Flash Back (Official Secrets)

We flew to and from Mexico recently, maxing out on a stash of films.

One, Official Secrets, an excellent Keira Knightly vehicle, portraying Katherine Gun and her struggle with her conscience, her country and the official secrets act.

It revealed/portrayed the national shame and the the national scandal of Tony Blair and government lying to the public and committing the nation’s young men and

women, to say nothing of innocent Iraqis, to depraved years of illegal war with rendition, Guantanamo Bay (agh don’t) and the dropping of the case because it would reveal the lie.

One of the lawyers advising Katherine Gun was Shami Chakrabarti then head of Liberty, now a baroness. It felt strange to see her fictionalised. I met her at a writing retreat at Gladstone’s library is my claim, before I’d looked at her CV online, before reading On Liberty, before Jeremy Corbin recognised her worth. She was forever at his side in those horrible parliamentary debates. It felt one of those six degrees of separation moments, a blend of coincidence and a minor brush with greatness.

Official Secrets was not funny. It points out the vindictiveness of our government with regard to deportation and legislation that makes challenging official secrets an impossibility – however wrong, illegal, unprincipled those imposing the secrecy, A neat piece of story telling that lost out perhaps in the oscars to Parasite, also thought provoking but darkly funny.

Can’t imagine how Katherine Gun felt about the film.

Any Human Heart

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Often, in the view from my window, sea and sky merge.  Obviously  different elements and entities and yet there on the horizon is an intimation that one disappears into the other. Sometimes they merely reflect each other like a blend of fact and fiction.

I have been reading Any Human Heart. Had I bought the book rather than a download  I might have thought twice. It’s quite a tome and I usually go for short.  But I’m having a William Boyd fest at the moment and the note stating five hours left to read, that would normally send a frisson,  ‘have I five hours left to give?’ I  ignore happily. It’s a really enjoyable read. Logan, the (anti?) hero, witnesses and participates in the major events of the twentieth century in a grand sweep, meeting novelists, artists, even  the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I like the improbability of the names and  the pretence. A blur of real and unreal that can constitute a good novel.

Reflecting on the improbability of life and fiction, William Boyd and me both, a few choice quotes worth pondering.

What do you believe in?

‘(A) credo of two hates and three loves: hatred of injustice, hatred of privilege, love of life, love of humanity, love of beauty.

The meaning of life?

‘That’s all your life amounts to in the end: the aggregate of all the good luck and the bad luck you experience. Everything is explained by that simple formula.’

Advice for budding writers perhaps?:

‘In good prose precision must always triumph over decoration…Wilful elaboration is a sign that the stylist has entered a decadent phase….sometimes a plain dish of lentils is all that the palate craves even if one insists that the lentils come from Puy.’

 

 

 

Did I ever tell you I met Colm Toibin?

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This isn’t one of those articles that goes on to publicise a new biography and isn’t even a claim to fame. It is just a coincidence, or if you were to believe such things, serendipitous.

We had wandered to the central library in New York to admire the lofty ceiling of the foyer and found a small crowd standing listening to none other than CT.

His books were new to me, and Brooklyn, the first but magnificent introduction.
I was given Brooklyn by a very erudite nun, Elizabeth Strub. A wise woman who spoke to us in honeyed American tones. I know I was impressed at the time, but now of course would have to look again what her topics was. To do with love, for sure and a person’s duty viz a viz their fellows to do everything in their power to mitigate injustice, hunger, cruelty. Fired by her at the time but slithered back to old ways now, with other people and their problems a mere worrying crease in the brow.
I will be forever grateful for having my eyes opened to CT’s luminous, delicate prose.

CT spoke of the Testament of Mary with a rather angry contingent. His stage adaptation of the novella was being performed in N Y. And a woman took great exception to the imagery. He answered with such grace till eventually rescued by his interviewer and the talk moved on.

Ahead of the game: Child 44

For once I’ve already devoured the book before it comes out in film.

Not my usual choice, it was a great holiday read and almost brought about a conversion. The hostile claustrophobic atmosphere of the fifties Soviet State was well covered and all too plausible. That it was about child abuse and murder that the Soviet state refused even to acknowledge is an irony, if nothing else, with the DPP’s recent catastrophic blow to victims (not in the public interest to be seen to act fairly.)
It seems iniquitous not to shout out at the injustice done by our liberal state to the victims of abuse.

A shame then that they say the film has dulled a taught psychological thriller and immersed everything in a ‘cloudy brown soup’