I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Issue 06, Summer 2008

Issue 06, Summer 2008

Where Oil Is King

These words should send warning signals: most of the authors are exponents of a brand of African political sociology that is overly fond of neologisms and obscure typologies. Patrick Chabal talks about “neo-patrimonialism”; Christine Messiant writes about “the mutation of hegemonic domination”; Nuno Vidal describes the regime’s “patrimonial and clientelistic operation”. Whether there is a useful distinction to be drawn between “patrimonial” and “neo-patrimonial” I don’t know; the shorthand is that the Angolan regime is very, very corrupt.

Romancing the Stone

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin put paid to the Georgian and Regency styles and became the premier architect of the Gothic Revival. He designed one of the world’s most instantly recognisable landmarks, the clock tower popularly known as Big Ben. He can rightly be said to have changed the architectural face of Ireland too, his buildings being particularly common in Co Wexford.

Alpha Male, Foul-Mouthed Mystic

His liberalisation of the laws regulating abortion, homosexuality and divorce followed an idiosyncratic individualism which Trudeau saw as the logical outcome of his Catholic faith. Like a certain strand among Catholics in the Victorian era, Trudeau’s liberalism grew out of a rejection of the doctrine of the Atonement, which proclaimed that the wages of sin is death and which meant to collect on that debt.

The Queen of Lillyput

Swift was genuinely kind to the young couple, helping Matthew with his career as a clegyman and including them in his peculiar dinner parties at the deanery, which always involved contretemps with the servants over the quality of the food or their alleged purloining of beer. He treated Laetitia almost like an intelligent doll, to be played tricks on, pinched, smacked, forced to take her shoes off, quizzed on her knowledge of literature, and expected to listen to him for hours on end.

Europe Inside and Out

While some see the European Union as the only effective possible counterweight to “chaotic international networks and concentrations of power” others see it as another manifestation of globalisation, driven by a quasi-religious faith in the market, competition and privatisation. “This,” writes Mak, “is the philosophy of most political elites, but many citizens – even the majority in any number of European countries – don’t believe in it at all.”

A Sound Constitution

The adoption of an amendment process that required a referendum to approve any constitutional change can be explained by de Valera’s need to establish the people as the font of all authority and thereby marginalise extreme nationalists. More troubling is the odd – though never once invoked – Article 27 provision, which allows the president to call a referendum or general election on a contentious issue. There is absolutely no benefit to a governing party from this provision, which is further evidence of de Valera’s willingness to put democratic principle before party advantage.

The Chinese Playboy

Since the Chinese production includes so much sexual display, we have to wonder whether it might not be deliberately, or even unconsciously, a Chinese Playboy version of Synge’s “Western World”. At the very least, we must wonder to what extent the accumulation of sexually charged allusions affects an interpretation of the performance? To answer this, we need to consider changes of expectation within contemporary Chinese culture, the earlier norms of representation within the People’s Republic and the nature of the imaginative world in Chinese society today.

The Phantom of Exclusion

The Irish Literary Revival, alongside many other similar movements of the time, was an attempt to transform Ireland from what it seemed to be becoming – a derivative, provincial British backwater given to exaggerated bluster about its Irishness – into an autonomous and self-respecting cultural centre. This is the logic behind Douglas Hyde’s “On the Necessity of De-Anglicising Ireland”. Quinn shows no interest in or understanding of this aspect of the Revival – it would, after all, involve getting to grips with the dynamics of Anglo-Irish cultural relations, with due attention to both sides of the hyphen.

Only A Game

Actually these norms turn out not to be so unique – they are all but identical to the public school ethos as Orwell describes it. Thus sport can, at the very least, be seen as encouraging and condoning behaviour that would normally be considered unacceptable or even criminal. PG Wodehouse’s description of a rugby match exaggerates, but not by much: “each side is allowed to … do things to its fellow-man which, if done elsewhere, would result in fourteen days without the option, coupled with some strong remarks from the Bench”.

Dark Horse Among The Hippos

The title of this poem, “City”, also calls to mind Roy Fisher’s 1961 collection of the same name and Fisher as a poet of the city – “Birmingham’s what I think with” as he famously remarked – is an important figure for Wheatley. Indeed his definition of a poem may be Wheatley’s own: “A poem has business to exist, really, if there’s a reasonable chance that somebody may have his perceptions rearranged by having read it.”