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Mario Vargas Llosa
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Mario Vargas Llosa
BornJorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa
March 28, 1936
Arequipa, Arequipa, PeruCitizenshipPeru, SpainAlma materNational University of San Marcos
Complutense University of MadridLiterary movementLatin American boomNotable awardsMiguel de Cervantes Prize
Nobel Prize in Literature
2010ChildrenÁlvaro Vargas Llosa
Gonzalo Vargas Llosa
Morgana Vargas Llosa
Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa, 1st Marquis of Vargas Llosa (;Spanish: [ˈmaɾjo ˈβaɾgas ˈʎosa]; born March 28, 1936) is a Peruvian writer, politician, journalist, essayist, college professor, and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. Vargas Llosa is one of Latin America’s most significant novelists and essayists, and one of the leading writers of his generation. Some critics consider him to have had a larger international impact and worldwide audience than any other writer of theLatin American Boom. Upon announcing the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy said it had been given to Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat”.
Vargas Llosa rose to fame in the 1960s with novels such as The Time of the Hero (La ciudad y los perros, literally The City and the Dogs, 1963/1966), The Green House (La casa verde, 1965/1968), and the monumental Conversation in the Cathedral (Conversación en la catedral, 1969/1975). He writes prolifically across an array ofliterary genres, including literary criticism and journalism. His novels include comedies, murder mysteries, historical novels, and political thrillers. Several, such as Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (1973/1978) and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977/1982), have been adapted as feature films.
Many of Vargas Llosa’s works are influenced by the writer’s perception of Peruvian society and his own experiences as a native Peruvian. Increasingly, however, he has expanded his range, and tackled themes that arise from other parts of the world. In his essays, Vargas Llosa has made many criticisms of nationalism in different parts of the world. Another change over the course of his career has been a shift from a style and approach associated with literary modernism, to a sometimes playfulpostmodernism.
Like many Latin American writers, Vargas Llosa has been politically active throughout his career; over the course of his life, he has gradually moved from the political lefttowards liberalism or neoliberalism. While he initially supported the Cuban revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, Vargas Llosa later became disenchanted with his policies. He ran for the Peruvian presidency in 1990 with the center-right Frente Democrático coalition, advocating neoliberal reforms, but lost the election to Alberto Fujimori. He is the person who, in 1990, “coined the phrase that circled the globe”, declaring on Mexican television, “Mexico is the perfect dictatorship”, a statement which became an adage during the following decade.
Early life and family
Mario Vargas Llosa was born to a middle-class family on March 28, 1936, in the Peruvian provincial city of Arequipa. He was the only child of Ernesto Vargas Maldonado and Dora Llosa Ureta (the former a radio operator in an aviation company, the latter the daughter of an old criollo family), who separated a few months before his birth. Shortly after Mario’s birth, his father revealed that he was having an affair with a German woman; consequently, Mario has two younger half-brothers: Enrique and Ernesto Vargas.
Vargas Llosa lived with his maternal family in Arequipa until a year after his parents’ divorce, when his maternal grandfather was named honorary consul for Peru in Bolivia. With his mother and her family, Vargas Llosa then moved to Cochabamba, Bolivia, where he spent the early years of his childhood. His maternal family, the Llosas, were sustained by his grandfather, who managed a cotton farm. As a child, Vargas Llosa was led to believe that his father had died—his mother and her family did not want to explain that his parents had separated. During the government of Peruvian President José Bustamante y Rivero, Vargas Llosa’s maternal grandfather obtained a diplomatic post in the Peruvian coastal city of Piura and the entire family returned to Peru. While in Piura, Vargas Llosa attended elementary school at the religious academy Colegio Salesiano. In 1946, at the age of ten, he moved to Lima and met his father for the first time. His parents re-established their relationship and lived in Magdalena del Mar, a middle-class Lima suburb, during his teenage years. While in Lima, he studied at the Colegio La Salle, a Christian middle school, from 1947 to 1949.
When Vargas Llosa was fourteen, his father sent him to the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Lima. At the age of 16, before his graduation, Vargas Llosa began working as an amateur journalist for local newspapers. He withdrew from the military academy and finished his studies in Piura, where he worked for the local newspaper, La Industria, and witnessed the theatrical performance of his first dramatic work, La huida del Inca.
In 1953, during the government of Manuel A. Odría, Vargas Llosa enrolled in Lima’s National University of San Marcos, to study law and literature. He married Julia Urquidi, his maternal uncle’s sister-in-law, in 1955 at the age of 19; she was 10 years older. Vargas Llosa began his literary career in earnest in 1957 with the publication of his first short stories, “The Leaders” (“Los jefes”) and “The Grandfather” (“El abuelo”), while working for two Peruvian newspapers. Upon his graduation from the National University of San Marcos in 1958, he received a scholarship to study at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain. In 1960, after his scholarship in Madrid had expired, Vargas Llosa moved to France under the impression that he would receive a scholarship to study there; however, upon arriving in Paris, he learned that his scholarship request was denied. Despite Mario and Julia’s unexpected financial status, the couple decided to remain in Paris where he began to write prolifically. Their marriage lasted only a few more years, ending in divorce in 1964. A year later, Vargas Llosa married his first cousin, Patricia Llosa, with whom he had three children: Álvaro Vargas Llosa (born 1966), a writer and editor; Gonzalo (born 1967), a businessman; and Morgana (born 1974), a photographer.
Beginning and first major works
Vargas Llosa’s first novel, The Time of the Hero (La ciudad y los perros), was published in 1963. The book is set among a community of cadets in a Lima military school, and the plot is based on the author’s own experiences at Lima’s Leoncio Prado Military Academy. This early piece gained wide public attention and immediate success. Its vitality and adept use of sophisticated literary techniques immediately impressed critics, and it won the Premio de la Crítica Española award. Nevertheless, its sharp criticism of the Peruvian military establishment led to controversy in Peru. Several Peruvian generals attacked the novel, claiming that it was the work of a “degenerate mind” and stating that Vargas Llosa was “paid by Ecuador” to undermine the prestige of the Peruvian Army.
In 1965, Vargas Llosa published his second novel, The Green House (La casa verde), about a brothel called “The Green House” and how its quasi-mythical presence affects the lives of the characters. The main plot follows Bonifacia, a girl who is about to receive the vows of the church, and her transformation into la Selvatica, the best-known prostitute of “The Green House”. The novel was immediately acclaimed, confirming Vargas Llosa as an important voice of Latin American narrative.The Green House won the first edition of the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize in 1967, contending with works by veteran Uruguayanwriter Juan Carlos Onetti and by Gabriel García Márquez. This novel alone accumulated enough awards to place the author among the leading figures of the Latin American Boom. Some critics still considerThe Green House to be Vargas Llosa’s finest and most important achievement. Indeed, Latin American literary critic Gerald Martin suggests that The Green House is “one of the greatest novels to have emerged from Latin America”.
Vargas Llosa’s third novel, Conversation in the Cathedral (Conversación en la catedral), was published in 1969, when he was 33. This ambitious narrative is the story of Santiago Zavala, the son of a government minister, and Ambrosio, his chauffeur. A random meeting at a dog pound leads the pair to a riveting conversation at a nearby bar known as “The Cathedral”. During the encounter, Zavala searches for the truth about his father’s role in the murder of a notorious Peruvian underworld figure, shedding light on the workings of a dictatorship along the way. Unfortunately for Zavala, his quest results in a dead end with no answers and no sign of a better future. The novel attacks the dictatorial government of Odría by showing how a dictatorship controls and destroys lives. The persistent theme of hopelessness makes Conversation in the Cathedral Vargas Llosa’s most bitter novel.
He lectured Spanish American Literature at King’s College London from 1969 to 1970.
1970s and the “discovery of humor”
In 1971, Vargas Llosa published García Márquez: Story of a Deicide (García Márquez: historia de un deicidio), which was his doctoral thesis for the Complutense University of Madrid. Although Vargas Llosa wrote this book-length study about his then friend, the Colombian Nobel laureate writer Gabriel García Márquez, they did not speak to each other again. In 1976, Vargas Llosa punched García Márquez in the face inMexico City at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, ending the friendship. Neither writer had publicly stated the underlying reasons for the quarrel. A photograph of García Márquez sporting a black eye was published in 2007, reigniting public interest in the feud. Despite the decades of silence, in 2007, Vargas Llosa agreed to allow part of his book to be used as the introduction to a 40th-anniversary edition of García Márquez’sOne Hundred Years of Solitude, which was re-released in Spain and throughout Latin America that year.Historia de un Deicidio was also reissued in that year, as part of Vargas Llosa’s complete works.
Following the monumental work Conversation in the Cathedral, Vargas Llosa’s output shifted away from more serious themes such as politics and problems with society. Latin American literary scholar Raymond L. Williams describes this phase in his writing career as “the discovery of humor”. His first attempt at a satirical novel was Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (Pantaleón y las visitadoras), published in 1973.This short, comic novel offers vignettes of dialogues and documents about the Peruvian armed forces and a corps of prostitutes assigned to visit military outposts in remote jungle areas. These plot elements are similar to Vargas Llosa’s earlier novel The Green House, but in a different form. As such, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service is essentially a parody of both The Green House and the literary approach that novel represents. Vargas Llosa’s motivation to write the novel came from actually witnessing prostitutes being hired by the Peruvian Army and brought to serve soldiers in the jungle.
From 1974 to 1987, Vargas Llosa focused on his writing, but also took the time to pursue other endeavors. In 1975, he co-directed an unsuccessful motion-picture adaptation of his novel, Captain Pantoja and the Secret Service. In 1976 he was elected President of PEN International, the worldwide association of writers and oldest human rights organisation, a position he held until 1979. During this time, Vargas Llosa constantly traveled to speak at conferences organized by internationally renowned institutions, such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Cambridge, where he was Simón Bolívar Professor and an Overseas Fellow of Churchill College in 1977–78.
In 1977, Vargas Llosa was elected as a member of the Peruvian Academy of Language, a membership he still holds today. That year, he also published Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (La tía Julia y el escribidor), based in part on his marriage to his first wife, Julia Urquidi, to whom he dedicated the novel. She later wrote a memoir, Lo que Varguitas no dijo (What Little Vargas Didn’t Say), in which she gives her personal account of their relationship. She states that Vargas Llosa’s account exaggerates many negative points in their courtship and marriage while minimizing her role of assisting his literary career.Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is considered one of the most striking examples of how the language and imagery of popular culture can be used in literature. The novel was adapted in 1990 into a Hollywood feature film, Tune in Tomorrow.
Vargas Llosa’s fourth major novel, The War of the End of the World (La guerra del fin del mundo), was published in 1981 and was his first attempt at a historical novel. This work initiated a radical change in Vargas Llosa’s style towards themes such as messianism and irrational human behaviour. It recreates the War of Canudos, an incident in 19th-century Brazil in which an armed millenarian cult held off a siege by the national army for months. As in Vargas Llosa’s earliest work, this novel carries a sober and serious theme, and its tone is dark. Vargas Llosa’s bold exploration of humanity’s propensity to idealize violence, and his account of a man-made catastrophe brought on by fanaticism on all sides, earned the novel substantial recognition. Because of the book’s ambition and execution, critics have argued that this is one of Vargas Llosa’s greatest literary pieces. Even though the novel has been acclaimed in Brazil, it was initially poorly received because a foreigner was writing about a Brazilian theme. The book was also criticized as revolutionary and anti-socialist. Vargas Llosa says that this book is his favorite and was his most difficult accomplishment.
After completing The War of the End of the World, Vargas Llosa began to write novels that were significantly shorter than many of his earlier books. In 1983, he finished The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta (Historia de Mayta, 1984). The novel focuses on a leftist insurrection that took place on May 29, 1962 in the Andean city of Jauja. Later the same year, during the Sendero Luminoso uprising, Vargas Llosa was asked by the Peruvian President Fernando Belaúnde Terry to join the Investigatory Commission, a task force to inquire into the massacre of eight journalists at the hands of the villagers of Uchuraccay. The Commission’s main purpose was to investigate the murders in order to provide information regarding the incident to the public. Following his involvement with the Investigatory Commission, Vargas Llosa published a series of articles to defend his position in the affair. In 1986, he completed his next novel, Who Killed Palomino Molero (¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero?), which he began writing shortly after the end of the Uchuraccay investigation. Though the plot of this mystery novel is similar to the tragic events at Uchuraccay, literary critic Roy Boland points out that it was not an attempt to reconstruct the murders, but rather a “literary exorcism” of Vargas Llosa’s own experiences during the commission. The experience also inspired one of Vargas Llosa’s later novels, Death in the Andes (Lituma en los Andes), originally published in 1993 in Barcelona.
It would be almost 20 years before Vargas Llosa wrote another major work: The Feast of the Goat (La fiesta del chivo), a political thriller, was published in 2000 (and in English in 2001). According to Williams, it is Vargas Llosa’s most complete and most ambitious novel since The War of the End of the World. Critic Sabine Koellmann sees it in the line of his earlier novels such as “Conversación en la catedral” depicting the effects of authoritarianism, violence and the abuse of power on the individual. Based on the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who governed the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, the novel has three main strands: one concerns Urania Cabral, the daughter of a former politician and Trujillo loyalist, who returns for the first time since leaving the Dominican Republic after Trujillo’s assassination 30 years earlier; the second concentrates on the assassination itself, the conspirators who carry it out, and its consequences; and the third and final strand deals with Trujillo himself in scenes from the end of his regime. The book quickly received positive reviews in Spain and Latin America, and has had a significant impact in Latin America, being regarded as one of Vargas Llosa’s best works.
In 2003 he wrote The Way to Paradise where he studies Flora Tristan and Paul Gauguin.
In 2006, Vargas Llosa wrote The Bad Girl (Travesuras de la niña mala), which journalist Kathryn Harrison argues is a rewrite (rather than simply a recycling) of Gustave Flaubert‘s Madame Bovary (1856). In Vargas Llosa’s version, the plot relates the decades-long obsession of its narrator, a Peruvian expatriate in Paris, with a woman with whom he first fell in love when both were teenagers.
Later life and political involvement
Like many other Latin American intellectuals, Vargas Llosa was initially a supporter of the Cuban revolutionary government of Fidel Castro. He studied Marxism in depth as a university student and was later persuaded by communist ideals after the success of the Cuban Revolution. Gradually, Vargas Llosa came to believe that Cuban socialism was incompatible with what he considered to be general liberties and freedoms. The official rupture between the writer and the policies of the Cuban government occurred with the so-called ‘Padilla Affair’, when the Castro regime imprisoned the poet Heberto Padilla for a month in 1971. Vargas Llosa, along with other intellectuals of the time, wrote to Castro protesting the Cuban political system and its imprisonment of the artist. Vargas Llosa has identified himself with liberalism rather than extreme left-wing political ideologies ever since. Since he relinquished his earlier leftism, he has opposed both left- and right-wing authoritarian regimes.
With his appointment to the Investigatory Commission on the Uchuraccay massacre in 1983, he experienced what literary critic Jean Franco calls “the most uncomfortable event in [his] political career”.Unfortunately for Vargas Llosa, his involvement with the Investigatory Commission led to immediate negative reactions and defamation from the Peruvian press; many suggested that the massacre was a conspiracy to keep the journalists from reporting the presence of government paramilitary forces in Uchuraccay. The commission concluded that it was the indigenous villagers who had been responsible for the killings; for Vargas Llosa the incident showed “how vulnerable democracy is in Latin America and how easily it dies under dictatorships of the right and left”. These conclusions, and Vargas Llosa personally, came under intense criticism: anthropologist Enrique Mayer, for instance, accused him of “paternalism”, while fellow anthropologist Carlos Iván Degregori criticized him for his ignorance of the Andean world. Vargas Llosa was accused of actively colluding in a government cover-up of army involvement in the massacre. US Latin American literature scholar Misha Kokotovic summarizes that the novelist was charged with seeing “indigenous cultures as a ‘primitive’ obstacle to the full realization of his Western model of modernity”. Shocked both by the atrocity itself and then by the reaction his report had provoked, Vargas Llosa responded that his critics were apparently more concerned with his report than with the hundreds of peasants who would later die at the hands of the Sendero Luminoso guerrilla organization.
Vargas Llosa at the founding act ofUPD, September 2007
Over the course of the decade, Vargas Llosa became known as a “neoliberal“, although he personally dislikes the term and considers it “pure nonsense” and only used for derision. In 1987, he helped form and soon became a leader of the Movimiento Libertad. The following year his party entered a coalition with the parties of Peru’s two principal conservative politicians at the time, ex-president Fernando Belaúnde Terry (of the Popular Action party) and Luis Bedoya Reyes (of the Partido Popular Cristiano), to form the tripartite center-right coalition known as Frente Democrático (FREDEMO). He ran for the presidency of Peru in 1990 as the candidate of the FREDEMO coalition. He proposed a drastic economic austerity program that frightened most of the country’s poor; this program emphasized the need for privatization, a market economy, free trade, and most importantly, the dissemination of private property. Although he won the first round with 34% of the vote, Vargas Llosa was defeated by a then-unknown agricultural engineer, Alberto Fujimori, in the subsequent run-off. Vargas Llosa included an account of his run for the presidency in the memoir A Fish in the Water (El pez en el agua, 1993). Since his political defeat, he has focused mainly on his writing, with only occasional political involvement.
A month after losing the election, at the invitation of Octavio Paz, Vargas Llosa attended a conference in Mexico entitled, “The 20th Century: The Experience of Freedom”. Focused on the collapse of communist rule in central and eastern Europe, it was broadcast on Mexican television from 27 August to 2 September. Addressing the conference on 30 August 1990, Vargas Llosa embarrassed his hosts by condemning the Mexican system of power based on the rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had been in power for 61 years. Criticizing the PRI by name, he commented, “I don’t believe that there has been in Latin America any case of a system of dictatorship which has so efficiently recruited the intellectual milieu, bribing it with great subtlety.” He declared, “Mexico is the perfect dictatorship. The perfect dictatorship is not communism, not the USSR, not Fidel Castro; the perfect dictatorship is Mexico. Because it is a camouflaged dictatorship.” The statement, “Mexico is the perfect dictatorship” became a cliché in Mexico and internationally, until the PRI fell from power in 2000.
Vargas Llosa has mainly lived in Madrid since the 1990s, but spends roughly three months of the year in Peru with his extended family. He also frequently visits London where he occasionally spends long periods. Vargas Llosa acquired Spanish citizenship in 1993, though he still holds Peruvian nationality. The writer often reiterates his love for both countries. In his Nobel speech he observed: “I carry Peru deep inside me because that is where I was born, grew up, was formed, and lived those experiences of childhood and youth that shaped my personality and forged my calling”. He then added: “I love Spain as much as Peru, and my debt to her is as great as my gratitude. If not for Spain, I never would have reached this podium or become a known writer”.
In 1994 he was elected a member of the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy) and has been involved in the country’s political arena. In February 2008 he stopped supporting the People’s Party in favor of the recently created Union, Progress and Democracy, claiming that certain conservative views held by the former party are at odds with his classical liberal beliefs. His political ideologies appear in the bookPolítica razonable, written with Fernando Savater, Rosa Díez, Álvaro Pombo, Albert Boadella and Carlos Martínez Gorriarán. He continues to write, both journalism and fiction, and to travel extensively. He has also taught as a visiting professor at a number of prominent universities.
On November 18, 2010, Vargas Llosa received the honorary degree Degree of Letters from the City College of New York of the City University of New York, where he also delivered the President’s Lecture.
On 4 February 2011, Vargas Llosa was raised into the Spanish nobility by King Juan Carlos I with the hereditary title of Marqués de Vargas Llosa (English: Marquis of Vargas Llosa).
In April 2011, the writer took part in the Peruvian general election, 2011 by saying he was going to vote for Alejandro Toledo (Peruvian former president 2001–2006). After casting his vote, he said his country should stay in the path of legality and freedom.
As for hobbies, Vargas Llosa is very fond of association football, and is a renowned supporter of Universitario de Deportes. The writer himself has confessed in his book A Fish in the Water since childhood he has been a fan of the ‘cream colored’ team from Peru, which was first seen in the field one day in 1946 when he was only 10 years old. In February 2011, Vargas Llosa was awarded with an honorary life membership of this football club, in a ceremony which took place in the Monumental Stadium of Lima.
Style of writing
Plot, setting, and major themes
Vargas Llosa’s style encompasses historical material as well as his own personal experiences. For example, in his first novel, The Time of the Hero, his own experiences at the Leoncio Prado military school informed his depiction of the corrupt social institution which mocked the moral standards it was supposed to uphold. Furthermore, the corruption of the book’s school is a reflection of the corruption of Peruvian society at the time the novel was written. Vargas Llosa frequently uses his writing to challenge the inadequacies of society, such as demoralization and oppression by those in political power towards those who challenge this power. One of the main themes he has explored in his writing is the individual’s struggle for freedom within an oppressive reality. For example, his two-volume novel Conversation in the Cathedral is based on the tyrannical dictatorship of Peruvian President Manuel A. Odría. The protagonist, Santiago, rebels against the suffocating dictatorship by participating in the subversive activities of leftist political groups. In addition to themes such as corruption and oppression, Vargas Llosa’s second novel, The Green House, explores “a denunciation of Peru’s basic institutions”, dealing with issues of abuse and exploitation of the workers in the brothel by corrupt military officers.
Many of Vargas Llosa’s earlier novels were set in Peru, while in more recent work he has expanded to other regions of Latin America, such as Brazil and the Dominican Republic. His responsibilities as a writer and lecturer have allowed him to travel frequently and led to settings for his novels in regions outside of Peru.The War of the End of the World was his first major work set outside Peru. Though the plot deals with historical events of the Canudos revolt against the Brazilian government, the novel is not based directly on historical fact; rather, its main inspiration is the non-fiction account of those events published by Brazilian writer Euclides da Cunha in 1902.The Feast of the Goat, based on the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, takes place in the Dominican Republic; in preparation for this novel, Vargas Llosa undertook a comprehensive study of Dominican history. The novel was characteristically realist, and Vargas Llosa underscores that he “respected the basic facts, [. . .] I have not exaggerated”, but at the same time he points out “It’s a novel, not a history book, so I took many, many liberties.”
One of Vargas Llosa’s more recent novels, The Way to Paradise (El paraíso en la otra esquina), is set largely in France and Tahiti. Based on the biography of former social reformer Flora Tristan, it demonstrates how Flora and Paul Gauguin were unable to find paradise, but were still able to inspire followers to keep working towards a socialist utopia. Unfortunately, Vargas Llosa was not as successful in transforming these historical figures into fiction. Some critics, such as Barbara Mujica, argue that The Way to Paradise lacks the “audacity, energy, political vision, and narrative genius” that was present in his previous works.
Modernism and postmodernism
The works of Mario Vargas Llosa are viewed as both modernist and postmodernist novels. Though there is still much debate over the differences between modernist and postmodernist literature, literary scholar M. Keith Booker claims that the difficulty and technical complexity of Vargas Llosa’s early works, such as The Green House and Conversation in the Cathedral, are clearly elements of the modern novel.Furthermore, these earlier novels all carry a certain seriousness of attitude—another important defining aspect of modernist art. By contrast, his later novels such as Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, and The Storyteller (El hablador) appear to follow a postmodernist mode of writing. These novels have a much lighter, farcical, and comic tone, characteristics of postmodernism. Comparing two of Vargas Llosa’s novels, The Green House and Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, Booker discusses the contrast between modernism and postmodernism found in the writer’s works: while both novels explore the theme of prostitution as well as the workings of the Peruvian military, Booker points out that the former is gravely serious whereas the latter is ridiculously comic.
Literary scholar M. Keith Booker argues that Vargas Llosa perfects the technique of interlacing dialogues in his novel The Green House. By combining two conversations that occur at different times, he creates the illusion of a flashback. Vargas Llosa also sometimes uses this technique as a means of shifting location by weaving together two concurrent conversations happening in different places. This technique is a staple of his repertoire, which he began using near the end of his first novel, The Time of the Hero. However, he does not use interlacing dialogues in the same way in all of his novels. For example, in The Green House the technique is used in a serious fashion to achieve a sober tone and to focus on the interrelatedness of important events separated in time or space. In contrast, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service employs this strategy for comic effects and uses simpler spatial shifts. This device is similar to both Virginia Woolf‘s mixing of different characters’ soliloquies and Gustave Flaubert’s counterpoint technique in which he blends together conversation with other events, such as speeches.
Vargas Llosa’s first literary influences were relatively obscure Peruvian writers such as Martín Adán, Carlos Oquendo de Amat, and César Moro. As a young writer, he looked to these revolutionary novelists in search of new narrative structures and techniques in order to delineate a more contemporary, multifaceted experience of urban Peru. He was looking for a style different from the traditional descriptions of land and rural life made famous by Peru’s foremost novelist at the time, José María Arguedas. Vargas Llosa wrote of Arguedas’s work that it was “an example of old-fashioned regionalism that had already exhausted its imaginary possibilities”. Although he did not share Arguedas’s passion for indigenous reality, Vargas Llosa admired and respected the novelist for his contributions to Peruvian literature. Indeed, he has published a book-length study on his work, La utopía arcaica (1996).
Rather than restrict himself to Peruvian literature, Vargas Llosa also looked abroad for literary inspiration. Two French figures, existentialistJean-Paul Sartre and novelist Gustave Flaubert, influenced both his technique and style. Sartre’s influence is most prevalent in Vargas Llosa’s extensive use of conversation. The epigraph of The Time of the Hero, his first novel, is also taken directly from Sartre’s work.Flaubert’s artistic independence—his novels’ disregard of reality and morals—has always been admired by Vargas Llosa, who wrote a book-length study of Flaubert’s aesthetics, The Perpetual Orgy. In his analysis of Flaubert, Vargas Llosa questions the revolutionary power of literature in a political setting; this is in contrast to his earlier view that “literature is an act of rebellion”, thus marking a transition in Vargas Llosa’s aesthetic beliefs. Other critics such as Sabine Köllmann argue that his belief in the transforming power of literature is one of the great continuities that characterize his fictional and non-fictional work, and link his early statement that ‘Literature is Fire’ with his Nobel Prize Speech ‘In Praise of Reading and Writing’.
One of Vargas Llosa’s favourite novelists, and arguably the most influential on his writing career, is the American William Faulkner. Vargas Llosa considers Faulkner “the writer who perfected the methods of the modern novel”. Both writers’ styles include intricate changes in time and narration. In The Time of the Hero, for example, aspects of Vargas Llosa’s plot, his main character’s development and his use of narrative time are influenced by his favourite Faulkner novel, Light in August.
In addition to the studies of Arguedas and Flaubert, Vargas Llosa has written literary criticisms of other authors that he has admired, such as Gabriel García Márquez, Albert Camus, Ernest Hemingway, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The main goals of his non-fiction works are to acknowledge the influence of these authors on his writing, and to recognize a connection between himself and the other writers; critic Sara Castro-Klarén argues that he offers little systematic analysis of these authors’ literary techniques. In The Perpetual Orgy, for example, he discusses the relationship between his own aesthetics and Flaubert’s, rather than focusing on Flaubert’s alone.
Mario Vargas Llosa is considered a major Latin American writer, alongside other authors such as Octavio Paz, Julio Cortázar, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes. In his book The New Novel in Latin America (La Nueva Novela), Fuentes offers an in-depth literary criticism of the positive influence Vargas Llosa’s work has had on Latin American literature. Indeed, for the literary critic Gerald Martin, writing in 1987, Vargas Llosa was “perhaps the most successful [. . . and] certainly the most controversial Latin American novelist of the past twenty-five years”.
Most of Vargas Llosa’s narratives have been translated into multiple languages, marking his international critical success. Vargas Llosa is also noted for his substantial contribution to journalism, an accomplishment characteristic of few other Latin American writers. He is recognized among those who have most consciously promoted literature in general, and more specifically the novel itself, as avenues for meaningful commentary about life. During his career, he has written more than a dozen novels and many other books and stories, and, for decades, he has been a voice for Latin American literature. He has won numerous awards for his writing, from the 1959 Premio Leopoldo Alas and the 1962 Premio Biblioteca Breve to the 1993 Premio Planeta (for Death in the Andes) and the Jerusalem Prize in 1995. The literary critic Harold Bloom has included his novel The War of the End of the World in his list of essential literary works in the Western Canon. An important distinction he has received is the 1994 Miguel de Cervantes Prize, considered the most important accolade in Spanish-language literature and awarded to authors whose “work has contributed to enrich, in a notable way, the literary patrimony of the Spanish language”. In 2002, Vargas was the recipient of the PEN/Nabokov Award. Vargas Llosa also received the 2005 Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute and was the 2008 recipient of the Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholar and Writers Award at Dickinson College.
A number of Vargas Llosa’s works have been adapted for the screen, including The Time of the Hero and Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (both by the Peruvian director Francisco Lombardi) and The Feast of the Goat (by Vargas Llosa’s cousin, Luis Llosa).Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter was turned into the English-language film, Tune in Tomorrow. The Feast of the Goat has also been adapted as a theatrical play by Jorge Alí Triana, a Colombian playwright and director.
Awards and honors
- 1959 – Los jefes (The Cubs and Other Stories, 1979)
- 1963 – La ciudad y los perros (The Time of the Hero, 1966)
- 1966 – La casa verde (The Green House, 1968)
- 1969 – Conversación en la catedral (Conversation in the Cathedral, 1975)
- 1973 – Pantaleón y las visitadoras (Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, 1978)
- 1977 – La tía Julia y el escribidor (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, 1982)
- 1981 – La guerra del fin del mundo (The War of the End of the World, 1984)
- 1984 – Historia de Mayta (The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, 1985)
- 1986 – ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero? (Who Killed Palomino Molero?, 1987)
- 1987 – El hablador (The Storyteller, 1989)
- 1988 – Elogio de la madrastra (In Praise of the Stepmother, 1990)
- 1993 – Lituma en los Andes (Death in the Andes, 1996)
- 1997 – Los cuadernos de don Rigoberto (The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, 1998)
- 2000 – La fiesta del chivo (The Feast of the Goat, 2001)
- 2003 – El paraíso en la otra esquina (The Way to Paradise, 2003)
- 2006 – Travesuras de la niña mala (The Bad Girl, 2007)
- 2010 – El sueño del celta (The Dream of the Celt, 2010)
- 2013 – El héroe discreto (The Discreet Hero, 2015)
- 1958 – Bases para una interpretación de Rubén Darío (The basis for interpretation of Ruben Dario)
- 1971 – García Márquez: historia de un deicidio (García Márquez: Story of a Deicide)
- 1975 – La orgía perpetua: Flaubert y “Madame Bovary” (The Perpetual Orgy)
- 1990 – La verdad de las mentiras: ensayos sobre la novela moderna (A Writer’s Reality)
- 1993 – El pez en el agua. Memorias (A Fish in the Water)
- 1996 – La utopía arcaica: José María Arguedas y las ficciones del indigenismo (Archaic utopia: José María Arguedas and the fictions of indigenismo)
- 1997 – Cartas a un joven novelista (Letters to a Young Novelist)
- 2000 – Nationalismus als neue Bedrohung (Nationalism as a new threat)
- 2001 – El lenguaje de la pasión (The Language of Passion)
- 2004 – La tentación de lo imposible (The Temptation of the Impossible)
- 2007 – El Pregón de Sevilla (as Introduction for LOS TOROS)
- 2009 – El viaje a la ficción: El mundo de Juan Carlos Onetti
- 2011 – Touchstones: Essays on Literature, Art, and Politics
- 2012 – La civilización del espectáculo
- 2012 – In Praise of Reading and Fiction: The Nobel Lecture
- 2014 – Mi trayectora intelectual (My Intellectual Journey)
- 2015 – Notes on the Death of Culture
- 1952 – La huida del inca
- 1981 – La señorita de Tacna
- 1983 – Kathie y el hipopótamo
- 1986 – La Chunga
- 1993 – El loco de los balcones
- 1996 – Ojos bonitos, cuadros feos
- 2007 – Odiseo y Penélope
- 2008 – Al pie del Támesis
- 2010 – Las mil y una noches
Vargas Llosa’s essays and journalism have been collected as Contra viento y marea, issued in three volumes (1983, 1986, and 1990). A selection has been edited by John King and translated and published asMaking Waves. 2003 – “The Language of Passion”
The War of the End of the World
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
First Spanish edition
(publ. Seix Barral)
The War of the End of the World (Spanish: La guerra del fin del mundo) is a 1981novel written by Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. It is a novelization of the War of Canudosconflict in late 19th-century Brazil.
In the midst of the economic decline — following drought and the end of slavery — in the province of Bahia in Northeastern Brazil, the poor of the backlands are attracted by the charismatic figure and simple religious teachings of Antonio Conselheiro, the Counselor, who preaches that the end of the world is imminent and that the political chaos that surrounds the collapse of the Empire of Brazil and its replacement by a republic is the work of the devil.
Seizing a fazenda in an area blighted by economic decline at Canudos the Counselor’s followers build a large town and defeat repeated and ever larger military expeditions designed to remove them. As the state’s violence against them increases they too turn increasingly violent, even seizing the modern weapons deployed against them. In an epic final clash a whole army is sent to extirpate Canudos and instigates a terrible and brutal battle with the poor while politicians of the old order see their world destroyed in the conflagration.
It is generally believed that Vargas Llosa’s three milestone novels are La Ciudad y Los Perros (The Time of the Hero), La Casa Verde (The Green House) and Conversación en la Catedral (Conversation in the Cathedral), though many critics agree that The War of the End of the World should also be included among these three. The author is famously known for considering this his most accomplished novel — an opinion shared by the Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, as well as the American critic Harold Bloom, who even includes the novel in what he calls the “Western canon.”
As he did later on with La Fiesta Del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat), Vargas Llosa tackles a huge number of characters and stories caught during a time of strife, interweaving these in way that gives us a picture of what it was to live in those times.
- Antônio Conselheiro
- The Little Blessed One
- The Lion of Natuba
- João Abade (Abbot João)
- The Dwarf
- Father Joaquim
- Baron de Canabrava
- Galileo Gall
- Maria Quadrado
- Moreira César
- The Near-Sighted Journalist
- João Grande (Big João)
- Pires Ferreira
- Antônio Vilanova
- Antônio o Fogueteiro
THE WAR OF THE END OF THE WORLD
Mario Vargas Llosa; Translated by Helen Lane
Deep within the remote backlands of nineteenth-century Brazil lies Canudos, home to all the damned of the earth: prostitutes, bandits, beggars, and every kind of outcast. It is a place where history and civilization have been wiped away. There is no money, no taxation, no marriage, no census. Canudos is a cauldron for the revolutionary spirit in its purest form, a state with all the potential for a true, libertarian paradise–and one the Brazilian government is determined to crush at any cost.
In perhaps his most ambitious and tragic novel, Mario Vargas Llosa tells his own version of the real story of Canudos, inhabiting characters on both sides of the massive, cataclysmic battle between the society and government troops. The resulting novel is a fable of Latin American revolutionary history, an unforgettable story of passion, violence, and the devastation that follows from fanaticism.
THE WAR OF THE END OF THE WORLD
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Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has one less thing to worry about. News Corp announced in February 2015 that the U.S. Department of Justice had finished its investigation related to the phone-hacking charges at Murdoch’ newspapers in London and would not prosecute News Corp or 21st Century Fox. On the management front, in March 2014 he got his sons Lachlan and James appointed to top positions at News Corporation and 21st Century Fox, ensuring that his legacy will live on. He also tried, and failed, to acquire Time Warner in what would have been an $80 billion mega-deal. Meanwhile Murdoch, who gave ex-wife Wendi Deng their Fifth Avenue apartment along with a residence in Beijing, bought himself a $57 million bachelor pad in Manhattan in 2014. He then sold his Beverly Hills estate for $30 million, reportedly to his son, James. Australian born, Murdoch inherited two Adelaide newspapers at age 22 after his father’s sudden death. The Murdoch empire includes 120 newspapers in at least five countries (including The Wall Street Journal), a massive cable network comprised of the Fox channels in the U.S. and across Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia, one of the largest movie studios with 21st Century Fox, book publishing powerhouse HarperCollins, and a broadcasting and satellite TV arm.
Media magnate Rupert Murdoch is the founder and head of News Corporation, a global media conglomerate. He created FOX Broadcasting Company in 1986.
Rupert Murdoch was born on March 11, 1931, in Melbourne, Australia. His father was a famous war correspondent and newspaper publisher. Murdoch inherited his father’s papers, the Sunday Mail and the News, and continued to purchase other media outlets over the years. In the 1970s, he started buying American newspapers. Murdoch branched out into entertainment with the purchase of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. in 1985. He later launched his own cable news channel, FOX News.
Early Life and Career
Keith Rupert Murdoch was born on March 11, 1931, on a small farm about 30 miles south of Melbourne, Australia. Since birth, Murdoch has gone by his middle name, Rupert, the name of his maternal grandfather. His father, Keith Murdoch, was a well-known Australian journalist who owned a number of local and regional newspapers: the Herald in Melbourne, the Courier-Mail in Brisbane, and the News and Sunday Mail.
The family farm was named Cruden Farm, after the Scottish village from which both of Murdoch’s parents had emigrated. The house at Cruden Farm was a stone building with colonial pillars, adorned with original paintings, a grand piano and a library of books, situated amongst green expanses of farmland and bordered by Ghost Gum trees. Murdoch’s favorite childhood pastime was horseback riding. His mother later described her son’s childhood: “I think it was a very normal childhood, not in any way elaborate or an overindulged one. I suppose he was lucky to be brought up in attractive—you could say aesthetic—surroundings.”
The son of a well-respected journalist, Murdoch was groomed to enter the world of publishing from a very young age. He remembers, “I was brought up in a publishing home, a newspaper man’s home, and was excited by that, I suppose. I saw that life at close range, and after the age of ten or twelve never really considered any other.” Murdoch graduated from Geelong Grammar, a prestigious Australian boarding school, in 1949 before crossing the ocean to attend Worcester College at Oxford University in England. According to one of his early biographers, Murdoch was a “a normal, red-blooded college student who had many friends, chased girls, went on the usual drinking binges, engaged in slapdash horseplay, tried at sports and never had enough money, no doubt due to his gambling.” Murdoch’s fun-loving youthful ways came to an abrupt end when his father suddenly passed away in 1952, leaving his son the owner of his Adelaide newspapers, theNews and the Sunday Mail. After preparing himself with a brief apprenticeship under Lord Beaverbrook at the Daily Express in London, in 1953, a 22-year-old Murdoch returned to Australia to take up the reins of his father’s papers.
Immediately upon assuming control of the Sunday Mail and the News, Murdoch immersed himself in all aspects of the papers’ daily operations. He wrote headlines, redesigned page layouts and labored in the typesetting and printing rooms. He quickly converted the News into a chronicle of crime, sex and scandal, and while these changes were controversial, the paper’s circulation soared. Only three years later, in 1956, Murdoch expanded his operations by purchasing the Perth-based Sunday Times, and revamped it in the sensationalist style of the News. Then, in 1960, Murdoch broke into the lucrative Sydney market by purchasing the struggling afternoon daily, theMirror, and slowly transforming it into Sydney’s best-selling afternoon paper. Encouraged by his success and harboring ambitions of political influence, in 1965 Murdoch founded Australia’s first national daily paper, the Australian, which helped to rebuild Murdoch’s image as a respectable news publisher.
In the fall of 1968, 37 years old and owner of an Australian news empire valued at $50 million, Murdoch moved to London and purchased the enormously popular Sunday tabloid, The News of the World. One year later, he purchased a struggling daily tabloid, the Sun, once again transformed the paper into a wild success with his formula of reporting heavily on sex, sports and crime. The Sun also attracted readers by including pictures of topless women in its infamous “Page 3” feature.
Murdoch next expanded his news empire to the United States, with the 1973 acquisition of a Texas-based tabloid, the San Antonio News. As he had done in Australia and England, Murdoch quickly set out to expand across the country, founding a national tabloid, the Star, in 1974 and purchasing theNew York Post in 1976. In 1979, Murdoch founded News Corporation, commonly referred to as News Corp., as a holding company for his various media properties.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Murdoch acquired news outlets around the globe at a dizzying pace. In the United States, he bought up the Chicago Sun-Times, the Village Voice and New York magazine. In England, he acquired the eminently respectable Times and Sunday Times of London.
It was also during these years that Murdoch began expanding his media empire into television and entertainment. In 1985, he purchased 20th Century FOX Film Corporation as well as several independent television stations and consolidated these companies into FOX, Inc.—which has since become a major American television network. In 1990, he founded STAR TV, a Hong Kong-based television broadcasting company that broadcasts to over 320 million viewers across Asia. Throughout the late 1980s, he purchased several prestigious American and British academic and literary publishing companies and consolidated them into HarperCollins in 1990. Murdoch has also invested in sports; he is a part owner of the Los Angeles Kings NHL franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers NBA franchise and the Staples Center, as well as FOX Sports Radio and FOXSports.com.
With the dawn of the new century, Murdoch continued to expand News Corp’s holdings to control more and more of the media people view on a daily basis. In 2005, he purchased Intermix Media, the owner of the popular social networking site MySpace.com. Two years later, in 2007, the longtime newspaper mogul made headlines himself with the purchase of Dow Jones, the owner of the Wall Street Journal.
Murdoch has drawn wide criticism for monopolizing control over international media outlets as well as for his conservative political views, which are often reflected in the reporting of Murdoch-controlled outlets such as FOX News Channel. In the 2010 American midterm elections, News Corp donated $1 million each to the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a group supporting Republican candidates. Critics argued that the owner of major news sources covering the election should not contribute directly to the political campaigns involved.
His empire, however, was dealt a significant blow in 2011. His London tabloid, The News of the World, was caught up in a phone hacking scandal. Several editors and journalists were brought up on charges for illegally accessing the voicemails of some of Britain’s leading figures. Rupert himself was called to testify that same year, and he shut down The News of the World. News Corp later paid damages to some of individuals who were hacked.
Despite this scandal, News Corp retains a significant share of virtually all forms of media across the globe. Murdoch owns many of the books and newspapers people read, the television shows and films they watch, the radio stations they listen to, the websites they visit, and the blogs and social networks they create. In 2013, he announced a significant restructuring of his empire. Murdoch decided to divide his business into two companies—21st Century Fox Inc. and News Corp. This move separated his entertainment holdings from his publishing interests. According to the Los Angeles Times, Murdoch explained that “Both companies will be uniquely positioned to execute on their respective strategic objectives and to lead their industries forward.”
Although he could never have imagined the power he would one day yield, this kind of influence was exactly what Murdoch sought as a young publisher building his empire. “I sensed the excitement and the power,” he recalls. “Not raw power, but the ability to influence at least the agenda of what was going on.” And after six decades working in the media, Murdoch has said that he could not imagine his life any other way. “If you’re in the media, particularly newspapers, you are in the thick of all the interesting things that are going on in a community, and I can’t imagine any other life that one would want to dedicate oneself to,” he said.
In June 2015, news broke that Murdoch would be handing over the leadership of 21st Century Fox to his son James. James would become the company’s chief executive while Murdoch would stay on in the organization as the executive co-chairman. Murdoch would share this position with his oldest son Lachlan. The company’s board must approve this plan before it can be implemented.
Rupert Murdoch married Patricia Booker in 1956. They had a daughter, Prudence, before divorcing in 1965. He married Anna Torv in 1967, and they had four children before eventually divorcing in 1999. Only 17 days after his second divorce, Murdoch married his third wife, Wendi Deng. They have two children.
Murdoch filed for divorce from Deng in June 2013, citing that the “relationship between husband and wife had broken down irretrievably” in court papers. The news of the split came as a surprise to some, but there had some rumors of trouble in the marriage in recent years. The couple has a prenuptial agreement, but many have speculated that there may still be a battle for his billions.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
BornKeith Rupert Murdoch
11 March 1931
Melbourne, AustraliaNationalityAmericanCitizenshipUnited States (naturalized 1985)[a]Alma materWorcester College, OxfordOccupationChairman and CEO of News Corporation (1979–2013)
Executive chairman of News Corp (2013–present)
Chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox (2013–2015)
Executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox (2015–present)Net worth US$13.4 billion (June 2015)Political partyConservative
Liberal partyBoard member ofNews Corp
21st Century FoxReligionChristianSpouse(s)Patricia Booker
(1956–1967, 1 child)
Anna Murdoch Mann
(1967–1999, 3 children)
(1999–2013, 2 children)ChildrenPrudence (b. 1958)
Elisabeth (b. 1968)
Lachlan (b. 1971)
James (b. 1972)
Grace (b. 2001)
Chloe (b. 2003)Parent(s)Keith Murdoch (1885–1952)
Elisabeth Joy (1909–2012)RelativesJanet Calvert-Jones (sister)
Anne Kantor (sister)
Helen Handbury (sister)
Matthew Freud (son-in-law)
Sarah Murdoch (daughter-in-law)AwardsCompanion of the Order of Australia (1984)Notes
Keith Rupert Murdoch , AC, KCSG (born 11 March 1931) is an Australian American business magnate. Murdoch became managing director of Australia’sNews Limited, inherited from his father Sir Keith Arthur Murdoch in 1952. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of global media holding company News Corporation, the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, and its successors News Corp and 21st Century Fox after the conglomerate split on 28 June 2013.
In the 1950s and ’60s, he acquired various newspapers in Australia and New Zealand, before expanding into the United Kingdom in 1969, taking over the News of the World followed closely by The Sun. He moved to New York City in 1974 to expand into the US market, but retained interests in Australia and Britain. In 1981, he boughtThe Times, his first British broadsheet, and became a naturalised US citizen in 1985 to satisfy the legal requirement for US television ownership.
In 1986, keen to adopt newer electronic publishing technologies, he consolidated his UK printing operations in Wapping, causing bitter industrial disputes. His News Corporation acquired Twentieth Century Fox (1985), HarperCollins (1989) and The Wall Street Journal (2007). He formed the British broadcaster BSkyB in 1990, and during the 1990s expanded into Asian networks and South American television. By 2000, Murdoch’s News Corporation owned over 800 companies in more than 50 countries with a net worth of over $5 billion.
In July 2011, Murdoch faced allegations that his companies, including the News of the World, owned by News Corporation, had been regularly hacking the phones of celebrities, royalty and public citizens. He faces police and government investigations into bribery and corruption by the British government and FBI investigations in the US. On 21 July 2012, Murdoch resigned as a director of News International. On July 1, 2015, Murdoch left his post as CEO of 21st Century Fox.
Murdoch was born Keith Rupert Murdoch on 11 March 1931 in Melbourne, Australia to Sir Keith Murdoch (1885–1952) and Elisabeth Joy Greene (1909–2012), daughter of Rupert Greene. Rupert is of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. His parents were also born in Melbourne. Keith Murdoch was a war correspondent and later a regional newspaper magnate owning two newspapers in Adelaide, South Australia, and a radio station in a faraway mining town. Later in life, Keith Rupert chose to use Rupert, the first name of his maternal grandfather.
Keith Murdoch the elder asked for a rendezvous with his future wife after seeing her debutante photograph in one of his own newspapers and they married in 1928, when she was aged 19 and he 23 years her senior. In addition to Rupert, the couple had three daughters: Janet Calvert-Jones, Anne Kantor and Helen Handbury (1929–2004). Murdoch attended Geelong Grammar School, where he had his first experience of editing a publication, being co-editor of the school’s official journal The Corian and editor of the student journal If Revived. He also took his school’s cricket team to the National Junior Finals. He worked part-time at the Melbourne Heraldand was groomed by his father from an early age to take over the family business. Murdoch read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Worcester College, Oxford in England, where he supported the Labour Party and managed Oxford Student Publications Limited, the publishing house of Cherwell. After her husband’s death from cancer in 1952, Elisabeth Murdoch went on to invest herself in charity work, as life governor of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne and establishing the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. At 102 (in 2011), she had 74 descendants. Murdoch completed an MA before working as a sub-editor with the Daily Express for two years.
Activities in Australia and New Zealand
Journalist Sir Keith Murdoch (1885–1952), Rupert Murdoch’s father
Following his father’s death, when he was 21, Murdoch returned from Oxford to take charge of the family business News Limited, which had been established in 1923. Rupert Murdoch turned its newspaper, Adelaide News, its main asset, into a major success. He began to direct his attention to acquisition and expansion, buying the troubled Sunday Times in Perth, Western Australia (1956) and over the next few years acquiring suburban and provincial newspapers in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory, including the Sydney afternoon tabloid, The Daily Mirror (1960). The Economist describes Murdoch as “inventing the modern tabloid”, as he developed a pattern for his newspapers, increasing sports and scandal coverage and adopting eye-catching headlines.
Murdoch’s first foray outside Australia involved the purchase of a controlling interest in the New Zealand daily The Dominion. In January 1964, while touring New Zealand with friends in a rented Morris Minor after sailing across the Tasman, Murdoch read of a takeover bid for the Wellington paper by the British-based Canadian newspaper magnate, Lord Thomson of Fleet. On the spur of the moment, he launched a counter-bid. A four-way battle for control ensued in which the 32-year-old Murdoch was ultimately successful. Later in 1964, Murdoch launched The Australian, Australia’s first national daily newspaper, which was based first in Canberra and later in Sydney. In 1972, Murdoch acquired the Sydney morning tabloid The Daily Telegraph from Australian media mogul Sir Frank Packer, who later regretted selling it to him. In 1984, Murdoch was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for services to publishing.
In 1999, Murdoch significantly expanded his music holdings in Australia by acquiring the controlling share in a leading Australian independent label, Michael Gudinski‘s Mushroom Records; he merged that with Festival Records, and the result was Festival Mushroom Records (FMR). Both Festival and FMR were managed by Murdoch’s son James Murdoch for several years.
Political activities in Australia
Murdoch found a political ally in John McEwen, leader of the Australian Country Party (now known as the National Party of Australia), who was governing in coalition with the larger Menzies-Holt Liberal Party. From the very first issue of The Australian Murdoch began taking McEwen’s side in every issue that divided the long-serving coalition partners. (The Australian, 15 July 1964, first edition, front page: “Strain in Cabinet, Liberal-CP row flares.”) It was an issue that threatened to split the coalition government and open the way for the stronger Australian Labor Party to dominate Australian politics. It was the beginning of a long campaign that served McEwen well.
After McEwen and Menzies retired, Murdoch threw his growing power behind the Australian Labor Party under the leadership of Gough Whitlam and duly saw it elected on a social platform that included universal free health care, free education for all Australians to tertiary level, recognition of the People’s Republic of China, and public ownership of Australia’s oil, gas and mineral resources. Rupert Murdoch’s backing of Whitlam turned out to be brief. Murdoch had already started his short-lived National Star newspaper in America, and was seeking to strengthen his political contacts there.
Asked about the Australian federal election, 2007 at News Corporation’s annual general meeting in New York on 19 October 2007, its chairman Rupert Murdoch said, “I am not commenting on anything to do withAustralian politics. I’m sorry. I always get into trouble when I do that.” Pressed as to whether he believed Prime Minister John Howard should continue as prime minister, he said: “I have nothing further to say. I’m sorry. Read our editorials in the papers. It’ll be the journalists who decide that – the editors.” In 2009, in response to accusations by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that News Limited was running vendettas against him and his government, Murdoch opined that Rudd was “oversensitive”. Murdoch described Howard’s successor, Labor Party Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, as “…more ambitious to lead the world [in tackling climate change] than to lead Australia…” and criticised Rudd’s expansionary fiscal policies in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 as unnecessary. Although News Limited’s interests are extensive, also including the Daily Telegraph, the Courier-Mail and the Adelaide Advertiser, it was suggested by the commentator Mungo MacCallum in The Monthly that “the anti-Rudd push, if coordinated at all, was almost certainly locally driven” as opposed to being directed by Murdoch, who also took a different position from local editors on such matters as climate change and stimulus packages to combat the financial crisis.
Activities in the United Kingdom
Business activities in the United Kingdom
In 1968 Murdoch entered the British newspaper market with his acquisition of the populist News of the World, followed in 1969 with the purchase of the struggling daily broadsheet The Sun from IPC. Murdoch turned The Sun into a tabloid format and reduced costs by using the same printing press for both newspapers. On acquiring it, he appointed Albert ‘Larry’ Lamb as editor and – Lamb recalled later – told him: “I want a tearaway paper with lots of tits in it”. In 1997 The Sun attracted 10 million daily readers. In 1981, Murdoch acquired the struggling Times and Sunday Times from Canadian newspaper publisher Lord Thomson of Fleet. Ownership of The Times came to him through his relationship with Lord Thomson, who had grown tired of losing money on it as a result of much industrial action that stopped publication. In the light of success and expansion at The Sun the owners believed that Murdoch could turn the papers around. Harold Evans, Editor of the Sunday Times from 1967, was made head of the daily Times, though he stayed only a year amid editorial conflict with Murdoch.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Murdoch’s publications were generally supportive of Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. At the end of the Thatcher/Major era, Murdoch switched his support to the Labour Party and its leader, Tony Blair. The closeness of his relationship with Blair and their secret meetings to discuss national policies was to become a political issue in Britain. This later changed, with The Sun, in its English editions, publicly renouncing the ruling Labour government and lending its support to David Cameron‘sConservative Party, which soon afterwards formed a coalition government. In Scotland, where the Tories had yet to recover from their complete annihilation in 1997, the paper began to endorse the Scottish National Party (though not yet its flagship policy of independence), which soon after came to form the first ever outright majority in the proportionally elected Scottish Parliament. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s official spokesman said in November 2009 that Brown and Murdoch “were in regular communication” and that “there is nothing unusual in the prime minister talking to Rupert Murdoch”.
In 1986, Murdoch introduced electronic production processes to his newspapers in Australia, Britain and the United States. The greater degree of automation led to significant reductions in the number of employees involved in the printing process. In England, the move roused the anger of the print unions, resulting in a long and often violent dispute that played out in Wapping, one of London’s docklands areas, where Murdoch had installed the very latest electronic newspaper purpose-built publishing facility in an old warehouse. The bitter dispute at Wapping started with the dismissal of 6,000 employees who had gone on strike and resulted in street battles and demonstrations. Many on the political left in Britain alleged the collusion of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government with Murdoch in the Wapping affair, as a way of damaging the British trade union movement. In 1987, the dismissed workers accepted a settlement of £60 million.
Murdoch’s British-based satellite network, Sky Television, incurred massive losses in its early years of operation. As with many of his other business interests, Sky was heavily subsidised by the profits generated by his other holdings, but convinced rival satellite operator British Satellite Broadcasting to accept a merger on his terms in 1990. They were quick to see the advantages of direct to home (DTH) satellite broadcasting that did not require costly cable networks and the merged company, BSkyB, has dominated the British pay-TV market ever since. By 1996, BSkyB had more than 3.6 million subscribers, triple the number of cable customers in the UK. British financier Lord Jacob Rothschild, a close Murdoch friend since the 1960s, served as deputy chairman of Murdoch’s BSkyB corporation from 2003–2007, and Murdoch jointly invested with Rothschild in a 5.5 percent stake in Genie Oil and Gas, which conducted shale gas and oil exploration in Israel.
In response to print media’s decline and the increasing influence of online journalism during the 2000s, Murdoch proclaimed his support of the micropayments model for obtaining revenue from on-line news,although this has been criticised by some.
News Corporation has subsidiaries in the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands and the Virgin Islands. From 1986, News Corporation’s annual tax bill averaged around seven percent of its profits.
Political activities in United Kingdom
In Britain, in the 1980s, Murdoch formed a close alliance with Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and The Sun credited itself with helping her successor John Major to win an unexpected election victory in the 1992 general election, which had been expected to end in a hung parliament or a narrow win for Neil Kinnock‘s Labour. In the general elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005, Murdoch’s papers were either neutral or supported Labour under Tony Blair.
The Labour Party, from when Tony Blair became leader in 1994, had moved from the Left to a more central position on many economic issues prior to 1997. Murdoch identifies himself as a libertarian, saying “What does libertarian mean? As much individual responsibility as possible, as little government as possible, as few rules as possible. But I’m not saying it should be taken to the absolute limit.”
In a 2005 speech delivered in New York, Murdoch said that Blair described the BBC coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster as being full of hatred of America.
In 1998, Rupert Murdoch made an attempt to buy the football club Manchester United F.C., with an offer of £625 million, but this failed. It was the largest amount ever offered for a sports club. It was blocked by the United Kingdom’s Competition Commission, which stated that the acquisition would have “hurt competition in the broadcast industry and the quality of British football”.
On 28 June 2006 the BBC reported that Murdoch and News Corporation were considering backing new Conservative leader David Cameron at the next General Election – still up to four years away. In a later interview in July 2006, when he was asked what he thought of the Conservative leader, Murdoch replied “Not much”. In a 2009 blog, it was suggested that in the aftermath of the News of the World phone hacking scandal which is still ongoing in 2012 and might yet have Transatlantic implications Murdoch and News Corporation might have decided to back Cameron. Despite this, there had already been a convergence of interests between the two men over the muting of Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom.
In 2006, Britain’s Independent newspaper reported that Murdoch would offer Tony Blair a senior role in his global media company News Corporation when the prime minister stood down from office.
He is accused by former Solidarity MSP Tommy Sheridan of having a personal vendetta against him and of conspiring with MI5 to produce a video of him confessing to having affairs – allegations over which Sheridan had previously sued News International and won. On being arrested for perjury following the case, Sheridan claimed that the charges were “orchestrated and influenced by the powerful reach of the Murdoch empire”.
In August 2008, British Conservative leader and future Prime Minister David Cameron accepted free flights to hold private talks and attend private parties with Murdoch on his yacht, the Rosehearty. Cameron has declared in the Commons register of interests he accepted a private plane provided by Murdoch’s son-in-law, public relations guru Matthew Freud; Cameron has not revealed his talks with Murdoch. The gift of travel in Freud’s Gulfstream IV private jet was valued at around £30,000. Other guests attending the “social events” included the then EU trade commissioner Lord Mandelson, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and co-chairman of NBC Universal Ben Silverman. The Conservatives have not disclosed what was discussed.
In July 2011, it emerged that Cameron met key executives of Murdoch’s News Corporation 26 times during the 14 months that Cameron had served as Prime Minister. It was also reported that Murdoch had given Cameron a personal guarantee that there would be no risk attached to hiring Andy Coulson, the former editor of News of the World, as the Conservative Party’s communication director in 2007. This was in spite of Coulson having resigned as editor over phone hacking by a reporter. Cameron chose to take Murdoch’s advice, despite warnings from Nick Clegg, Lord Ashdown and The Guardian. Coulson resigned his post in 2011 and was later arrested and questioned on allegations of further criminal activity at The News of the World, specifically the News International phone hacking scandal. As a result of the subsequent trial, Coulson was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
News International phone hacking scandal
In July 2011 Rupert Murdoch, along with his son James, provided testimony before a British parliamentary committee regarding phone hacking. In the U.K., his media empire remains under fire as investigators continue to probe reports of other phone hacking.
On 14 July, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons served a summons on Murdoch, his son James, and his former CEO Rebekah Brooks to testify before a committee on 19 July. After an initial refusal, the Murdochs confirmed they would attend after the committee issued them a summons to Parliament. The day before the committee, the website of the News Corporation publication The Sunwas hacked, and a false story was posted on the front page claiming that Murdoch had died. Murdoch described the day of the committee “the most humble day of my life”. He argued that since he ran a global business of 53,000 employees and that the News of the World was “just 1%” of this, he was not ultimately responsible for what went on at the tabloid. He added that he had not considered resigning, and that he and the other top executives had been completely unaware of the hacking.
On 15 July, Murdoch attended a private meeting in London with the family of Milly Dowler, where he personally apologized for the hacking of their murdered daughter’s voicemail by a company he owns. On 16 and 17 July, News International published two full-page apologies in many of Britain’s national newspapers. The first apology took the form of a letter, signed by Rupert Murdoch, in which he said sorry for the “serious wrongdoing” that occurred. The second was titled “Putting right what’s gone wrong”, and gave more detail about the steps News International was taking to address the public’s concerns. In the wake of the allegations Murdoch accepted the resignations of Rebekah Brooks, head of Murdoch’s British operations, and Les Hinton, head of Dow Jones who was chairman of Murdoch’s British newspaper division when some of the abuses happened. They both deny any knowledge of any wrongdoing under their command.
On 27 February 2012, the following day after Murdoch’s controversial release of the Sun on Sunday, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers informed the Leveson Inquiry that police are investigating a “network of corrupt officials” as part of their inquiries into phone hacking and police corruption. She said that evidence suggested a “culture of illegal payments” at the Sun newspaper and that these payments allegedly made by the Sun were authorised at a senior level.
In testimony on 25 April 2012, Murdoch did not deny the quote attributed to him by his former editor of The Sunday Times, Harold Evans: “I give instructions to my editors all round the world, why shouldn’t I in London?” On 1 May 2012, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee issued a report stating that Murdoch was “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”.
On 3 July 2013 Exaro and Channel 4 news broke the story of a secretly recorded tape. The tape was recorded by Sun journalists and in it Murdoch can be heard telling them that the whole investigation was one big fuss over nothing, and that he, or his successors, would take care of any journalists who went to prison. He said: “Why are the police behaving in this way? It’s the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing.”
Activities in the United States
Murdoch made his first acquisition in the United States in 1973, when he purchased the San Antonio Express-News. Soon afterwards, he founded Star, a supermarket tabloid, and in 1976, he purchased the New York Post. On 4 September 1985, Murdoch became a naturalized citizen to satisfy the legal requirement that only US citizens were permitted to own US television stations. This resulted in Murdoch losing his Australian citizenship.
Marvin Davis sold Marc Rich‘s interest in 20th Century Fox to Murdoch for $250 million in March 1984. Davis later backed out of a deal with Murdoch to purchase John Kluge‘s Metromedia television stations.Murdoch went alone and bought the stations, and later bought out Davis’ remaining stake in Fox for $325 million. The six television stations owned by Metromedia would form the nucleus of the Fox Broadcasting Company, founded on 9 October 1986, which would go on to have great success with programmes such as The Simpsons and The X-Files.
In 1987 in Australia, he bought The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, the company that his father had once managed. By 1990 News Corporation had built up debts of $7 billion (much from Sky TV in the UK). forcing Murdoch to sell many of the American magazine interests he had acquired in the mid-1980s. In 1993, it took exclusive coverage of the National Football League (NFL) from CBS and increased programming to seven days a week. In 1995, Murdoch’s Fox Network became the object of scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), when it was alleged that News Ltd.’s Australian base made Murdoch’s ownership of Fox illegal. However, the FCC ruled in Murdoch’s favour, stating that his ownership of Fox was in the best interests of the public. That same year, Murdoch announced a deal with MCI Communicationsto develop a major news website and magazine, The Weekly Standard. Also that year, News Corporation launched the Foxtel pay television network in Australia in partnership with Telstra. In 1996, Murdoch decided to enter the cable news market with the Fox News Channel, a 24-hour cable news station. Ratings studies released in 2009 showed that the network was responsible for nine of the top ten programs in the “Cable News” category at that time. Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner (founder and former owner of CNN) are long-standing rivals. In late 2003, Murdoch acquired a 34 percent stake in Hughes Electronics, the operator of the largest American satellite TV system, DirecTV, from General Motors for $6 billion (USD). His Fox movie studio would go on to have global hits with Titanic and Avatar.
In 2004, Murdoch announced that he was moving News Corporation headquarters from Adelaide, Australia to the United States. Choosing a US domicile was designed to ensure that American fund managers could purchase shares in the company, since many were deciding not to buy shares in non-US companies.
On 20 July 2005, News Corporation bought Intermix Media Inc., which held Myspace, Imagine Games Network and other social networking-themed websites, for $580 million USD, making Murdoch a major player in online media concerns. In June 2011, it sold off Myspace for US$35 million. On 11 September 2005, News Corporation announced that it would buy IGN Entertainment for $650 million (USD).
In May 2007, Murdoch made a $5 billion offer to purchase Dow Jones. At the time, the Bancroft family, who had owned the Dow Jones for 105 years and controlled 64% of the shares at the time, declined the offer. Later, the Bancroft family confirmed a willingness to consider a sale. Besides Murdoch, the Associated Press reported that supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and Internet entrepreneur Brad Greenspan were among the other interested parties. In 2007, Murdoch acquired Dow Jones, which gave him such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s Magazine, the Far Eastern Economic Review (based in Hong Kong) and SmartMoney.
In June 2014, Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox made a bid for Time Warner at $85 per share in stock and cash ($80 billion total) which Time Warner’s board of directors turned down in July. Warner’s CNN unit would have been sold to ease antitrust issues of the purchase. On 5 August 2014 the company announced it had withdrawn its offer for Time Warner, and said it would spend $6 billion buying back its own shares over the following 12 months.
Political activities in the United States
McNight (2010) identifies four characteristics of his media operations: free market ideology; unified positions on matters of public policy; global editorial meetings; and opposition to a liberal bias in other public media.
On 8 May 2006, the Financial Times reported that Murdoch would be hosting a fund-raiser for Senator Hillary Clinton‘s (D-New York) Senate re-election campaign. In a 2008 interview with Walt Mossberg, Murdoch was asked whether he had “anything to do with the New York Post‘s endorsement of Barack Obama in the democratic primaries.” Without hesitating, Murdoch replied, “Yeah. He is a rock star. It’s fantastic. I love what he is saying about education. I don’t think he will win Florida… but he will win in Ohio and the election. I am anxious to meet him. I want to see if he will walk the walk.” Murdoch is a strong supporter of Israel and its domestic policies.
In 2010, News Corporation gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association and $1 million to the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Murdoch also served on the board of directors of thelibertarian Cato Institute. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Murdoch is also a supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act.
Murdoch is a supporter of more open immigration policies in western nations generally. In the United States, Murdoch and chief executives from several major corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing andDisney joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to form the Partnership for a New American Economy to advocate “for immigration reform – including a path to legal status for all illegal aliens now in the United States.” The coalition, reflecting Murdoch and Bloomberg’s own views, also advocates significant increases in legal immigration to the United States as a means of boosting America’s sluggish economy and lowering unemployment. The Partnership’s immigration policy prescriptions are notably similar to those of the Cato Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—both of which Murdoch has supported in the past.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has similarly advocated for increased legal immigration, in contrast to the staunch anti-immigration stance of Murdoch’s British newspaper, The Sun. On 5 September 2010, Murdoch testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Membership on the “Role of Immigration in Strengthening America’s Economy.” In his testimony, Murdoch called for ending mass deportations and endorsed a “comprehensive immigration reform” plan that would include a pathway to citizenship for all illegal immigrants.
In the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, Murdoch was critical of the competence of Mitt Romney‘s team but was nonetheless strongly supportive of a Republican victory, tweeting: “Of course I want him [Romney] to win, save us from socialism, etc.”
In May 2013, Murdoch purchased the Moraga Estate, an estate, vineyard and winery in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California.
Activities in Europe
Murdoch owns controlling interest in Sky Italia, a satellite television provider in Italy. Murdoch’s business interests in Italy have been a source of contention since they began. In 2010 Murdoch won a media dispute with then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. A judge ruled the then Prime Minister’s media arm Mediaset prevented News Corporation’s Italian unit, Sky Italia, from buying advertisements on its television networks.
Activities in Asia
In 1993, Murdoch acquired Star TV, a Hong Kong company founded by Richard Li for $1 billion (Souchou, 2000:28), and subsequently set up offices for it throughout Asia. The deal enables News International to broadcast from Hong Kong to India, China, Japan and over thirty other countries in Asia, becoming one of the biggest satellite TV networks in the east. However, the deal did not work out as Murdoch had planned, because the Chinese government placed restrictions on it that prevented it from reaching most of China.
Murdoch with his third wife, Wendi, in 2011
In 1956 Murdoch married Patricia Booker, a former shop assistant and flight attendant from Melbourne and they had their only child, Prudence, in 1958. Rupert and Patricia Murdoch divorced in 1967.
In 1967 Murdoch married Anna Maria Torv (Tõrv), a Scottish-born cadet journalist working for his Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph. During his marriage to Torv, a Roman Catholic, Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great (KSG), a papal honour awarded by Pope John Paul II. Torv and Murdoch had three children: Elisabeth Murdoch (born in Sydney, Australia on 22 August 1968), Lachlan Murdoch (born in London, UK on 8 September 1971), and James Murdoch, (born in London on 13 December 1972). Murdoch’s companies published two novels by his then wife: Family Business (1988) and Coming to Terms (1991), both widely regarded as vanity publications. They divorced in June 1999. Anna Murdoch received a settlement of US$1.2 billion in assets.
On 25 June 1999, 17 days after divorcing his second wife, Murdoch, then aged 68, married Chinese-born Wendi Deng. She was 30, a recent Yale School of Managementgraduate, and a newly appointed vice-president of his STAR TV. Murdoch has two daughters with her; Grace (born 2001) and Chloe (born 2003). Rupert Murdoch has six children in all, and is grandfather to thirteen grandchildren. On 13 June 2013, a News Corporation spokesperson confirmed that Murdoch filed for divorce from Deng in New York City, U.S. According to the spokesman, the marriage had been irretrievably broken for more than six months. Murdoch also ended his long-standing relationship with Tony Blair after suspecting him of having an affair with Deng while they were still married.
Murdoch has six children. His eldest child, Prudence MacLeod, was appointed on 28 January 2011 to the board of Times Newspapers Ltd, part of News International, which publishes The Times and The Sunday Times. Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan, formerly the deputy chief operating officer at the News Corporation and the publisher of the New York Post, was Murdoch’s heir apparent before resigning from his executive posts at the global media company at the end of July 2005. Lachlan’s departure left James Murdoch chief executive of the satellite television service British Sky Broadcasting since November 2003, as the only Murdoch son still directly involved with the company’s operations, though Lachlan has agreed to remain on the News Corporation’s board.
After graduating from Vassar College and marrying classmate Elkin Kwesi Pianim (the son of Ghanaian financial and political mogul Kwame Pianim) in 1993, Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth, along with her husband, purchased a pair of NBC-affiliate television stations in California, KSBW and KSBY, with a $35 million loan provided by her father. By quickly re-organising and re-selling them at a $12 million profit in 1995, Elisabeth emerged as an unexpected rival to her brothers for the eventual leadership of the publishing dynasty’s empire. But after divorcing her first husband in 1998 and quarrelling publicly with her assigned mentorSam Chisholm at BSkyB, she struck out on her own as a television and film producer in London. She has since enjoyed independent success, in conjunction with her second husband, Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud (the founder of psychoanalysis) whom she met in 1997 and married in 2001.
It is not known how long Murdoch will remain as News Corporation’s CEO. For a while the American cable television entrepreneur John Malone was the second-largest voting shareholder in News Corporation after Murdoch himself, potentially undermining the family’s control. In 2007, the company announced that it would sell certain assets and give cash to Malone’s company in exchange for its stock. In 2007, the company issued Murdoch’s older children voting stock.
Murdoch has two children with Wendi Deng: Grace (b. New York, 19 November 2001) and Chloe (b. New York, 17 July 2003). It was revealed in September 2011 that Tony Blair is Grace’s godfather.There is reported to be tension between Murdoch and his oldest children over the terms of a trust holding the family’s 28.5 percent stake in News Corporation, estimated in 2005 to be worth about $6.1 billion. Under the trust, his children by Wendi Deng share in the proceeds of the stock but have no voting privileges or control of the stock. Voting rights in the stock are divided 50/50 between Murdoch on the one side and his children of his first two marriages. Murdoch’s voting privileges are not transferable but will expire upon his death and the stock will then be controlled solely by his children from the prior marriages, although their half-siblings will continue to derive their share of income from it. It is Murdoch’s stated desire to have his children by Deng given a measure of control over the stock proportional to their financial interest in it (which would mean, if Murdoch dies while at least one of the children is a minor, that Deng would exercise that control). It does not appear that he has any strong legal grounds to contest the present arrangement, and both ex-wife Anna and their three children are said to be strongly resistant to any such change.
Portrayal on television, in film, books and music
Murdoch and rival newspaper and publishing magnate Robert Maxwell are thinly fictionalised as “Keith Townsend” and “Richard Armstrong” in The Fourth Estate by British novelist and former MP Jeffrey Archer.
Murdoch has been portrayed
It has been speculated that the character of Elliot Carver, the global media magnate and main villain in the 1997 James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, is based on Murdoch. The writer of the film, Bruce Feirstein, has stated that Carver was actually inspired by British press magnate Robert Maxwell, who was one of Murdoch’s rivals.
In the 1997 film Fierce Creatures, the head of Octopus Inc. Rod McCain (initials R.M.) character is likely modelled after Murdoch.
In 1999, the Ted Turner owned TBS aired an original sitcom, The Chimp Channel. This featured an all-simian cast and the role of an Australian TV veteran named Harry Waller. The character is described as “a self-made gazillionaire with business interests in all sorts of fields. He owns newspapers, hotel chains, sports franchises and genetic technologies, as well as everyone’s favourite cable TV channel, The Chimp Channel.” Waller is thought to be a parody of Murdoch, a long-time rival of Turner’s.
In 2004, the movie Outfoxed included many interviews accusing Fox News of pressuring reporters to report only one side of news stories, in order to influence viewers’ political opinions.
In 2012, the satirical show Hacks, broadcast on UK-based Channel 4, made obvious comparisons with Rupert Murdoch using the fictional character ‘Stanhope Feast’, as well as other central figures in the phone hacking scandal.
Influence, wealth and reputation
||This section may lend undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies. (May 2014)
According to Forbes‘ 2013 list of richest Americans, Murdoch is the 33rd richest person in the US and the 91st richest person in the world, with a net worth of US$13.4 billion. In 2014, Forbes ranked “Rupert Murdoch & Family” as the 33rd most-powerful person in the world.
In 2003 Murdoch bought a ‘Rosehearty’, 11 bedroom home on a 5-acre waterfront estate in Centre Island, New York.
In August 2013, Terry Flew, Professor of Media and Communications at Queensland University of Technology, wrote an article for the Conversation publication in which he verified a claim by former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd that Murdoch owned 70% of Australian newspapers in 2011. Flew’s article showed that News Corp Australia owned 23% of the nation’s newspapers in 2011, according to the Finkelstein Review of Media and Media Regulation, but, at the time of the article, the corporation’s titles accounted for 59% of the sales of all daily newspapers, with weekly sales of 17.3 million copies.
In connection with Murdoch’s testimony to the Leveson Inquiry “into the ethics of the British press”, editor of Newsweek International, Tunku Varadarajan, referred to him as “the man whose name is synonymous with unethical newspapers”.
News Corp papers were accused of supporting the campaign of the Australian Liberal government and influencing public opinion during the 2013 federal election. Following the announcement of the Liberal Party victory at the polls, Murdoch tweeted “Aust. election public sick of public sector workers and phony welfare scroungers sucking life out of economy. Other nations to follow in time”.
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Powerhouse executive signs multi-year contract a month after Rupert Murdoch passed reins of company to sons, which had put Ailes’s future at Fox in doubt
Roger Ailes – the powerhouse executive behind Fox News – has signed a new multi-year contract with 21st Century Fox that will see him continuing in his role as chairman and CEO of the channels. The move comes after it appeared Ailes was losing his grip on Fox.
Earlier this month media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced he would pass the reins of his TV, film and news empire to his sons James and Lachlan. Fox announced that Ailes, who has clashed with both sons, would now be reporting to Murdoch’s heirs.
Days earlier Fox Business had reported that Ailes would continue to report directly to Rupert Murdoch.
The company did not specify how long Ailes’s new contract would run but Murdoch and his sons gave the Fox boss a ringing endorsement. “Roger and I have always had, and will continue to have, a special relationship. Lachlan, James and I are delighted that Roger will be leading key businesses for us and our shareholders for years to come, and he has our unwavering support,” Rupert Murdoch said in a statement.
“Roger is an incredibly talented executive and we’re pleased he has accepted our offer to continue his extraordinary record of success at 21st Century Fox,” Lachlan and James Murdoch said in a joint statement. “We look forward to witnessing his energy and entrepreneurial drive in leading the next wave of growth for Fox News, Fox Business Network and Fox Television Stations, as well as many years of continued success together.”
The news is a major victory for Ailes whose relations with both sons has been strained at best. According to Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman the Fox boss and James Murdoch have clashed over their views on the environment. Ailes is a hardcore rightwing climate change denier, James Murdoch has supported green causes and his wife once worked for the Clinton Foundation.
Lachlan Murdoch returned to Australia after a series of clashes with Ailes. According to Sherman’s biography, The Loudest Voice in the Room, Ailes bragged about moving into Lachlan’s vacant office. “Do you know whose chair I’m sitting in? I’m sitting in Lachlan Murdoch’s chair,” Ailes boasted to a colleague. “Do you know who’s sitting on the other side of that wall? Rupert Murdoch.”
Ailes’s contract was set to expire in 2016, the new deal will keep him at Fox through the presidential election and beyond. Under Ailes’s leadership Fox has been the highest-rated news channel in the US for 13 consecutive years.
The contract deal comes amid a series of top level changes in Murdoch’s empire. The billionaire businessman also announced on Thursday that Natalie Ravitz, Murdoch’s chief of staff and vice president of strategy, would be stepping down from her role and seeking “a leadership operating position.”
It is not yet clear whether Ravitz will stay with the company. Ravitz, previously a communications director with the New York City department of education, has looked after Murdoch’s personal affairs as well as business interests.
“I cannot say enough about the exceptional job Natalie has done for me, giving valued support across many functions. She is immensely talented and able, and has greatly benefited me and our companies. I am confident wherever Natalie chooses to go she will be an incredible asset and wish her all the best,” Murdoch wrote in a memo to staff.
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THE 2016 FIELD: WHO’S IN AND WHO’S THINKING IT OVER
A whopping 22 people from America’s two major political parties have declared themselves candidates in the 2016 presidential election.
The field includes two women, an African-American and two Latinos. All but one in that group – Hillary Clinton – are Republicans.
At 17 candidates, the GOP field is deeper than ever. A few Democrats are still assessing their chances at succeeding in a much smaller group of five whose front-runner has been defined from the very beginning.
REPUBLICANS IN THE RACE
Jeb Bush Former Florida governor
Résumé: Former Florida governor and secretary of state. Former co-chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
Education: B.A. University of Texas at Austin.
Family: Married to Columba Bush (1974), with three adult children. Noelle Bush has made news with her struggle with drug addiction, and related arrests. George P. Bush was elected Texas land commissioner in 2014. Jeb’s father George H.W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States, and his brother George W. Bush was number 43.
Claim to fame: Jeb was an immensely popular governor with strong economic and jobs credentials. He is also one of just two GOP candidates who is fluent in Spanish.
Achilles heel: Bush has angered conservatives with his permissive positions on illegal immigration (saying some border-crossing is ‘an act of love) and common-core education standards. His last name could also be a liability with voters who fear establishing a family dynasty in the White House.
Chris Christie New Jersey governor
Base: Establishment-minded conservatives
Résumé: Governor of New Jersey. Former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. Former Morris County freeholder and lobbyist.
Governor of New Jersey. Former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. Former Morris County freeholder. Former statehouse lobbyist.
Education: B.A. University of Delaware, Newark, J.D. Seton Hall University.
Family: Married to Mary Pat Foster (1986) with four children.
Claim to fame: Pugnacious and unapologetic, Christie once told a heckler to ‘sit down and shut up’ and brings a brash style to everything he does. That includes the post-9/11 criminal prosecutions of terror suspects that made his reputation as a hard-charger.
Achilles heel: Christie is often accused of embracing an ego-driven and needlessly abrasive style. His administration continues to operate under a ‘Bridgegate’ cloud: At least two aides have been indicted in an alleged scheme to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution for a mayor who refused to endorse the governor’s re-election.
Carly Fiorina Former CEO
Résumé: Former CEO of Hewett-Packard. Former group president of Lucent Technologies. Former U.S. Senate candidate in California.
Education: B.A. Stanford University. UCLA School of Law (did not finish). M.B.A. University of Maryland. M.Sci. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Family: Married to Frank Fiorina (1985), with one adult step-daughter and another who is deceased. She has two step-grandchildren. Divorced from Todd Bartlem (1977-1984).
Claim to fame: Fiorina was the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company, something that could provide ammunition against the Democratic Party’s drive to make Hillary Clinton the first female president. She is also the only woman in the 2016 GOP field, making her the one Republican who can’t be accused of sexism.
Achilles heel: Fiorina’s unceremonious firing by HP’s board has led to questions about her management and leadership styles. And her only political experience has been a failed Senate bid in 2010 against Barbara Boxer.
Lindsey Graham South Carolina senator
Religion: Southern Baptist
Base: Otherwise moderate war hawks
Résumé: U.S. senator. Retired Air Force Reserves colonel. Former congressman. Former South Carolina state representative.
Education: B.A. University of South Carolina. J.D. University of South Carolina Law School.
Family: Never married. Raised his sister Darline after their parents died while he was a college student and she was 13.
Claim to fame: Graham is a hawk’s hawk, arguing consistently for greater intervention in the Middle East, once arguing in favor of pre-emptive military strikes against Iran. His influence was credited for pushing President George W. Bush to institute the 2007 military ‘surge’ in Iraq.
Achilles heel: Some of his critics have taken to call him ‘Grahamnesty,’ citing his participating in a 2013 ‘gang of eight’ strategy to approve an Obama-favored immigration bill. He has also aroused the ire of conservative Republicans by supporting global warming legislation and voting for some of the president’s judicial nominees.
Bobby Jindal Louisiana governor
Base: Social conservatives
Résumé: Governor of Louisiana. Former congressman. Former Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation. Former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
Education: B. Sci. Brown University. M.Litt. New College at Oxford University
Family: Married to Supriya Jolly (1997), with three children, each of whom has an Indian first name and an American middle name. Bobby Jindal’s given name is Piyush.
Claim to fame: Jindal’s main source of national attention has been his strident opposition to federal-level ‘Common Core’ education standards, which included a federal lawsuit that a judge dismissed in late March. He is also outspoken on the religious-freedom issues involved in mainstreaming gay marriage into the lives of American Christians.
Achilles heel: During his first term as governor, Jindal signed a science education law that requires schools to present alternatives to the theory of evolution, including religious creationism. His staunch defense of businesses that want to steer clear of providing services to same-sex couples at their weddings will win points among evangelicals but alienate others.
George Pataki Former New York governor
Résumé: Former governor of New York. Former New York state senator and state assemblyman. Former mayor of Peekskill, NY.
Education: B.A. Yale University. J.D. Columbia Law School.
Family: Married to Libby Rowland (1973), with four adult children.
Claim to fame: Pataki was just the third Republican governor in New York’s history, winning an improbable victory over three-term incumbent Mario Cuomo in 1994. He was known for being a rare tax-cutter in Albany and was also the sitting governor when the 9/11 terror attacks rocked New York CIty in 2001.
Achilles heel: While Pataki’s liberal-leaning social agenda plays well in the Empire State, it won’t win him any fans among the GOP’s conservative base. He supports abortion rights and gay rights, and has advocated strongly in favor of government intervention to stop global warming, which right-wingers believe is overblown as a global threat.
Rick Perry Former Texas governor
Religion: Christian (nondenominational)
Résumé: Former Texas governor, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner and state representative.
Education: B.Sci. Texas A&M University
Family: Married to Anita Thigpen (1982) with two adult children. His father was a former Democratic county commissioner in Texas.
Claim to fame: Perry boasts that while he was governor between the end of 2007 and the end of 2014, the Texas economy created 1.4 million new jobs while the rest of the U.S. lost close to 400,000. A Perry-led Texas also had the nation’s highest high school graduation rate among Hispanics and African-Americans.
Achilles heel: Perry has a tough hill to climb after his 2012 presidential campaign spectacularly imploded with a single word – ‘Oops’ – after he couldn’t remember one of his own talking points during a nationally televised debate. He also faces an indictment for alleged abuse of power in a case that Republicans contend is politically motivated and meritless.
Rick Santorum Former Penn. senator
Résumé: Former US senator and former member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. Former lobbyist who represented World Wrestling Entertainment.
Education: B.A. Penn State University. M.B.A. University of Pittsburgh. J.D. Penn State University Dickinson School of Law.
Family: Married to Karen Santorum (1990), with seven living children. One baby was stillborn in 1996. Another, named Isabella, is a special needs child with a genetic disorder.
Claim to fame: Santorum won the 2012 Republican Iowa Caucuses by a nose. He won by visiting all of Iowa’s 99 states in a pickup truck belonging to his state campaign director, a consultant who now worls for Donald Trump.
Achilles heel: As a young lobbyist, Santorum persuaded the federal government to exempt pro wrestling from regulations governing the use of anabolic steroids. And the stridently conservative politician has attracted strong opposition from gay rights groups. One gay columnist held a contest to redefine his name, buying the ‘santorum.com’ domain to advertise the winning entry – which is too vulgar to print.
Scott Walker Wisconsin governor
Religion: Christian (nondenominational)
Base: Conservative activists
Résumé: Governor of Wisconsin. Former Milwaukee County Executive. Former member of the Wisconsin State Assembly.
Education: Marquette University (did not finish)
Family: Married to Tonette Tarantino (1993), with two children. One of Mrs. Walker’s cousins is openly lesbian and was married in 2014, with the Walkers attending the reception.
Claim to fame: Walker built his national fame on the twin planks of turning his state’s past budget shortfalls into surpluses and beating back a labor-union-led drive to force him out of office through a recall election. Both results have broad appeal in the GOP.
Achilles heel: Wisconsin has suffered from a shaky economy during Walker’s tenure, which makes him look weak compared with other governors who presided over more robust job-creation numbers. He promised to create 250,000 private sector jobs but delivered less than 60 per cent of them. Also, he led an effort in the state legislature to enact $800 million in tax cuts – putting the Badger State back on the road to government deficits.
Ben Carson Retired Physician
Religion: Seventh-day Adventist
Résumé: Famous pediatric neurosurgeon, youngest person to head a major Johns Hopkins Hospital division. Founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which awards scholarships to children of good character.
Education: B.A. Yale University. M.D. University of Michigan Medical School.
Family: Married to Candy Carson (1975), with three adult sons. The Carsons live in Maryland with Ben’s elderly mother Sonya, who was a seminal influence on his life and development.
Claim to fame: Carson spoke at a National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, railing against political correctness and condemned Obamacare – with President Obama sitting just a few feet away.
Achilles heel: Carson is inflexibly conservative, opposing gay marriage and once saying gay attachments formed in prison provided evidence that sexual orientation is a choice.
Ted Cruz Texas senator
Religion: Southern Baptist
Base: Tea partiers
Résumé: U.S. senator. Former Texas solicitor general. Former U.S. Supreme Court clerk. Former associate deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush.
Education: B.A. Princeton University. J.D. Harvard Law School.
Family: Married to Heidi Nelson Cruz (2001), with two young daughters. His father is a preacher and he has two half-sisters.
Claim to fame: Cruz spoke on the Senate floor for more than 21 hours in September 2013 to protest the inclusion of funding for Obamacare in a federal budget bill. (The bill moved forward as written.) He has called for the complete repeal of the medical insurance overhaul law, and also for a dismantling of the Internal Revenue Service. Cruz is also outspoken about border security.
Achilles heel: Cruz’s father Rafael, a Texas preacher, is a tea party firebrand who has said gay marriage is a government conspiracy and called President Barack Obama a Marxist who should ‘go back to Kenya.’ Cruz himself also has a reputation as a take-no-prisoners Christian evangelical, which might play well in South Carolina but won’t win him points in the other early primary states and could cost him momentum if he should be the GOP’s presidential nominee.
Jim Gilmore Former Virginia governor
Religion: United Methodist
Résumé: Former governor and attorney general of Virginia. Former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Former U.S. Army intelligence agent. President and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation. Board member of the National Rifle Association
Education: B.A. University of Virginia.
Family: Married to Roxane Gatling Gilmore (1977), with two adult children. Mrs. GIlmore is a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Claim to fame: Gilmore presided over Virginia when the 9/11 terrorists struck in 1991, guiding the state through a difficult economic downturn after one of the hijacked airliners crashed into the Pentagon. He is nest known in Virginia for eliminating most of a much-maligned personal property tax on automobiles, working with a Democratic-controlled state legislature to get it passed and enacted.
Achilles heel: Gilmore is the only GOP or Democratic candidate for president who has been the chairman of his political party, giving him a rap as an ‘establishment’ candidate. A social-conservative crusader, he is loathed by the left for championing the state law that established 24-hour waiting periods for abortions. Gilmore also has a reputation as an indecisive campaigner, having dropped out of the 2008 presidential race in July 2007.
Mike Huckabee Former Arkansas governor
Religion: Southern Baptist
Résumé: Former governor and lieutenant governor of Arkansas. Former Fox News Channel host. Ordained minister and author.
Education: B.A. Ouachita Baptist University. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (did not finish).
Family: Married to Janet Huckabee (1974), with three adult children. Mrs. Huckabee is a survivor of spinal cancer.
Claim to fame: ‘Huck’ is a political veteran and has run for president before, winning the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 and finishing second for the GOP nomination behind John McCain. He’s known as an affable Christian and succeeded in building a huge following on his weekend television program, in which he frequently sat in on the electric bass with country & western groups and other ‘wholesome’ musical entertainers.
Achilles heel: Huckabee may have a problem with female voters. He complained in 2014 about Obamacare’s mandatory contraception coverage, saying Democrats want women to ‘believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar.’ He earned more scorn for hawking herbal supplements in early-2015 infomercials as a diabetes cure, something he has yet to disavow despite disagreement from medical experts.
John Kasich Ohio governor
Résumé: Governor of New York. Former chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee. Former Ohio congressman. Former Ohio state senator.
Education: B.A. The Ohio State University.
Family: Married to Karen Waldbillig (1997). Divorced from Mary Lee Griffith (1975-1980).
Claim to fame: Kasich was Ohio youngest-ever member of the state legislature at age 25. He’s known for a compassionate and working-class sensibility that appeals to both ends of the political spectrum. In the 1990s when Newt Gingrich led a Republican revolution that took over Congress, Kasich became the chairman of the House Budget Committee – a position for a wonk’s wonk who understands the nuanced intricacies of how government runs.
Achilles heel: Some of Kasich’s political positions rankle conservatives, including his choice to expand Ohio’s Medicare system under the Obamacare law, and his support for the much-derided ‘Common Core’ education standards program.
Rand Paul Kentucky senator
Résumé: US senator. Board-certified ophthalmologist. Former congressional campaign manager for his father Ron Paul.
Education: Baylor University (did not finish). M.D. Duke University School of Medicine.
Family: Married to Kelley Ashby (1990), with three sons. His father is a former Texas congressman who ran for president three times but never got close to grabbing the brass ring.
Claim to fame: Paul embraces positions that are at odds with most in the GOP, including an anti-interventionist foreign policy, reduced military spending, criminal drug sentencing reform for African-Americans and strict limits on government electronic surveillance – including a clampdown on the National Security Agency.
Achilles heel: Paul’s politics are aligned with those of his father, whom mainstream GOPers saw as kooky. Both Pauls have advocated for a brand of libertarianism that forces government to stop domestic surveillance programs and limits foreign military interventions.
Marco Rubio Florida senator
Résumé: US senator, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, former city commissioner of West Miami
Education: B.A. University of Florida. J.D. University of Miami School of Law.
Family: Married to Jeanette Dousdebes (1998), with two sons and two daughters. Jeanette is a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader who posed for the squad’s first swimsuit calendar.
Claim to fame: Rubio’s personal story as the son of Cuban emigres is a powerful narrative, and helped him win his Senate seat in 2010 against a well-funded governor whom he initially trailed by 20 points.
Achilles heel: Rubio was part of a bipartisan ‘gang of eight’ senators who crafted an Obama-approved immigration reform bill in 2013 which never became law – a move that angered conservative Republicans. And he was criticized in 2011 for publicly telling a version of his parents’ flight from Cuba that turned out to appear embellished.
Donald Trump Real estate developer
Résumé: Chairman of The Trump Organization. Fixture on the Forbes 400 list of the world’s richest people. Star of ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’
Education: B.Sci. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Family: Married to Melania Trump (2005). Divorced from Ivana Zelníčková (1977-92) and Marla Maples(1993–99). Five grown children. Trump’s father Fred Trump amassed a $400 million fortune developing real estate.
Claim to fame: Trump’s niche in the 2016 campaign stems from his celebrity as a reality-show host and his enormous wealth – more than $10 billion, according to Trump. Because he can self-fund an entire presidential campaign, he is seen as less beholden to donors than other candidates. He has grabbed the attention of reporters and commentators by unapologetically staking out controversial positions and refusing to budge in the face of criticism.
Achilles heel: Trump is a political neophyte who has toyed with running for president and for governor of New York, but shied away from taking the plunge until now. His billions also have the potential to alienate large swaths of the electorate. And his Republican rivals have labeled him an ego-driven celeb and an electoral sideshow because of his all-over-the-map policy history – much of which agreed with today’s today’s democrats – and his past enthusiasm for anti-Obama ‘birtheris
DEMOCRATS IN THE RACE
Lincoln Chafee Former Rhode Island governor
Résumé: Former Rhode Island governor. Former U.S. senator. Former city councilman and mayor of Warwick, RI.
Education: B.A. Brown University. Graduate, Montana State University horseshoeing school.
Family: Married to Stephanie Chafee (1990) with three children. Like him, his father John Chafee was a Rhode Island governor and US senator, but also served as Secretary of the Navy. Lincoln was appointed to his Senate seat when his father died in office.
Claim to fame: While Chafee was a Republican senator during the George W. Bush administration, he cast his party’s only vote in 2002 against a resolution that authorized military action in Iraq. Hillary Clinton, also a senator then, voted in favor – giving him a point of comparison that he hopes to ride to victory.
Achilles heel: Chafee’s lack of any significant party loyalty has turned allies into foes throughout his political career, and Democrats aren’t sure he’s entirely with them now. He was elected to the Senate as a Republican in 2000 but left the party and declared himself a political independent after losing a re-election bid in 2006. As an independent, he was elected governor in 2010. Now he’s running for president as a Democrat.
Martin O’Malley Former Maryland governor
Résumé: Former Maryland governor. Former city councilor and mayor of Baltimore, MD. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Education: B.A. Catholic University of America. J.D. University of Maryland.
Family: Married to Katie Curran (1990) and they have four children. Curran is a district court judge in Baltimore. Her father is Maryland’s attorney general. O’Malley’s mother is a receptionists in the Capitol Hill office of Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
Claim to fame: O’Malley pushed for laws in Maryland legalizing same-sex marriage and giving illegal immigrants the right to pay reduced tuition rates at public universities. But he’s best known for playing guitar and sung in a celtic band cammed ‘O’Malley’s March.’
Achilles heel: O’Malley may struggle in the Democratic primary since he endorsed Hillary Clinton eight years ago. If he prevails, he will have to run far enough to her left to be an easy target for the GOP. He showed political weakness when his hand-picked successor lost the 2014 governor’s race to a Republican. But most troubling is his link with Baltimore, whose 2016 race riots have made it a nuclear subject for politicians of all stripes.
Jim Webb Former Virginia senator
Religion: Christian (nondenominational)
Base: War hawks and economic centrists
Résumé:Former U.S. senator from Virginia. Former U.S. Secretary of the Navy under Ronamd Reagan. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.
Education: B.A. US Naval Academy (transferred from the University of Southern California). J.D. Georgetown University.
Family: Married to Hong Le Webb (2005). Divorced from Jo Ann Krukar (1981-2004). Divorced from Barbara Samorajczyk (1968–1979).
Claim to fame: Webb is the rare Democrat who can bring both robust defense credentials and a history of genuine bipartisanship to the race. He served in Republican president Ronald Reagan’s defense directorate as Navy secretary, and earned both the Navy Star and the Purple Heart in combat. Webb is also seen as a quiet scholar who has written more than a half-dozen historical novels and a critically acclaimed history of Scots-Irish U.S. immigrants.
Achilles heel: Webb has a reputation as a bit of a quitter. He resigned his Navy secretary post over a budget-cut dispute just 10 months after taking the job, and he declined to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2006. He also attracted bad press for defending the use of the Confederate flag as a heritage symbol for American southerners. Amid a nationwide clamor to remove the flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds, he wrote that Americans should ‘respect the complicated history of the Civil War. … Honorable Americans fought on both sides.’
Hillary Clinton Former sec. of state
Religion: United Methodist
Résumé: Former secretary of state. Former U.S. senator from New York. Former U.S. first lady. Former Arkansas first lady. Former law school faculty, University of Arkansas Fayetteville.
Education: B.A. Wellesley College. J.D. Yale Law School.
Family: Married to Bill Clinton (1975), the 42nd President of the United States. Their daughter Chelsea is married to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, whose mother was a 1990s one-term Pennsylvania congresswoman.
Claim to fame: Clinton was the first US first lady with a postgraduate degree and presaged Obamacare with a failed attempt at health care reform in the 1990s.
Achilles heel: A long series of financial and ethical scandals has dogged Clinton, including recent allegations that her husband and their family foundation benefited financially from decisions she made as secretary of state. Her performance surrounding the 2012 terror attack on a State Department facility in Benghazi, Libya, has been catnip for conservative Republicans. And her presdiential campaign has been marked by an unwillingness to engage journalists, instead meeting with hand-picked groups of voters.
Bernie Sanders* Vermont senator
Base: Far-left progressives
Résumé: U.S. senator. Former U.S. congressman. Former mayor of Burlington, VT.
Education: B.A. University of Chicago.
Family: Married to Jane O’Meara Sanders (1988), a former president of Burlington College. He has one child from a previous relationship and is stepfather to three from Mrs. Sanders’ previous marriage. His brother Larry is a Green Party politician in the UK and formerly served on the Oxfordshire County Council.
Claim to fame: Sanders is an unusually blunt, and unapologetic pol, happily promoting progressivism without hedging. He is also the longest-serving ‘independent’ member of Congress – neither Democrat nor Republican.
Achilles heel: Sanders describes himself as a ‘democratic socialist.’ At a time of huge GOP electoral gains, his far-left ideas don’t poll well. He favors open borders, single-payer universal health insurance, and greater government control over media ownership.
* Sanders is running as a Democrat but has no party affiliation in the Senate.
DEMOCRATS IN THE HUNT
Joe Biden, U.S. vice president
Biden would be a natural candidate as the White House’s sitting second-banana, but his reputation as a one-man gaffe factory will keep Democrats from taking him seriously.
Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator
Warren is a populist liberal who could give Hillary Clinton headaches by challenging her from the left, but she has said she has no plans to run and is happy in the U.S. Senate.
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A Summer Story (1988) full movie
A Summer Story
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A Summer Story is a British drama film released in 1988. Directed by Piers Haggard, with a script written by Penelope Mortimer, it stars James Wilby, Imogen Stubbs, and Susannah York. In 1902, a young gentleman visiting a rural area has an intense love affair with a village girl. Twenty years later, he is passing that way again. The film is based on the John Galsworthy story The Apple Tree.
In the summer of 1902 Frank Ashton, an educated young man from London, is on a walking holiday in Devon with a friend. When he falls and twists his ankle, Ashton is helped at a nearby farmhouse and stays there for a few days to recover, while his friend goes on. Ashton quickly falls for the village girl who looks after him, Megan David, and she falls in love with him, to the great distress of her cousin Joe Narracombe, who wants her for himself. Ashton and Megan spend a night together, and after that he takes the train to a seaside town to cash a cheque at a bank, promising to return the next morning and take Megan away with him and marry her.
On arrival in the town, Ashton finds a branch of his bank, but it will not cash his cheque, insisting on first contacting his branch in London. While he is delayed, Ashton meets an old school friend, staying at a local hotel with his three sisters, of whom the oldest is Stella Halliday. Thanks to the bank’s delays, he misses the train he needed to catch to make his rendezvous with Megan. During the day that follows, he spends more time with his friend and his sisters, and while Stella flirts with him he begins to have second thoughts about marrying Megan.
Megan then travels to the seaside town looking for Ashton, carrying her luggage for running away. He sees her on the beach and follows her into the town, but when she turns and catches a glimpse of him, he hides.
Twenty years later, Ashton is married to Stella and they are motoring through Devon. They have no children. Ashton visits the farm where he seduced Megan and is recognized. He learns that Megan was heart-broken about losing him and also that she died soon after giving birth to a son, who she named “Francis”, or Frank. He is taken to see Megan’s grave, which is at the spot where he had arranged to meet her. She had asked to be buried there, to wait for his return. In motoring away with Stella, Ashton passes his son, young Frank, who gives him a friendly wave.
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The Secret Agent (David Suchet, Patrick Malahide, Peter Capaldi, 1992)
The Secret Agent
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The Secret Agent
First US edition cover
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The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale is a novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1907. The story is set in London in 1886 and deals with Mr. Verloc and his work as a spy for an unnamed country (presumably Russia).The Secret Agent is notable for being one of Conrad’s later political novels. In these later novels, Conrad has moved away from his former tales of seafaring.
The novel deals broadly with anarchism, espionage, and terrorism. It also deals with exploitation of the vulnerable, particularly in Verloc’s relationship with his brother-in-law Stevie, who has an intellectual disability.
The Secret Agent was ranked the 46th best novel of the 20th century by Modern Library.
Because of its terrorism theme, it was noted as “one of the three works of literature most cited in the American media” two weeks after the September 11 attacks.
The novel is set in London in 1886 and follows the life of Mr. Verloc, a secret agent. Verloc is also a businessman who owns a shop which sells pornographic material, contraceptives, and bric-a-brac. He lives with his wife Winnie, his mother-in-law, and his brother-in-law, Stevie. Stevie has a mental disability, possibly autism, which causes him to be very excitable; his sister, Verloc’s wife, attends to him, treating him more as a son than as a brother. Verloc’s friends are a group of anarchists of which Comrade Ossipon, Michaelis, and “The Professor” are the most prominent. Although largely ineffectual as terrorists, their actions are known to the police. The group produce anarchist literature in the form of pamphlets entitled F.P., an acronym for The Future of the Proletariat.
The novel begins in Verloc’s home, as he and his wife discuss the trivialities of everyday life, which introduces the reader to Verloc’s family. Soon after, Verloc leaves to meet Mr. Vladimir, the new First Secretary in the embassy of a foreign country. Although a member of an anarchist cell, Verloc is also secretly employed by the Embassy as an agent provocateur. Vladimir informs Verloc that from reviewing his service history he is far from an exemplary model of a secret agent and, to redeem himself, must carry out an operation – the destruction of Greenwich Observatory by a bomb explosion. Vladimir explains that Britain’s lax attitude to anarchism endangers his own country, and he reasons that an attack on ‘science’, which he claims is the current vogue amongst the public, will provide the necessary outrage for suppression. Verloc later meets with his friends, who discuss politics and law, and the notion of a communist revolution. Unbeknownst to the group, Stevie, Verloc’s brother-in-law, overhears the conversation, which greatly disturbs him.
The novel flashes forward to after the bombing has taken place. Comrade Ossipon meets The Professor, who discusses having given explosives to Verloc. The Professor then describes the nature of the bomb which he carries in his coat at all times: it allows him to press a button which will blow him up in twenty seconds, and those nearest to him. After The Professor leaves the meeting, he stumbles into Chief Inspector Heat. Heat is a policeman who is working on the case regarding a recent explosion at Greenwich, where one man was killed. Heat informs The Professor that he is not a suspect in the case, but that he is being monitored due to his terrorist inclinations and anarchist background. Knowing that Michaelis has recently moved to the countryside to write a book, the Chief Inspector informs the Assistant Commissioner that he has a contact, Verloc, who may be able to assist in the case. The Assistant Commissioner shares some of the same high society acquaintances with Michaelis and is chiefly motivated by finding the extent of Michaelis’s involvement in order to assess any possible embarrassment to his connections. He later speaks to his superior, Sir Ethelred, about his intentions to solve the case alone, rather than rely on the effort of Chief Inspector Heat.
The novel then flashes back to before the explosion, taking the perspective of Winnie Verloc and her mother. At home, Mrs. Verloc’s mother informs the family that she wishes to move out of the house. Mrs. Verloc’s mother and Stevie use a hansom which is driven by a man with a hook in the place of his hand. The journey greatly upsets Stevie, as the driver’s tales of hardship coupled with his menacing hook scare him to the point where Mrs. Verloc must calm him down. On Verloc’s return from a business trip to the continent, his wife tells him of the high regard that Stevie has for him and she implores her husband to spend more time with Stevie. Verloc eventually agrees to go for a walk with Stevie. After this walk, Mrs. Verloc notes that her husband’s relationship with her brother has improved. Verloc then tells his wife that he has taken Stevie to go and visit Michaelis, and that Stevie would stay with him in the countryside for a few days.
As Verloc is talking to his wife about the possibility of emigrating to the continent, he is paid a visit by the Assistant Commissioner. Shortly thereafter, Chief Inspector Heat arrives to speak with Verloc, without knowing that the Assistant Commissioner had left with Verloc earlier that evening. The Chief Inspector tells Mrs. Verloc that he had recovered an overcoat at the scene of the bombing which had the shop’s address written on a label. Mrs. Verloc confirms that it was Stevie’s overcoat, and that she had written the address. On Verloc’s return, he realises that his wife knows her brother has been killed by Verloc’s bomb, and confesses what truly happened. A stunned Mrs. Verloc, in her anguish, then fatally stabs her husband.
After the murder, Mrs. Verloc flees her home, where she chances upon Comrade Ossipon, and begs him to help her. Ossipon assists her while confessing romantic feelings but secretly with a view to possess Mr Verloc’s bank account savings. They plan to run away and he aids her in taking a boat to the continent. However, her instability and the revelation of Mr. Verloc’s murder increasingly worry him, and he abandons her, taking Mr Verloc’s savings with him. He later discovers in a newspaper that a woman had disappeared, leaving behind her a wedding ring, before drowning herself in the English Channel.
- Mr. Adolf Verloc: a secret agent who owns a shop in the Soho region of London. His primary characteristic, as described by Conrad, is indolence. He has been employed by an unnamed embassy to spy on revolutionary groups, which then orders him to instigate a terrorist act against the Greenwich Observatory. Their belief is that the resulting public outrage will force the English government to act more forcibly against emigre socialist and anarchist activists. He is part of an anarchist organisation that creates pamphlets under the heading The Future of the Proletariat. He is married to Winnie, and lives with his wife, his mother-in-law, and his brother-in-law, Stevie.
- Mrs. Winnie Verloc: Verloc’s wife. She cares deeply for her brother Stevie, who has the mental age of a young child. Of working class origins, her father was the owner of a pub. She is younger than her husband and married him not for love but to provide a home for her mother and brother. A loyal wife, she is deeply disturbed upon learning of the death of her brother due to her husband’s plotting, and kills him with a knife in the heart. She dies, presumably by drowning herself to avoid the gallows.
- Stevie: Winnie’s brother has the mental age of a young child and is very sensitive and is disturbed by notions of violence or hardship. His sister cares for him, and Stevie passes most of his time drawing numerous circles on pieces of paper. Verloc, exploiting both Stevie’s childlike simplicity and outrage at suffering, employs him to carry out the terrorist attack on the Greenwich Observatory. However, Stevie stumbles and the bomb explodes prematurely.
- Mrs. Verloc’s mother: Old and infirm, Mrs Verloc’s mother leaves the household to live in an almshouse, believing that two disabled people (herself and Stevie) are too much for Mr Verloc’s generosity. The widow of a publican, she spent most of her life working hard in her husband’s pub and believed Mr Verloc to be a gentleman because she thought he resembled patrons of business houses (pubs with higher prices, consequently frequented by higher classes).
- Chief Inspector Heat: a policeman who is dealing with the explosion at Greenwich. An astute and practical man who uses a clue found at the scene of the crime to trace events back to Verloc’s home. Although he informs his superior what he is planning to do with regards to the case, he is initially not aware that the Assistant Commissioner is acting without his knowledge. Heat knew Verloc before the bombing as Verloc had supplied information to Heat through the Embassy. Heat has contempt for anarchists who he regards as amateurs, as opposed to burglars who he regards as professionals.
- The Assistant Commissioner: of a higher rank than the Chief Inspector, he uses the knowledge gained from Heat to pursue matters personally, for reasons of his own. The Assistant Commissioner is married to a lady with influential connections. He informs his superior, Sir Ethelred, of his intentions, and tracks down Verloc before Heat can.
- Sir Ethelred: the Secretary of State (Home Secretary) to whom the Assistant Commissioner reports. At the time of the bombing he is busy trying to pass a bill regarding the nationalisation of fisheries through the House of Commons against great opposition. He is briefed by the Assistant Commissioner throughout the novel who he often admonishes to not go into detail.
- Mr. Vladimir: the First Secretary of an embassy of an unnamed country. Though his name might suggest that this is the Russian embassy, the name of the previous first secretary, Baron Stott-Wartenheim, is Germanic, as is that of Privy Councillor Wurmt, another official of this embassy. There is also the suggestion that Vladimir is not from Europe but Central Asia. Vladimir thinks that the English police are far too soft on émigré socialist and anarchists, which are a real problem in his home country. He orders Verloc to instigate a terrorist act, hoping that the resulting public outrage will force the English government to adopt repressive measures.
- Michaelis: a member of Verloc’s group, and another anarchist. The most philosophical member of the group, his theories resemble those of Peter Kropotkin while some of his other attributes resemble Mikhail Bakunin.
- Comrade Alexander Ossipon: an ex-medical student, anarchist and member of Verloc’s group. He survives on the savings of various women he seduces, mostly working class. He is influenced by the theories on degeneracy of Cesare Lombroso. After Mr Verloc’s murder he initially helps, but afterwards abandons Winnie leaving her penniless on a train. He is later disturbed when he reads of her suicide and wonders if he will be able to seduce a woman again.
- Karl Yundt: a member of Verloc’s group, commonly referred to as an “old terrorist”.
- The Professor: another anarchist, who specialises in explosives. The Professor carries a flask of explosives in his coat that can be detonated within twenty seconds of him squeezing an india rubber ball in his pocket. The police know this and keep their distance. The most nihilistic member of the anarchists, the Professor feels oppressed and disgusted by the rest of humanity and has particular contempt for the weak. He dreams of a world where the weak are freely exterminated so that the strong can thrive. He supplies to Mr Verloc the bomb that kills Stevie.
Background: Greenwich Bombing of 1894
Conrad’s character, Stevie, is based on the French anarchist, Martial Bourdin, who died gruesomely in Greenwich Park when the explosives he carried prematurely detonated. Bourdin’s motives remain a mystery as does his intended target, which may have been the Greenwich Observatory. In the 1920 Author’s Note to the novel, Conrad recalls a discussion with Ford Madox Ford about the bombing:
[…] we recalled the already old story of the attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory; a blood-stained inanity of so fatuous a kind that it was impossible to fathom its origin by any reasonable or even unreasonable process of thought. For perverse unreason has its own logical processes. But that outrage could not be laid hold of mentally in any sort of way, so that one remained faced by the fact of a man blown to bits for nothing even most remotely resembling an idea, anarchistic or other. As to the outer wall of the Observatory it did not show as much as the faintest crack. I pointed all this out to my friend who remained silent for a while and then remarked in his characteristically casual and omniscient manner: “Oh, that fellow was half an idiot. His sister committed suicide afterwards.” These were absolutely the only words that passed between us […].
Terrorism and anarchism
Terrorism and anarchism are intrinsic aspects of the novel, and are central to the plot. Verloc is employed by an agency which requires him to orchestrate terrorist activities, and several of the characters deal with terrorism in some way: Verloc’s friends are all interested in an anarchistic political revolution, and the police are investigating anarchist motives behind the bombing of Greenwich.
The novel was written at a time when terrorist activity was increasing. There had been numerous dynamite attacks in both Europe and the US, as well as several assassinations of heads of state. Conrad also drew upon two persons specifically: Mikhail Bakuninand Prince Peter Kropotkin. Conrad used these two men in his “portrayal of the novel’s anarchists”. However, according to Conrad’s Author’s Note, only one character was a true anarchist: Winnie Verloc. In The Secret Agent, she is “the only character who performs a serious act of violence against another”, despite the F.P.’s intentions of radical change, and The Professor’s inclination to keep a bomb on his person.
Critics have analysed the role of terrorism in the novel. Patrick Reilly calls the novel “a terrorist text as well as a text about terrorism” due to Conrad’s manipulation of chronology to allow the reader to comprehend the outcome of the bombing before the characters, thereby corrupting the traditional conception of time. The morality which is implicit in these acts of terrorism has also been explored: is Verloc evil because his negligence leads to the death of his brother-in-law? Although Winnie evidently thinks so, the issue is not clear, as Verloc attempted to carry out the act with no fatalities, and as simply as possible to retain his job, and care for his family.
The role of politics is paramount in the novel, as the main character, Verloc, works for a quasi-political organisation. The role of politics is seen in several places in the novel: in the revolutionary ideas of the F.P.; in the characters’ personal beliefs; and in Verloc’s own private life. Conrad’s depiction of anarchism has an “enduring political relevance”, although the focus is now largely concerned with the terrorist aspects that this entails. The discussions of the F.P. are expositions on the role of anarchism and its relation to contemporary life. The threat of these thoughts is evident, as Chief Inspector Heat knows F.P. members because of their anarchist views. Moreover, Michaelis’ actions are monitored by the police to such an extent that he must notify the police station that he is moving to the country.
The plot to destroy Greenwich is in itself anarchistic. Vladimir asserts that the bombing “must be purely destructive” and that the anarchists who will be implicated as the architects of the explosion “should make it clear that [they] are perfectly determined to make a clean sweep of the whole social creation.” However, the political form of anarchism is ultimately controlled in the novel: the only supposed politically motivated act is orchestrated by a secret government agency.
Some critics, such as Fredrick R. Karl, think that the main political phenomenon in this novel is the modern age, as symbolised by the teeming, pullulating foggy streets of London (most notably in the cab ride taken by Winnie and Stevie Verloc). This modern age distorts everything, including politics (Verloc is motivated by the need to keep his remunerative position, the Professor to some extent by pride), the family (symbolised by the Verloc household, in which all roles are distorted, with the husband being like a father to the wife, who is like a mother to her brother), even the human body (Michaelis and Verloc are hugely obese, while the Professor and Yundt are preternaturally thin). This extended metaphor, using London as a center of darkness much like Kurtz’s headquarters in Heart of Darkness, presents “a dark vision of moral and spiritual inertia” and a condemnation of those who, like Mrs Verloc, think it a mistake to think too deeply.
Literary significance and reception
Initially, the novel fared poorly in both the United Kingdom and the United States, selling only 3,076 copies between 1907 and 1914. The book fared slightly better in Britain, yet no more than 6,500 copies were pressed before 1914. Although sales increased after 1914, the novel never sold more than “modestly” throughout Conrad’s lifetime. The novel was released to favourable reviews, with most agreeing with the view of The Times Literary Supplement, that the novel “increase[d] Mr. Conrad’s reputation, already of the highest.” However, there were detractors, who largely disagreed with the novel’s “unpleasant characters and subject”. Country Life magazine called the story “indecent”, whilst also criticising Conrad’s “often dense and elliptical style”.
In modern times, The Secret Agent is considered to be one of Conrad’s finest novels. The Independent calls it “[o]ne of Conrad’s great city novels” whilst The New York Times insists that it is “the most brilliant novelistic study of terrorism”. It is considered to be a “prescient” view of the 20th century, foretelling the rise of terrorism, anarchism, and the augmentation of secret societies, such as MI5. The novel is on reading lists for both secondary school pupils and university undergraduates.
Influence on Ted Kaczynski
The Secret Agent is said to have influenced the Unabomber—Theodore Kaczynski. Kaczynski was a great fan of the novel and as an adolescent kept a copy at his bedside. He identified strongly with the character of “the Professor” and advised his family to readThe Secret Agent to understand the character with whom he felt such an affinity. David Foster, the literary attributionist who assisted the FBI, said that Kaczynski “seem[ed] to have felt that his family could not understand him without reading Conrad.”
Kaczynski’s idolisation of the character was due to the traits that they shared: disaffection, hostility toward the world, and being an aspiring anarchist. However, it did not stop at mere idolisation. Kaczynski used “The Professor” as a source of inspiration, and “fabricated sixteen exploding packages that detonated in various locations”. After his capture, Kaczynski revealed to FBI agents that he had read the novel a dozen times, and had sometimes used “Conrad” as an alias. It was discovered that Kaczynski had used various formulations of Conrad’s name – Conrad, Konrad, and Korzeniowski, Conrad’s original surname – to sign himself into several hotels in Sacramento. As in his youth, Kaczynski retained a copy of The Secret Agent, and kept it with him whilst living as a recluse in a hut in Montana.
- In 1923 Conrad adapted the novel as a three-act drama of the same title.
- The novel formed the basis for Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1936 film, Sabotage, though many changes to the plot and characters were made. (Another 1936 Hitchcock film, Secret Agent, was based on short stories by W. Somerset Maugham.)
- A television adaptation of The Secret Agent was made in 1992, a three part BBC miniseries, with David Suchet as Verloc, and Cheryl Campbell as his wife Winnie. Verloc was transformed into a much more sympathetic character for this work, in which he deeply grieved for Stevie’s death.
- A 1996 film The Secret Agent, more faithful to the original novel, starred Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette and Gérard Depardieu.
- On 23 May 2006 the Feldkirch Festival premiered an opera based on the novel. Simon Wills wrote the music and libretto and Peter Kajlinger sang the main character, Mr.Verloc.
- A play adaptation of the novel was produced in 2007 by Alexander Gelman, the Artistic Director of Organic Theater Company in Chicago, IL. The play’s premiere took place on 18 April 2008.
- In January 2008, the play was staged in Italian by the Teatro Stabile di Genova of Genoa, under the direction of Marco Sciaccaluga.
- The Center for Contemporary Opera in New York presented the world premiere of a new opera by Michael Dellaira (music) and J D McClatchy (libretto), at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on 18 March 2011. Amy Burton sang Winnie, Scott Bearden sang Verloc. It had its European premiere at the Armel International Opera Festival on 14 October 2011 in Szeged, Hungary, where the opera was broadcast live on the Arte Channel, and named the festival’s “Laureat.” Adrienn Miksch sang Winnie, Nicolas Rigas sang Verloc. The same production was reprised on 18 April 2012 at L’Opéra-Théâtre d’Avignon in Avignon, France. All productions were directed by Sam Helfrich and conducted by Sara Jobin.
- The Capitol City Opera Company of Atlanta presented the world premiere of The Secret Agent, an opera in two acts with music by Curtis Bryant and libretto by Allen Reichman at the Conant Center for Performing Arts at Oglethorpe University on 15 March 2013. Directed by Michael Nutter, the production featured soprano Elizabeth Claxton in the role of Winnie, baritone Wade Thomas as Verloc and tenor Timothy Miller as Ossipon. In this operatic treatment, originally completed in 2007 under the title The Anarchist, Winnie, discovering that she has been abandoned on the train, sings a final aria “Fooled Again.” Bryant quotes one measure from Puccini’s Tosca before Winnie leaps into the path of an oncoming train, ending her life and the opera.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski; 3 December 1857 – 3 August 1924) is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in English. He was granted British nationality in 1886, but always considered himself a Pole.[note 1] Though he did not speak English fluently until he was in his twenties (and always with a marked accent), he was a master prose stylist who brought a distinctly non-English sensibility into English literature.[note 2] He wrote stories and novels, many with a nautical setting, that depict trials of the human spirit.
Joseph Conrad is considered an early modernist, though his works still contain elements of nineteenth-century realism. His narrative style and anti-heroic characters have influenced many authors, including T.S. Eliot,William Faulkner, Graham Greene, and more recently Salman Rushdie.[note 3] Many films have been adapted from, or inspired by, Conrad’s works.
Writing in the heyday of the British Empire, Conrad drew on his Polish heritage and on his experiences in the French and British merchant navies to create short stories and novels that reflect aspects of a European-dominated world, while profoundly exploring human psychology. Appreciated early on by literary critics, his fiction and nonfiction have since been seen as almost prophetic, in the light of subsequent national and international disasters of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Joseph Conrad was born on 3 December 1857 in Berdychiv, in a part of Ukraine that had belonged to the Kingdom of Poland before 1793 and was at the time of his birth under Russianrule. He was the only child of Apollo Korzeniowski and his wife Ewa Bobrowska. The father was a writer, translator, political activist, and would-be revolutionary. Conrad was christenedJózef Teodor Konrad after his maternal grandfather Józef, his paternal grandfather Teodor, and the heroes (both named “Konrad”) of two poems by Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady andKonrad Wallenrod. He was subsequently known to his family as “Konrad”, rather than “Józef”.
Though the vast majority of the surrounding area’s inhabitants were Ukrainians, and the great majority of Berdychiv’s residents were Jewish, almost all the countryside was owned by the Polish szlachta (nobility), to which Conrad’s family belonged as bearers of the Nałęcz coat-of-arms. Polish literature, particularly patriotic literature, was held in high esteem by the area’s Polish population.:1
The Korzeniowski family played a significant role in Polish attempts to regain independence. Conrad’s paternal grandfather served under Prince Józef Poniatowski during Napoleon’s Russian campaign and formed his own cavalry squadron during the November 1830 Uprising. Conrad’s fiercely patriotic father belonged to the “Red” political faction, whose goal was to re-establish the pre-partition boundaries of Poland, but which also advocated land reform and the abolition of serfdom. Conrad’s subsequent refusal to follow in Apollo’s footsteps, and his choice of exile over resistance, were a source of lifelong guilt for Conrad.[note 4]
Because of the father’s attempts at farming and his political activism, the family moved repeatedly. In May 1861 they moved to Warsaw, where Apollo joined the resistance against the Russian Empire. This led to his imprisonment in Pavilion X (Ten) of the Warsaw Citadel.[note 5] Conrad would write: “[I]n the courtyard of this Citadel – characteristically for our nation – my childhood memories begin.”:17–19 On 9 May 1862 Apollo and his family were exiled to Vologda, 500 kilometres (310 mi) north of Moscow and known for its bad climate.:19–20 In January 1863 Apollo’s sentence was commuted, and the family was sent to Chernihiv in northeast Ukraine, where conditions were much better. However, on 18 April 1865 Ewa died of tuberculosis.:19–25
Apollo did his best to home-school Conrad. The boy’s early reading introduced him to the two elements that later dominated his life: in Victor Hugo‘s Toilers of the Sea he encountered the sphere of activity to which he would devote his youth; Shakespeare brought him into the orbit of English literature. Most of all, though, he read Polish Romantic poetry. Half a century later he explained that “The Polishness in my works comes fromMickiewicz and Słowacki. My father read [Mickiewicz’s] Pan Tadeusz aloud to me and made me read it aloud…. I used to prefer [Mickiewicz’s] Konrad Wallenrod [and] Grażyna. Later I preferred Słowacki. You know why Słowacki?… [He is the soul of all Poland]”.:27
In December 1867, Apollo took his son to the Austrian-held part of Poland, which for two years had been enjoying considerable internal freedom and a degree of self-government. After sojourns in Lwów and several smaller localities, on 20 February 1869 they moved to Kraków (till 1596 the capital of Poland), likewise in Austrian Poland. A few months later, on 23 May 1869, Apollo Korzeniowski died, leaving Conrad orphaned at the age of eleven.:31–34 Like Conrad’s mother, Apollo had been gravely ill with tuberculosis.
The young Conrad was placed in the care of Ewa’s brother, Tadeusz Bobrowski. Conrad’s poor health and his unsatisfactory schoolwork caused his uncle constant problems and no end of financial outlays. Conrad was not a good student; despite tutoring, he excelled only in geography.:43 Since the boy’s illness was clearly of nervous origin, the physicians supposed that fresh air and physical work would harden him; his uncle hoped that well-defined duties and the rigors of work would teach him discipline. Since he showed little inclination to study, it was essential that he learn a trade; his uncle saw him as a sailor-cum-businessman who would combine maritime skills with commercial activities.:44–46 In fact, in the autumn of 1871, thirteen-year-old Conrad announced his intention to become a sailor. He later recalled that as a child he had read (apparently in French translation) Leopold McClintock‘s book about his 1857–59 expeditions in the Fox, in search of Sir John Franklin‘s lost ships Erebus and Terror.[note 6] He also recalled having read books by the American James Fenimore Cooper and the English Captain Frederick Marryat.:41–42 A playmate of his adolescence recalled that Conrad spun fantastic yarns, always set at sea, presented so realistically that listeners thought the action was happening before their eyes.
In August 1873 Bobrowski sent fifteen-year-old Conrad to Lwów to a cousin who ran a small boarding house for boys orphaned by the 1863 Uprising; group conversation there was in French. The owner’s daughter recalled:
He stayed with us ten months… Intellectually he was extremely advanced but [he] disliked school routine, which he found tiring and dull; he used to say… he… planned to become a great writer…. He disliked all restrictions. At home, at school, or in the living room he would sprawl unceremoniously. He… suffer[ed] from severe headaches and nervous attacks…:43–44
Conrad had been at the establishment for just over a year when in September 1874, for uncertain reasons, his uncle removed him from school in Lwów and took him back to Kraków.
On 13 October 1874 Bobrowski sent the sixteen-year-old to Marseilles, France, for a planned career at sea.:44–46 Though Conrad had not completed secondary school, his accomplishments included fluency in French (with a correct accent), some knowledge of Latin, German and Greek, probably a good knowledge of history, some geography, and probably already an interest in physics. He was well read, particularly in Polish Romantic literature. He belonged to only the second generation in his family that had had to earn a living outside the family estates: he was a member of the second generation of the intelligentsia, a social class that was starting to play an important role in Central and Eastern Europe.:46–47 He had absorbed enough of the history, culture and literature of his native land to be able eventually to develop a distinctive world view and make unique contributions to the literature of his adoptive Britain.:1–5 It was tensions that originated in his childhood in Poland and grew in his adulthood abroad that would give rise to Conrad’s greatest literary achievements.:246–47 Najder, himself an emigrant from Poland, observes:
Living away from one’s natural environment – family, friends, social group, language – even if it results from a conscious decision, usually gives rise to… internal tensions, because it tends to make people less sure of themselves, more vulnerable, less certain of their… position and… value… The Polish szlachta and… intelligentsia were social strata in which reputation… was felt… very important… for a feeling of self-worth. Men strove… to find confirmation of their… self-regard… in the eyes of others… Such a psychological heritage forms both a spur to ambition and a source of constant stress, especially if [one has been inculcated with] the idea of [one]’s public duty…:47
Conrad was a Russian subject, having been born in the Russian part of what had once been the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In December 1867, with the Russian government’s permission, his father Apollo had taken him to the Austrian part of the former Commonwealth, which enjoyed considerable internal freedom and a degree of self-government. After the father’s death, Conrad’s uncle Bobrowski had attempted to secure Austrian citizenship for him – to no avail, probably because Conrad had not received permission from Russian authorities to remain abroad permanently and had not been released from being a Russian subject. Conrad could not return to Ukraine, in the Russian Empire – he would have been liable to many years’ military service and, as the son of political exiles, to harassment.:41
In a letter of 9 August 1877, Conrad’s uncle Bobrowski broached two important subjects:[note 7] the desirability of Conrad’s naturalisation abroad (tantamount to release from being a Russian subject) and Conrad’s plans to join the British merchant marine. “[D]o you speak English?… I never wished you to become naturalized in France, mainly because of the compulsory military service… I thought, however, of your getting naturalized in Switzerland…” In his next letter, Bobrowski supported Conrad’s idea of seeking citizenship of the United States or of “one of the more important Southern Republics”.:57–58
Eventually Conrad would make his home in England. On 2 July 1886 he applied for British nationality, which was granted on 19 August 1886. Yet, in spite of having become a subject of Queen Victoria, Conrad had not ceased to be a subject of Tsar Alexander III. To achieve the latter, he had to make many visits to the Russian Embassy in London and politely reiterate his request. He would later recall the Embassy’s home at Belgrave Square in his novel The Secret Agent.:112 Finally, on 2 April 1889, the Russian Ministry of Home Affairs released “the son of a Polish man of letters, captain of the British merchant marine” from the status of Russian subject.:132
In 1874 Conrad left Poland to start a merchant-marine career. After nearly four years in France and on French ships, he joined the British merchant marine and for the next fifteen years served under the Red Ensign. He worked on a variety of ships as crew member (steward, apprentice, able-bodied seaman) and then as third, second and first mate, until eventually achieving captain’s rank. Of his 19-year merchant-marine career, only about half was spent actually at sea.
Most of Conrad’s stories and novels, and many of their characters, were drawn from his seafaring career and persons whom he had met or heard about. For his fictional characters he often borrowed the authentic names of actual persons. The historic trader William Charles Olmeijer, whom Conrad encountered on four short visits to Berau in Borneo, appears as “Almayer” (possibly a simple misspelling) in Conrad’s first novel, Almayer’s Folly. Other authentic names include those of Captain McWhirr (in Typhoon), Captain Beard and Mr. Mahon (Youth), Captain Lingard (Almayer’s Folly and elsewhere), and Captain Ellis (The Shadow Line). Conrad also preserves, in The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, the authentic name of the Narcissus, a ship in which he sailed in 1884.
Conrad’s three-year appointment with a Belgian trading company included service as captain of a steamer on the Congo River, an episode that would inspire his novella, Heart of Darkness.
During a brief call in India in 1885–86, 28-year-old Conrad sent five letters to Joseph Spiridion,[note 8] a Pole eight years his senior whom he had befriended at Cardiff in June 1885 just before sailing for Singapore in the clipper ship Tilkhurst. These letters are Conrad’s first preserved texts in English. His English is generally correct but stiff to the point of artificiality; many fragments suggest that his thoughts ran along the lines of Polish syntax andphraseology. More importantly, the letters show a marked change in views from those implied in his earlier correspondence of 1881–83. He had departed from “hope for the future” and from the conceit of “sailing [ever] toward Poland”, and from his Panslavic ideas. He was left with a painful sense of the hopelessness of the Polish question and an acceptance of England as a possible refuge. While he often adjusted his statements to accord to some extent with the views of his addressees, the theme of hopelessness concerning the prospects for Polish independence often occurs authentically in his correspondence and works before 1914.:104–5
When Conrad left London on 25 October 1892 aboard the clipper ship Torrens, one of the passengers was William Henry Jacques, a consumptive Cambridge graduate who died less than a year later (19 September 1893) and was, according to Conrad’s A Personal Record, the first reader of the still-unfinished manuscript of his Almayer’s Folly. Jacques encouraged Conrad to continue writing the novel.:181
Conrad completed his last long-distance voyage as a seaman on 26 July 1893 when the Torrens docked at London and “J. Conrad Korzemowin” (per the certificate of discharge) debarked. When the Torrens had left Adelaide on 13 March 1893, the passengers had included two young Englishmen returning from Australia and New Zealand: 25-year-old lawyer and future novelist John Galsworthy; and Edward Lancelot Sanderson, who was going to help his father run a boys’ preparatory school at Elstree. They were probably the first Englishmen and non-sailors with whom Conrad struck up a friendship; he would remain in touch with both. The protagonist of one of Galsworthy’s first literary attempts, “The Doldrums” (1895–96), the first mate Armand, is obviously modeled on Conrad. At Cape Town, where the Torrens remained from 17 to 19 May, Galsworthy left the ship to look at the local mines. Sanderson continued his voyage and seems to have been the first to develop closer ties with Conrad.:182–3
In 1894, aged 36, Conrad reluctantly gave up the sea, partly because of poor health, partly due to unavailability of ships, and partly because he had become so fascinated with writing that he had decided on a literary career. His first novel, Almayer’s Folly, set on the east coast of Borneo, was published in 1895. Its appearance marked his first use of the pen name “Joseph Conrad”; “Konrad” was, of course, the third of his Polish given names, but his use of it – in the anglicised version, “Conrad” – may also have been an homage to the Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz‘s patriotic narrative poem, Konrad Wallenrod.
Edward Garnett, a young publisher’s reader and literary critic who would play one of the chief supporting roles in Conrad’s literary career, had – like Unwin’s first reader of Almayer’s Folly, Wilfrid Hugh Chesson – been impressed by the manuscript, but Garnett had been “uncertain whether the English was good enough for publication.” Garnett had shown the novel to his wife, Constance Garnett, later a well-known translator of Russian literature. She had thought Conrad’s foreignness a positive merit.:197
While Conrad had only limited personal acquaintance with the peoples of Maritime Southeast Asia, the region looms large in his early work. According to Najder, Conrad, the exile and wanderer, was aware of a difficulty that he confessed more than once: the lack of a common cultural background with his Anglophone readers meant he could not compete with English-language authors writing about the Anglosphere. At the same time, the choice of a non-English colonial setting freed him from an embarrassing division of loyalty:Almayer’s Folly, and later “An Outpost of Progress” (1897, set in a Congo exploited by King Leopold II of Belgium) and Heart of Darkness (1899, likewise set in the Congo), contain bitter reflections on colonialism. The Malay states came theoretically under the suzerainty of the Dutch government; Conrad did not write about the area’s British dependencies, which he never visited. He “was apparently intrigued by… struggles aimed at preserving national independence. The prolific and destructive richness of tropical nature and the dreariness of human life within it accorded well with the pessimistic mood of his early works.”:118–20 [note 9]
Almayer’s Folly, together with its successor, An Outcast of the Islands (1896), laid the foundation for Conrad’s reputation as a romantic teller of exotic tales – a misunderstanding of his purpose that was to frustrate him for the rest of his career.[note 10]
Almost all of Conrad’s writings were first published in newspapers and magazines: influential reviews like The Fortnightly Review and the North American Review; avant-garde publications like the Savoy, New Review, and The English Review; popular short-fiction magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and Harper’s Magazine; women’s journals like the Pictorial Review and Romance; mass-circulation dailies like the Daily Mail and the New York Herald; and illustrated newspapers like The Illustrated London News and theIllustrated Buffalo Express. He also wrote for The Outlook, an imperialist weekly magazine, between 1898 and 1906.[note 11]
Financial success long eluded Conrad, who often asked magazine and book publishers for advances, and acquaintances (notably John Galsworthy) for loans.[note 12] Eventually a government grant (“Civil List pension”) of £100 per annum, awarded on 9 August 1910, somewhat relieved his financial worries,:420 [note 13] and in time collectors began purchasing his manuscripts. Though his talent was early on recognised by the English intellectual elite, popular success eluded him until the 1913 publication of Chance – paradoxically, one of his weaker novels.
Edward Said describes three phases to Conrad’s literary career. In the first and longest, from the 1890s to World War I, Conrad writes most of his great novels, including The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), Heart of Darkness (1899), Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo(1904), The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911). The second phase, spanning the war and following the popular success of Chance (1913), is marked by the advent of Conrad’s public persona as “great writer”. In the third and final phase, from the end of World War I to Conrad’s death (1924), he at last finds an uneasy peace; it is, as C. McCarthy writes, as though “the War has allowed Conrad’s psyche to purge itself of terror and anxiety.”
Temperament and health
Conrad was a reserved man, wary of showing emotion. He scorned sentimentality; his manner of portraying emotion in his books was full of restraint, scepticism and irony.:575 In the words of his uncle Bobrowski, as a young man Conrad was “extremely sensitive, conceited, reserved, and in addition excitable. In short […] all the defects of the Nałęcz family.”:65
Conrad suffered throughout life from ill health, physical and mental. A newspaper review of a Conrad biography suggested that the book could have been subtitled Thirty Years of Debt, Gout, Depression and Angst. In 1891 he was hospitalised for several months, suffering from gout, neuralgic pains in his right arm and recurrent attacks of malaria. He also complained of swollen hands “which made writing difficult”. Taking his uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski’s advice, he convalesced at a spa in Switzerland.:169–70 Conrad had a phobia of dentistry, neglecting his teeth till they had to be extracted. In one letter he remarked that every novel he had written had cost him a tooth.:258 Conrad’s physical afflictions were, if anything, less vexatious than his mental ones. In his letters he often described symptoms of depression; “the evidence,” writes Najder, “is so strong that it is nearly impossible to doubt it.”:167
In March 1878, at the end of his Marseilles period, 20-year-old Conrad attempted suicide, by shooting himself in the chest with a revolver. According to his uncle, who was summoned by a friend, Conrad had fallen into debt. Bobrowski described his subsequent “study” of his nephew in an extensive letter to Stefan Buszczyński, his own ideological opponent and a friend of Conrad’s late father Apollo.[note 14] To what extent the suicide attempt had been made in earnest, likely will never be known, but it is suggestive of a situational depression.:65–7
Romance and marriage
Little is known about any intimate relationships that Conrad might have had prior to his marriage, confirming a popular image of the author as an isolated bachelor who preferred the company of close male friends. However, in 1888 during a stop-over on Mauritius, Conrad developed a couple of romantic interests. One of these would be described in his 1910 story “A Smile of Fortune”, which contains autobiographical elements (e.g., one of the characters is the same Chief Mate Burns who appears in The Shadow Line). The narrator, a young captain, flirts ambiguously and surreptitiously with Alice Jacobus, daughter of a local merchant living in a house surrounded by a magnificent rose garden. Research has confirmed that in Port Louis at the time there was a 17-year-old Alice Shaw, whose father, a shipping agent, owned the only rose garden in town.:126–27
More is known about Conrad’s other, more open flirtation. An old friend, Captain Gabriel Renouf of the French merchant marine, introduced him to the family of his brother-in-law. Renouf’s eldest sister was the wife of Louis Edward Schmidt, a senior official in the colony; with them lived two other sisters and two brothers. Though the island had been taken over in 1810 by Britain, many of the inhabitants were descendants of the original French colonists, and Conrad’s excellent French and perfect manners opened all local salons to him. He became a frequent guest at the Schmidts’, where he often met the Misses Renouf. A couple of days before leaving Port Louis, Conrad asked one of the Renouf brothers for the hand of his 26-year-old sister Eugenie. She was already, however, engaged to marry her pharmacist cousin. After the rebuff, Conrad did not pay a farewell visit but sent a polite letter to Gabriel Renouf, saying he would never return to Mauritius and adding that on the day of the wedding his thoughts would be with them.
In March 1896 Conrad married an Englishwoman, Jessie George. The couple had two sons, Borys and John. The elder, Borys, proved a disappointment in scholarship and integrity. Jessie was an unsophisticated, working-class girl, sixteen years younger than Conrad. To his friends, she was an inexplicable choice of wife, and the subject of some rather disparaging and unkind remarks. (See Lady Ottoline Morrell’s opinion of Jessie in Impressions.) However, according to other biographers such as Frederick Karl, Jessie provided what Conrad needed, namely a “straightforward, devoted, quite competent” companion. Similarly, Jones remarks that, despite whatever difficulties the marriage endured, “there can be no doubt that the relationship sustained Conrad’s career as a writer”, which might have been a lot less successful without her.
The couple rented a long series of successive homes, occasionally in France, sometimes briefly in London, but mostly in the English countryside, sometimes from friends – to be close to friends, to enjoy the peace of the countryside, but above all because it was more affordable.[note 15] Except for several vacations in France and Italy, a 1914 vacation in his native Poland, and a 1923 visit to the United States, Conrad lived the rest of his life in England.
In 1914, Conrad stayed at the Zakopanepension Konstantynówka, operated by his cousin Aniela Zagórska, mother of his future Polish translator of the same name.:462–63
Conrad; Aniela Zagórska(left), Karola Zagórska, Conrad’s nieces. Aniela translated Conrad into Polish.
The 1914 vacation with his wife and sons in Poland, at the urging of Józef Retinger, coincided with the outbreak of World War I. On 28 July 1914, the day war broke out between Austro-Hungary and Serbia, Conrad and the Retingers arrived in Kraków (then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), where Conrad visited childhood haunts. As the city lay only a few miles from the Russian border, there was a risk of getting stranded in a battle zone. With wife Jessie and younger son John ill, Conrad decided to take refuge in the mountain resort town of Zakopane. They left Kraków on 2 August. A few days after arrival in Zakopane, they moved to the Konstantynówka pension operated by Conrad’s cousin Aniela Zagórska; it had been frequented by celebrities including the statesman Józef Piłsudski and Conrad’s acquaintance, the young concert pianist Artur Rubinstein.:458–63
Zagórska introduced Conrad to Polish writers, intellectuals and artists who had also taken refuge in Zakopane, including novelist Stefan Żeromski and Tadeusz Nalepiński, a writer friend of anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski. Conrad roused interest among the Poles as a famous writer and an exotic compatriot from abroad. He charmed new acquaintances, especially women. However, the double Nobel laureate Maria Skłodowska-Curie‘s physician sister, Bronisława Dłuska, scolded him for having used his great talent for purposes other than bettering the future of his native land:463–64[note 16] But thirty-three-year-old Aniela Zagórska (daughter of the pension keeper), Conrad’s niece who would translate his works into Polish in 1923–39, idolised him, kept him company, and provided him with books. He particularly delighted in the stories and novels of the ten-years-older, recently deceased Bolesław Prus,:463 read everything by his fellow victim of Poland’s 1863 Uprising – “my beloved Prus” – that he could get his hands on, and pronounced him “better than Dickens” – a favourite English novelist of Conrad’s.[note 17]
Conrad, who was noted by his Polish acquaintances to be fluent in his native tongue, participated in their impassioned political discussions. He declared presciently, as Piłsudski had earlier in 1914 in Paris, that in the war, for Poland to regain independence, Russia must be beaten by the Central Powers (the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires), and the latter must in turn be beaten by France and Britain.:464
After many travails and vicissitudes, at the beginning of November 1914 Conrad managed to bring his family back to England. On his return, he was determined to work on swaying British opinion in favour of restoring Poland’s sovereignty.:464–68
Jessie Conrad would later write in her memoirs: “I understood my husband so much better after those months in Poland. So many characteristics that had been strange and unfathomable to me before, took, as it were, their right proportions. I understood that his temperament was that of his countrymen.”:466
Conrad [writes Najder] was passionately concerned with politics. [This] is confirmed by several of his works, starting with Almayer’s Folly. […] Nostromo revealed his concern with these matters more fully; it was, of course, a concern quite natural for someone from a country [Poland] where politics was a matter not only of everyday existence but also of life and death. Moreover, Conrad himself came from a social class that claimed exclusive responsibility for state affairs, and from a very politically active family. Norman Douglas sums it up: “Conrad was first and foremost a Pole and like many Poles a politician and moralist malgré lui [French: “in spite of himself”]. These are his fundamentals.” [What made] Conrad see political problems in terms of a continuous struggle between law and violence, anarchy and order, freedom and autocracy, material interests and the noble idealism of individuals […] was Conrad’s historical awareness. His Polish experience endowed him with the perception, exceptional in the Western European literature of his time, of how winding and constantly changing were the front lines in these struggles.
The most extensive and ambitious political statement that Conrad ever made was his 1905 essay, “Autocracy and War”, whose starting point was the Russo-Japanese War (he finished the article a month before the Battle of Tsushima Strait). The essay begins with a statement about Russia’s incurable weakness and ends with warnings against Prussia, the dangerous aggressor in a future European war. For Russia he predicted a violent outburst in the near future, but Russia’s lack of democratic traditions and the backwardness of her masses made it impossible for the revolution to have a salutary effect. Conrad regarded the formation of a representative government in Russia as unfeasible and foresaw a transition from autocracy to dictatorship. He saw western Europe as torn by antagonisms engendered by economic rivalry and commercial selfishness. In vain might a Russian revolution seek advice or help from a materialistic and egoistic western Europe that armed itself in preparation for wars far more brutal than those of the past.:351–54
Conrad’s “Autocracy and War”, Najder points out, showed a historical awareness “exceptional in the Western European literature of his time” – an awareness that Conrad had drawn from his membership in a very politically active family of a country that had for over a century been daily reminded of the consequences of neglecting the broad enlightened interests of the national polity.:352
Conrad’s distrust of democracy sprang from his doubts whether the propagation of democracy as an aim in itself could solve any problems. He thought that, in view of the weakness of human nature and of the “criminal” character of society, democracy offered boundless opportunities for demagogues and charlatans.:290
He accused social democrats of his time of acting to weaken “the national sentiment, the preservation of which [was his] concern” – of attempting to dissolve national identities in an impersonal melting-pot. “I look at the future from the depth of a very black past and I find that nothing is left for me except fidelity to a cause lost, to an idea without future.” It was Conrad’s hopeless fidelity to the memory of Poland that prevented him from believing in the idea of “international fraternity,” which he considered, under the circumstances, just a verbal exercise. He resented some socialists’ talk of freedom and world brotherhood while keeping silent about his own partitioned and oppressed Poland.:290
Before that, in the early 1880s, letters to Conrad from his uncle Tadeusz[note 18] show Conrad apparently having hoped for an improvement in Poland’s situation not through a liberation movement but by establishing an alliance with neighbouring Slavic nations. This had been accompanied by a faith in the Panslavic ideology – “surprising,” Najder writes, “in a man who was later to emphasize his hostility towards Russia, a conviction that… Poland’s [superior] civilization and… historic… traditions would [let] her play a leading role… in the Panslavic community, [and his] doubts about Poland’s chances of becoming a fully sovereign nation-state.”:88–89
Conrad’s alienation from partisan politics went together with an abiding sense of the thinking man’s burden imposed by his personality, as described in an 1894 letter of Conrad’s to a relative-by-marriage and fellow author, Marguerite Poradowska (née Gachet, and cousin of Vincent van Gogh‘s physician, Paul Gachet) of Brussels:
We must drag the chain and ball of our personality to the end. This is the price one pays for the infernal and divine privilege of thought; so in this life it is only the chosen who are convicts – a glorious band which understands and groans but which treads the earth amidst a multitude of phantoms with maniacal gestures and idiotic grimaces. Which would you rather be: idiot or convict?:195
In a 23 October 1922 letter to mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell, in response to the latter’s book, The Problem of China, which advocated socialist reforms and an oligarchy of sages who would reshape Chinese society, Conrad explained his own distrust of political panaceas:
I have never [found] in any man’s book or… talk anything… to stand up… against my deep-seated sense of fatality governing this man-inhabited world…. The only remedy for Chinamen and for the rest of us is [a] change of hearts, but looking at the history of the last 2000 years there is not much reason to expect [it], even if man has taken to flying – a great “uplift” no doubt but no great change….:548–9
On 3 August 1924, Conrad died at his house, Oswalds, in Bishopsbourne, Kent, England, probably of a heart attack. He was interred at Canterbury Cemetery, Canterbury, under a misspelled version of his original Polish name, as “Joseph Teador Conrad Korzeniowski”.:573 Inscribed on his gravestone are the lines from Edmund Spenser‘s The Faerie Queene which he had chosen as the epigraph to his last complete novel, The Rover:
Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life, doth greatly please:574
Conrad’s modest funeral took place amid great crowds. His old friend Edward Garnett recalled bitterly:
To those who attended Conrad’s funeral in Canterbury during the Cricket Festival of 1924, and drove through the crowded streets festooned with flags, there was something symbolical in England’s hospitality and in the crowd’s ignorance of even the existence of this great writer. A few old friends, acquaintances and pressmen stood by his grave.:573
Another old friend of Conrad’s, Cunninghame Graham, wrote Garnett: “Aubry was saying to me… that had Anatole France died, all Paris would have been at his funeral.”:573
Twelve years later, Conrad’s wife Jessie died on 6 December 1936 and was interred with him.
In 1996 his grave became a Grade II listed building.
Conrad, an emotional man subject to fits of depression, self-doubt, and pessimism, disciplined his romantic temperament with an unsparing moral judgment.
Despite the opinions even of some who knew him personally, such as fellow novelist Henry James,:446–47 Conrad – even when he was only writing elegantly crafted letters to his uncle and acquaintances – was always at heart a writer who sailed, rather than a sailor who wrote. He used his sailor’s experiences as a backdrop for many of his works, but he also produced works of similar world view, without the nautical motifs. The failure of many critics in his time to appreciate this caused him much frustration.:377, 562
An October 1923 visitor to Oswalds, Conrad’s home at the time – Cyril Clemens, a cousin of Mark Twain – quoted Conrad as saying: “In everything I have written there is always one invariable intention, and that is to capture the reader’s attention.”:564
Conrad the artist famously aspired, in the words of his preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), “by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel… before all, to make you see. That – and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm – all you demand – and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.”
Writing in what to the visual arts was the age of Impressionism, and what to music was the age of impressionist music, Conrad showed himself in many of his works a prose poet of the highest order: for instance, in the evocativePatna and courtroom scenes of Lord Jim; in the scenes of the “melancholy-mad elephant” and the “French gunboat firing into a continent”, in Heart of Darkness; in the doubled protagonists of The Secret Sharer; and in the verbal and conceptual resonances of Nostromo and The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’.
Conrad used his own memories as literary material so often that readers are tempted to treat his life and work as a single whole. His “view of the world“, or elements of it, are often described by citing at once both his private and public statements, passages from his letters, and citations from his books. Najder warns that this approach produces an incoherent and misleading picture. “An… uncritical linking of the two spheres, literature and private life, distorts each. Conrad used his own experiences as raw material, but the finished product should not be confused with the experiences themselves.”:576–77
Many of Conrad’s characters were inspired by actual persons he had met, including, in his first novel, Almayer’s Folly (completed 1894), William Charles Olmeijer, the spelling of whose name Conrad, probably inadvertently, altered to “Almayer.”:11, 40 The historic trader Olmeijer, whom Conrad encountered on his four short visits to Berau in Borneo, subsequently haunted Conrad’s imagination.:40–1 Conrad frequently borrowed the authentic names of actual individuals, e.g., Captain McWhirr[note 19] (Typhoon), Captain Beard and Mr. Mahon (“Youth“), Captain Lingard (Almayer’s Folly and elsewhere), Captain Ellis (The Shadow Line). “Conrad,” writes J. I. M. Stewart, “appears to have attached some mysterious significance to such links with actuality.”:11–12 Equally curious is “a great deal of namelessness in Conrad, requiring some minor virtuosity to maintain.”:244 We never learn the surname of the protagonist of Lord Jim.:95 Conrad also preserves, in The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, the authentic name of the ship, the Narcissus, in which he sailed in 1884.:98–100
Apart from Conrad’s own experiences, a number of episodes in his fiction were suggested by past or contemporary publicly known events or literary works. The first half of the 1900 novel Lord Jim (the ‘Patna’ episode) was inspired by the real-life 1880 story of theSS Jeddah;:96–7 the second part, to some extent by the life of James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak. The 1901 short story “Amy Foster” was inspired partly by an anecdote in Ford Madox Ford‘s The Cinque Ports (1900), wherein a shipwrecked sailor from a German merchant ship, unable to communicate in English, and driven away by the local country people, finally found shelter in a pigsty.:312–13 [note 20] In Nostromo (completed 1904), the theft of a massive consignment of silver was suggested to Conrad by a story he had heard in the Gulf of Mexico and later read about in a “volume picked up outside a second-hand bookshop.”:128–29 [note 21] The Secret Agent (completed 1906) was inspired by the French anarchist Martial Bourdin‘s 1894 death while apparently attempting to blow up the Greenwich Observatory. Conrad’s story “The Secret Sharer” (completed 1909) was inspired by an 1880 incident when Sydney Smith, first mate of the Cutty Sark, had killed a seaman and fled from justice, aided by the ship’s captain.:235–6 The plot of Under Western Eyes (completed 1910) is kicked off by the assassination of a brutal Russian government minister, modelled after the real-life 1904 assassination of Russian Minister of the Interior Vyacheslav von Plehve.:199 The near-novella “Freya of the Seven Isles” (completed in March 1911) was inspired by a story told to Conrad by a Malaya old hand and fan of Conrad’s, Captain Carlos M. Marris.:405, 422–23
For the natural surroundings of the high seas, the Malay Archipelago and South America, which Conrad described so vividly, he could rely on his own observations. What his brief landfalls could not provide was a thorough understanding of exotic cultures. For this he resorted, like other writers, to literary sources. When writing his Malayan stories, he consulted Alfred Russel Wallace‘s The Malay Archipelago (1869), James Brooke‘s journals, and books with titles like Perak and the Malays, My Journal in Malayan Waters, and Life in the Forests of the Far East. When he set about writing his novel Nostromo, set in the fictitious South American country of Costaguana, he turned to The War between Peru and Chile; Edward Eastwick, Venezuela: or, Sketches of Life in a South American Republic(1868); and George Frederick Masterman, Seven Eventful Years in Paraguay (1869).:130 [note 22] As a result of relying on literary sources, in Lord Jim, as J. I. M. Stewart writes, Conrad’s “need to work to some extent from second-hand” led to “a certain thinness in Jim’s relations with the… peoples… of Patusan…”:118 This prompted Conrad at some points to alter the nature of Charles Marlow‘s narrative to “distanc[e] an uncertain command of the detail of Tuan Jim’s empire.”:119
In keeping with his scepticism:166:163 and melancholy,:16, 18 Conrad almost invariably gives lethal fates to the characters in his principal novels and stories. Almayer (Almayer’s Folly, 1894), abandoned by his beloved daughter, takes to opium, and dies;:42Peter Willems (An Outcast of the Islands, 1895) is killed by his jealous lover Aïssa;:48 the ineffectual “Nigger,” James Wait (The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, 1897), dies aboard ship and is buried at sea;:68–9 Mr. Kurtz (Heart of Darkness, 1899) expires, uttering the enigmatic words, “The horror!”;:68–9 Tuan Jim (Lord Jim, 1900), having inadvertently precipitated a massacre of his adoptive community, deliberately walks to his death at the hands of the community’s leader;:97 in Conrad’s 1901 short story, “Amy Foster“, a Pole transplanted to England, Yanko Goorall (an English transliteration of the Polish Janko Góral, “Johnny Highlander”), falls ill and, suffering from a fever, raves in his native language, frightening his wife Amy, who flees; next morning Yanko dies of heart failure, and it transpires that he had simply been asking in Polish for water;[note 23] Captain Whalley (The End of the Tether, 1902), betrayed by failing eyesight and an unscrupulous partner, drowns himself;:91 Gian’ Battista Fidanza,[note 24] the eponymous respected Italian-immigrant Nostromo (Italian: “Our Man”) of the novel Nostromo (1904), illicitly obtains a treasure of silver mined in the South American country of “Costaguana” and is shot dead due to mistaken identity;:124–26 Mr. Verloc, The Secret Agent (1906) of divided loyalties, attempts a bombing, to be blamed on terrorists, that accidentally kills his mentally defective brother-in-law Stevie, and Verloc himself is killed by his distraught wife, who drowns herself by jumping overboard from a channel steamer;:166–68 in Chance(1913), Roderick Anthony, a sailing-ship captain, and benefactor and husband of Flora de Barral, becomes the target of a poisoning attempt by her jealous disgraced financier father who, when detected, swallows the poison himself and dies (some years later, Captain Anthony drowns at sea);:209–11 in Victory (1915), Lena is shot dead by Jones, who had meant to kill his accomplice Ricardo and later succeeds in doing so, then himself perishes along with another accomplice, after which Lena’s protector Axel Heyst sets fire to his bungalow and dies beside Lena’s body.:220
When a principal character of Conrad’s does escape with his life, he sometimes does not fare much better. In Under Western Eyes (1911), Razumov betrays a fellow University of St. Petersburg student, the revolutionist Victor Haldin, who has assassinated a savagely repressive Russian government minister. Haldin is tortured and hanged by the authorities. Later Razumov, sent as a government spy to Geneva, a center of anti-tsarist intrigue, meets the mother and sister of Haldin, who share Haldin’s liberal convictions. Razumov falls in love with the sister and confesses his betrayal of her brother; later he makes the same avowal to assembled revolutionists, and their professional executioner bursts his eardrums, making him deaf for life. Razumov staggers away, is knocked down by a streetcar, and finally returns as a cripple to Russia.:185–87
Conrad was keenly conscious of tragedy in the world and in his works. In 1898, at the start of his writing career, he had written to his Scottish writer-politician friend Cunninghame Graham: “What makes mankind tragic is not that they are the victims of nature, it is that they are conscious of it. [A]s soon as you know of your slavery the pain, the anger, the strife – the tragedy begins.” But in 1922, near the end of his life and career, when another Scottish friend, Richard Curle, sent Conrad proofs of two articles he had written about Conrad, the latter objected to being characterised as a gloomy and tragic writer. “That reputation… has deprived me of innumerable readers… I absolutely object to being called a tragedian.”:544–5
Conrad claimed that he “never kept a diary and never owned a notebook.” John Galsworthy, who knew him well, described this as “a statement which surprised no one who knew the resources of his memory and the brooding nature of his creative spirit.”Nevertheless, after Conrad’s death, Richard Curle published a heavily modified version of Conrad’s diaries describing his experiences in the Congo; in 1978 a more complete version was published as The Congo Diary and Other Uncollected Pieces.
Unlike many authors who make it a point not to discuss work in progress, Conrad often did discuss his current work and even showed it to select friends and fellow authors, such as Edward Garnett, and sometimes modified it in the light of their critiques and suggestions.
He also borrowed from other, Polish- and French-language authors, to an extent sometimes skirting plagiarism. When the Polish translation of his 1915 novel Victory appeared in 1931, readers noted striking similarities to Stefan Żeromski‘s kitschy novel, The History of a Sin (Dzieje grzechu, 1908), including their endings. Comparative-literature scholar Yves Hervouet has demonstrated in the text of Victory a whole mosaic of influences, borrowings, similarities and allusions. He further lists hundreds of concrete borrowings from other, mostly French authors in nearly all of Conrad’s works, from Almayer’s Folly (1895) to his unfinished Suspense. Conrad seems to have used eminent writers’ texts as raw material of the same kind as the content of his own memory. Materials borrowed from other authors often functioned as allusions. Moreover, he had a phenomenal memory for texts and remembered details, “but [writes Najder] it was not a memory strictly categorized according to sources, marshalled into homogeneous entities; it was, rather, an enormous receptacle of images and pieces from which he would draw.”:454–7
But [writes Najder] he can never be accused of outright plagiarism. Even when lifting sentences and scenes, Conrad changed their character, inserted them within novel structures. He did not imitate, but (as Hervouet says) “continued” his masters. He was right in saying: “I don’t resemble anybody.” Ian Watt put it succinctly: “In a sense, Conrad is the least derivative of writers; he wrote very little that could possibly be mistaken for the work of anyone else.”:457[note 25]
Conrad, like other artists, faced constraints arising from the need to propitiate his audience and confirm its own favourable self-regard. This may account for his describing the admirable crew of the Judea in his 1898 story “Youth” as “Liverpool hard cases”, whereas the crew of the Judea’s actual 1882 prototype, the Palestine, had included not a single Liverpudlian, and half the crew had been non-Britons;:94 and for Conrad’s turning the real-life 1880 criminally negligent British Captain J. L. Clark, of the SS Jeddah, in his 1900 novel Lord Jim, into the captain of the fictitious Patna – “a sort of renegade New South Wales German” so monstrous in physical appearance as to suggest “a trained baby elephant.”:98–103 Similarly, in his letters Conrad – during most of his literary career, struggling for sheer financial survival – often adjusted his views to the predilections of his correspondents.:105 And when he wished to criticise the conduct of European imperialism in what would later be termed the “Third World“, he turned his gaze upon the Dutchand Belgian colonies, not upon the British Empire.:119
The singularity of the universe depicted in Conrad’s novels, especially compared to those of near-contemporaries like his friend and frequent benefactor John Galsworthy, is such as to open him to criticism similar to that later applied to Graham Greene. But where “Greeneland” has been characterised as a recurring and recognisable atmosphere independent of setting, Conrad is at pains to create a sense of place, be it aboard ship or in a remote village; often he chose to have his characters play out their destinies in isolated or confined circumstances. In the view of Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis, it was not until the first volumes of Anthony Powell‘s sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, were published in the 1950s, that an English novelist achieved the same command of atmosphere and precision of language with consistency, a view supported by later critics like A. N. Wilson; Powell acknowledged his debt to Conrad. Leo Gurko, too, remarks, as “one of Conrad’s special qualities, his abnormal awareness of place, an awareness magnified to almost a new dimension in art, an ecological dimension defining the relationship between earth and man.”
T. E. Lawrence, one of many writers whom Conrad befriended, offered some perceptive observations about Conrad’s writing:
He’s absolutely the most haunting thing in prose that ever was: I wish I knew how every paragraph he writes (…they are all paragraphs: he seldom writes a single sentence…) goes on sounding in waves, like the note of a tenor bell, after it stops. It’s not built in the rhythm of ordinary prose, but on something existing only in his head, and as he can never say what it is he wants to say, all his things end in a kind of hunger, a suggestion of something he can’t say or do or think. So his books always look bigger than they are. He’s as much a giant of the subjective as Kipling is of the objective. Do they hate one another?:343
In Conrad’s time, literary critics, while usually commenting favourably on his works, often remarked that many readers were put off by his exotic style, complex narration, profound themes, and pessimistic ideas. Yet, as his ideas were borne out by ensuing 20th-century events, in due course he came to be admired for beliefs that seemed to accord more closely with subsequent times than with his own.
Conrad’s was a starkly lucid view of the human condition – a vision similar to that which had been offered in two micro-stories by his ten-years-older Polish compatriot, Bolesław Prus (whose work Conrad greatly admired):[note 26] “Mold of the Earth” (1884) and “Shades” (1885). Conrad wrote:
Faith is a myth and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of to-morrow….
In this world – as I have known it – we are made to suffer without the shadow of a reason, of a cause or of guilt….
There is no morality, no knowledge and no hope; there is only the consciousness of ourselves which drives us about a world that… is always but a vain and fleeting appearance….
A moment, a twinkling of an eye and nothing remains – but a clod of mud, of cold mud, of dead mud cast into black space, rolling around an extinguished sun. Nothing. Neither thought, nor sound, nor soul. Nothing.:166
In a letter of late December 1897 to Cunninghame Graham, Conrad metaphorically described the universe as a huge machine:
It evolved itself (I am severely scientific) out of a chaos of scraps of iron and behold! – it knits. I am horrified at the horrible work and stand appalled. I feel it ought to embroider – but it goes on knitting. You come and say: “this is all right; it’s only a question of the right kind of oil. Let us use this – for instance – celestial oil and the machine shall embroider a most beautiful design in purple and gold.” Will it? Alas no. You cannot by any special lubrication make embroidery with a knitting machine. And the most withering thought is that the infamous thing has made itself; made itself without thought, without conscience, without foresight, without eyes, without heart. It is a tragic accident –and it has happened. You can’t interfere with it. The last drop of bitterness is in the suspicion that you can’t even smash it. In virtue of that truth one and immortal which lurks in the force that made it spring into existence it is what it is – and it is indestructible!
It knits us in and it knits us out. It has knitted time space, pain, death, corruption, despair and all the illusions – and nothing matters.:253
Conrad is the novelist of man in extreme situations. “Those who read me,” he wrote in the preface to A Personal Record, “know my conviction that the world, the temporal world, rests on a few very simple ideas; so simple that they must be as old as the hills. It rests, notably, among others, on the idea of Fidelity.”
For Conrad fidelity is the barrier man erects against nothingness, against corruption, against the evil that is all about him, insidious, waiting to engulf him, and that in some sense is within him unacknowledged. But what happens when fidelity is submerged, the barrier broken down, and the evil without is acknowledged by the evil within? At his greatest, that is Conrad’s theme.
What is the essence of Conrad’s art? It surely is not the plot, which he – like Shakespeare – often borrows from public sources and which could be duplicated by lesser authors; the plot serves merely as the vehicle for what the author has to say. A focus on plot leads to the absurdity of Charles and Mary Lamb‘s 1807 Tales from Shakespeare. Rather, Conrad’s essence is to be sought in his depiction of the world open to our senses, and in the world view that he has evolved in the course of experiencing that outer, and his own inner, world. An evocative part of that view is expressed in an August 1901 letter that Conrad wrote to the editor of The New York Times Saturday Book Review:
Egoism, which is the moving force of the world, and altruism, which is its morality, these two contradictory instincts, of which one is so plain and the other so mysterious, cannot serve us unless in the incomprehensible alliance of their irreconcilable antagonism.:315 [note 27]
Conrad spoke both his native Polish language and the French language fluently from childhood and only acquired English in his twenties. Why then did he choose to write his books in, effectively, his third language? He states in his preface to A Personal Record that writing in English was for him “natural”, and that the idea of his having made a deliberate choice between English and French, as some had suggested, was in error. He explained that, though he was familiar with French from childhood, “I would have been afraid to attempt expression in a language so perfectly ‘crystallized’.”:iv-x In a 1915 conversation with American sculptor Jo Davidson, as he posed for his bust, in response to Davidson’s question Conrad said: “Ah… to write French you have to know it. English is so plastic—if you haven’t got a word you need you can make it, but to write French you have to be an artist like Anatole France.” These statements, as so often happens in Conrad’s “autobiographical” writings, are subtly disingenuous. In 1897 Conrad was paid a visit by a fellow Pole, Wincenty Lutosławski, who was intent on imploring Conrad to write in Polish and “to win Conrad for Polish literature”. Lutosławski recalls that during their conversation Conrad explained why he did not write in Polish: “I value too much our beautiful Polish literature to introduce into it my worthless twaddle. But for Englishmen my capacities are just sufficient: they enable me to earn my living”. Perhaps revealingly, Conrad later wrote to Lutosławski to keep his visit a secret.
More to the point is Conrad’s remark in A Personal Record that English was “the speech of my secret choice, of my future, of long friendships, of the deepest affections, of hours of toil and hours of ease, and of solitary hours, too, of books read, of thoughts pursued, of remembered emotions—of my very dreams!”:252 In 1878 Conrad’s four-year experience in the French merchant marine had been cut short when the French discovered that he did not have a permit from the Imperial Russian consul to sail with the French.[note 28] This, and some typically disastrous Conradian investments, had left him destitute and had precipitated a suicide attempt. With the concurrence of his uncle Bobrowski, who had been summoned to Marseilles, Conrad decided to seek employment with the British merchant marine, which did not require Russia’s permission.:64–66 Thus began Conrad’s sixteen years’ seafarer’s acquaintance with the British and with the English language.
Had Conrad remained in the Francophone sphere or had he returned to Poland, the son of the Polish poet, playwright and translator Apollo Korzeniowski – from childhood exposed to Polish and foreign literature, and ambitious to himself become a writer:43–44 –might have ended writing in French or Polish instead of English. Certainly his mentor-uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski thought Conrad might write in Polish; in an 1881 letter he advised his 23-year-old nephew:
As, thank God, you do not forget your Polish… and your writing is not bad, I repeat what I have… written and said before – you would do well to write… for Wędrowiec [The Wanderer] in Warsaw. We have few travelers, and even fewer genuine correspondents: the words of an eyewitness would be of great interest and in time would bring you… money. It would be an exercise in your native tongue—that thread which binds you to your country and countrymen—and finally a tribute to the memory of your father who always wanted to and did serve his country by his pen.:86
Inescapably, Conrad’s third language, English, remained under the influence of his first two languages – Polish and French. This makes his English seem unusual. Najder observes:
[H]e was a man of three cultures: Polish, French, and English. Brought up in a Polish family and cultural environment… he learned French as a child, and at the age of less than seventeen went to France, to serve… four years in the French merchant marine. At school he must have learned German, but French remained the language he spoke with greatest fluency (and no foreign accent) until the end of his life. He was well versed in French history and literature, and French novelists were his artistic models. But he wrote all his books in English—the tongue he started to learn at the age of twenty. He was thus an English writer who grew up in other linguistic and cultural environments. His work can be seen as located in the borderland of auto-translation [emphasis added by Wikipedia].:IX
Inevitably for a trilingual Polish–French–English-speaker, Conrad’s writings occasionally show examples of “Franglais” and “Poglish” – of the inadvertent use of French or Polish vocabulary, grammar or syntax in his English compositions. In one instance, Najder uses “several slips in vocabulary, typical for Conrad (Gallicisms) and grammar (usually Polonisms)” as part of internal evidence against Conrad’s sometime literary collaborator Ford Madox Ford‘s claim to have written a certain instalment of Conrad’s novel Nostromo, for serialised publication in T. P.’s Weekly, on behalf of an ill Conrad.:341–42
The impracticality of working with a language which has long ceased to be one’s principal language of daily use is illustrated by Conrad’s 1921 attempt at translating into English the Polish columnist and comedy-writer Bruno Winawer‘s short play, The Book of Job. Najder writes:
[T]he [play’s] language is easy, colloquial, slightly individualized. Particularly Herup and a snobbish Jew, “Bolo” Bendziner, have their characteristic ways of speaking. Conrad, who had had little contact with everyday spoken Polish, simplified the dialogue, left out Herup’s scientific expressions, and missed many amusing nuances. The action in the original is quite clearly set in contemporary Warsaw, somewhere between elegant society and the demimonde; this specific cultural setting is lost in the translation. Conrad left out many accents of topical satire in the presentation of the dramatis personae and ignored not only the ungrammatical speech (which might have escaped him) of some characters but even the Jewishness of two of them, Bolo and Mosan.:538–39
As a practical matter, by the time Conrad set about writing fiction, he had little choice but to write in English.[note 29] Poles who accused Conrad of cultural apostasy because he wrote in English instead of Polish,:292–95, 463–64 missed the point – as do Anglophoneswho see, in Conrad’s default choice of English as his artistic medium, a testimonial to some sort of innate superiority of the English language.[note 30] According to Conrad’s close friend and literary assistant Richard Curle, the fact of Conrad writing in English was “obviously misleading” because Conrad “is no more completely English in his art than he is in his nationality”.:223 Moreover, Conrad “could never have written in any other language save the English language….for he would have been dumb in any other language but the English.”:227–28
Conrad always retained a strong emotional attachment to his native language. He asked his visiting Polish niece Karola Zagórska, “Will you forgive me that my sons don’t speak Polish?”:481 In June 1924, shortly before his death, he apparently expressed a desire that his son John marry a Polish girl and learn Polish, and toyed with the idea of returning for good to now independent Poland.:571
In 1975 the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe published an essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’“, which provoked controversy by calling Conrad a “thoroughgoing racist”. Achebe’s view was that Heart of Darkness cannot be considered a great work of art because it is “a novel which celebrates… dehumanisation, which depersonalises a portion of the human race.” Referring to Conrad as a “talented, tormented man”, Achebe notes that Conrad (via the protagonist, Charles Marlow) reduces and degrades Africans to “limbs”, “angles”, “glistening white eyeballs”, etc. while simultaneously (and fearfully) suspecting a common kinship between himself and these natives—leading Marlow to sneer the word “ugly.” Achebe also cited Conrad’s description of an encounter with an African: “A certain enormous buck nigger encountered in Haiti fixed my conception of blind, furious, unreasoning rage, as manifested in the human animal to the end of my days.” Achebe’s essay, a landmark in postcolonial discourse, provoked debate and the questions it raised have been addressed in most subsequent literary criticism of Conrad.
Achebe’s critics argue that he fails to distinguish Marlow‘s view from Conrad’s, which results in very clumsy interpretations of the novella. In their view, Conrad portrays Africans sympathetically and their plight tragically, and refers sarcastically to, and outright condemns, the supposedly noble aims of European colonists, thereby demonstrating his scepticism about the moral superiority of white men. This, indeed, is a central theme of the novel; Marlow’s experiences in Africa, expose the brutality of colonialism and its rationales. Ending a passage that describes the condition of chained, emaciated slaves, the novelist remarks: “After all, I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings.” Some observers assert that Conrad, whose native country had been conquered by imperial powers, empathised by default with other subjugated peoples. Jeffrey Meyers noted that Conrad, like his acquaintance Roger Casement, “was one of the first men to question the Western notion of progress, a dominant idea in Europe from the Renaissance to the Great War, to attack the hypocritical justification of colonialism and to reveal… the savage degradation of the white man in Africa.”:100–1
Conrad scholar Peter Firchow wrote that “nowhere in the novel does Conrad or any of his narrators, personified or otherwise, claim superiority on the part of Europeans on the grounds of alleged genetic or biological difference”. If Conrad or his novel is racist, it is only in a weak sense, since Heart of Darkness acknowledges racial distinctions “but does not suggest an essential superiority” of any group. Achebe’s reading of Heart of Darkness can be (and has been) challenged by a reading of Conrad’s other African story, “An Outpost of Progress“, which has an omniscient narrator, rather than the embodied narrator, Marlow. Some younger scholars, such as Masood Ashraf Raja, have also suggested that if we read Conrad beyond Heart of Darkness, especially his Malay novels, racism can be further complicated by foregrounding Conrad’s positive representation of Muslims.
Monument to Conrad inVologda, Russia, to which Conrad and his parents were exiled in 1862
Plaque commemorating “Joseph Conrad–Korzeniowski”, Singapore
An anchor-shaped monument to Conrad at Gdynia, on Poland’s Baltic Seacoast, features a quotation from him in Polish: “Nic tak nie nęci, nie rozczarowuje i nie zniewala, jak życie na morzu” (“[T]here is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea” – Lord Jim, chapter 2, paragraph 1).
In Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia, a plaque in a “writers walk” commemorates Conrad’s visits to Australia between 1879 and 1892. The plaque notes that “Many of his works reflect his ‘affection for that young continent.'”
In San Francisco in 1979, a small triangular square at Columbus Avenue and Beach Street, near Fisherman’s Wharf, was dedicated as “Joseph Conrad Square” after Conrad. The square’s dedication was timed to coincide with release of Francis Ford Coppola‘s Heart of Darkness-inspired film, Apocalypse Now.
In the latter part of World War II, the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Danae was rechristened ORP Conrad and served as part of the Polish Navy.
Notwithstanding the undoubted sufferings that Conrad endured on many of his voyages, sentimentality and canny marketing place him at the best lodgings in several of his destinations. Hotels across the Far East still lay claim to him as an honoured guest, with, however, no evidence to back their claims: Singapore’s Raffles Hotel continues to claim he stayed there though he lodged, in fact, at the Sailors’ Home nearby. His visit to Bangkok also remains in that city’s collective memory, and is recorded in the official history of The Oriental Hotel (where he never, in fact, stayed, lodging aboard his ship, the Otago) along with that of a less well-behaved guest, Somerset Maugham, who pilloried the hotel in a short story in revenge for attempts to eject him.
A plaque commemorating “Joseph Conrad–Korzeniowski” has been installed near Singapore’s Fullerton Hotel.
Conrad is also reported to have stayed at Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel—a port that, in fact, he never visited. Later literary admirers, notably Graham Greene, followed closely in his footsteps, sometimes requesting the same room and perpetuating myths that have no basis in fact. No Caribbean resort is yet known to have claimed Conrad’s patronage, although he is believed to have stayed at a Fort-de-Francepension upon arrival in Martinique on his first voyage, in 1875, when he travelled as a passenger on the Mont Blanc.
In April 2013, a monument to Conrad was unveiled in the Russian town of Vologda, where he and his parents lived in exile in 1862–63.
After the publication of Chance in 1913, Conrad was the subject of more discussion and praise than any other English writer of the time. He had a genius for companionship, and his circle of friends, which he had begun assembling even prior to his first publications, included authors and other leading lights in the arts, such as Henry James, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, John Galsworthy, Edward Garnett, Garnett’s wife Constance Garnett (translator of Russian literature), Stephen Crane, Hugh Walpole, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett, Norman Douglas, Jacob Epstein, T. E. Lawrence, André Gide, Paul Valéry, Maurice Ravel, Valery Larbaud, Saint-John Perse, Edith Wharton,James Huneker, anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski, Józef Retinger (later a founder of the European Movement, which led to the European Union, and author of Conrad and His Contemporaries). Conrad encouraged and mentored younger writers. In the early 1900s he composed a short series of novels in collaboration with Ford Madox Ford.
In 1919 and 1922 Conrad’s growing renown and prestige among writers and critics in continental Europe fostered his hopes for a Nobel Prize in Literature. Interestingly, it was apparently the French and Swedes – not the English – who favoured Conrad’s candidacy.:512, 550 [note 31]
In April 1924 Conrad, who possessed a hereditary Polish status of nobility and coat-of-arms (Nałęcz), declined a (non-hereditary) British knighthood offered by Labour Party Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.[note 32] [note 33] Conrad kept a distance from official structures — he never voted in British national elections — and seems to have been averse to public honours generally; he had already refused honorary degrees from Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and Yale universities.:570
Of Conrad’s novels, Lord Jim (1900) and Nostromo (1904) are widely read as set texts and for pleasure. The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911) are also considered among his finest novels. Arguably his most influential work remains Heart of Darkness (1899), to which many have been introduced by Francis Ford Coppola‘s film, Apocalypse Now (1979), inspired by Conrad’s novel and set during the Vietnam War; the novel’s depiction of a journey into the darkness of the human psyche resonates with modern readers. Conrad’s short stories, other novels, and nonfiction writings also continue to find favour with many readers and filmmakers.
In the People’s Republic of Poland, translations of Conrad’s works were published – all except Under Western Eyes, banned by the censors due to its advocacy of fairness and neutrality. Under Western Eyes was published in Poland in the 1980s as an underground “bibuła“.
Joseph Conrad was an influence on many subsequent writers, including D. H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Maria Dąbrowska, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Gerald Basil Edwards, Ernest Hemingway, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, André Malraux, George Orwell,:254 Graham Greene, Malcolm Lowry, William Golding, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, Italo Calvino, Gabriel García Márquez, J. G. Ballard, Chinua Achebe, John le Carré, V. S. Naipaul, Philip Roth,Hunter S. Thompson, J. M. Coetzee, Stephen Donaldson, and Salman Rushdie.[note 34]
A striking portrait of Conrad, aged about 46, was drawn by the historian and poet Henry Newbolt, who met him about 1903:
One thing struck me at once—the extraordinary difference between his expression in profile and when looked at full face. [W]hile the profile was aquiline and commanding, in the front view the broad brow, wide-apart eyes and full lips produced the effect of an intellectual calm and even at times of a dreaming philosophy. Then [a]s we sat in our little half-circle round the fire, and talked on anything and everything, I saw a third Conrad emerge—an artistic self, sensitive and restless to the last degree. The more he talked the more quickly he consumed his cigarettes… And presently, when I asked him why he was leaving London after… only two days, he replied that… the crowd in the streets… terrified him. “Terrified? By that dull stream of obliterated faces?” He leaned forward with both hands raised and clenched. “Yes, terrified: I see their personalities all leaping out at me like tigers!” He acted the tiger well enough almost to terrify his hearers: but the moment after he was talking again wisely and soberly as if he were an average Englishman with not an irritable nerve in his body.:331
On 12 October 1912, American music critic James Huneker visited Conrad and later recalled being received by “a man of the world, neither sailor nor novelist, just a simple-mannered gentleman, whose welcome was sincere, whose glance was veiled, at times far-away, whose ways were French, Polish, anything but ‘literary,’ bluff or English.”:437
After respective separate visits to Conrad in August and September 1913, two British aristocrats, the socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell and the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell – who were lovers at the time – recorded their impressions of the novelist. In her diary, Morrell wrote:
I found Conrad himself standing at the door of the house ready to receive me. How different from the [disparaging] picture Henry James had evoked [in conversation with Morrell], for Conrad’s appearance was really that of a Polish nobleman. His manner was perfect, almost too elaborate; so nervous and sympathetic that every fibre of him seemed electric… He talked English with a strong accent, as if he tasted his words in his mouth before pronouncing them; but he talked extremely well, though he had always the talk and manner of a foreigner… He was dressed very carefully in a blue double-breasted jacket. He talked… apparently with great freedom about his life – more ease and freedom indeed than an Englishman would have allowed himself. He spoke of the horrors of the Congo, from the moral and physical shock of which he said he had never recovered… [His wife Jessie] seemed a nice and good-looking fat creature, an excellent cook, as Henry James [had] said, and was indeed a good and reposeful mattress for this hypersensitive, nerve-wracked man, who did not ask from his wife high intelligence, only an assuagement of life’s vibrations…. He made me feel so natural and very much myself, that I was almost afraid of losing the thrill and wonder of being there, although I was vibrating with intense excitement inside; and even now, as I write this, I feel almost the same excitement, the same thrill of having been in the presence of one of the most remarkable men I have known. His eyes under their pent-house lids revealed the suffering and the intensity of his experiences; when he spoke of his work, there came over them a sort of misty, sensuous, dreamy look, but they seemed to hold deep down the ghosts of old adventures and experiences – once or twice there was something in them one almost suspected of being wicked…. But then I believe whatever strange wickedness would tempt this super-subtle Pole, he would be held in restraint by an equally delicate sense of honour…. In his talk he led me along many paths of his life, but I felt that he did not wish to explore the jungle of emotions that lay dense on either side, and that his apparent frankness had a great reserve. This may perhaps be characteristic of Poles as it is of the Irish.:447
A month later, Bertrand Russell visited Conrad at Capel House, and the same day on the train wrote down his impressions:
It was wonderful – I loved him & I think he liked me. He talked a great deal about his work & life & aims, & about other writers…. I got him on to Henry James… Then we went for a little walk, & somehow grew very intimate. I plucked up courage to tell him what I find in his work – the boring down into things to get to the very bottom below the apparent facts. He seemed to feel I had understood him; then I stopped & we just looked into each other’s eyes for some time, & then he said he had grown to wish he could live on the surface and write differently, that he had grown frightened. His eyes at the moment expressed the inward pain & terror that one feels him always fighting…. Then he talked a lot about Poland, & showed me an album of family photographs of the 60’s – spoke about how dream-like all that seems, & how he sometimes feels he ought not to have had any children, because they have no roots or traditions or relations.:448
Russell’s insights, so resonant with Morrell’s, reveal the profundity of Conrad’s existential loneliness. Russell’s Autobiography, published over half a century later in 1968, vividly confirms his original experience:
My first impression was one of surprise. He spoke English with a very strong foreign accent, and nothing in his demeanour in any way suggested the sea. He was an aristocratic Polish gentleman to his fingertips…. At our very first meeting, we talked with continually increasing intimacy. We seemed to sink through layer after layer of what was superficial, till gradually both reached the central fire. It was an experience unlike any other… I have known. We looked into each other’s eyes, half appalled and half intoxicated to find ourselves together in such a region. The emotion was as intense as passionate love, and at the same time all-embracing. I came away bewildered, and hardly able to find my way among ordinary affairs.:448–49
The two men’s subsequent friendship and correspondence lasted, with long intervals, to the end of Conrad’s life. In one letter, Conrad avowed his “deep admiring affection, which, if you were never to see me again and forget my existence tomorrow will be unalterably yours usque ad finem.”:449 Conrad in his correspondence often used the Latin expression meaning “to the very end”, which he seems to have adopted from his faithful guardian, mentor and benefactor, his maternal uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski.
Conrad looked with less optimism than Russell on the possibilities of scientific and philosophic knowledge.:449 In a 1913 letter to acquaintances who had invited Conrad to join their society, he reiterated his belief that it was impossible to understand the essence of either reality or life: both science and art penetrate no further than the outer shapes.:446
Najder describes Conrad as “[a]n alienated émigré… haunted by a sense of the unreality of other people – a feeling natural to someone living outside the established structures of family, social milieu, and country”.:576
Throughout almost his entire life Conrad was an outsider and felt himself to be one. An outsider in exile; an outsider during his visits to his family in… Ukraine; an outsider – because of his experiences and bereavement – in [Kraków] and Lwów; an outsider in Marseilles; an outsider, nationally and culturally, on British ships; an outsider as an English writer.:576
Conrad’s sense of loneliness throughout his exile’s life found memorable expression in the 1901 short story, “Amy Foster“.
In popular culture
- Konrad Korzeniowski, captain of the steamer Roi des Belges, is a character in Sergio Bonelli Editore‘s Lilith, issue No. 10, “Cuore di tenebre” (“Heart of Darkness”).
- The ship Nostromo in the film Alien (1979) takes its name from Conrad’s novel Nostromo. It has become a tradition to so name ships in that kind of setting.
- The game Spec Ops: The Line, like Apocalypse Now, is heavily inspired by Heart of Darkness; the primary antagonist is named for the author.
- “The Black Mate”: written, according to Conrad, in 1886; may be counted as his opus double zero; published 1908; posthumously collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925.
- “The Idiots“: Conrad’s truly first short story, which may be counted as his opus zero; written during his honeymoon (3.1896), published in The Savoy periodical, 1896, and collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898.
- “The Lagoon“: composed 1896; published in Cornhill Magazine, 1897; collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898: “It is the first short story I ever wrote.”
- “An Outpost of Progress“: written 1896; published in Cosmopolis, 1897, and collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898: “My next [second] effort in short-story writing”; it shows numerous thematic affinities with Heart of Darkness; in 1906, Conrad described it as his “best story”.
- “The Return”: completed early 1897, while writing “Karain”; never published in magazine form; collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898: “[A]ny kind word about ‘The Return’ (and there have been such words said at different times) awakens in me the liveliest gratitude, for I know how much the writing of that fantasy has cost me in sheer toil, in temper, and in disillusion.” Conrad, who suffered while writing this psychological chef-d’oeuvre of introspection, once remarked: “I hate it.”
- “Karain: A Memory”: written February–April 1897; published November 1897 in Blackwood’s Magazine and collected in Tales of Unrest, 1898: “my third short story in… order of time”.
- “Youth“: written 1898; collected in Youth, a Narrative, and Two Other Stories, 1902
- “Falk”: novella / story, written early 1901; collected only in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903
- “Amy Foster“: composed 1901; published in the Illustrated London News, December 1901, and collected in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903.
- “To-morrow”: written early 1902; serialised in The Pall Mall Magazine, 1902, and collected in Typhoon and Other Stories, 1903
- “Gaspar Ruiz”: written after Nostromo in 1904–5; published in The Strand Magazine, 1906, and collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US). This story was the only piece of Conrad’s fiction ever adapted by the author for cinema, as Gaspar the Strong Man, 1920.
- “An Anarchist”: written late 1905; serialised in Harper’s Magazine, 1906; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US)
- “The Informer”: written before January 1906; published, December 1906, in Harper’s Magazine, and collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US)
- “The Brute”: written early 1906; published in The Daily Chronicle, December 1906; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US)
- “The Duel: A Military Story”: serialised in the UK in The Pall Mall Magazine, early 1908, and later that year in the US as “The Point of Honor”, in the periodical Forum; collected in A Set of Six in 1908 and published by Garden City Publishing in 1924. Joseph Fouché makes a cameo appearance.
- “Il Conde” (i.e., “Conte” [count]): appeared in Cassell’s Magazine (UK), 1908, and Hampton ’s (US), 1909; collected in A Set of Six, 1908 (UK), 1915 (US)
- “The Secret Sharer“: written December 1909; published in Harper’s Magazine, 1910, and collected in Twixt Land and Sea, 1912
- “Prince Roman”: written 1910, published 1911 in The Oxford and Cambridge Review; posthumously collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925; based on the story of Prince Roman Sanguszko of Poland (1800–81)
- “A Smile of Fortune”: a long story, almost a novella, written in mid-1910; published in London Magazine, February 1911; collected in Twixt Land and Sea, 1912
- “Freya of the Seven Isles”: a near-novella, written late 1910–early 1911; published in The Metropolitan Magazine and London Magazine, early 1912 and July 1912, respectively; collected in Twixt Land and Sea, 1912
- “The Partner”: written 1911; published in Within the Tides, 1915
- “The Inn of the Two Witches”: written 1913; published in Within the Tides, 1915
- “Because of the Dollars”: written 1914; published in Within the Tides, 1915
- “The Planter of Malata”: written 1914; published in Within the Tides, 1915
- “The Warrior’s Soul”: written late 1915–early 1916; published in Land and Water, March 1917; collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925
- “The Tale”: Conrad’s only story about World War I; written 1916, first published 1917 in The Strand Magazine; posthumously collected in Tales of Hearsay, 1925
- “Autocracy and War” (1905)
- The Mirror of the Sea (collection of autobiographical essays first published in various magazines 1904–6), 1906
- A Personal Record (also published as Some Reminiscences), 1912
- The First News, 1918
- The Lesson of the Collision: A monograph upon the loss of the “Empress of Ireland“, 1919
- The Polish Question, 1919
- The Shock of War, 1919
- Notes on Life and Letters, 1921
- Notes on My Books, 1921
- Last Essays, edited by Richard Curle, 1926
- The Congo Diary and Other Uncollected Pieces, edited by Zdzisław Najder, 1978, ISBN 978-0-385-00771-9
A number of works in various genres and media have been based on, or inspired by, Conrad’s writings, including:
- Victory (1919), directed by Maurice Tourneur
- Lord Jim (1925), directed by Victor Fleming
- Niebezpieczny raj (Dangerous Paradise, 1930), a Polish adaptation of Victory
- Dangerous Paradise (1930), an adaptation of Victory directed by William Wellman
- Sabotage (1936), adapted from Conrad’s The Secret Agent, directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- Victory (1940), featuring Fredric March
- An Outcast of the Islands (1952), featuring Trevor Howard
- Lord Jim (1965), starring Peter O’Toole
- The Rover (1967), adaptation of the novel The Rover (1923), directed by Terence Young, featuring Anthony Quinn
- La ligne d’ombre(1973), a TV adaptation of The Shadow Line by Georges Franju
- Smuga cienia (The Shadow Line, 1976), a Polish-British adaptation of The Shadow Line, directed by Andrzej Wajda
- The Duellists (1977), an adaptation of The Duel by Ridley Scott
- Apocalypse Now (1979), by Francis Ford Coppola, adapted from Heart of Darkness
- Un reietto delle isole (1980), by Giorgio Moser, an Italian adaptation of An Outcast of the Islands, starring Maria Carta
- Victory (1995), adapted by director Mark Peploe from the novel
- The Secret Agent (1996), starring Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette and Gérard Depardieu
- Nostromo (1997), a BBC TV adaptation, co-produced with Italian and Spanish TV networks and WGBH Boston
- Swept from the Sea (1997), an adaptation of Amy Foster directed by Beeban Kidron
- Gabrielle (2005) directed by Patrice Chéreau. Adaptation of the short story “The Return” (1898), starring Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory.
- Hanyut (2011), a Malaysian adaptation of Almayer’s Folly
- Almayer’s Folly (2011), directed by Chantal Akerman
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Angelo Codevilla – Does America Have a Ruling Class?
1. America’s Ruling Class
2. Has Homeland Security Been a Failure?
3. What’s Wrong with the CIA?
4. Are We Winning the “War on Terror”?
5. The Superiority of the Founders’ Foreign Policy
America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution
The only serious opposition to this arrogant Ruling Party is coming not from feckless Republicans but from what might be called the Country Party — and its vision is revolutionary. Our special Summer Issue cover story.
By Angelo M. Codevilla – From the July 2010 – August 2010 issue
As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.
When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.
Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government’s agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about “global warming” for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.
Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.
The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who created and doth sustain us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity. Our classes’ clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark’s Gospel: “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
The Political Divide
Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg’s tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences “undecided,” “none of the above,” or “tea party,” these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. Hence officeholders, Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate — most Democratic voters, plus a few Republicans. This means that Democratic politicians are the ruling class’s prime legitimate representatives and that because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters while the rest vote for them reluctantly, most are aspirants for a junior role in the ruling class. In short, the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. But some two-thirds of Americans — a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents — lack a vehicle in electoral politics.
Sooner or later, well or badly, that majority’s demand for representation will be filled. Whereas in 1968 Governor George Wallace’s taunt “there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference” between the Republican and Democratic parties resonated with only 13.5 percent of the American people, in 1992 Ross Perot became a serious contender for the presidency (at one point he was favored by 39 percent of Americans vs. 31 percent for G.H.W. Bush and 25 percent for Clinton) simply by speaking ill of the ruling class. Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it burgeoned in size and pretense, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans’ conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so.
While Europeans are accustomed to being ruled by presumed betters whom they distrust, the American people’s realization of being ruled like Europeans shocked this country into well nigh revolutionary attitudes. But only the realization was new. The ruling class had sunk deep roots in America over decades before 2008. Machiavelli compares serious political diseases to the Aetolian fevers — easy to treat early on while they are difficult to discern, but virtually untreatable by the time they become obvious.
Far from speculating how the political confrontation might develop between America’s regime class — relatively few people supported by no more than one-third of Americans — and a country class comprising two-thirds of the country, our task here is to understand the divisions that underlie that confrontation’s unpredictable future. More on politics below.
The Ruling Class
Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?
The most widespread answers — by such as the Times’s Thomas Friedman and David Brooks — are schlock sociology. Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive, the technical skills to run it so rare, that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. Similarly fanciful is Edward Goldberg’s notion that America is now ruled by a “newocracy”: a “new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization — including the multinational manager, the technologist and the aspirational members of the meritocracy.” In fact, our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude.
Other explanations are counterintuitive. Wealth? The heads of the class do live in our big cities’ priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Palo Alto, California, to Boston’s Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. But they are no wealthier than many Texas oilmen or California farmers, or than neighbors with whom they do not associate — just as the social science and humanities class that rules universities seldom associates with physicians and physicists. Rather, regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative “nonprofit” and “philanthropic” sectors and public policy. What really distinguishes these privileged people demographically is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on any of America’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Streets. These socioeconomic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter’s grievances.
Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity — being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment’s parts.
If, for example, you are Laurence Tribe in 1984, Harvard professor of law, leftist pillar of the establishment, you can “write” your magnum opus by using the products of your student assistant, Ron Klain. A decade later, after Klain admits to having written some parts of the book, and the other parts are found to be verbatim or paraphrases of a book published in 1974, you can claim (perhaps correctly) that your plagiarism was “inadvertent,” and you can count on the Law School’s dean, Elena Kagan, to appoint a committee including former and future Harvard president Derek Bok that issues a secret report that “closes” the incident. Incidentally, Kagan ends up a justice of the Supreme Court. Not one of these people did their jobs: the professor did not write the book himself, the assistant plagiarized instead of researching, the dean and the committee did not hold the professor accountable, and all ended up rewarded. By contrast, for example, learned papers and distinguished careers in climatology at MIT (Richard Lindzen) or UVA (S. Fred Singer) are not enough for their questions about “global warming” to be taken seriously. For our ruling class, identity always trumps.
Much less does membership in the ruling class depend on high academic achievement. To see something closer to an academic meritocracy consider France, where elected officials have little power, a vast bureaucracy explicitly controls details from how babies are raised to how to make cheese, and people get into and advance in that bureaucracy strictly by competitive exams. Hence for good or ill, France’s ruling class are bright people — certifiably. Not ours. But didn’t ours go to Harvard and Princeton and Stanford? Didn’t most of them get good grades? Yes. But while getting into the Ecole Nationale d’Administration or the Ecole Polytechnique or the dozens of other entry points to France’s ruling class requires outperforming others in blindly graded exams, and graduating from such places requires passing exams that many fail, getting into America’s “top schools” is less a matter of passing exams than of showing up with acceptable grades and an attractive social profile. American secondary schools are generous with their As. Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges. And it is an open secret that “the best” colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages. No, our ruling class recruits and renews itself not through meritocracy but rather by taking into itself people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to fit in. The most successful neither write books and papers that stand up to criticism nor release their academic records. Thus does our ruling class stunt itself through negative selection. But the more it has dumbed itself down, the more it has defined itself by the presumption of intellectual superiority.
Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that “we” are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation’s paradigm that “all men are created equal”?
The notion of human equality was always a hard sell, because experience teaches us that we are so unequal in so many ways, and because making one’s self superior is so tempting that Lincoln called it “the old serpent, you work I’ll eat.” But human equality made sense to our Founding generation because they believed that all men are made in the image and likeness of God, because they were yearning for equal treatment under British law, or because they had read John Locke.
It did not take long for their paradigm to be challenged by interest and by “science.” By the 1820s, as J. C. Calhoun was reading in the best London journals that different breeds of animals and plants produce inferior or superior results, slave owners were citing the Negroes’ deficiencies to argue that they should remain slaves indefinitely. Lots of others were reading Ludwig Feuerbach’s rendition of Hegelian philosophy, according to which biblical injunctions reflect the fantasies of alienated human beings or, in the young Karl Marx’s formulation, that ethical thought is “superstructural” to material reality. By 1853, when Sen. John Pettit of Ohio called “all men are created equal” “a self-evident lie,” much of America’s educated class had already absorbed the “scientific” notion (which Darwin only popularized) that man is the product of chance mutation and natural selection of the fittest. Accordingly, by nature, superior men subdue inferior ones as they subdue lower beings or try to improve them as they please. Hence while it pleased the abolitionists to believe in freeing Negroes and improving them, it also pleased them to believe that Southerners had to be punished and reconstructed by force. As the 19th century ended, the educated class’s religious fervor turned to social reform: they were sure that because man is a mere part of evolutionary nature, man could be improved, and that they, the most highly evolved of all, were the improvers.
Thus began the Progressive Era. When Woodrow Wilson in 1914 was asked “can’t you let anything alone?” he answered with, “I let everything alone that you can show me is not itself moving in the wrong direction, but I am not going to let those things alone that I see are going down-hill.” Wilson spoke for the thousands of well-off Americans who patronized the spas at places like Chautauqua and Lake Mohonk. By such upper-middle-class waters, progressives who imagined themselves the world’s examples and the world’s reformers dreamt big dreams of establishing order, justice, and peace at home and abroad. Neither were they shy about their desire for power. Wilson was the first American statesman to argue that the Founders had done badly by depriving the U.S. government of the power to reshape American society. Nor was Wilson the last to invade a foreign country (Mexico) to “teach [them] to elect good men.”
World War I and the chaos at home and abroad that followed it discredited the Progressives in the American people’s eyes. Their international schemes had brought blood and promised more. Their domestic management had not improved Americans’ lives, but given them a taste of arbitrary government, including Prohibition. The Progressives, for their part, found it fulfilling to attribute the failure of their schemes to the American people’s backwardness, to something deeply wrong with America. The American people had failed them because democracy in its American form perpetuated the worst in humanity. Thus Progressives began to look down on the masses, to look on themselves as the vanguard, and to look abroad for examples to emulate.
The cultural divide between the “educated class” and the rest of the country opened in the interwar years. Some Progressives joined the “vanguard of the proletariat,” the Communist Party. Many more were deeply sympathetic to Soviet Russia, as they were to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Not just the Nation, but also the New York Times and National Geographic found much to be imitated in these regimes because they promised energetically to transcend their peoples’ ways and to build “the new man.” Above all, our educated class was bitter about America. In 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union sponsored a legal challenge to a Tennessee law that required teaching the biblical account of creation. The ensuing trial, radio broadcast nationally, as well as the subsequent hit movie Inherit the Wind, were the occasion for what one might have called the Chautauqua class to drive home the point that Americans who believed in the Bible were willful ignoramuses. As World War II approached, some American Progressives supported the Soviet Union (and its ally, Nazi Germany) and others Great Britain and France. But Progressives agreed on one thing: the approaching war should be blamed on the majority of Americans, because they had refused to lead the League of Nations. Darryl Zanuck produced the critically acclaimed movie [Woodrow] Wilson featuring Cedric Hardwicke as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who allegedly brought on the war by appealing to American narrow-mindedness against Wilson’s benevolent genius.
Franklin Roosevelt brought the Chautauqua class into his administration and began the process that turned them into rulers. FDR described America’s problems in technocratic terms. America’s problems would be fixed by a “brain trust” (picked by him). His New Deal’s solutions — the alphabet-soup “independent” agencies that have run America ever since — turned many Progressives into powerful bureaucrats and then into lobbyists. As the saying goes, they came to Washington to do good, and stayed to do well.
As their number and sense of importance grew, so did their distaste for common Americans. Believing itself “scientific,” this Progressive class sought to explain its differences from its neighbors in “scientific” terms. The most elaborate of these attempts was Theodor Adorno’s widely acclaimed The Authoritarian Personality (1948). It invented a set of criteria by which to define personality traits, ranked these traits and their intensity in any given person on what it called the “F scale” (F for fascist), interviewed hundreds of Americans, and concluded that most who were not liberal Democrats were latent fascists. This way of thinking about non-Progressives filtered down to college curricula. In 1963-64 for example, I was assigned Herbert McCloskey’s Conservatism and Personality (1958) at Rutgers’s Eagleton Institute of Politics as a paradigm of methodological correctness. The author had defined conservatism in terms of answers to certain questions, had defined a number of personality disorders in terms of other questions, and run a survey that proved “scientifically” that conservatives were maladjusted ne’er-do-well ignoramuses. (My class project, titled “Liberalism and Personality,” following the same methodology, proved just as scientifically that liberals suffered from the very same social diseases, and even more amusing ones.)
The point is this: though not one in a thousand of today’s bipartisan ruling class ever heard of Adorno or McCloskey, much less can explain the Feuerbachian-Marxist notion that human judgments are “epiphenomenal” products of spiritual or material alienation, the notion that the common people’s words are, like grunts, mere signs of pain, pleasure, and frustration, is now axiomatic among our ruling class. They absorbed it osmotically, second — or thirdhand, from their education and from companions. Truly, after Barack Obama described his opponents’ clinging to “God and guns” as a characteristic of inferior Americans, he justified himself by pointing out he had said “what everybody knows is true.” Confident “knowledge” that “some of us, the ones who matter,” have grasped truths that the common herd cannot, truths that direct us, truths the grasping of which entitles us to discount what the ruled say and to presume what they mean, made our Progressives into a class long before they took power.
The Agenda: Power
Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. Like left-wing parties always and everywhere, it is a “machine,” that is, based on providing tangible rewards to its members. Such parties often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods and enhance mightily the upper levels’ wealth. Because this is so, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges — civic as well as economic — to the party’s clients, directly or indirectly. This, incidentally, is close to Aristotle’s view of democracy. Hence our ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government — meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc. Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class’s solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it. Let us now look at what this means in our time.
By taxing and parceling out more than a third of what Americans produce, through regulations that reach deep into American life, our ruling class is making itself the arbiter of wealth and poverty. While the economic value of anything depends on sellers and buyers agreeing on that value as civil equals in the absence of force, modern government is about nothing if not tampering with civil equality. By endowing some in society with power to force others to sell cheaper than they would, and forcing others yet to buy at higher prices — even to buy in the first place — modern government makes valuable some things that are not, and devalues others that are. Thus if you are not among the favored guests at the table where officials make detailed lists of who is to receive what at whose expense, you are on the menu. Eventually, pretending forcibly that valueless things have value dilutes the currency’s value for all.
Laws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally. For example, the health care bill of 2010 takes more than 2,700 pages to make sure not just that some states will be treated differently from others because their senators offered key political support, but more importantly to codify bargains between the government and various parts of the health care industry, state governments, and large employers about who would receive what benefits (e.g., public employee unions and auto workers) and who would pass what indirect taxes onto the general public. The financial regulation bill of 2010, far from setting univocal rules for the entire financial industry in few words, spends some 3,000 pages (at this writing) tilting the field exquisitely toward some and away from others. Even more significantly, these and other products of Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses empower countless boards and commissions arbitrarily to protect some persons and companies, while ruining others. Thus in 2008 the Republican administration first bailed out Bear Stearns, then let Lehman Brothers sink in the ensuing panic, but then rescued Goldman Sachs by infusing cash into its principal debtor, AIG. Then, its Democratic successor used similarly naked discretionary power (and money appropriated for another purpose) to give major stakes in the auto industry to labor unions that support it. Nowadays, the members of our ruling class admit that they do not read the laws. They don’t have to. Because modern laws are primarily grants of discretion, all anybody has to know about them is whom they empower.
By making economic rules dependent on discretion, our bipartisan ruling class teaches that prosperity is to be bought with the coin of political support. Thus in the 1990s and 2000s, as Democrats and Republicans forced banks to make loans for houses to people and at rates they would not otherwise have considered, builders and investors had every reason to make as much money as they could from the ensuing inflation of housing prices. When the bubble burst, only those connected with the ruling class at the bottom and at the top were bailed out. Similarly, by taxing the use of carbon fuels and subsidizing “alternative energy,” our ruling class created arguably the world’s biggest opportunity for making money out of things that few if any would buy absent its intervention. The ethanol industry and its ensuing diversions of wealth exist exclusively because of subsidies. The prospect of legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions and allot certain amounts to certain companies set off a feeding frenzy among large companies to show support for a “green agenda,” because such allotments would be worth tens of billions of dollars. That is why companies hired some 2,500 lobbyists in 2009 to deepen their involvement in “climate change.” At the very least, such involvement profits them by making them into privileged collectors of carbon taxes. Any “green jobs” thus created are by definition creatures of subsidies — that is, of privilege. What effect creating such privileges may have on “global warming” is debatable. But it surely increases the number of people dependent on the ruling class, and teaches Americans that satisfying that class is a surer way of making a living than producing goods and services that people want to buy.
Beyond patronage, picking economic winners and losers redirects the American people’s energies to tasks that the political class deems more worthy than what Americans choose for themselves. John Kenneth Galbraith’s characterization of America as “private wealth amidst public squalor” (The Affluent Society, 1958) has ever encapsulated our best and brightest’s complaint: left to themselves, Americans use land inefficiently in suburbs and exurbs, making it necessary to use energy to transport them to jobs and shopping. Americans drive big cars, eat lots of meat as well as other unhealthy things, and go to the doctor whenever they feel like it. Americans think it justice to spend the money they earn to satisfy their private desires even though the ruling class knows that justice lies in improving the community and the planet. The ruling class knows that Americans must learn to live more densely and close to work, that they must drive smaller cars and change their lives to use less energy, that their dietary habits must improve, that they must accept limits in how much medical care they get, that they must divert more of their money to support people, cultural enterprises, and plans for the planet that the ruling class deems worthier. So, ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are the main wrenches by which the American people can be improved (and, yes, by which the ruling class feeds and grows).
The 2010 medical law is a template for the ruling class’s economic modus operandi: the government taxes citizens to pay for medical care and requires citizens to purchase health insurance. The money thus taken and directed is money that the citizens themselves might have used to pay for medical care. In exchange for the money, the government promises to provide care through its “system.” But then all the boards, commissions, guidelines, procedures, and “best practices” that constitute “the system” become the arbiters of what any citizen ends up getting. The citizen might end up dissatisfied with what “the system” offers. But when he gave up his money, he gave up the power to choose, and became dependent on all the boards and commissions that his money also pays for and that raise the cost of care. Similarly, in 2008 the House Ways and Means Committee began considering a plan to force citizens who own Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) to transfer those funds into government-run “guaranteed retirement accounts.” If the government may force citizens to buy health insurance, by what logic can it not force them to trade private ownership and control of retirement money for a guarantee as sound as the government itself? Is it not clear that the government knows more about managing retirement income than individuals?
Who Depends on Whom?
In Congressional Government (1885) Woodrow Wilson left no doubt: the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from meeting the country’s needs by enumerating rights that the government may not infringe. (“Congress shall make no law…” says the First Amendment, typically.) Our electoral system, based on single member districts, empowers individual voters at the expense of “responsible parties.” Hence the ruling class’s perpetual agenda has been to diminish the role of the citizenry’s elected representatives, enhancing that of party leaders as well as of groups willing to partner in the government’s plans, and to craft a “living” Constitution in which restrictions on government give way to “positive rights” — meaning charters of government power.
Consider representation. Following Wilson, American Progressives have always wanted to turn the U.S. Congress from the role defined by James Madison’s Federalist #10, “refine and enlarge the public’s view,” to something like the British Parliament, which ratifies government actions. Although Britain’s electoral system — like ours, single members elected in historic districts by plurality vote — had made members of Parliament responsive to their constituents in ancient times, by Wilson’s time the growing importance of parties made MPs beholden to party leaders. Hence whoever controls the majority party controls both Parliament and the government.
In America, the process by which party has become (almost) as important began with the Supreme Court’s 1962 decision in Baker v. Carr which, by setting the single standard “one man, one vote” for congressional districts, ended up legalizing the practice of “gerrymandering,” concentrating the opposition party’s voters into as few districts as possible while placing one’s own voters into as many as possible likely to yield victories. Republican and Democratic state legislatures have gerrymandered for a half century. That is why today’s Congress consists more and more of persons who represent their respective party establishments — not nearly as much as in Britain, but heading in that direction. Once districts are gerrymandered “safe” for one party or another, the voters therein count less because party leaders can count more on elected legislators to toe the party line.
To the extent party leaders do not have to worry about voters, they can choose privileged interlocutors, representing those in society whom they find most amenable. In America ever more since the 1930s — elsewhere in the world this practice is ubiquitous and long-standing — government has designated certain individuals, companies, and organizations within each of society’s sectors as (junior) partners in elaborating laws and administrative rules for those sectors. The government empowers the persons it has chosen over those not chosen, deems them the sector’s true representatives, and rewards them. They become part of the ruling class.
Thus in 2009-10 the American Medical Association (AMA) strongly supported the new medical care law, which the administration touted as having the support of “the doctors” even though the vast majority of America’s 975,000 physicians opposed it. Those who run the AMA, however, have a government contract as exclusive providers of the codes by which physicians and hospitals bill the government for their services. The millions of dollars that flow thereby to the AMA’s officers keep them in line, while the impracticality of doing without the billing codes tamps down rebellion in the doctor ranks. When the administration wanted to bolster its case that the state of Arizona’s enforcement of federal immigration laws was offensive to Hispanics, the National Association of Chiefs of Police — whose officials depend on the administration for their salaries — issued a statement that the laws would endanger all Americans by raising Hispanics’ animosity. This reflected conversations with the administration rather than a vote of the nation’s police chiefs.
Similarly, modern labor unions are ever less bunches of workers banding together and ever more bundled under the aegis of an organization chosen jointly by employers and government. Prototypical is the Service Employees International Union, which grew spectacularly by persuading managers of government agencies as well as of publicly funded private entities that placing their employees in the SEIU would relieve them of responsibility. Not by being elected by workers’ secret ballots did the SEIU conquer workplace after workplace, but rather by such deals, or by the union presenting what it claims are cards from workers approving of representation. The union gets 2 percent of the workers’ pay, which it recycles as contributions to the Democratic Party, which it recycles in greater power over public employees. The union’s leadership is part of the ruling class’s beating heart.
The point is that a doctor, a building contractor, a janitor, or a schoolteacher counts in today’s America insofar as he is part of the hierarchy of a sector organization affiliated with the ruling class. Less and less do such persons count as voters.
Ordinary people have also gone a long way toward losing equal treatment under law. The America described in civics books, in which no one could be convicted or fined except by a jury of his peers for having violated laws passed by elected representatives, started disappearing when the New Deal inaugurated today’s administrative state — in which bureaucrats make, enforce, and adjudicate nearly all the rules. Today’s legal-administrative texts are incomprehensibly detailed and freighted with provisions crafted exquisitely to affect equal individuals unequally. The bureaucrats do not enforce the rules themselves so much as whatever “agency policy” they choose to draw from them in any given case. If you protest any “agency policy” you will be informed that it was formulated with input from “the public.” But not from the likes of you.
Disregard for the text of laws — for the dictionary meaning of words and the intentions of those who wrote them — in favor of the decider’s discretion has permeated our ruling class from the Supreme Court to the lowest local agency. Ever since Oliver Wendell Holmes argued in 1920 (Missouri v. Holland) that presidents, Congresses, and judges could not be bound by the U.S. Constitution regarding matters that the people who wrote and ratified it could not have foreseen, it has become conventional wisdom among our ruling class that they may transcend the Constitution while pretending allegiance to it. They began by stretching such constitutional terms as “interstate commerce” and “due process,” then transmuting others, e.g., “search and seizure,” into “privacy.” Thus in 1973 the Supreme Court endowed its invention of “privacy” with a “penumbra” that it deemed “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” The court gave no other constitutional reasoning, period. Perfunctory to the point of mockery, this constitutional talk was to reassure the American people that the ruling class was acting within the Constitution’s limitations. By the 1990s federal courts were invalidating amendments to state constitutions passed by referenda to secure the “positive rights” they invent, because these expressions of popular will were inconsistent with the constitution they themselves were construing.
By 2010 some in the ruling class felt confident enough to dispense with the charade. Asked what in the Constitution allows Congress and the president to force every American to purchase health insurance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi replied: “Are you serious? Are you serious?” No surprise then that lower court judges and bureaucrats take liberties with laws, regulations, and contracts. That is why legal words that say you are in the right avail you less in today’s America than being on the right side of the persons who decide what they want those words to mean.
As the discretionary powers of officeholders and of their informal entourages have grown, the importance of policy and of law itself is declining, citizenship is becoming vestigial, and the American people become ever more dependent.
Disaggregating and Dispiriting
The ruling class is keener to reform the American people’s family and spiritual lives than their economic and civic ones. In no other areas is the ruling class’s self-definition so definite, its contempt for opposition so patent, its Kulturkampf so open. It believes that the Christian family (and the Orthodox Jewish one too) is rooted in and perpetuates the ignorance commonly called religion, divisive social prejudices, and repressive gender roles, that it is the greatest barrier to human progress because it looks to its very particular interest — often defined as mere coherence against outsiders who most often know better. Thus the family prevents its members from playing their proper roles in social reform. Worst of all, it reproduces itself.
Since marriage is the family’s fertile seed, government at all levels, along with “mainstream” academics and media, have waged war on it. They legislate, regulate, and exhort in support not of “the family” — meaning married parents raising children — but rather of “families,” meaning mostly households based on something other than marriage. The institution of no-fault divorce diminished the distinction between cohabitation and marriage — except that husbands are held financially responsible for the children they father, while out-of-wedlock fathers are not. The tax code penalizes marriage and forces those married couples who raise their own children to subsidize “child care” for those who do not. Top Republicans and Democrats have also led society away from the very notion of marital fidelity by precept as well as by parading their affairs. For example, in 1997 the Democratic administration’s secretary of defense and the Republican Senate’s majority leader (joined by the New York Times et al.) condemned the military’s practice of punishing officers who had extramarital affairs. While the military had assumed that honoring marital vows is as fundamental to the integrity of its units as it is to that of society, consensus at the top declared that insistence on fidelity is “contrary to societal norms.” Not surprisingly, rates of marriage in America have decreased as out-of-wedlock births have increased. The biggest demographic consequence has been that about one in five of all households are women alone or with children, in which case they have about a four in 10 chance of living in poverty. Since unmarried mothers often are or expect to be clients of government services, it is not surprising that they are among the Democratic Party’s most faithful voters.
While our ruling class teaches that relationships among men, women, and children are contingent, it also insists that the relationship between each of them and the state is fundamental. That is why such as Hillary Clinton have written law review articles and books advocating a direct relationship between the government and children, effectively abolishing the presumption of parental authority. Hence whereas within living memory school nurses could not administer an aspirin to a child without the parents’ consent, the people who run America’s schools nowadays administer pregnancy tests and ship girls off to abortion clinics without the parents’ knowledge. Parents are not allowed to object to what their children are taught. But the government may and often does object to how parents raise children. The ruling class’s assumption is that what it mandates for children is correct ipso facto, while what parents do is potentially abusive. It only takes an anonymous accusation of abuse for parents to be taken away in handcuffs until they prove their innocence. Only sheer political weight (and in California, just barely) has preserved parents’ right to homeschool their children against the ruling class’s desire to accomplish what Woodrow Wilson so yearned: “to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.”
At stake are the most important questions: What is the right way for human beings to live? By what standard is anything true or good? Who gets to decide what? Implicit in Wilson’s words and explicit in our ruling class’s actions is the dismissal, as the ways of outdated “fathers,” of the answers that most Americans would give to these questions. This dismissal of the American people’s intellectual, spiritual, and moral substance is the very heart of what our ruling class is about. Its principal article of faith, its claim to the right to decide for others, is precisely that it knows things and operates by standards beyond others’ comprehension.
While the unenlightened ones believe that man is created in the image and likeness of God and that we are subject to His and to His nature’s laws, the enlightened ones know that we are products of evolution, driven by chance, the environment, and the will to primacy. While the un-enlightened are stuck with the antiquated notion that ordinary human minds can reach objective judgments about good and evil, better and worse through reason, the enlightened ones know that all such judgments are subjective and that ordinary people can no more be trusted with reason than they can with guns. Because ordinary people will pervert reason with ideology, religion, or interest, science is “science” only in the “right” hands. Consensus among the right people is the only standard of truth. Facts and logic matter only insofar as proper authority acknowledges them.
That is why the ruling class is united and adamant about nothing so much as its right to pronounce definitive, “scientific” judgment on whatever it chooses. When the government declares, and its associated press echoes that “scientists say” this or that, ordinary people — or for that matter scientists who “don’t say,” or are not part of the ruling class — lose any right to see the information that went into what “scientists say.” Thus when Virginia’s attorney general subpoenaed the data by which Professor Michael Mann had concluded, while paid by the state of Virginia, that the earth’s temperatures are rising “like a hockey stick” from millennial stability — a conclusion on which billions of dollars’ worth of decisions were made — to investigate the possibility of fraud, the University of Virginia’s faculty senate condemned any inquiry into “scientific endeavor that has satisfied peer review standards” claiming that demands for data “send a chilling message to scientists…and indeed scholars in any discipline.” The Washington Post editorialized that the attorney general’s demands for data amounted to “an assault on reason.” The fact that the “hockey stick” conclusion stands discredited and Mann and associates are on record manipulating peer review, the fact that science-by-secret-data is an oxymoron, the very distinction between truth and error, all matter far less to the ruling class than the distinction between itself and those they rule.
By identifying science and reason with themselves, our rulers delegitimize opposition. Though they cannot prevent Americans from worshiping God, they can make it as socially disabling as smoking — to be done furtively and with a bad social conscience. Though they cannot make Americans wish they were Europeans, they continue to press upon this nation of refugees from the rest of the world the notion that Americans ought to live by “world standards.” Each day, the ruling class produces new “studies” that show that one or another of Americans’ habits is in need of reform, and that those Americans most resistant to reform are pitiably, perhaps criminally, wrong. Thus does it go about disaggregating and dispiriting the ruled.
Meddling and Apologies
America’s best and brightest believe themselves qualified and duty bound to direct the lives not only of Americans but of foreigners as well. George W. Bush’s 2005 inaugural statement that America cannot be free until the whole world is free and hence that America must push and prod mankind to freedom was but an extrapolation of the sentiments of America’s Progressive class, first articulated by such as Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson and Columbia’s Nicholas Murray Butler. But while the early Progressives expected the rest of the world to follow peacefully, today’s ruling class makes decisions about war and peace at least as much forcibly to tinker with the innards of foreign bodies politic as to protect America. Indeed, they conflate the two purposes in the face of the American people’s insistence to draw a bright line between war against our enemies and peace with non-enemies in whose affairs we do not interfere. That is why, from Wilson to Kissinger, the ruling class has complained that the American people oscillate between bellicosity and “isolationism.”
Because our ruling class deems unsophisticated the American people’s perennial preference for decisive military action or none, its default solution to international threats has been to commit blood and treasure to long-term, twilight efforts to reform the world’s Vietnams, Somalias, Iraqs, and Afghanistans, believing that changing hearts and minds is the prerequisite of peace and that it knows how to change them. The apparently endless series of wars in which our ruling class has embroiled America, wars that have achieved nothing worthwhile at great cost in lives and treasure, has contributed to defining it, and to discrediting it — but not in its own eyes.
Rather, even as our ruling class has lectured, cajoled, and sometimes intruded violently to reform foreign countries in its own image, it has apologized to them for America not having matched that image — their private image. Woodrow Wilson began this double game in 1919, when he assured Europe’s peoples that America had mandated him to demand their agreement to Article X of the peace treaty (the League of Nations) and then swore to the American people that Article X was the Europeans’ non-negotiable demand. The fact that the U.S. government had seized control of transatlantic cable communications helped hide (for a while) that the League scheme was merely the American Progressives’ private dream. In our time, this double game is quotidian on the evening news. Notably, President Obama apologized to Europe because “the United States has fallen short of meeting its responsibilities” to reduce carbon emissions by taxation. But the American people never assumed such responsibility, and oppose doing so. Hence President Obama was not apologizing for anything that he or anyone he respected had done, but rather blaming his fellow Americans for not doing what he thinks they should do while glossing over the fact that the Europeans had done the taxing but not the reducing. Wilson redux.
Similarly, Obama “apologized” to Europeans because some Americans — not him and his friends — had shown “arrogance and been dismissive” toward them, and to the world because President Truman had used the atom bomb to end World War II. So President Clinton apologized to Africans because some Americans held African slaves until 1865 and others were mean to Negroes thereafter — not himself and his friends, of course. So assistant secretary of state Michael Posner apologized to Chinese diplomats for Arizona’s law that directs police to check immigration status. Republicans engage in that sort of thing as well: former Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev tells us that in 1987 then vice president George H. W. Bush distanced himself from his own administration by telling him, “Reagan is a conservative, an extreme conservative. All the dummies and blockheads are with him…” This is all about a class of Americans distinguishing itself from its inferiors. It recalls the Pharisee in the Temple: “Lord, I thank thee that I am not like other men…”
In sum, our ruling class does not like the rest of America. Most of all does it dislike that so many Americans think America is substantially different from the rest of the world and like it that way. For our ruling class, however, America is a work in progress, just like the rest the world, and they are the engineers.
The Country Class
Describing America’s country class is problematic because it is so heterogeneous. It has no privileged podiums, and speaks with many voices, often inharmonious. It shares above all the desire to be rid of rulers it regards inept and haughty. It defines itself practically in terms of reflexive reaction against the rulers’ defining ideas and proclivities — e.g., ever higher taxes and expanding government, subsidizing political favorites, social engineering, approval of abortion, etc. Many want to restore a way of life largely superseded. Demographically, the country class is the other side of the ruling class’s coin: its most distinguishing characteristics are marriage, children, and religious practice. While the country class, like the ruling class, includes the professionally accomplished and the mediocre, geniuses and dolts, it is different because of its non-orientation to government and its members’ yearning to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.
Even when members of the country class happen to be government officials or officers of major corporations, their concerns are essentially private; in their view, government owes to its people equal treatment rather than action to correct what anyone perceives as imbalance or grievance. Hence they tend to oppose special treatment, whether for corporations or for social categories. Rather than gaming government regulations, they try to stay as far from them as possible. Thus the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo, which allows the private property of some to be taken by others with better connections to government, reminded the country class that government is not its friend.
Negative orientation to privilege distinguishes the corporate officer who tries to keep his company from joining the Business Council of large corporations who have close ties with government from the fellow in the next office. The first wants the company to grow by producing. The second wants it to grow by moving to the trough. It sets apart the schoolteacher who resents the union to which he is forced to belong for putting the union’s interests above those of parents who want to choose their children’s schools. In general, the country class includes all those in stations high and low who are aghast at how relatively little honest work yields, by comparison with what just a little connection with the right bureaucracy can get you. It includes those who take the side of outsiders against insiders, of small institutions against large ones, of local government against the state or federal. The country class is convinced that big business, big government, and big finance are linked as never before and that ordinary people are more unequal than ever.
Members of the country class who want to rise in their profession through sheer competence try at once to avoid the ruling class’s rituals while guarding against infringing its prejudices. Averse to wheedling, they tend to think that exams should play a major role in getting or advancing in jobs, that records of performance — including academic ones — should be matters of public record, and that professional disputes should be settled by open argument. For such people, the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Ricci, upholding the right of firefighters to be promoted according to the results of a professional exam, revived the hope that competence may sometimes still trump political connections.
Nothing has set the country class apart, defined it, made it conscious of itself, given it whatever coherence it has, so much as the ruling class’s insistence that people other than themselves are intellectually and hence otherwise humanly inferior. Persons who were brought up to believe themselves as worthy as anyone, who manage their own lives to their own satisfaction, naturally resent politicians of both parties who say that the issues of modern life are too complex for any but themselves. Most are insulted by the ruling class’s dismissal of opposition as mere “anger and frustration” — an imputation of stupidity — while others just scoff at the claim that the ruling class’s bureaucratic language demonstrates superior intelligence. A few ask the fundamental question: Since when and by what right does intelligence trump human equality? Moreover, if the politicians are so smart, why have they made life worse?
The country class actually believes that America’s ways are superior to the rest of the world’s, and regards most of mankind as less free, less prosperous, and less virtuous. Thus while it delights in croissants and thinks Toyota’s factory methods are worth imitating, it dislikes the idea of adhering to “world standards.” This class also takes part in the U.S. armed forces body and soul: nearly all the enlisted, non-commissioned officers and officers under flag rank belong to this class in every measurable way. Few vote for the Democratic Party. You do not doubt that you are amidst the country class rather than with the ruling class when the American flag passes by or “God Bless America” is sung after seven innings of baseball, and most people show reverence. The same people wince at the National Football League’s plaintive renditions of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Unlike the ruling class, the country class does not share a single intellectual orthodoxy, set of tastes, or ideal lifestyle. Its different sectors draw their notions of human equality from different sources: Christians and Jews believe it is God’s law. Libertarians assert it from Hobbesian and Darwinist bases. Many consider equality the foundation of Americanism. Others just hate snobs. Some parts of the country class now follow the stars and the music out of Nashville, Tennessee, and Branson, Missouri — entertainment complexes larger than Hollywood’s — because since the 1970s most of Hollywood’s products have appealed more to the mores of the ruling class and its underclass clients than to those of large percentages of Americans. The same goes for “popular music” and television. For some in the country class Christian radio and TV are the lodestone of sociopolitical taste, while the very secular Fox News serves the same purpose for others. While symphonies and opera houses around the country, as well as the stations that broadcast them, are firmly in the ruling class’s hands, a considerable part of the country class appreciates these things for their own sake. By that very token, the country class’s characteristic cultural venture — the homeschool movement — stresses the classics across the board in science, literature, music, and history even as the ruling class abandons them.
Each of the country class’s diverse parts has its own agenda, which flows from the peculiar ways in which the ruling class impacts its concerns. Independent businesspeople are naturally more sensitive to the growth of privileged relations between government and their competitors. Persons who would like to lead their community rue the advantages that Democratic and Republican party establishments are accruing. Parents of young children and young women anxious about marriage worry that cultural directives from on high are dispelling their dreams. The faithful to God sense persecution. All resent higher taxes and loss of freedom. More and more realize that their own agenda’s advancement requires concerting resistance to the ruling class across the board.
Not being at the table when government makes the rules about how you must run your business, knowing that you will be required to pay more, work harder, and show deference for the privilege of making less money, is the independent businessman’s nightmare. But what to do about it? In our time the interpenetration of government and business — the network of subsidies, preferences, and regulations — is so thick and deep, the people “at the table” receive and recycle into politics so much money, that independent businesspeople cannot hope to undo any given regulation or grant of privilege. Just as no manufacturer can hope to reduce the subsidies that raise his fuel costs, no set of doctors can shield themselves from the increased costs and bureaucracy resulting from government mandates. Hence independent business’s agenda has been to resist the expansion of government in general, and of course to reduce taxes. Pursuit of this agenda with arguments about economic efficiency and job creation — and through support of the Republican Party — usually results in enough relief to discourage more vigorous remonstrance. Sometimes, however, the economic argument is framed in moral terms: “The sum of good government,” said Thomas Jefferson, is not taking “from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” For government to advantage some at others’ expense, said he, “is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association.” In our time, more and more independent businesspeople have come to think of their economic problems in moral terms. But few realize how revolutionary that is.
As bureaucrats and teachers’ unions disempowered neighborhood school boards, while the governments of towns, counties, and states were becoming conduits for federal mandates, as the ruling class reduced the number and importance of things that American communities could decide for themselves, America’s thirst for self-governance reawakened. The fact that public employees are almost always paid more and have more generous benefits than the private sector people whose taxes support them only sharpened the sense among many in the country class that they now work for public employees rather than the other way around. But how to reverse the roles? How can voters regain control of government? Restoring localities’ traditional powers over schools, including standards, curriculum, and prayer, would take repudiating two generations of Supreme Court rulings. So would the restoration of traditional “police” powers over behavior in public places. Bringing public employee unions to heel is only incidentally a matter of cutting pay and benefits. As self-governance is crimped primarily by the powers of government personified in its employees, restoring it involves primarily deciding that any number of functions now performed and the professional specialties who perform them, e.g., social workers, are superfluous or worse. Explaining to one’s self and neighbors why such functions and personnel do more harm than good, while the ruling class brings its powers to bear to discredit you, is a very revolutionary thing to do.
America’s pro-family movement is a reaction to the ruling class’s challenges: emptying marriage of legal sanction, promoting abortion, and progressively excluding parents from their children’s education. Americans reacted to these challenges primarily by sorting themselves out. Close friendships and above all marriages became rarer between persons who think well of divorce, abortion, and government authority over children and those who do not. The homeschool movement, for which the Internet became the great facilitator, involves not only each family educating its own children, but also extensive and growing social, intellectual, and spiritual contact among like-minded persons. In short, the part of the country class that is most concerned with family matters has taken on something of a biological identity. Few in this part of the country class have any illusion, however, that simply retreating into private associations will long save their families from societal influences made to order to discredit their ways. But stopping the ruling class’s intrusions would require discrediting its entire conception of man, of right and wrong, as well as of the role of courts in popular government. That revolutionary task would involve far more than legislation.
The ruling class’s manifold efforts to discredit and drive worship of God out of public life — not even the Soviet Union arrested students for wearing crosses or praying, or reading the Bible on school property, as some U.S. localities have done in response to Supreme Court rulings — convinced many among the vast majority of Americans who believe and pray that today’s regime is hostile to the most important things of all. Every December, they are reminded that the ruling class deems the very word “Christmas” to be offensive. Every time they try to manifest their religious identity in public affairs, they are deluged by accusations of being “American Taliban” trying to set up a “theocracy.” Let members of the country class object to anything the ruling class says or does, and likely as not their objection will be characterized as “religious,” that is to say irrational, that is to say not to be considered on a par with the “science” of which the ruling class is the sole legitimate interpreter. Because aggressive, intolerant secularism is the moral and intellectual basis of the ruling class’s claim to rule, resistance to that rule, whether to the immorality of economic subsidies and privileges, or to the violation of the principle of equal treatment under equal law, or to its seizure of children’s education, must deal with secularism’s intellectual and moral core. This lies beyond the boundaries of politics as the term is commonly understood.
The Classes Clash
The ruling class’s appetite for deference, power, and perks grows. The country class disrespects its rulers, wants to curtail their power and reduce their perks. The ruling class wears on its sleeve the view that the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all stupid. The country class is ever more convinced that our rulers are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The rulers want the ruled to shut up and obey. The ruled want self-governance. The clash between the two is about which side’s vision of itself and of the other is right and which is wrong. Because each side — especially the ruling class — embodies its views on the issues, concessions by one side to another on any issue tend to discredit that side’s view of itself. One side or the other will prevail. The clash is as sure and momentous as its outcome is unpredictable.
In this clash, the ruling class holds most of the cards: because it has established itself as the fount of authority, its primacy is based on habits of deference. Breaking them, establishing other founts of authority, other ways of doing things, would involve far more than electoral politics. Though the country class had long argued along with Edmund Burke against making revolutionary changes, it faces the uncomfortable question common to all who have had revolutionary changes imposed on them: are we now to accept what was done to us just because it was done? Sweeping away a half century’s accretions of bad habits — taking care to preserve the good among them — is hard enough. Establishing, even reestablishing, a set of better institutions and habits is much harder, especially as the country class wholly lacks organization. By contrast, the ruling class holds strong defensive positions and is well represented by the Democratic Party. But a two to one numerical disadvantage augurs defeat, while victory would leave it in control of a people whose confidence it cannot regain.
Certainly the country class lacks its own political vehicle — and perhaps the coherence to establish one. In the short term at least, the country class has no alternative but to channel its political efforts through the Republican Party, which is eager for its support. But the Republican Party does not live to represent the country class. For it to do so, it would have to become principles-based, as it has not been since the mid-1860s. The few who tried to make it so the party treated as rebels: Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. The party helped defeat Goldwater. When it failed to stop Reagan, it saddled his and subsequent Republican administrations with establishmentarians who, under the Bush family, repudiated Reagan’s principles as much as they could. Barack Obama exaggerated in charging that Republicans had driven the country “into the ditch” all alone. But they had a hand in it. Few Republican voters, never mind the larger country class, have confidence that the party is on their side. Because, in the long run, the country class will not support a party as conflicted as today’s Republicans, those Republican politicians who really want to represent it will either reform the party in an unmistakable manner, or start a new one as Whigs like Abraham Lincoln started the Republican Party in the 1850s.
The name of the party that will represent America’s country class is far less important than what, precisely, it represents and how it goes about representing it because, for the foreseeable future, American politics will consist of confrontation between what we might call the Country Party and the ruling class. The Democratic Party having transformed itself into a unit with near-European discipline, challenging it would seem to require empowering a rival party at least as disciplined. What other antidote is there to government by one party but government by another party? Yet this logic, though all too familiar to most of the world, has always been foreign to America and naturally leads further in the direction toward which the ruling class has led. Any country party would have to be wise and skillful indeed not to become the Democrats’ mirror image.
Yet to defend the country class, to break down the ruling class’s presumptions, it has no choice but to imitate the Democrats, at least in some ways and for a while. Consider: The ruling class denies its opponents’ legitimacy. Seldom does a Democratic official or member of the ruling class speak on public affairs without reiterating the litany of his class’s claim to authority, contrasting it with opponents who are either uninformed, stupid, racist, shills for business, violent, fundamentalist, or all of the above. They do this in the hope that opponents, hearing no other characterizations of themselves and no authoritative voice discrediting the ruling class, will be dispirited. For the country class seriously to contend for self-governance, the political party that represents it will have to discredit not just such patent frauds as ethanol mandates, the pretense that taxes can control “climate change,” and the outrage of banning God from public life. More important, such a serious party would have to attack the ruling class’s fundamental claims to its superior intellect and morality in ways that dispirit the target and hearten one’s own. The Democrats having set the rules of modern politics, opponents who want electoral success are obliged to follow them.
Suppose that the Country Party (whatever its name might be) were to capture Congress, the presidency, and most statehouses. What then would it do? Especially if its majority were slim, it would be tempted to follow the Democrats’ plan of 2009-2010, namely to write its wish list of reforms into law regardless of the Constitution and enact them by partisan majorities supported by interest groups that gain from them, while continuing to vilify the other side. Whatever effect this might have, it surely would not be to make America safe for self-governance because by carrying out its own “revolution from above” to reverse the ruling class’s previous “revolution from above,” it would have made that ruinous practice standard in America. Moreover, a revolution designed at party headquarters would be antithetical to the country class’s diversity as well as to the American Founders’ legacy.
Achieving the country class’s inherently revolutionary objectives in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with its own diversity would require the Country Party to use legislation primarily as a tool to remove obstacles, to instruct, to reintroduce into American life ways and habits that had been cast aside. Passing national legislation is easier than getting people to take up the responsibilities of citizens, fathers, and entrepreneurs.
Reducing the taxes that most Americans resent requires eliminating the network of subsidies to millions of other Americans that these taxes finance, and eliminating the jobs of government employees who administer them. Eliminating that network is practical, if at all, if done simultaneously, both because subsidies are morally wrong and economically counterproductive, and because the country cannot afford the practice in general. The electorate is likely to cut off millions of government clients, high and low, only if its choice is between no economic privilege for anyone and ratifying government’s role as the arbiter of all our fortunes. The same goes for government grants to and contracts with so-called nonprofit institutions or non-governmental organizations. The case against all arrangements by which the government favors some groups of citizens is easier to make than that against any such arrangement. Without too much fuss, a few obviously burdensome bureaucracies, like the Department of Education, can be eliminated, while money can be cut off to partisan enterprises such as the National Endowments and public broadcasting. That sort of thing is as necessary to the American body politic as a weight reduction program is essential to restoring the health of any human body degraded by obesity and lack of exercise. Yet shedding fat is the easy part. Restoring atrophied muscles is harder. Reenabling the body to do elementary tasks takes yet more concentration.
The grandparents of today’s Americans (132 million in 1940) had opportunities to serve on 117,000 school boards. To exercise responsibilities comparable to their grandparents’, today’s 310 million Americans would have radically to decentralize the mere 15,000 districts into which public school children are now concentrated. They would have to take responsibility for curriculum and administration away from credentialed experts, and they would have to explain why they know better. This would involve a level of political articulation of the body politic far beyond voting in elections every two years.
If self-governance means anything, it means that those who exercise government power must depend on elections. The shorter the electoral leash, the likelier an official to have his chain yanked by voters, the more truly republican the government is. Yet to subject the modern administrative state’s agencies to electoral control would require ordinary citizens to take an interest in any number of technical matters. Law can require environmental regulators or insurance commissioners, or judges or auditors to be elected. But only citizens’ discernment and vigilance could make these officials good. Only citizens’ understanding of and commitment to law can possibly reverse the patent disregard for the Constitution and statutes that has permeated American life. Unfortunately, it is easier for anyone who dislikes a court’s or an official’s unlawful act to counter it with another unlawful one than to draw all parties back to the foundation of truth.
How, for example, to remind America of, and to drive home to the ruling class, Lincoln’s lesson that trifling with the Constitution for the most heartfelt of motives destroys its protections for all? What if a country class majority in both houses of Congress were to co-sponsor a “Bill of Attainder to deprive Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and other persons of liberty and property without further process of law for having violated the following ex post facto law…” and larded this constitutional monstrosity with an Article III Section 2 exemption from federal court review? When the affected members of the ruling class asked where Congress gets the authority to pass a bill every word of which is contrary to the Constitution, they would be confronted, publicly, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s answer to a question on the Congress’s constitutional authority to mandate individuals to purchase certain kinds of insurance: “Are you kidding? Are you kidding?” The point having been made, the Country Party could lead public discussions around the country on why even the noblest purposes (maybe even Title II of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964?) cannot be allowed to trump the Constitution.
How the country class and ruling class might clash on each item of their contrasting agendas is beyond my scope. Suffice it to say that the ruling class’s greatest difficulty — aside from being outnumbered — will be to argue, against the grain of reality, that the revolution it continues to press upon America is sustainable. For its part, the country class’s greatest difficulty will be to enable a revolution to take place without imposing it. America has been imposed on enough.
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Just Walk Way From Both Political Parties
Discusses Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act on FOX News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor”
“TREATY” – The Word Congress Won’t Use
Judge Napolitano : Obama pushes World Government by signing U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (Sep 26, 2013)
Obama Bringing Iran Deal to UN, Bypassing Congress
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UN ENDORSES IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL WITH 6 WORLD POWERS
The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously endorsed the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers and authorized a series of measures leading to the end of U.N. sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.
But the measure also provides a mechanism for U.N. sanctions to “snap back” in place if Iran fails to meet its obligations.
Both U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo called the agreement an important achievement for diplomacy, the Iranian promising to be “resolute in fulfilling its obligations” and the American pledging to be vigilant in ensuring they are carried out.
The resolution had been agreed to by the five veto-wielding council members, who along with Germany negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran. It was co-sponsored by all 15 members of the Security Council. The European Union’s foreign ministers endorsed the agreement later Monday in Brussels and pledged to implement it.
Under the agreement, Iran’s nuclear program will be curbed for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many key penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy and medical isotopes, but the United States and its Western allies believe Tehran’s real goal is to build atomic weapons. U.S. President Barack Obama has stressed that all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon are cut off for the duration of the agreement and Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges and get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of uranium.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said “the world is now a safer place in the knowledge that Iran cannot now build a nuclear bomb.” But Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor told reporters immediately after the vote that the Security Council had “awarded a great prize to the most dangerous country in the world,” calling it “a very sad day” not only for Israel but the entire world.
The document specifies that seven resolutions related to U.N. sanctions will be terminated when Iran has completed a series of major steps to curb its nuclear program and the International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded that “all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities.”
All provisions of the U.N. resolution will terminate in 10 years, including the “snap back” provision on sanctions.
But last week the six major powers – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – and the European Union sent a letter, seen by The Associated Press, informing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that they have agreed to extend the snap back mechanism for an additional five years. They asked Ban to send the letter to the Security Council.
Obama told reporters the vote will send a strong message of international support for the agreement as the best way to ensure “that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.” He faces strong opposition in the Republican-controlled Congress and expressed hope that members will pay attention to the vote.
Power, the U.S. ambassador, said the nuclear deal doesn’t change the United States’ “profound concern about human rights violations committed by the Iranian government or about the instability Iran fuels beyond its nuclear program, from its support for terrorist proxies to repeated threats against Israel to its other destabilizing activities in the region.”
She urged Iran to release three “unjustly imprisoned” Americans and to determine the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who vanished in Iran in 2007.
The message that diplomacy can work ran through many speeches from council members.
Iran’s Khoshroo stressed that only if commitments are fully honored “can diplomacy prevail over conflict and war in a world that is replete with violence, suffering and oppression.”
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the agreement “clearly demonstrates that where there’s a political will based on realism and respect for legitimate mutual interests of the international community, the most complex tasks can be resolved.”
“Today, the Security Council has confirmed the inalienable right of Iran to develop its peaceful nuclear program, including to enrich uranium, while ensuring the comprehensive control by the IAEA,” Churkin said.
Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, includes the Treaty Clause, which empowers the President of the United States to propose and chiefly negotiate agreements, which must be confirmed by the Senate, between the United States and other countries, which become treaties between the United States and other countries after the advice and consent of a supermajority of the United States Senate.
Full text of the clause
[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur…
One of three types of international accord
In the United States, the term “treaty” is used in a more restricted legal sense than in international law. U.S. law distinguishes what it calls treaties from congressional-executive agreements and sole-executive agreements. All three classes are considered treaties under international law; they are distinct only from the perspective of internal United States law. Distinctions among the three concern their method of ratification: by two-thirds of the Senate, by normal legislative process, or by the President alone, respectively. The Treaty Clause  empowers the President to make or enter into treaties with the “advice and consent” of two-thirds of theSenate. In contrast, normal legislation becomes law after approval by simple majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Throughout U.S. history, the President has also made international “agreements” through congressional-executive agreements (CEAs) that are ratified with only a majority from both houses of Congress, or sole-executive agreements made by the President alone. Though the Constitution does not expressly provide for any alternative to the Article II treaty procedure, Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution does distinguish between treaties (which states are forbidden to make) and agreements (which states may make with the consent of Congress). The Supreme Court of the United States has considered congressional-executive and sole-executive agreements to be valid, and they have been common throughout American history. Thomas Jefferson explained that the Article II treaty procedure is not necessary when there is no long-term commitment:
It is desirable, in many instances, to exchange mutual advantages by Legislative Acts rather than by treaty: because the former, though understood to be in consideration of each other, and therefore greatly respected, yet when they become too inconvenient, can be dropped at the will of either party: whereas stipulations by treaty are forever irrevocable but by joint consent….
A further distinction embodied in U.S. law is between self-executing treaties, which do not require additional legislative action, and non-self-executing treaties which do require the enactment of new laws. These various distinctions of procedure and terminology do not affect the binding status of accords under international law. Nevertheless, they do have major implications under U.S. domestic law. In Missouri v. Holland, the Supreme Court ruled that the power to make treaties under the U.S. Constitution is a power separate from the other enumerated powers of the federal government, and hence the federal government can use treaties to legislate in areas which would otherwise fall within the exclusive authority of the states. By contrast, a congressional-executive agreement can only cover matters which the Constitution explicitly places within the powers of Congress and the President. Likewise, a sole-executive agreement can only cover matters within the President’s authority or matters in which Congress has delegated authority to the President. For example, a treaty may prohibit states from imposing capital punishment on foreign nationals, but a congressional-executive agreement or sole-executive agreement cannot.
In general, arms control agreements are often ratified by the treaty mechanism. At the same time, trade agreements (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and United States accession to the World Trade Organization) are generally voted on as a CEA, and such agreements typically include an explicit right to withdraw after giving sufficient written notice to the other parties. If an international commercial accord contains binding “treaty” commitments, then a two-thirds vote of the Senate may be required.
Between 1946 and 1999, the United States completed nearly 16,000 international agreements. Only 912 of those agreements were treaties, submitted to the Senate for approval as outlined in Article II of the United States Constitution. Since the Franklin Roosevelt presidency, only 6% of international accords have been completed as Article II treaties. Most of these executive agreements consist of congressional-executive agreements.
American law is that international accords become part of the body of U.S. federal law. Consequently, Congress can modify or repeal treaties by subsequent legislative action, even if this amounts to a violation of the treaty under international law. This was held, for instance, in the Head Money Cases. The most recent changes will be enforced by U.S. courts entirely independent of whether the international community still considers the old treaty obligations binding upon the U.S.
Additionally, an international accord that is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution is void under domestic U.S. law, the same as any other federal law in conflict with the Constitution. This principle was most clearly established in the case of Reid v. Covert. The Supreme Court could rule an Article II treaty provision to be unconstitutional and void under domestic law, although it has not yet done so.
In Goldwater v. Carter, Congress challenged the constitutionality of then-president Jimmy Carter‘s unilateral termination of a defense treaty. The case went before the Supreme Court and was never heard; a majority of six Justices ruled that the case should be dismissed without hearing an oral argument, holding that “The issue at hand … was essentially a political question and could not be reviewed by the court, as Congress had not issued a formal opposition.” In his opinion, Justice Brennan dissented, “The issue of decision making authority must be resolved as a matter of constitutional law, not political discretion; accordingly, it falls within the competence of the courts”. Presently, there is no official ruling on whether the President has the power to break a treaty without the approval of Congress, and the courts also declined to interfere when President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the United States from the ABM Treaty in 2002, six months after giving the required notice of intent.
Scope of presidential powers
Presidents have regarded the Article II treaty process as necessary where an international accord would bind a future president. For example, Theodore Roosevelt explained:
The Constitution did not explicitly give me power to bring about the necessary agreement with Santo Domingo. But the Constitution did not forbid my doing what I did. I put the agreement into effect, and I continued its execution for two years before the Senate acted; and I would have continued it until the end of my term, if necessary, without any action by Congress. But it was far preferable that there should be action by Congress, so that we might be proceeding under a treaty which was the law of the land and not merely by a direction of the Chief Executive which would lapse when that particular executive left office. I therefore did my best to get the Senate to ratify what I had done.
A sole-executive agreement can only be negotiated and entered into through the president’s authority (1) in foreign policy, (2) as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, (3) from a prior act of Congress, or (4) from a prior treaty. Agreements beyond these competencies must have the approval of Congress (for congressional-executive agreements) or the Senate (for treaties).
In 1972, Congress passed legislation requiring the president to notify Congress of any executive agreements that are formed.
Although the nondelegation doctrine prevents Congress from delegating its legislative authority to the executive branch, Congress has allowed the executive to act as Congress’s “agent” in trade negotiations, such as by setting tariffs, and, in the case of Trade Promotion Authority, by solely authoring the implementing legislation for trade agreements. The constitutionality of this delegation was upheld by the Supreme Court in Field v. Clark (1892).
Warren F. Kimball, Alliances, Coalitions, and Ententes – The American alliance system: an unamerican tradition
HAMILTON’S WARNING AGAINST OBAMA AND THE IRAN DEAL – FEDERALIST NO. 75
“An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.” Thus did Alexander Hamilton warn the American people, in Federalist No. 75, against allowing the president to make treaties alone.
Hamilton, while a supporter of executive power, nevertheless argued for the Senate’s treaty role, because “it would be utterly unsafe and improper to intrust that power to an elective magistrate of four years’ duration.”
It would be unsafe, he said, because even the most virtuous individuals, with the best of intentions, would fall prey to the temptations that negotiations with foreign powers would certainly provide.
How much more so does his advice apply to a president of lesser virtue, such as Barack Obama, who intends to decrease the power of the United States as a matter of ideological conviction, and who seeks narcissistic satisfaction in the attention a deal with Iran would temporarily provide!
Hamilton also anticipated the greed allegedly displayed by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, whose perambulations around the globe in service of the president’s dubious foreign policy agenda coincided with generous donations from foreign governments to her family’s personal foundation.
“An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth,” Hamilton warns, prescribing the review powers of the Senate as the remedy.
And lest apologists for Obama argue that the nuclear deal with Iran is not actually a “treaty,” but merely an “executive agreement,” Hamilton leaves no doubt as to the scope of arrangements to which the Senate’s review power applies.
“The power of making treaties,” he says, concerns “CONTRACTS with foreign nations, which have the force of law, but derive it from the obligations of good faith” (original emphasis).
Congress should heed Hamilton’s warning before it is too late.
The President… shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur….
ARTICLE II, SECTION 2, CLAUSE 2
Teacher’s Companion Lesson (PDF)
The Treaty Clause has a number of striking features. It gives the Senate, in James Madison’s terms, a “partial agency” in the President’s foreign-relations power. The clause requires a supermajority (two-thirds) of the Senate for approval of a treaty, but it gives the House of Representatives, representing the “people,” no role in the process.
Midway through the Constitutional Convention, a working draft had assigned the treaty-making power to the Senate, but the Framers, apparently considering the traditional role of a nation-state’s executive in making treaties, changed direction and gave the power to the President, but with the proviso of the Senate’s “Advice and Consent.” In a formal sense, then, treaty-making became a mixture of executive and legislative power. Most people of the time recognized the actual conduct of diplomacy as an executive function, but under Article VI treaties were, like statutes, part of the “supreme Law of the Land.” Thus, as Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist No. 75, the two branches were appropriately combined:
The qualities elsewhere detailed as indispensable in the management of foreign relations point out the executive as the most fit in those transactions; while the vast importance of the trust and the operation of treaties as laws plead strongly for the participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of making them.
Another reason for involving both President and Senate was that the Framers thought American interests might be undermined by treaties entered into without proper reflection. The Framers believed that treaties should be strictly honored, both as a matter of the law of nations and as a practical matter, because the United States could not afford to give the great powers any cause for war. But this meant that the nation should be doubly cautious in accepting treaty obligations. As James Wilson said, “Neither the President nor the Senate, solely, can complete a treaty; they are checks upon each other, and are so balanced as to produce security to the people.”
The fear of disadvantageous treaties also underlay the Framers’ insistence on approval by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. In particular, the Framers worried that one region or interest within the nation, constituting a bare majority, would make a treaty advantageous to it but prejudicial to other parts of the country and to the national interest. An episode just a year before the start of the Convention had highlighted the problem. The United States desired a trade treaty with Spain, and sought free access to the Mississippi River through Spanish-controlled New Orleans. Spain offered favorable trade terms, but only if the United States would give up its demands on the Mississippi. The Northern states, which would have benefited most from the trade treaty and cared little about New Orleans, had a majority, but not a supermajority, in the Continental Congress. Under the Articles of Confederation, treaties required assent of a supermajority (nine out of thirteen) of the states, and the South was able to block the treaty. It was undoubtedly that experience that impelled the Framers to carry over the supermajority principle from the Articles of Confederation.
At the Convention, several prominent Framers argued unsuccessfully to have the House of Representatives included. But most delegates thought that the House had substantial disadvantages when it came to treaty-making. For example, as a large body, the House would have difficulty keeping secrets or acting quickly. The small states, wary of being disadvantaged, also preferred to keep the treaty-making power in the Senate, where they had proportionally greater power.
The ultimate purpose, then, of the Treaty Clause was to ensure that treaties would not be adopted unless most of the country stood to gain. True, treaties would be more difficult to adopt than statutes, but the Framers realized that an unwise statute could simply be repealed, but an unwise treaty remained a binding international commitment, which would not be so easy to unwind.
Other questions, however, remained. First, are the provisions of the clause exclusive—that is, does it provide the only way that the United States may enter into international obligations?
While the clause does not say, in so many words, that it is exclusive, its very purpose—not to have any treaty disadvantage one part of the nation—suggests that no other route was possible, whether it be the President acting alone, or the popularly elected House having a role. On the other hand, while the Treaty Clause was, in the original understanding, the exclusive way to make treaties, the Framers also apparently recognized a class of less-important international agreements, not rising to the level of “treaties,” which could be approved in some other way. Article I, Section 10, in describing restrictions upon the states, speaks of “Treat[ies]” and “Agreement[s]…with a foreign Power” as two distinct categories. Some scholars believe this shows that not all international agreements are treaties, and that these other agreements would not need to go through the procedures of the Treaty Clause. Instead, the President, in the exercise of his executive power, could conclude such agreements on his own. Still, this exception for lesser agreements would have to be limited to “agreements” of minor importance, or else it would provide too great an avenue for evasion of the protections the Framers placed in the Treaty Clause.
A second question is how the President and Senate should interact in their joint exercise of the treaty power. Many Framers apparently thought that the President would oversee the actual conduct of diplomacy, but that the Senate would be involved from the outset as a sort of executive council advising the President. This was likely a reason that the Framers thought the smaller Senate was more suited than the House to play a key role in treaty-making. In the first effort at treaty-making under the Constitution, President George Washington attempted to operate in just this fashion. He went to the Senate in person to discuss a proposed treaty before he began negotiations. What is less clear, however, is whether the Constitution actually requires this process, or whether it is only what the Framers assumed would happen. The Senate, of course, is constitutionally authorized to offer “advice” to the President at any stage of the treaty-making process, but the President is not directed (in so many words) as to when advice must be solicited. As we shall see, this uncertainty has led, in modern practice, to a very different procedure than some Framers envisioned. It seems clear, however, that the Framers expected that the Senate’s “advice and consent” would be a close review and not a mere formality, as they thought of it as an important check upon presidential power.
A third difficult question is whether the Treaty Clause implies a Senate power or role in treaty termination. Scholarly opinion is divided, and few Framers appear to have discussed the question directly. One view sees the power to make a treaty as distinct from the power of termination, with the latter being more akin to a power of implementation. Since the Constitution does not directly address the termination power, this view would give it to the President as part of the President’s executive powers to conduct foreign affairs and to execute the laws. When the termination question first arose in 1793, Washington and his Cabinet, which included Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, embraced this view. All of them thought Washington could, on his own authority, terminate the treaty with France if necessary to keep the United States neutral.
A second view holds that, as a matter of the general eighteenth-century understanding of the legal process, the power to take an action (such as passing a statute or making a treaty) implies the power to undo the action. This view would require the consent of the President and a supermajority of the Senate to undo a treaty. There is, however, not much historical evidence that many Framers actually held this view of treaty termination, and it is inconsistent with the common interpretation of the Appointments Clause (under which Senate approval is required to appoint but not to remove executive officers).
The third view is that the Congress as a whole has the power to terminate treaties, based on an analogy between treaties and federal laws. When the United States first terminated a treaty in 1798 under John Adams, this procedure was adopted, but there was little discussion of the constitutional ramifications.
Finally, there is a question of the limits of the treaty power. A treaty presumably cannot alter the constitutional structure of government, and the Supreme Court has said that executive agreements—and so apparently treaties—are subject to the limits of the Bill of Rights just as ordinary laws are. Reid v. Covert (1957). InGeofroy v. Riggs (1890), the Supreme Court also declared that the treaty power extends only to topics that are “properly the subject of negotiation with a foreign country.” However, at least in the modern world, one would think that few topics are so local that they could not, under some circumstances, be reached as part of the foreign-affairs interests of the nation. Some have argued that treaties are limited by the federalism interests of the states. The Supreme Court rejected a version of that argument in State of Missouri v. Holland (1920), holding that the subject matter of treaties is not limited to the enumerated powers of Congress. The revival of interest in federalism limits on Congress in such areas as state sovereign immunity, see Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida (1996), and the Tenth Amendment, see Printz v. United States (1997), raises the question whether these limits also apply to the treaty power, but the Court has not yet taken up these matters.
Turning to modern practice, the Framers’ vision of treaty-making has in some ways prevailed and in some ways been altered. First, it is not true—and has not been true since George Washington’s administration—that the Senate serves as an executive council to advise the President in all stages of treaty-making. Rather, the usual modern course is that the President negotiates and signs treaties independently and then presents the proposed treaty to the Senate for its approval or disapproval. Washington himself found personal consultation with the Senate to be so awkward and unproductive that he abandoned it, and subsequent Presidents have followed his example.
Moreover, the Senate frequently approves treaties with conditions and has done so since the Washington administration. If the President makes clear to foreign nations that his signature on a treaty is only a preliminary commitment subject to serious Senate scrutiny, and if the Senate takes seriously its constitutional role of reviewing treaties (rather than merely deferring to the President), the check that the Framers sought to create remains in place. By going beyond a simple “up-or-down” vote, the Senate retains some of its power of “advice”: the Senate not only disapproves the treaty proposed by the President but suggests how the President might craft a better treaty. As a practical matter, there is often much consultation between the executive and members of the Senate before treaties are crafted and signed. Thus modern practice captures the essence of the Framers’ vision that the Senate would have some form of a participatory role in treaty-making.
A more substantial departure from the Framers’ vision may arise from the practice of “executive agreements.” According to the Restatement of Foreign Relations Law of the United States, the President may validly conclude executive agreements that (1) cover matters that are solely within his executive power, or (2) are made pursuant to a treaty, or (3) are made pursuant to a legitimate act of Congress. Examples of important executive agreements include the Potsdam and Yalta agreements of World War II, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which regulated international trade for decades, and the numerous status-of-forces agreements the United States has concluded with foreign governments.
Where the President acts pursuant to a prior treaty, there seems little tension with the Framers’ vision, as Senate approval has, in effect, been secured in advance. Somewhat more troublesome is the modern practice of so-called congressional–executive agreements, by which some international agreements have been made by the President and approved (either in advance or after the fact) by a simple majority of both houses of Congress, rather than two-thirds of the Senate. Many of these agreements deal particularly with trade-related matters, which Congress has clear constitutional authority to regulate. Congressional–executive agreements, at least with respect to trade matters, are now well established, and recent court challenges have been unsuccessful. Made in the USA Foundation v. United States (2001). On the other hand, arguments for “complete interchangeability”—that is, claims that anything that can be done by treaty can be done by congressional–executive agreement—seem counter to the Framers’ intent. The Framers carefully considered the supermajority rule for treaties and adopted it in response to specific threats to the Union; finding a complete alternative to the Treaty Clause would in effect eliminate the supermajority rule and make important international agreements easier to adopt than the Framers wished.
The third type of executive agreement is one adopted by the President without explicit approval of either the Senate or the Congress as a whole. The Supreme Court and modern practice embrace the idea that the President may under some circumstances make these so-called sole executive agreements. United States v. Belmont (1937); United States v. Pink (1942). But the scope of this independent presidential power remains a serious question. The Pink and Belmont cases involved agreements relating to the recognition of a foreign government, a power closely tied to the President’s textual power to receive ambassadors (Article II, Section 3). The courts have consistently permitted the President to settle foreign claims by sole executive agreement, but at the same time have emphasized that the Congress has acquiesced in the practice. Dames & Moore v. Regan (1981);American Insurance Ass’n v. Garamendi (2003). Beyond this, the modern limits of the President’s ability to act independently in making international agreements have not been explored. With respect to treaty termination, modern practice allows the President to terminate treaties on his own. In recent times, President James Earl Carter terminated the U.S.–Taiwan Mutual Defense Treaty in 1977, and President George W. Bush terminated the ABM Treaty with Russia in 2001. The Senate objected sharply to President Carter’s actions, but the Supreme Court rebuffed the Senate in Goldwater v. Carter (1979). President Bush’s action was criticized in some academic quarters but received general acquiescence. In light of the consensus early in Washington’s administration, it is probably fair to say that presidential termination does not obviously depart from the original understanding, inasmuch as the Framers were much more concerned about checks upon entering into treaties than they were about checks upon terminating them.
- Michael D. Ramsey
- Professor of Law
- University of San Diego School of Law
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