Friday, August 3, 2012

Mario Vargas Llosa's Latest

A "novel [that] recounts the true-life story of Roger Casement, an Irishman who documented and published reports of human rights abuses in Congo and Peru at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries" — Writing in the time of the post reverse-conquista. More from Luis Alberto Urrea's review:
    Casement ran afoul of the British Empire when he returned home and realized that Ireland was as subject to imperialism and colonialism as the natives he had observed in extremis. The Crown did not take kindly to this epiphany. He was eventually arrested for treason for trying to enlist Germany’s help in the Irish fight against British rule.

    The first half of the novel owes a clear debt to Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness hums like a mosquito in the background. In fact, among other historical figures, we meet Conrad himself, behaving like a coward in these pages.

    Sir Henry Stanley, the famous African explorer who found David Livingstone, is cruel. There’s not a hero among Casement’s cohort, not even poor Casement himself. He wanders, seemingly dazed, watching blood spatter from the “savages” and worrying about Ireland. It is a delicate performance by Vargas Llosa.

    We first meet Casement in prison, awaiting execution. His entire adventure is told in unemotional flashback, but the story is oddly dammed because the narrative flow is as captive as its hero. By page 90, one realises this is not a tale of adventure; it is a tale of oppression. The author expects us to attend to the great themes and learn.

    Colonialists in the era of King Leopold II are portrayed here as weirdly disconnected from the violence they inflict. Convinced that torture is for their victims’ own good, these capitalists ravage the land in pursuit of rubber for burgeoning new markets in the first world. The natives are enslaved — and then tortured or killed if they resist. Their masters avoid censure by calling this genocide “liberation.”

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Blogger Francis-Xavier said...

Make no mistake about it, Casement was executed not for his treason but his homosexual trysts.

The British wont was to either coverup treason by members of their upper class (Sir Anthony Blunt) or if that's not feasible let them, even help them, escape (Maclean, Philby, etc.)

Casement was so respected that it was all but certain that his death sentence was to be a cause celebre, that is until people such as St. Woodrow Wilson, who would have interceded on his behalf, and had the clout to obtain some easement, were confronted with Casement's diary in which he described his relations with young men wherever he went.

This homoerotic writing was enough to silence Wilson, George Bernard Shaw, and many others.

On a side note, I have often wondered whether the Easter Rebellion, which was so poorly planned and armed that it had no chance of success, was not some sort of gay-themed suicide pact. Quite a few of the participants in the Rebellion were of that persuasion, and the more I think about it, the more the idea that it was sublimated homoeroticism seems to add up, to me at least.

August 4, 2012 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Pints in NYC said...

It is proper that you post about Roger Casement on August 3rd, which marks the anniversary of his execution.

Here is a moving song by the great Irish Band the Wolfe Tones about Casement, called "The Lonely Banna Strand."

And here are the lyrics:

August 4, 2012 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Pints in NYC said...


I have a hard time believing that he was killed for being queer, but am open to any research you can provide. By an extension of your logic, and a bit of creative imagination, one could wonder whether there may have been a conspiracy amongst the highest echelons of the British Royal family to get rid of Mountbatten. - Was he set up, like could do to Diana? But then they go ahead and knight Elton. Times change I guess.

I’m also totally unaware of the sexuality(/ies?) of the leaders of ’16. If you have any research on that, please share as well.

I myself subscribe to the idea that the British sought to smear his good name, which was indeed highly regarded throughout the world, and which made offing him in retaliation against a righteous struggle a bit inconvenient.

Today, depending on the “target that needs to be taken out,” the equivalent would be to call someone a terrorist, pedophile, racist, or even mere sexist. They called Bork a racist; Clarence Thomas a sexist; various Emmanual Goldsteins and one-time “our sons of bitches” in Mesopotamia and the Himalayas, terrorists; etc.

And Anglophile Wilson (a real racist) the man, I don’t think he’d have really cared what England did either way (unless, of course, you could provide some research on this). Wilson the politician, however, did probably breathe a sigh of relief that it might be a slight bit easier to trick the Irish American population to join their irrational fight on the side of their former oppressors against the Hun. I do enjoy your mocking him as “St. Wilson,” for he certain is as close to an apostle of Rousseau as one can find.

Oh, and please don’t think of me as being a stickler asking for research. I am genuinely intrigued by you comments and honestly have never come across those views before. I am interested in learning more about all this, so every bit helps. Thanks!

August 4, 2012 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger Francis-Xavier said...

Pints, Casement was not sentenced to death for his sexuality. Rather this habits made a reprieve or pardon of some sort, which otherwise would have happened, unthinkable.

Casement, actually Sir Roger Casement CMG (written: Companion of the Order of Sts. Michael and George pronounced: Call me God) was about as revered in his time as Mother Theresa was revered in hers, and the sentiment clearly was that when a wonderful person makes a bad mistake, they deserve a certain forbearance, which he would have gotten. Perhaps exile, perhaps prison and exile, who knows?

As soon as people began to advocate for Sir Roger, people like GB Shaw, who would have been taken seriously, the British showed them his diaries, (diaries mind you, that recent high tech analysis has proven are his) and thus the sentiment changed. Everyone was for giving him a second chance, but not a third, particularly after his particular transgressions were in play.

When Patrick Pearse, one of the two leaders of the Rising was executed, he was 36, and had been a lawyer for 15 years, but never found time to marry at a time when society expected that people either married or joined religious orders. The history of the Rising that I read hinted quite clearly that he had had no desire to get married.

Have you never thought of the parallels between the Rising and Hitler's Beer House Putsch by his heavily pink SA?

August 5, 2012 at 10:00 PM  

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