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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The Seasons: Is August the Cruelest Month ?

August and Wars * John Edwards * Alexander Solzhenitsyn * Pajaro Dunes

The blogosphere is full of items titled "August is the Cruelest Month". Is it? The title reminds me of the novella by Edna O'Brien. Her "August is the Cruelest Month" was published in 1965. A good read.

Surfing the 'net, I found that in his article about August and its association with wars Nigel Jones of Times Online (London) also mentioned Edna O'Brien's book. Excerpt from his article:

Nigel Jones

August is the month when wars start.” When the late rock writer Al Aronowitz penned that line in his August Blues he spoke more truly than he knew. The current hostilities between Russia and Georgia are only the latest in a series of modern crises and conflicts that have all broken out in what the novelist Edna O'Brien called the “wicked month” when ordinary people and politicians alike should be at their most relaxed and sunning themselves on Southwold sands, but have just as often been plotting wars and starting rumours of wars.

The very name of the month has a martial ring. August is named after Augustus, first of the Roman emperors, who was himself a successful general. His adopted father, Julius Caesar, was one of the great commanders of history and, after Caesar's assassination in 44BC, it fell to Augustus to hunt down and defeat his uncle's murderers, Brutus and Cassius. He followed this up by defeating his great rival Mark Antony at the sea battle of Actium, leaving himself as the single unchallenged ruler of Rome.

Here in America, August turned out to be the month to put an end to the political career of ex-senator and former presidential candidate John Edwards. As they say "he is toast". You wonder about the monumental ego of the philanderers. It is not that they have affairs but to think that they can get away with it!

The death of Solzhenitsyn resulted in hundreds of items in the media. There is no question about his courage in writing One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), followed by The Gulag Archipelago.

The Other Side of Solzhenitsyn

Times OnLine August 5, 2008

The late Polish author Ryszard Kapuściński is far from the fame attained by Solzhenitsyn. Kapuściński's Imperium (1994) is a fascinating book about his travels in Russia. He wrote:
Cathy Young in The Boston Globe:

According to Young, Solzhenitsyn castigated the policies of Boris Yeltsin, saying the leader stripped Russia of prestige, while embracing President Vladimir Putin. “This was the sad paradox of Solzhenitsyn's final years,” Young writes. “The man who used his Nobel Prize to start a fund for political prisoners kept quiet about the new political prisoners of Putin's regime.”

In the Moscow Times, Yevgeny Kiselyov expresses a similar opinion. “Solzhenitsyn's proposals for how to improve conditions in Russia were naive, at best,” according to Kiselyov. “And how can we regard him as ‘the conscience of the people’ when he remained silent during Russia’s greatest tragedies, at times when the people needed moral support from an authoritative figure the most?” he said, citing instances like the start of the war in Chechnya and the Beslan hostage crisis.
Pajaro Dunes

Beach House at Pajaro Dunes (August 2007)

For me, August means a week on the coast at Pajaro Dunes. Not always sunny but a week when a group of us walk on the beach, look out of the window at the Pacific 50 yards away, talk, read, cook, enjoy good food and wine before returning to the valley, ready to face the waning days of summer. I'll be there this afternoon.

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