Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “Armenia”

Gilgamesh: it’s a long way to home

GilgameshGilgamesh by Joan London
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Frank Clark, an Australian soldier, wounded in the First World War, marries Ada, an English orphan, and takes her back to Australia with him. They try farming in south-western Australia, but life is hard, and their two daughters grow up, one helping on the farm, and the other working as a maid in a nearby hotel. A visit from an English cousin and his friend leaves the younger daughter, Edith, pregnant, and she sets out to find the father of her child in Armenia, just before the Second World War breaks out.

It is a book about travel, about friendship and loss, and about the way in which peoples lives connect for a while, and are then parted and they never see each other again, or sometimes met again in unexpected ways. In that way it seems similar to real life, where the twists and turns of the story are not driven by plot, but often by chance, or spur-of-the-moment decisions. G.K. Chesterton once wrote that truth is always stranger than fiction, because fiction is a product of the human mind and therefore congenial to it. And so this story has a ring of truth, and seems close to real life.

Yet it also has a dream-like quality. I don’t know about other people but many of my dreams involve preparing and planning for things that never seem to happen, because something else intervenes and turns things aside at the last minute.

It is this combination of realism and dream that made the book interesting to me, wanting to see what happens in the end, because one never knows what to expect. The characters read The Epic of Gilgamesh, who, like them, travelled a long way from home. In some ways home is where you are, and in others, it is always somewhere else.

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Caucasian paranoia

The Balkans used to be a byword for over-the-top nationalism and suspicion bordering on paranoia, but it looks as though the Caucasians have overtaken them and are now well in the lead. In a fine demonstration of how surveillance technology can be put to good use, the Azerbajan security forces have been tracking down the traitors who voted for the Armenian entry in the Eurovision song contest.

The Poor Mouth: Azeri security forces flush out Eurovision traitors:

Hmm now there’s surveillance technology put to good use I don’t think. As for getting irate over who votes for who in the Eurovision, if there is a grain of truth in this story, the Azerbaijan government should find some greater threat to national security like the evil bastards who step on the cracks on pavements.

The crack about cracks in pavements reminds me of when I was banned in Durban, and we used to read A.A. Milne’s poem about the bears who were waiting to pounce on those evil bastards who step on cracks in pavements, or who inadvertently enter “any place which constitutes the premises of any organization contemplated in Government Notice No. R2130 of the 28th December, 1962, as amended by Government Notice No. R. 1947 of the 27th November, 1964, and any place which constitutes the premises on which the premises of any such organization are situate.”

That meant, for example, that if you entered the ground floor of a building and looked at the list of occupants in the lobby to see if any organisations contemplated in Government Notice No. R2130 of the 28th December, 1962, as amended by Government Notice No. R. 1947 of the 27th November, 1964 had premises in the building, you had already committed an offence. And the bears could be watching.

And speaking of bears, that reminds me of a little song composed by my friend Ed Tonkin (wonder where he is now?), to the tune of The teddy-bears’ picnic.

If you go down to the woods today
You’re in for a big surprise
For Nusas Congress is there today
And everyone’s in disguise
And every tree that ever there was
Has a Special Branch man behind it because
Today’s the day that Nusas is having their congress.

(NUSAS was the National Union of South African Students)

But it sounds as though the Azeris have gone one better.

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