The cultural absorption or lack of it of large immigrant communities may not have predictable outcomes. The relationship between culture and politics, it seems, is not straightforward and drawing political conclusions from cultural practices is an inexact business.
A history of the interactions between Ireland and Scotland over two millennia, told in a series of 120 episodes, ranges entertainingly from the Roman governor Agricola’s plan to invade Ireland from Scotland to 21st century pitch invasions at Ibrox and Celtic Park.
Once independence was won, the question facing Irish ideologues and leaders was how to make revival real. It was then that the tenuous and tentative nature of the relation between the cultural and the political became clear. Those different spheres would never march in lockstep.
A new anthology of works of fiction translated into English is modest about its ambitions and disclaims any ambition to be ‘canonical’. Nevertheless it is a smartly executed work, which invites us to fill in some gaps in our literary education and ‘get out a bit more’.
According to one source, Lt Col Percy Harrison Fawcett, who went missing in the Brazilian rain forest in 1925, was a Colonel Blimp figure who discovered nothing. According to another, he is still alive in the underground city of Ibez, where he can materialise and dematerialise at will.
In making the case that war is simply humanity’s natural lot, other causes of conflict, such as secret diplomacy, the arms trade, inequality, censorship to protect national security and industrial capitalism’s wish to profit from misery, perhaps get off rather lightly.
Alan Titley is probably the most important writer in Irish since Ó Cadhain. It is a daunting challenge to anatomise a writer as various, versatile and sometimes difficult as Titley, but Máirtín Coilféir suggests that one valuable path into understanding his writing might be through the lens of ethics.
Whereas Homer, and the Homeric heroes, would have regarded manual labour as a noble pursuit, Plato saw ‘mechanical crafts’ and the raising of ‘sordid beasts’ (farming) as activities suitable only to the lowest ranks, distracting man from the encounter with his soul.
Oscar Wilde saw one significant drawback to socialism – ‘too many meetings’. But with increasing inequality and ample evidence of big money’s erosion of democracy, citizens who wish to save it may well have to resign themselves to going out the occasional night.
For all Brazil’s great size and demographic weight, and the economic and social progress marked up since the return of democracy in the 1980s, the country continues to be the champion of social inequality and is still struggling to construct true republican values and true citizens.