´s wanderings, but I soon feel ill at ease afterwards.

I miss the independence and solitude of travel.

I hate my physical and financial dependence upon Zoé.

I ask myself if I feel this way now, how would this feeling improve if I remain longer, or if I return back to her after visiting England as I had planned?

Zoé offers me security, love, stability and European citizenship.

And yet all I want to do is flee in panic and haste…

 

Brussels, Belgium, Spring and Summer 1842

Emily pines for home and Haworth, but Charlotte feels contented.

Charlotte loves the French language and enjoys being a student again rather than trying to be a teacher.

She has fun watching the city´s people and their customs.

Charlotte loves the odd but pleasant foreign sauces, slices of tartines or tasty pistolets at breakfast, pears from the Pensionnat garden stewed in white wine, couques / koeks from the cake shops.

 

 

And the religious fêtes filled with bouquets of flowers…

And taking exercise in the Pensionnat’s walled garden with its berceaux covered in vines, row of pear trees and the Allée Défendue – the path that was out of bounds to the demoiselles because on the other side of the garden wall is a boys’ school, the Athénée Royal…

Everywhere Charlotte wanders, there are offerings of new sensations and impressions.

And although Charlotte’s comments often sound like those of any grumpy foreigner abroad, convinced that everything is better back home, Charlotte’s stay has changed her forever.

Though she regards everyone in the Pensionnat as despicable, with the exception of herself and Emily and some of the other English students, she makes an exception of Constantin Heger, the sole man in residence.

 

Above: Constantin Héger (1809 – 1896)

 

Constantin made a strong impression on Charlotte right from the start.

Belgians seemed to her to be phlegmatic, emotionless and pedantic, more considered about appearances than passions, unthinkingly obedient rather than individualistically expressive, “with blood too gluey to boil” (Letter to her brother Branwell Bronte, 1 May 1843).

The Pensionnat had been started by Mme Heger and by the time the Brontes arrived, she had been married to Constantin for five years and had three children.

Madame was 37.  Monsieur was 33.

Charlotte envied Madame, for she had everything Charlotte desired: beauty, employment that gave her fulfillment and a happy personal life married to an inspirational schoolmaster.

To Charlotte, Constantin “fumed like a bottled storm”, whose “bark was worse than his bite”…

“Well might we like him, with all his passions and hurricanes, when he could be so benignant and docile at times…” (Charlotte Bronte, Villette)

Constantin would be the inspiration for the moody Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre and Villette‘s Monsieur Paul.

 

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Above: First edition of Villette by Currer Bell (Charlotte Bronte)

 

Heger was a talented teacher who worked on his students’ emotions to make them more receptive to the beauties of literature and Charlotte enjoyed being tutored by him.

Charismatic Constantin had a huge love of language and literature and could engage with Charlotte intellectually.

Equally attractive for Charlotte was his personality, for like many inspirational teachers Constantin was eccentric and temperamental.

Yet despite his eccentricities Constantin was still quite conventional – a family man, a man of social distinction, a devout Catholic, highly respected.

Charlotte was none of these things, and though Constantin cared for her as any good teacher would for those under his tutelage, a chance for romance reciprocal was impossible.

But without having felt the promise love, could Charlotte have been able to write of love?

Her first year in Brussels, with Emily by her side, had been for Charlotte a remarkable and inspirational year.

The death of their aunt Elizabeth Branwell in October 1842 forced them to return to Haworth.

Charlotte and Emily were asked to return to Brussels as they were regarded as being competent and needed as English (Charlotte) and music (Emily) teachers.

Emily chose to remain in Haworth.

Charlotte returned alone to Belgium in January 1843.

This would be a decision both the Pensionnat and Charlotte would regret…

Brussels, Belgium, 10 November 1996

“Belgium remained a battlefield, with tension growing, which would eventually lead to a partition dividing the country.”(Lonely Planet)

Much like Charlotte Bronte, Zoé uses immoderate language about people who have intrigued and attracted her.

But like any recipient of said language an understanding of this hidden intrigue and attraction by the offender is not immediately evident.

This evening I have made a difficult decision.

Tomorrow I will leave this slug-infested apartment behind.

Even though Zoé is a woman of many virtues, her nature is simply incompatible with my own.

And the day had started out so well…

(To be continued…)

Sources: Irene and Alan Taylor, The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists / The International New York Times / Wikipedia / Helen MacEwan, The Brontes in Brussels / Charlotte Bronte, Villette / John Sutherland, The Brontesaurus: An A – Z of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte

 

Flag of Brussels

Oil and Blood in the Heartland 2: Home and Native Land

Brantford, Ontario, Canada, Summer 1992

I embarrassed myself.

West of Hamilton and surrounded for the most part by farmland, Brantford is known for several things:

Official logo of Brantford

It lays claim to the invention of the telephone, the birthplace of “The Great One” hockey player Wayne Gretzky, entertainer Phil Hartman, Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris, and a Mohawk village.

Lawren Harris.JPG

Lawren Harris (1885 – 1970)

Phil Hartman (1948 – 1998), performing as Bill Clinton on Saturday Night Live

During my walking days exploring Canada I dutifully tried to visit as many cultural attractions as I could.

Alexander Graham Bell conceived the first telephone here on 26 July 1874.

Alexander Graham Bell.jpg

Alexander Graham Bell (1847 – 1922)

His first North American home, the Bell Homestead National Historic Site, has been painstakingly restored to its original condition.

A majestic, broad monument with figures mounted on pedestals to its left and right sides. Along the main portion of the monument are five figures mounted on a broad casting, including a man reclining, plus four floating female figures representing Inspiration, Knowledge, Joy, and Sorrow.

The Brantford Sports Hall of Recognition inside the Gretzy Centre has memorablia from dozens of local track, football, lacrosse and wrestling stars, but the main attraction is, of course, the permanent display for Wayne Gretzy.

It was here in this quiet town that Gretzy honed his game on the backyard hockey rink at his childhood home before shattering the NHL record books and blitzing his way to four Stanley Cups.

A small pair of ice skates, meant for a small child. The boot is leather and is missing its laces, while the blade is deteriorating and showing significant wear due to age.

Wayne Gretzy´s first pair of ice skates, age 3

But in 1992 these attractions did not draw my attention.

Southwest of town, the Six Nations territory has been a First Nations centre for centuries.

Captain Joseph Thayendanegea Brant led the Six Nations people (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora) here from New York State in 1784 and established a village that has long served the district´s First Nations tribes.

Joseph Brant painting by George Romney 1776 (2).jpg

Joseph Brant (Thayendanega)(1743-1807)

I visited the sites that celebrate their legacy:

Her Majesty´s Chapel of the Mohawks, three km from the centre of town, is the oldest Protestant Church in Ontario (1785) and the world´s only Royal Indian Chapel and the site of Captain Brant´s tomb.

Mohawk Chapel, Brantford, Ontario.jpg

The Woodland Cultural Centre serves as an indigenous performance space, an art gallery and a cultural museum, with exhibits following a timeline from prehistoric times through to contemporary native art.

The Chiefswood National Historic Site, across the street from the visitor centre, was the home of Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson, whose best-selling Flint and Feather poetry is truly a moving blend of European and aborginal cultures.

Tekahionwake ca 1895.jpg

Pauline Johnson (1861 – 1913)

The Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and the aborginal community of Ohsweken offers a glimpse of native life past and present and their Confederacy Band Council House remains a unifying cultural and political association which has helped settle disputes between bands and proudly represents and preserves First Nations heritage.

And it was here that I embarrassed myself.

I had arrived at a delicate time in aborginal – white relations in Canada.

The Oka Crisis of 1990 was still a sour memory and the seeds for the Grand River Land Dispute (2006) had just been planted.

The Oka Crisis was the first well-publicised violent conflict between First Nations and the Canadian government in modern times.

The Crisis developed from a local dispute between the town of Oka and the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, both just outside the metropolis of Montréal.

The town of Oka was developing plans to expand a golf course and residential development onto land that had been traditionally used by the Mohawk, including pineland and a burial ground marked by standing tombstones of their ancestors.

The town of Oka and its Mayor Jean Ouellete did not consult the Mohawk on the plans and no environmental or historic preservation review was taken.

Opponents of the plans found the Mayor´s office unwilling to discuss them.

So the Mohawks erected a barricade blocking access to the area.

Ouellete demanded compliance with the court order, but the protesters refused.

Ouellete asked the Sureté du Québec (SQ), Québec´s provincial police force, to intervene.

The SQ responded to the barricade by deploying tear gas and flash bang grenades.

Gunfire between both sides began.

After a 15-minute gun battle, SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was killed and the police retreated.

The Mohawks seized six vehicles – four police cars and two front end loaders – and barricaded the main highway.

Natives from across Canada and the United States joined in and all roads that passed through Mohawk territory were blocked, including the Mercier Bridge, a major access point between the island of Montréal and the heavily populated South Shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Frustration over traffic congestion and the blocked roads led to residents of Chateauguay to burn an effigy of a Mohawk warrior while chanting “sauvages“.

The SQ having lost control of the situation were replaced by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who proved equally ineffective and finally the Canadian military got involved.

The Oka Crisis lasted 78 days and the golf course was cancelled, but the issue of indigenous rights was far from resolved.

In 1992 Henco Industries purchased 40 hectares of land, the Douglas Creek Estates, from the Canadian government, which the Six Nations had never agreed to sell to Canada.

The Mohawks, after trying legal action to no avail, finally took action in 2006 in a manner similar to the Oka Crisis.

The Grand River land dispute at Caledonia, near Brantford, was held from 2006 to 2014.

Grand River land dispute, Potluck for Peace, 15 October 2006

I was asked by the Museum to write my opinion regarding aborginal rights, in the hopes I could understand their plight.

I responded to this request by writing that I was not responsible for what injustices my forefathers had done.

I committed the same error that many others have:

I treated the First Nations as if it were they and not us that had taken over the land.

It has taken decades of travel and experience to appreciate how much of a racist bigoted idiot I was to write those words and I wish that I could go back in time and give my younger self a swift kick in the ass for my ignorance and stupidity.

We, the white man, have not only over generations robbed our indigenous people of the most basic rights of physical survival and integrity, but as well have tried to destroy the preservation of their lands, languages, religions, heritage that are part of their existence as a people.

And we violate them by creating laws that ensure our rights over theirs.

And this cultural desecration has been going on for centuries against original peoples, whether it is Australian aborgines, New Zealand Maori, Canadian First Nations, American natives, Japanese Ainu…

The list is long…

Indigenous peoples and their interests are represented in the United Nations primarily through the mechanism of the Working Group in Indigenous Populations (UN-WGIP).

In April 2000 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution to establish the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UN-PFII) as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council with a mandate to review indigenous issues.

In September 2007, after a process of preparation, discussions and negotiations stretching back to 1982, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The non-binding Declaration outlines the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to identity, culture, language, employment, health, education and other nations.

Of the 192 member countries of the United Nations, 11 nations abstained, 34 did not vote, the remaining 143 nations voted for the Declaration.

Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North/South Dakota, USA, 2016

Standing Rock is a Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota native reservation straddling the North and South Dakotas boundary.

The 6th largest reservation in the United States, Standing Rock has a land area of 9,251 sq. km / 3, 571 sq. miles with a population of 8,500.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is part of the Great Sioux Nation.

In 1868 the lands of the Great Sioux Nation were reduced in the Fort Laramie Treaty to the east side of the Missouri River and the state line of South Dakota in the west.

The Black Hills were considered by the Sioux to be sacred land and were located in the centre of territory awarded to the tribe.

In direct violation of the Treaty, General George Custer and his 7th Cavalry entered the Black Hills and discovered gold, starting a gold rush.

Custer Bvt MG Geo A 1865 LC-BH831-365-crop.jpg

Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer (1839  -1876)

The United States government wanted to buy or rent the Black Hills from the Lakota people, but the Great Sioux Nation, led by their spiritual leader Sitting Bull, refused to sell or rent their lands.

Thus began the Great Sioux War / Black Hills War (1876 – 1877) between the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne versus the government of the United States.

Among the many battles and skirmishes of the War was the Battle of the Little Bighorn / Custer´s Last Stand / Battle of the Greasy Grass (25-26 June 1876) near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana, an overwhelming victory for the natives.

But that Battle notwithstanding, the United States with its superior resources was soon able to force the natives to surrender by attacking and destroying their encampments and property

The Agreement of 1877 officially annexed Sioux land and permanently established native reservations.

The US government took the Black Hills from the Sioux Nation.

In 1890, the US government broke a Lakota treaty by adjusting the Great Sioux Reservation into smaller parcels of land to permit white homesteaders to take some of land for agricultural / settlement purposes.

On the reduced reservations, the government allocated family units on 320-acre plots for individual households.

Although the Lakota were traditionally a nomadic people living in tipis and hunting buffalo and riding horses, they were now expected to farm and raise livestock.

With the goal of assimilation, the Lakota were forced to send their children to boarding schools, where they were taught English and Christianity and white cultural practices and the exclusion of traditional culture and language.

By the end of the 1890 growing season, a time of intense heat and little rainfall, it was clear that the assigned land would not produce substantial agriculture yields, and with the bison virtually eradicated, the Lakota were on the edge of extinction.

The Lakota turned to their heritage and their spiritual beliefs and took solace in their Ghost Dance rituals.

These rituals frightened the supervising agents of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Indian Affairs agent James McLaughlin asked for more troops, claiming that their spiritual leader Sitting Bull was the real leader of the movement.

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Sitting Bull (1831 – 1890)

Former Agent Valentine McGillycuddy saw nothing extraordinary in the dances and ridiculed the panic that seemed to overcome the Agency:

“The coming of the troops has frightened the Indians.

If the Seventh Day Adventists prepare the Ascension robes for the Second Coming of the Saviour, the US Army is not put in motion to prevent them.

Why should not the Indians have the same privilege?

If the troops remain, trouble is sure to come.”

Nonetheless, thousands of additional US Army troops were deployed to the reservation.

On 15 December 1890, Sitting Bull was arrested for failing to stop his people from practicing the Ghost Dance.

During the incident, one of Sitting Bull´s men, Catch the Bear, fired at US Army Lieutenant Bullhead, striking his right side.

Bullhead instantly wheeled and shot Sitting Bull, hitting him in the left side.

Both men subsequently died.

The Hunkpapa fled to the south, joined the Big Foot band in Cherry Creek, South Dakota, then travelled to the Pine Ridge Reservation to meet with Chief Red Cloud.

The US 7th Cavalry caught them at a place called Wounded Knee on 29 December 1890, killing 300 people, including women and children.

Woundedknee1891.jpg

Burial of the dead after the Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890

Fast forward to the 1960s.

The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation built five large dams on the Missouri River, implementing the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, forcing the natives to relocate from flooded areas.

Over 200,000 acres on the Standing Rock Reservation and the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota were flooded just by the Oahe Dam alone.

Poverty remains a problem for the displaced population who still seek compensation for the loss of their towns submerged under Lake Oahe and the loss of their traditional ways of life.

Now we come to this year.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,134-mile/1,825 km long underground oil pipeline project, which begins in the Bakken oilfields in NW North Dakota and will travel SE through South Dakota and Iowa and end at the oil tank farm near Pakota, Illinois.

Dakota Access Pipeline route (Standing Rock Indian Reservation is shown in orange)[1][2]

Standing Rock Reservation (in orange) and the Pipeline´s projected route

Routing the Pipeline across the Missouri River near Bismarck was rejected because of the route´s proximity to Bismarck municipal water sources, residential areas, road, wetland and waterway crossings.

The alternative selected by the US Corps of Engineers crosses underneath the Missouri River half a mile from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

On 1 April 2016, elder member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe LaDonna Bravebull Allard and her grandchildren established the Sacred Stone Camp to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, which directly threatens the only water supply for the Standing Rock Reservation.

Sacred Stone is on her private land and is a centre for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Protests at the Pipeline site in North Dakota began and drew indigenous tribes from throughout North America, as well as many supporters, creating the largest gathering of native tribes in the past 100 years of US history.

“Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of these are right here….

It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan and the Northern Cheyenne. 

The US government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas, and as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. 

These sites must be protected or our world will end. 

It is that simple

Our young people have a right to know who they are. 

They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. 

The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history. 

If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?”

By late September over 300 federally recognised native tribes and an estimated 4,000 pipeline resistance supporters resided at Sacred Stone, with several thousand more on weekends.

Peaceful protests at the pipeline site have continued and have drawn indigenous people from all over North America as well as other supporters.

North Dakota pipeline protest

On 3 September 2016, the South Dakota Access Pipeline brought in a private security firm.

The company used bulldozers containing native graves and burial artifacts.

When unarmed protestors moved near the bulldozers, the guards used pepper spray and guard dogs to protect the site they were told to guard.

Nine days later, a Colonial Pipeline leak spilled over 350,000 gallons of gasoline in Alabama, further fuelling the criticism of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Since my last blog post, (I have been busy.), on the night of 21 November, in -5 degrees Celcius weather, law enforcement officers deployed tear gas and water hoses against hundreds of activists protesting against the Pipeline.

Standing Rock protests

Protestors were also hit with mace, pepper spray, rubber bullets and percussion grenades.

167 people were injured, 7 taken to hospital.

More than 400 activists have been arrested since the protests began.

The unarmed anti-pipeline activists call themselves “water protectors” and they stand unarmed against a highly-militarised police force defending a company that still lacks official permission to drill under the Missouri River.

And chances are strong that the water protectors will lose.

Americans won´t give up their dependance on fossil fuel, regardless of the technology and the capacity to do so that exists.

Flagge der Vereinigten Staaten

The US government has historically dishonoured itself by repeated violation of treaties signed with the native tribes and as oil company lobbies pay Congressmen more money than destitute native peoples can, the Pipeline will become yet another betrayal in a long list of betrayals.

Profit remains paramount over people.

And when pipelines break as they inevitably do and clean water becomes scarcer then gold then maybe America will realise the true folly of ignoring the message of Standing Rock.

When America, and the rest of the world, begins to realise that human rights and conservation are intertwined then there is the beginning of hope for the future.

All that there is now is the destruction of the past and the despoilation of the present and the prospect of a depressing future.

Fill ‘er up?

Sources: Wikipedia / The Guardian

The second encampment

 

 

Walking with the President

“Dear Mr. President

Come take a walk with me.

Let´s pretend we´re just two people and

You´re no better than me.”

(Pink, “Dear Mr. President”)

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 30 May 2016

What if the unthinkable actually happened?

What if Donald “Duck!” Trump became the President of the United States?

Donald Duck.svg

New York City, New York, USA, 1 April 2017

Yo, Donald! Mr. Prez.

Nicky here.

You know one of the Americans you claim to represent?

Walk with me.

Don, I gotta give you credit where credit´s due.

No one, and I mean no one, just a couple of years ago would have imagined you would pull it off.

But between the choice of two evils – a woman no one trusted and a man no one liked – plus the largest lack of voter turnout in US history, Americans have chosen you to be the 45th President of the United States of America.

(Bernie gave a good fight right down to the wire, but at day´s end he struck Americans as too radical, despite some of his ideas ones America hungered for.)

(The Dems claim they would not have been defeated if you somehow hadn´t cheated, but whomever gets the most votes gets elected.

Isn´t that democracy in a nutshell?)

In your Inaugural Speech back in January, you said you would listen to Americans, that their ideas would help you to make America great again.

So, yo, Mr President, listen up!

In a few succinct words, Donald, you ain´t doin´what needs to be done.

Granted you put on one hell of a show.

Gold leaf in the Oval Office paid out of your own pocket?

Bling, baby, bling!

But as to the rest of it, you got folks mighty worried.

The new bill forcing protestors to obtain written permission from the police before they can protest?

You represent the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

What about freedom of assembly, freedom of expression?

Denied peaceful assembly, peaceful expression, people who you worried about being violent now feel that they´ve no other choice but be violent.

The Great Border Wall between us and the Mexicans?

Bad idea, bro.

No surprise that Mexico won´t pay despite your threats.

And this Wall comes out of American taxpayers´ wallets.

Not to mention the untold millions already being paid to increase the manpower needed to find and deport illegal immigrants already here.

And the media – they really don´t like you much, do they? – showing pictures of INS teams dragging parents away from their children to send them back to their birthplaces is doing nothing to improve your rep.

And the racial profiling that is happening at the borders and airports is not helping your image either.

And exactly what does a believer in Islam actually look like?

Islamic Center in Washington DC

Your daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism when she married, but at first glance does she look Jewish?

For that matter, do Americans look Christian?

As to your dealings with other countries…

On some respects, it seems business as usual – we are still chummy with the Saudis and non-critical of Israel and China regardless of what they do.

As much as you are trying to show a strong image by sending our troops to the Middle East to tackle ISIS head on, I honestly don´t believe we can be very effective without allies to help us.

AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg

Russia respects us as long as we live and let live and let them keep doing what they like in their Eurasian playground as long as they let us do as we will in our North and South American playground.

But I don´t think the Germans, French and much of the European Union like America very much, despite your reassurements of providing more troops to the NATO effort.

Hell, even Canada ain´t too wild about us for that matter!

And even though the British PM was glad to meet you, being snubbed by the Queen and denied a visit…

A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue

That had a nasty sting to both America´s and your pride.

From what I can see here from Queens we don´t seem to have many friends these days.

And having few friends can´t be good for the economy.

And money already is being spent like there is no tomorrow.

USDnotes.png

More police, more prisons, more militia, require more money.

And where will this money come from, Mr President?

Show me the money, Donald.

Show me the money.

One of my ancestors once wrote that it was better to be feared than loved.

I can´t say that people fear you, but they sure as hell don´t like you very much.

(Though those celebs that said they would move if you got elected –  they never left.)

It´s true that most of us were long ago fed up with the lack of progress that government seems to represent, but you can´t keep using executive power to ramrod every legislation you want passed.

Washington might be corrupt and often ineffectual, but it still represents the will of the American people.

US Capitol west side.JPG

Respect is a two-way street, Mr. President.

Now there are members of your party, Mr President, that suggest that America must effectively crush its opponents so as to earn great respect from everyone else, but if we destroy our reputation, which, to be blunt, is not so great as it is, who will trust us enough to want to do business with us?

And, sure, attacking those who oppose America will solve many problems right now, but what about the problems of the future?

My ancestor would have approved of how you never appear intimidated regardless of the situation, of how you are reluctant to have others make decisions you prefer to do yourself, and of how you make sure that Americans seek you out especially in times of need.

But my ancestor would remind you that the two most essential foundations for any state are sound laws and a strong military.

Laws cannot be passed without Congressional approval unless you plan to use executive power for everything.

America has a strong military but it is increasingly being spread too thin.

Walk with me, Mr. Prez.

Check out all the homeless here on most US cities or visit the poorer states.

Your party keeps telling everyone that our poverty is somehow our fault.

No, Don, it ain´t.

Being poor ain´t a choice or some kind of preferred lifestyle.

Being broke is a circumstance that can only be resolved if people are given opportunities to rise above their present station in their lives.

Poor folks are no different than you, Donald – they want to take pride in the things they do, but they need the opportunity.

But those who can´t afford an education find few opportunities and working two fulltime jobs like many Americans do and still remain in debt is not what one could call an inspirational American dream.

More folks are incarcerated in this country than many other countries combined.

I am no economic expert, but putting a man behind bars costs money.

If a man´s crime is not violent, wouldn´t time best be served and money better spent if that man were fined and made to contribute part of his salary instead?

A working man contributes more to the economy than an incarcerated man.

Never forget, Donald, that you were hired to make American lives better.

Give a man an opportunity to improve his life and the lives of his family and he will make America great again.

You want respect, Mr. President?

Then restore the dignity of your people by giving everyone the same opportunities.

Create jobs with salaries sufficient that people can afford to go shopping for the products our country produces.

Make health care accessible to everyone and not just for the wealthy.

An ill man cannot contribute to the economy.

A man in debt paying for hospital bills well beyond his wages cannot help the economy.

A man in debt is a desperate man and desperation leads to desperate acts.

You want to help this country then get out of your limo and your Trump hotels and walk among us in the style of King Arthur.

As the original peoples say, don´t judge a man until you have walked in his mocassins.

One of the hopeful,

Nick Machiavelli

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 31 May 2016

Wow, what a weird and vivid dream that was.

I really shouldn´t eat pizza before bedtime.