by Sam Bright
Mark Twain, a man who knew a thing or two about recognising a great tale of adventure, said in 1878, “Stanley is almost the only man alive today whose name and work will be familiar one hundred years hence”. Ironic, that. Mr Twain evidently underestimated his own import. Even in Little Old England, I would happily bet that more people would be able to link Mark Twain with his most famous creations, than can link Henry Morton Stanley with the navigation of the Congo, or the Emin Pasha relief expedition.
Reality contrives to be crueller still. Before picking up Tim Jeal’s stupendous biography of one the greatest Welshmen, I knew perhaps three things about the explorer: (obviously) that his name was Henry Morton Stanley; he uttered the immortal phrase “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”; and his adventures inspired Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Having now put down that biography, I realise: I was wrong on all counts.
…but that does not mean you can’t be a back-seat driver
Still no seats, Nigel.
By Babak Moussavi and Sam Bright
Labour’s predictable victory in a recent spate of byelections across England was not seen as the main story of that night. That accolade goes to UKIP, which succeeded in coming second in two of the contests and third in another. This led Nigel Farage, the leader of the party, to proclaim that UKIP was now the ‘third party’ in British politics.
Is there any truth to this grand statement? Perhaps the answer to this question depends in part on whether it is indeed possible to ‘rank’ parties in a straightforward manner, and if so, by what measure.
Individual responsibility or collective fault? Who to point the finger at in the LIBOR scandal
by Sam Bright
Barclays Bank has been fairly comprehensively trashed in the past couple of weeks. It’s chairman, Marcus Agius, resigned to protect the chief executive, Bob Diamond; and then temporarily un-resigned when Sir Mervyn King made clear that Mr Diamond had to go. Other executives too have taken the plunge: notably, Jerry Del Messier, the (now ex-) Chief Operating Officer.
There are, as I see it, two main difficulties involved with blaming a few senior officials at Barclays.
Sam Bright – for
The policy of using unmanned drones to target terrorists and insurgents was pioneered by President George W Bush’s administration in the years following 9/11, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. President Obama has since adopted and significantly extended this policy, in what to many is the most controversial and damnable decision of his presidency.
by Sam Bright
Estimates vary, but it is possible that as many as 14,000 people have been killed by the fighting that has cursed Syria for over a year. The fighting shows no signs of abating. There have been reports of rape being used as a tool for interrogation. Children are being used as human shields, and there have been massacres of groups of children under the age of 10. The country is being torn apart in a spiralling frenzy of attack and counter-attack.
By Sam Bright
An old woman lives in a cave to escape the Antonovs that regularly drop their deadly payload over her village. She knows that she shares the cave with any number of lethally poisonous snakes. Between a bomb and a serpent: she’s made her choice. Perhaps to escape the fate of one of her neighbours, an 11 year old boy who took shelter behind a tree when he heard the approaching drone of the aircraft. He lost both arms.
Welcome to the Nuba Mountains. The inhabitants of this region, bordering Sudan and the newly independent state of South Sudan, can trace their culture and their way of life back many hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, with links to the historic Nubian civilisations that once stretched all the way to Egypt. Having survived for so long, this existence may have finally reached a deadly conclusion.
The author wearing cowboy accessories, much like Vikram in his novel
by Sam Bright
Gregory David Roberts is no ordinary author. His own life story, much of which is apparently a matter of public record, is quite fantastic: a budding Australian academic with anarchist tendencies, the collapse of his marriage saw him turn to heroin and a rather quaint (if deplorable) spell as ‘The Gentleman Bandit’, politely staging hold-ups with a plastic gun to feed his habit. Needless to say, on capture he was sentenced to a long spell in prison, and after breaking the rules found himself in solitary confinement. Unable to bear the hardships of prison life, he escaped and fled to Mumbai.
This back story sets the scene for his novel Shantaram. Roberts insists that the novel is fiction, and not an autobiography: this is not hard to believe. Lin, the narrator and protagonist, is embroiled in a quite improbable world of poverty, organized crime, Afghan insurgency, love, redemption and, most implausibly, survival. Yet the line between fact and fiction is quite evidently blurred. Lin shares the same background as the author: up to his arrival in Mumbai, there is no reason to consider the book anything other than biographical.