April 14, 2012 on 3:43 pm | In Art, Books, Germany, History, Literary, Philosophy | Comments Off on “ESSAYS AND LETTERS FROM OCCUPIED POLAND 1942-1943”: CZESLAW MILOSZ BOOK



Legends of Modernity: Essays and Letters from Occupied Poland, 1942-1943

Czeslaw Milosz (Author)

Madeline Levine (Translator)

Jaroslaw Anders (Introduction)

These essays, written in Warsaw in 1942-43 during the Nazi occupation, were his efforts to discover “Why …the European spirit succumb(ed) to such a devastating disaster”.

Book Description

Publication Date: September 22, 2005

Legends of Modernity, now available in English for the first time, brings together some of Czeslaw Milosz’s early essays and letters, composed in German-occupied Warsaw during the winter of 1942-43.

“Why did the European spirit succumb to such a devastating fiasco?” the young Milosz asks. Half a century later, when Legends of Modernity saw its first publication in Poland, Milosz said: “If everything inside you is agitation, hatred, and despair, write measured, perfectly calm sentences…” While the essays here reflect a “perfect calm,” the accompanying contemporaneous exchange of letters between Milosz and Jerzy Andrzejewski express the raw emotions of “agitation, hatred and despair” experienced by these two close friends struggling to understand the proximate causes of this debacle of western civilization, and the relevance, if any, of the teachings of the Catholic church.

Passionate, poignant, and compelling, Legends of Modernity is a deeply moving insight into the mind and emotions of one of the greatest writers of our time.

In his landmark 1953 book, The Captive Mind, Nobel-winning poet and essayist Milosz discoursed on the havoc totalitarian rule plays on the mental processes of intellectuals. Here we see Milosz’s own mind at work in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, crafting essays of ideas, pursuing a fantastically high-minded correspondence with friend and fellow writer Jerzy Andrzejewski, and developing themes inspired by the works of Defoe, Balzac, Gide, Stendhal and Nietzsche. Call it “The Captive Mind in Action.” Curiously, the tension implied by Milosz’s situation is hardly evident in the essays: where one might expect his tone to be skittish, fearful, foreboding, the most remarkable aspect is his ability to ensconce his steady authorial voice so luxuriantly in the unpressing issues of, say, the imaginative projection required today to view Giotto’s medieval saints properly. The most interesting essay demonstrating this phlegmatic tone enlists Tolstoy’s War and Peace to help Milosz understand the global conflagration of his own time. But anger, bitterness and self-recrimination rage in some of the letters, where he says he thinks of writing a “confession… that would exceed in its violence and scream of pain, [the] Romantic era’s settling of accounts of the conscience.” For those who hanker for the high seriousness of continental thinkers like Camus, this volume is a welcome beacon from the past. (Oct. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Milosz’s essays adroitly reveal the historical contingency at the heart of modern culture’s most cherished values.” — Clare Cavanagh, Bookforum

“These early reflections by Milosz. . .form a remarkable testament to an uncaptive mind consecrated to living in truth.” — Jacob Heilbrunn, The New York Times Book Review

“[This is] Milosz’s attempt to reconcile everything he knows about literature and humanity with the total destruction he was witnessing.” — Anne Applebaum, The New York Sun

Product Details:

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • September 22, 2005
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374184992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374184995
What the greatest poet of the 20th Century was worried about under German occupation, July 14, 2006

This review is from: Legends of Modernity: Essays and Letters from Occupied Poland, 1942-1943 (Hardcover)

When Abbe Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes was asked what he did during the French revolution, he responded “J’ai vecu”–“I survived”. For many, that was exactly their ambition when they found themselves in Nazi-occupied Warsaw between 1939 and 1944 and it often involved daily heroism. But today we admire those that joined the armed resistance, the couriers that kept the links with the Government- in-Exile, the teachers that taught in underground schools, and the intellectuals who sought to protect the Polish culture that, in the Nazi scheme of things, had no business existing.

“Legends of Modernity” is a collection of eight essays by Milosz and an exchange of nine essay-length letters between Milosz and Jerzy Andrzejewski written in 1942-43. For a reader who would not pay attention to where and when these essays were written, but who was merely interested in the history of European ideas and wanted to observe a keen intelligence at work, there is plenty here to keep him fascinated.

“The basic theme, threaded through numerous digressions, is an attempt to clear the field of convictions about man’s natural impulses and also about the natural conditions of his life–not without the hope that by destroying the legends he creates about himself, it will be possible to locate the surest footing. The chapter about Daniel Dafoe is aimed against belief in natural goodness outside of civilization. The chapter about Balzac describes the evil spell cast by civilization conceived of as an automatic process subject to laws of natural evolution. The chapters about Stendhal and Andre Gide grapple with the position of an individual who identified the laws of nature with the laws of human society, and taking it further, arrived at a cult of power. The chapter about William James criticized the acceptance of fictions and legends as a normal condition that we cannot move beyond. The fragment from Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is used as an example of disillusionment with civilization and the miseries connected with this disillusionment. Marian Zdziechowski makes his appearance as a specimen of religion founded on the innate demands of the heart. The rather long sketch about Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz shines a light on metaphysical theories of art.” (From Milosz’s 1944 Preface)

While the essays are quite detached and calm, the letters to and from Andzejewski are less so. Their chief theme is the crisis of the Western Civilization and the role that the Catholic Church might have in rescuing it. The feeling of being affected by what was happening in the streets outside is somewhat easier to discern.

One can read this book to be dazzled by the display of critical wisdom by a 30-year old author. Or, one can remember that the writer was a simple laborer in 1942 when this book was written, and one could look at this book as an assertion of independence from the everyday reality, however horrible. In this sense, the book ought to be read alongside books such as Bartoszewski’s “1859 Dni Warszawy” or Szarota’s “Okupowanej Warszawy Dzien Powszedni”.

Josif Brodsky saw Milosz as a 20th century Job. Nothing less.

(Originally written for the Polish Library in Washington DC)

This review is from: Legends of Modernity: Essays and Letters from Occupied Poland, 1942-1943 (Hardcover)

Czeslaw Milosz, who won a Nobel Prize for literature in 1980, after becoming a professor at the University of California at Berkeley in 1960, lived in Warsaw when it was occupied by the Nazis during the winter of 1942-1943, and wrote the essays and letters now translated into English in LEGENDS OF MODERNITY during that winter. The book does not have an index, and the Contents on pages v-vi only includes the names of four Polish authors, one of whom (the Catholic writer Jerzy Andrzejewski 1909-1985) wrote four letters to Czeslaw Milosz which are included on pages 160-172, 187-201 (dated September 1, 1942), 213-225, and 239-244. Notes to the 1996 Polish Edition on pages 259-262 reveal that the letters were exchanged in a café in the center of Warsaw, a coffeehouse with two pianos where the bartender was film director Antoni Bohdziewicz. Though the Notes to the Essays on pages 263-266 include French, Dutch, and German writers, the only American cited in “The Boundaries of Art” might be Edgar Allan Poe (n.5, n. 6, and n. 7, p. 265). William James is mentioned in “Absolute Freedom” in connection with Nietzsche, André Gide, and breaking with “Platonism,” the traditional understanding of good and evil. (p. 54). The fascist movements were the first examples to come to mind of man-God themes. (p. 55).

As a poet, Czeslaw Milosz has a very intellectual approach to political difficulties in historical times. Rather than attempting to locate the themes which I found interesting in the essays, I would prefer to adopt a bad analogy for the history of the twentieth century and attempt to apply thoughts from Milosz to explain the aspects of the analogy which relate to the contents of this book. Having just done a little research on videos that are currently available about Evel Knievel, I would like to apply his assertion that he was like a Roman general who believed that what was considered impossible would eventually be done. One famous stunt involved a motorcycle jump over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. As I remember the video clip shown in the movie starring George Hamilton, Evel Knievel was flying prone over his motorcycle with his hands on the handlebars when the rear wheel of the cycle came down on the short side of the lip at the far edge of the fountain, bouncing the motorcycle up into the vulnerable underside of Evel Knievel’s body, busting bones and rendering Knievel unconscious for a month. The stunt had a certain appeal because many people had seen the fountain at Caesar’s Palace and were genuinely curious about what a motorcycle could do besides wheelies. Whatever terror Evel Knievel may have felt, he was clearly outnumbered by the crowd who wanted to see the stunt accomplished or the splatter that would result otherwise.

The first essay in Legends of Modernity, “The Legend of the Island,” on Robinson Crusoe’s island, is about being able to free “himself from the evil influences of the crowd,” (p. 8). “The Legend of the Monster City” examines Balzac’s celebration of “The observer, smiling benignly at the picture of mindless desires and mindless efforts, is like a child standing over an anthill. He inserts a stick and is delighted with the insects’ chaotic scurrying. The crazier the actions of his victims, the more they lead to total infatuation” (pp. 22-23). The third essay, “The Legend of the Will,” discusses THE RED AND THE BLACK by Stendhal. “Julien Sorel is totally consumed by ambition.” (p. 36). “And he gave tit for tat, with hatred and contempt.” (p. 44). As a fellow exile-to-be, Milosz shows great appreciation for “The matter of Stendhal’s national defection (he considered himself spiritually a Milanese, not a Frenchman) demonstrates how much effort he invested in extracting himself from the authority of others’ opinions, how painstakingly he selected his privileged position, a position on the sidelines.” (p. 44).

Religion is the main topic considered from William James’s THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE in “Beyond Truth and Falsehood.” The same essay ventures into “a contradiction that was the driving force of Byron’s creative work.” (p. 68). Being able to identify the source of creative tension is like Evel Knievel’s ability to conceive of stunts that people would like to see, however dangerously the actual experience might turn out to fall short of the perfect expectation. “Is this the inevitable consequence of the collision of several value systems appearing in a simplified form between the hour of history and the hour of religion? I think not.” (p. 69). Dangerous myths include “the myth of labor or the myth of the dictatorship of the proletariat, propagated by the various branches of Marxism.” (p. 72).

An essay, “The Experience of War,” in which “we are condemned to self-examination” (p. 75), takes a stab at Pierre Bezukhov in Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE in which, “A vague imperative, incomprehensible even to him, crystallizes into a bizarre decision: Pierre decides to stab Napoleon, the author of all his fatherland’s woes.” (p. 77). Similarly, “To be sure, there is no truth, no beauty, no goodness–but there is German truth, German beauty, and German goodness; and thus the void was filled, and within the confines of the new canon there was room for heroism, dedication, friendship, and so forth.” (p. 82). The following essay, “Zdziechowski’s Religiosity,” considers flirtatiousness as adopting a particular mentalité totally lacking in the statement written in 1922 that, “We are a small part of Europe, we are linked with her fate, we are infected with the same diseases of communism and nationalism as she is, and together with her, biting at each other in a mad rage, we are rushing headlong into the abyss.” (p. 91). Key to understanding the identity of dogma is that it “is constantly acquiring new forms, is continually realized anew, and by the very necessity of struggle in a changing historical environment, it profits from new ways of understanding the world.” (p. 93).

This review is from:

Legends of Modernity: Essays and Letters from Occupied Poland, 1942-1943 (Hardcover)

There are several aspects to ‘Legends of Modernity’ that make it worth recommending – the immediacy of its subject matter, its relevance to today, the lively mind of the author – but above all, I’ll have to admit to developing a sense of hero worship for Czeslaw Milosz since I’ve read it.

These essays, written in Warsaw in 1942-43 during the Nazi occupation, were his efforts to discover “Why …the European spirit succumb(ed) to such a devastating disaster”.

Watching footage of smiling German crowds cheering Hitler as he stormed through his tirades, I have often wondered the same. Political theory and historical events do not give me satisfactory answers. Perhaps there are none, but Mr. Milosz’s inquest into the spirit of his times, written from amidst the rubble, is an amazing intellectual record – not only because of his insights, which are certainly interesting stepping stones for further thought, but for the man’s grit and tenacity and faith.

‘Legends of Modernity’ is not an account of Mr. Milosz’s experiences during the occupation – that is rarely commented on. Instead, it is an attempt to make sense of events, and its basic thrust is that the particular madness of both National Socialism and Stalinism did not arise circumstantially, but that they flourished because the cumulative effect of humanistic ideas over the centuries had slowly and almost imperceptibly prepared the modern mind to accept destructive ideologies as not only natural but desirable. The author’s contention is that this build-up of humanistic ideas, these ‘legends’, is the skeletal structure on which Modernity is constructed, which in turn set the stage for the various destructive isms of the early and mid twentieth century.

That specific observation is probably not groundbreaking, not now or then, though the usual bogeymen for this argument are Nietzche, Marx, and Darwin. Those three have a role to play, according to Mr. Milosz, but only at the end of a long chain – what I found surprising, and fascinating, was how the author connected his ‘modernity legends’ to people with which I would not normally have associated them. Daniel Defoe, Balzac, Stendhal, André Gide, and even William James all take center stage, and illustrate, through their literature, examples of the legends and myths that facilitated man’s rejection of a supernatural force as a limiting factor on his behavior. Though I understood some of these authors and their roles in the formation of modern thought, I’d never before considered them as Mr. Milosz does here – as a linked group reflecting the blow each generation gave in turn to the wedge that society was driving between God and man.

The first strike of the wedge’s tip is almost unnoticeable. Robinson Crusoe, somewhat of a prodigal before his shipwreck, discovers religion and a moral life away from ‘wicked’ society, and away from the communal aspects of the church. As Jaroslaw Anders sums up nicely in the introduction, “The human soul becomes its own government and its own church”. The succeeding essays follow this basic idea as it develops and changes through the years, leading up to the pragmatism of William James, which sweeps aside objective truth and only recognizes the ‘truth’ of action. The concluding essays, while still relevant, are not as linearly connected, dealing with the experience of war, and critiques of religious and artistic thought and individuals in the interwar decades of the twenties and thirties.

The author isn’t really in the business of drawing dogmatic conclusions, though it isn’t difficult to see where his sympathies lie, especially when you consider the wartime correspondence between Mr. Milosz and Jerzy Andrzejewski, also included in this volume. I have never been interested enough in the personal letters of any figure to read a volume dedicated to it, so I have no experience with which to compare this small selection. Their archival value seems evident, and they do give insight into both men and their thought processes during the occupation, but overall I thought this section weaker than the preceding essays. Much of the argument between the two concerns rationalism and irrationalism, and the role of Catholicism and faith between these two techniques, but their exchange sounds weighty and ponderous to me, almost affected.

It isn’t necessary to accept all of Mr. Milosz’s arguments to appreciate this collection – I didn’t, but I found that just by reading the way he framed them that I had a clearer picture of the various ideas and movements (and how they are connected) leading up to the twentieth century. Too often, with these sort of discussions, I find myself sinking into a pit of jargon from which I can’t break free. That doesn’t mean ‘Legends of Modernity’ was easy for me either, just that there didn’t seem to be an artificial barrier between author and reader.

Finally, as I read through these essays, I developed a distinctly favorable impression of Czeslaw Milosz, apart from his intellectual powers. This is harder for me to articulate, but I think of him as a role model for the thinking man – a man who didn’t lose himself to the madness that surrounded him.


September 1, 2011 on 1:06 am | In Art, Economics, Film, Financial, Globalization, History | Comments Off on BANK RUNS AND THE 1964 MOVIE “MARY POPPINS”


Walt Disney‘s 1964 film Mary Poppins

The movie opens in 1910

Fidelity Fiduciary Bank in the movie

“Fidelity Fiduciary Bank” is a song from Walt Disney‘s film Mary Poppins, and it is composed by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.

Written in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan, it is a song sung by the stodgy old bankers, led by the “Elder Mr. Dawes” (Dick Van Dyke), to the two children Jane and Michael, in the bank. It is sung in an attempt to get Michael Banks to invest his tuppence in the bank. As the song continues the pressure is on Michael and Jane’s father, a junior clerk at the bank, to sway Michael. When Michael refuses to give the Elder Mr. Dawes the tuppence, Dawes takes it from him. Michael protests very loudly, which causes panic and mayhem. A run on the bank ensues.

The song is not present in the stage musical version of the score.

A verse which Mr. Banks sings in an attempt to convince Michael to invest his money goes like this:

Railways through Africa
Dams across the Nile
Fleets of ocean greyhounds
Majestic, self-amortizing canals
Plantations of ripening tea

has as its origins an essay by C. C. Turner titled ‘Money London’ in the book edited by G. R. Sims called Living London (London: 1903):

It is not possible to realize without much thought the industrial power that is wrapped up in money London. Railways through Africa, dams across the Nile, fleets of ocean greyhounds, great canals, leagues of ripening corn – London holds the key to all of these, and who can reckon up what beside.

Literary sources

The Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank

In the fine musical Mary Poppins, Mr Dawes, the elderly banker who employs the children’s father, optimistically attempts to persuade young Michael to put his money in the bank on the grounds that “If you invest your tuppence/Wisely in the bank/ Safe and sound/ Soon that tuppence/ Will compound.”

Not only will the lad get a slice of the action in “railways through Africa, dams across the Nile, majestic self- amortising canals and plantations of ripening tea”, promises Mr Dawes, but he will “achieve that sense of stature/ as your influence expands/ To the high financial strata/ that established credit now commands”.

Michael, understandably reluctant to entrust his precious tuppence-worth of pocket money to a baritone banker with full backing orchestra, protests, prompting the other customers in the bank to take fright and frantically begin withdrawing their lives’ savings. This in turn forces the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank to temporarily suspend trading. The children’s unfortunate father, who – perhaps tellingly – is called Mr Banks, faces disciplinary action and is eventually fired for triggering the first run on the bank since 1773. The enduring popularity of this film might be seen as evidence of a popular lack of confidence in the banking system.

Railways through Africa
Dams across the Nile
Fleets of ocean greyhounds
Majestic, self-amortizing canals
Plantations of ripening tea



June 27, 2011 on 8:24 am | In Art, Books, Film, Literary, Philosophy | Comments Off on “ANTICIPATIONS”: H.G. WELLS 1901 AND COMMENT BY BOLESLAW PRUS


H.G. Wells Discussed by Boleslaw Prus:

“Visions of the Future” (“Wizje przyszłości,” 1909—a discussion of H.G. Wells‘ 1901 futurological book, Anticipations, which predicted, among other things, the defeat of German imperialism, the ascendancy of the English language, and the existence, by the year 2000, of a “European Union” that would include the Slavic peoples of Central Europe)

Boleslaw Prus

Following is a chronological list of notable works by Bolesław Prus. Translated titles are given, followed by original titles and dates of publication.

Born August 20, 1847
Hrubieszów, Russian Empire

Died May 19, 1912 (aged 64)
Warsaw, Russian Empire

Pen name Bolesław Prus

Occupation Novelist, journalist, short-story writer

Nationality Polish

Period 1872–1912


Realist novel
Historical novel
Short story
Prose poetry

Literary movement Positivism

Spouse(s) Oktawia Głowacka, née Trembińska

Children An adopted son, Emil Trembiński

Bolesław Prus (pronounced: [bɔ’lεswaf ‘prus]; Hrubieszów, 20 August 1847 – 19 May 1912, Warsaw), born Aleksander Głowacki, was the leading figure in Polish literature of the late 19th century[1] and a distinctive voice in world literature.

As a 15-year-old, he had joined the Polish 1863 Uprising against Imperial Russia; shortly after his sixteenth birthday, in a battle against Russian forces, he suffered severe injuries. Five months later, he was imprisoned for his part in the Uprising. These early experiences may have precipitated the panic disorder and agoraphobia that would dog him through life, and shaped his opposition to attempts to regain Polish independence by force of arms.

In 1872 at age 25, in Warsaw, he settled into a 40-year journalistic career that highlighted science, technology, education, and economic and cultural development. These societal enterprises were essential to the endurance of a people that had in the 18th century been partitioned out of political existence by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Głowacki took his pen name Prus from the appellation of his family’s coat-of-arms.

As a sideline he wrote short stories. Achieving success with these, he went on to employ a larger canvas. Over the decade between 1884 and 1895, he completed four major novels: The Outpost, The Doll, The New Woman and Pharaoh.

The Doll depicts the romantic infatuation of a man of action who is frustrated by his country’s backwardness. Pharaoh, Prus’ only historical novel, is a study of political power and of the fates of nations, set in ancient Egypt at the fall of the 20th Dynasty and New Kingdom.

Bolesław Prus (pronounced: [bɔ’lεswaf ‘prus]; Hrubieszów, 20 August 1847 – 19 May 1912, Warsaw), born Aleksander Głowacki, was the leading figure in Polish literature of the late 19th century[1] and a distinctive voice in world literature.

As a 15-year-old, he had joined the Polish 1863 Uprising against Imperial Russia; shortly after his sixteenth birthday, in a battle against Russian forces, he suffered severe injuries. Five months later, he was imprisoned for his part in the Uprising. These early experiences may have precipitated the panic disorder and agoraphobia that would dog him through life, and shaped his opposition to attempts to regain Polish independence by force of arms.

In 1872 at age 25, in Warsaw, he settled into a 40-year journalistic career that highlighted science, technology, education, and economic and cultural development. These societal enterprises were essential to the endurance of a people that had in the 18th century been partitioned out of political existence by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Głowacki took his pen name Prus from the appellation of his family’s coat-of-arms.

As a sideline he wrote short stories. Achieving success with these, he went on to employ a larger canvas. Over the decade between 1884 and 1895, he completed four major novels: The Outpost, The Doll, The New Woman and Pharaoh.

The Doll depicts the romantic infatuation of a man of action who is frustrated by his country’s backwardness. Pharaoh, Prus’ only historical novel, is a study of political power and of the fates of nations, set in ancient Egypt at the fall of the 20th Dynasty and New Kingdom.

1. “Undoubtedly the most important novelist of the period was Bolesław Prus…” Czesław Miłosz, The History of Polish Literature, 2nd ed., Berkeley, University of California Press, 1983, ISBN 0-520-04477-0, p. 291.


  • Souls in Bondage (Dusze w niewoli, written 1876, serialized 1877)
  • Fame (Sława, begun 1885, never finished)
  • The Outpost (Placówka, 1885–86)
  • The Doll (Lalka, 1887–89)
  • The New Woman (Emancypantki, 1890–93)
  • Pharaoh (Faraon, written 1894–95; serialized 1895–96)
  • Children (Dzieci, 1908; approximately the first nine chapters had originally appeared, in a somewhat different form, in 1907 as Dawn [Świt])
  • Changes (Przemiany, begun 1911–12; unfinished)


  • “The Old Lady’s Troubles” (“Kłopoty babuni,” 1874)
  • “The Palace and the Hovel” (“Pałac i rudera,” 1875)
  • “The Ball Gown” (“Sukienka balowa,” 1876)
  • “An Orphan’s Lot” (“Sieroca dola,” 1876)
  • “Eddy’s Adventures” (“Przygody Edzia,” 1876)
  • “Damned Luck” (“Przeklęte szczęście,” 1876)
  • “The Old Lady’s Casket” (“Szkatułka babki,” 1878)
  • “Stan’s Adventure” (“Przygoda Stasia,” 1879)
  • “New Year” (“Nowy rok,” 1880)
  • “The Returning Wave” (“Powracająca fala,” 1880)
  • “Michałko” (1880)
  • “Antek” (1880)
  • “The Convert” (“Nawrócony,” 1880)
  • “The Barrel Organ” (“Katarynka,” 1880)
  • “One of Many” (“Jeden z wielu,” 1882)
  • “The Waistcoat” (“Kamizelka,” 1882)
  • “Him” (“On,” 1882)
  • Fading Voices” (“Milknące głosy,” 1883)
  • “Sins of Childhood” (“Grzechy dzieciństwa,” 1883)
  • Mold of the Earth” (“Pleśń świata,” 1884—a striking micro-story that portrays human history as an unending series of conflicts among mindless, blind colonies of molds)
  • The Living Telegraph” (“Żywy telegraf,” 1884)
  • Orestes and Pylades” (“Orestes i Pylades,” 1884)
  • “Loves—Loves Not?…” (“Kocha—nie kocha?…” 1884)
  • “The Mirror” (“Zwierciadło,” 1884)
  • “On Vacation” (“Na wakacjach,” 1884)
  • “An Old Tale” (“Stara bajka,” 1884)
  • “In the Light of the Moon” (“Przy księżycu,” 1884)
  • “The Mistake” (“Omyłka,” 1884)
  • “Mr. Dutkowski and His Farm” (“Pan Dutkowski i jego folwark,” 1884)
  • “Musical Echoes” (“Echa muzyczne,” 1884)
  • “In the Mountains” (“W górach,” 1885)
  • Shades” (“Ciene,” 1885—an evocative meditation on existential themes)
  • “Anielka” (1885)
  • “A Strange Story” (“Dziwna historia,” 1887)
  • A Legend of Old Egypt” (“Z legend dawnego Egiptu,” 1888—Prus’ first piece of historical fiction; a stunning debut, and a preliminary sketch for his only historical novel, Pharaoh, which would be written in 1894–95)
  • “The Dream” (“Sen,” 1890)
  • “Lives of Saints” (“Z żywotów świętych,” 1891–92)
  • “Reconciled” (“Pojednani,” 1892)
  • “A Composition by Little Frank: About Mercy” (“Z wypracowań małego Frania. O miłosierdziu,” 1898)
  • “The Doctor’s Story” (“Opowiadanie lekarza,” 1902)
  • “Memoirs of a Cyclist” (“Ze wspomnień cyklisty,” 1903)
  • “Revenge” (“Zemsta,” 1908)
  • “Phantoms” (“Widziadła,” 1911, first published 1936)


  • “Travel Notes (Wieliczka)” [“Kartki z podróży (Wieliczka),” 1878—Prus’ impressions of the Wieliczka Salt Mine; these would help inform the conception of the Egyptian Labyrinth in Prus’s 1895 novel, Pharaoh]
  • “A Word to the Public” (“Słówko do publiczności,” June 11, 1882—Prus’ inaugural address to readers as the new editor-in-chief of the daily, Nowiny [News], famously proposing to make it “an observatory of societal facts, just as there are observatories that study the movements of heavenly bodies, or—climatic changes.”)
  • “Sketch for a Program under the Conditions of the Present Development of Society” (“Szkic programu w warunkach obecnego rozwoju społeczeństwa,” March 23–30, 1883—swan song of Prus’ editorship of Nowiny)
  • With Sword and Fire—Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Novel of Olden Times” (Ogniem i mieczem—powieść z dawnych lat Henryka Sienkiewicza,” 1884—Prus’ review of Sienkiewicz‘s historical novel, and essay on historical novels)
  • “The Paris Tower” (“Wieża paryska,” 1887—whimsical divagations involving the Eiffel Tower, the world’s tallest structure, then yet to be constructed for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle)
  • “Travels on Earth and in Heaven” (“Wędrówka po ziemi i niebie,” 1887—Prus’ impressions of a solar eclipse that he observed at Mława; these would help inspire the solar-eclipse scenes in his 1895 novel, Pharaoh)
  • “A Word about Positive Criticism” (“Słówko o krytyce pozytywnej,” 1890—Prus’ part of a polemic with Positivist guru Aleksander Świętochowski)
  • “Eusapia Palladino” (1893—newspaper column about mediumistic séances held in Warsaw by the Italian Spiritualist, Eusapia Palladino; these would help inspire similar scenes in Prus’ 1895 novel, Pharaoh)
  • “From Nałęczów” (“Z Nałęczowa,” 1894—Prus’ paean to the salubrious waters and natural and social environment of his favorite vacation spot, Nałęczów)
  • The Most General Life Ideals (Najogólniejsze ideały życiowe, 1905—Prus’s system of pragmatic ethics)
  • “Ode to Youth” (“Oda do młodości,” 1905—Prus’ admission that, before the Russian Empire‘s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, he had held too cautious a view of the chances for an improvement in Poland’s political situation)
  • “Visions of the Future” (“Wizje przyszłości,” 1909—a discussion of H.G. Wells‘ 1901 futurological book, Anticipations, which predicted, among other things, the defeat of German imperialism, the ascendancy of the English language, and the existence, by the year 2000, of a “European Union” that would include the Slavic peoples of Central Europe)
  • “The Poet, Educator of the Nation” (“Poeta wychowawca narodu,” 1910—a discussion of the cultural and political principles imparted by the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz)
  • “What We… Never Learned from the History of Napoleon” (“Czego nas… nie nauczyły dzieje Napoleona”—Prus’s contribution to the December 16, 1911, issue of the Warsaw Illustrated Weekly, devoted entirely to Napoleon)


Prus‘ writings have been translated into many languages — his historical novel Pharaoh, into twenty; his contemporary novel The Doll

, into at least sixteen. Works by Prus have been rendered into Croatian by a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Stjepan Musulin.

Film versions

  • 1966: Faraon (Pharaoh), adapted from the novel Pharaoh, directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz
  • 1968: Lalka (The Doll), adapted from the novel The Doll, directed by Wojciech Has
  • 1978: Lalka (The Doll), adapted from the novel The Doll, directed by Ryszard Ber
  • 1979: Placówka (The Outpost), adapted from the novel The Outpost, directed by Zygmunt Skonieczny
  • 1982: Pensja Pani Latter (Mrs. Latter’s Boarding School), adapted from the novel The New Woman



June 12, 2011 on 2:53 am | In Art, Asia, Film, History, Japan | Comments Off on ART TREASURES IN JAPANESE MOVIES: “STILL WALKING” BY HIROKAZU KORE-EDA



One of the topics discussed casually in the Japanese movie, “Still Walking” is the status and condition of the art treasures of the Takamats-zuka Tomb and “Asuka Beauty,” one of the murals.

Still Walking (歩いても 歩いても Aruitemo aruitemo) is a 2008 Japanese film directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. The film is a portrait of a family over roughly 24 hours as they commemorate the death of one member.


The Yokoyama family are briefly reunited to commemorate the death of the eldest son, Junpei, who drowned accidentally 12 years ago. His retired doctor father Kyohei and mother Toshiko are joined by surviving son Ryota, daughter Chinami and their respective families. The family share nostalgia, humour, sadness and tension as memories are shared and ceremonies performed.



In a Chicago Sun-Times review, Roger Ebert gave Still Walking four stars (out of four). Ebert’s review argues that director Kore-eda is an heir of Yasujiro Ozu.[1]


  1. 1. Ebert, Roger (26 August 2009). “Still Walking”. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 13 November 2010.

Takamatsuzuka Tomb

The Takamatsuzuka Tomb (高松塚古墳 Takamatsuzuka Kofun) or “Tall Pine Tree Ancient Burial Mound” in Japanese is an ancient circular tomb in Asuka village, Nara prefecture, Japan.

The tomb is thought to have been built at some time between the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century. It was accidentally discovered by a local farmer in the 1960s.

The mound of the tomb was built of alternating layers of clay and sand. It is about 16 meters in diameter and 5 meters high. Digging yielded a burial chamber with painted fresco wall paintings of courtiers in Goguryeo-style garb. The paintings are in full color with red, blue, gold, and silver foil representing four male followers and four abigails together with the Azure Dragon, Black Tortoise, White Tiger, and Vermilion Bird groups of stars. The paintings are designated as a national treasure of Japan.

For whom the tomb was built is unknown, but the decorations suggest it is for a member of the Japanese royal family or a high-ranking nobleman. Candidates include:

  1. 1. Prince Osakabe (? – 705), a son of Emperor Temmu
  2. 2. Prince Yuge (? – 699), also a son of Emperor Temmu
  3. 3. Prince Takechi (654? – 696), also a son of Emperor Temmu, general of Jinshin War, Daijō Daijin
  4. 4. Isonokami Ason Maro (640 – 717), a descendant of Mononobe clan and in charge of Fujiwara-kyo after the capital was moved to Heijo-kyo
  5. 5. Kudara no Konikishi Zenko (617-700), a son of the last king of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.


The Cultural Affairs Agency of Japan is considering taking apart the stone chamber and reassembling it elsewhere to prevent further deterioration to its wall paintings. A painting called Asuka Bijin, or “beautiful women”, is one of the murals in the tomb facing deterioration. The unusual preservation method is being considered because the tomb’s current situation makes it impossible to prevent further damage and stop the spread of mold.

Unlike the Kitora Tomb, also in Asuka, removing pieces of the Takamatsuzuka wall plaster and reinforcing them for conservation appears difficult because the plaster has numerous tiny cracks.

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

Written by Hirokazu Koreeda

Starring Hiroshi Abe Yui Natsukawa

You Music by Gontiti

Cinematography Yutaka Yamasaki

Editing by Hirokazu Koreeda

Release date(s)

June 28, 2008 (Japan)
August 28, 2009 (USA)

Running time 114 minutes

Country Japan

Language Japanese



May 24, 2011 on 9:51 am | In Art, Asia, Books, India, Literary | Comments Off on TAGORE STORIES


The Hungry Stones

and Other Stories

By Rabindranath Tagore

Translated from the original Bengali by various writers

New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916


THE stories contained in this volume were translated by several hands. The version of The Victory is the author’s own work. The seven stories which follow it were translated by Mr. C. F. Andrews, with the author’s help. Assistance has also been given by the Rev. E. J. Thompson, Panna Lal Basu, Prabhat Kumar Mukerji, and the Sister Nivedita.




May 24, 2011 on 2:05 am | In Art, Books, India, Japan, Literary, Philosophy | Comments Off on “HUNGRY STONES”: TAGORE GHOST STORY




The Hungry Stones

Rabindranath Tagore (Author)
Title: The Hungry Stones
Author: Rabindranath Tagore

“My kinsman and myself were returning to Calcutta from our Puja trip when we met the man in a train. From his dress and bearing we took him at first for an up-country Mahomedan, but we were puzzled as we heard him talk. He discoursed upon all subjects so confidently that you might think the Disposer of All Things consulted him at all times in all that He did. Hitherto we had been perfectly happy, as we did not know that secret and unheard-of forces were at work, that the Russians had advanced close to us, that the English had deep and secret policies, that confusion among the native chiefs had come to a head. But our newly-acquired friend said with a sly smile: “There happen more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are reported in your newspapers.” As we had never stirred out of our homes before, the demeanour of the man struck us dumb with wonder. Be the topic ever so trivial, he would quote science, or comment on the Vedas, or repeat quatrains from some Persian poet; and as we had no pretence to a knowledge of science or the Vedas or Persian, our admiration for him went on increasing, and my kinsman, a theosophist, was firmly convinced that our fellow-passenger must have been supernaturally inspired by some strange magnetism” or “occult power,” by an “astral body” or something of that kind. He listened to the tritest saying that fell from the lips of our extraordinary companion with devotional rapture, and secretly took down notes of his conversation. I fancy that the extraordinary man saw this, and was a little pleased with it.

When the train reached the junction, we assembled in the waiting room for the connection. It was then 10 P.M., and as the train, we heard, was likely to be very late, owing to something wrong in the lines, I spread my bed on the table and was about to lie down for a comfortable doze, when the extraordinary person deliberately set about spinning the following yarn. Of course, I could get no sleep that night.

When, owing to a disagreement about some questions of administrative policy, I threw up my post at Junagarh, and entered the service of the Nizam of Hydria, they appointed me at once, as a strong young man, collector of cotton duties at Barich.

Barich is a lovely place. The Susta “chatters over stony ways and babbles on the pebbles,” tripping, like a skilful dancing girl, in through the woods below the lonely hills. A flight of 150 steps rises from the river, and above that flight, on the river’s brim and at the foot of the hills, there stands a solitary marble palace. Around it there is no habitation of man–the village and the cotton mart of Barich being far off.

About 250 years ago the Emperor Mahmud Shah II. had built this lonely palace for his pleasure and luxury. In his days jets of rose-water spurted from its fountains, and on the cold marble floors of its spray- cooled rooms young Persian damsels would sit, their hair dishevelled before bathing, and, splashing their soft naked feet in the clear water of the reservoirs, would sing, to the tune of the guitar, the ghazals of their vineyards.

The fountains play no longer; the songs have ceased; no longer do snow-white feet step gracefully on the snowy marble. It is but the vast and solitary quarters of cess-collectors like us, men oppressed with solitude and deprived of the society of women. Now, Karim Khan, the old clerk of my office, warned me repeatedly not to take up my abode there. “Pass the day there, if you like,” said he, “but never stay the night.” I passed it off with a light laugh. The servants said that they would work till dark and go away at night. I gave my ready assent. The house had such a bad name that even thieves would not venture near it after dark.

At first the solitude of the deserted palace weighed upon me like a nightmare. I would stay out, and work hard as long as possible, then return home at night jaded and tired, go to bed and fall asleep.

Before a week had passed, the place began to exert a weird fascination upon me. It is difficult to describe or to induce people to believe; but I felt as if the whole house was like a living organism slowly and imperceptibly digesting me by the action of some stupefying gastric juice.

Perhaps the process had begun as soon as I set my foot in the house, but I distinctly remember the day on which I first was conscious of it.

It was the beginning of summer, and the market being dull I had no work to do. A little before sunset I was sitting in an arm-chair near the water’s edge below the steps. The Susta had shrunk and sunk low; a broad patch of sand on the other side glowed with the hues of evening; on this side the pebbles at the bottom of the clear shallow waters were glistening. There was not a breath of wind anywhere, and the still air was laden with an oppressive scent from the spicy shrubs growing on the hills close by.

As the sun sank behind the hill-tops a long dark curtain fell upon the stage of day, and the intervening hills cut short the time in which light and shade mingle at sunset. I thought of going out for a ride, and was about to get up when I heard a footfall on the steps behind. I looked back, but there was no one.

As I sat down again, thinking it to be an illusion, I heard many footfalls, as if a large number of persons were rushing down the steps. A strange thrill of delight, slightly tinged with fear, passed through my frame, and though there was not a figure before my eyes, methought I saw a bevy of joyous maidens coming down the steps to bathe in the Susta in that summer evening. Not a sound was in the valley, in the river, or in the palace, to break the silence, but I distinctly heard the maidens’ gay and mirthful laugh, like the gurgle of a spring gushing forth in a hundred cascades, as they ran past me, in quick playful pursuit of each other, towards the river, without noticing me at all. As they were invisible to me, so I was, as it were, invisible to them. The river was perfectly calm, but I felt that its still, shallow, and clear waters were stirred suddenly by the splash of many an arm jingling with bracelets, that the girls laughed and dashed and spattered water at one another, that the feet of the fair swimmers tossed the tiny waves up in showers of pearl.

I felt a thrill at my heart–I cannot say whether the excitement was due to fear or delight or curiosity. I had a strong desire to see them more clearly, but naught was visible before me; I thought I could catch all that they said if I only strained my ears; but however hard I strained them, I heard nothing but the chirping of the cicadas in the woods. It seemed as if a dark curtain of 250 years was hanging before me, and I would fain lift a corner of it tremblingly and peer through, though the assembly on the other side was completely enveloped in darkness.

The oppressive closeness of the evening was broken by a sudden gust of wind, and the still surface of the Suista rippled and curled like the hair of a nymph, and from the woods wrapt in the evening gloom there came forth a simultaneous murmur, as though they were awakening from a black dream. Call it reality or dream, the momentary glimpse of that invisible mirage reflected from a far-off world, 250 years old, vanished in a flash. The mystic forms that brushed past me with their quick unbodied steps, and loud, voiceless laughter, and threw themselves into the river, did not go back wringing their dripping robes as they went. Like fragrance wafted away by the wind they were dispersed by a single breath of the spring.

Then I was filled with a lively fear that it was the Muse that had taken advantage of my solitude and possessed me–the witch had evidently come to ruin a poor devil like myself making a living by collecting cotton duties. I decided to have a good dinner–it is the empty stomach that all sorts of incurable diseases find an easy prey. I sent for my cook and gave orders for a rich, sumptuous moghlai dinner, redolent of spices and ghi.

Next morning the whole affair appeared a queer fantasy. With a light heart I put on a sola hat like the sahebs, and drove out to my work. I was to have written my quarterly report that day, and expected to return late; but before it was dark I was strangely drawn to my house–by what I could not say–I felt they were all waiting, and that I should delay no longer. Leaving my report unfinished I rose, put on my sola hat, and startling the dark, shady, desolate path with the rattle of my carriage, I reached the vast silent palace standing on the gloomy skirts of the hills.

On the first floor the stairs led to a very spacious hall, its roof stretching wide over ornamental arches resting on three rows of massive pillars, and groaning day and night under the weight of its own intense solitude. The day had just closed, and the lamps had not yet been lighted. As I pushed the door open a great bustle seemed to follow within, as if a throng of people had broken up in confusion, and rushed out through the doors and windows and corridors and verandas and rooms, to make its hurried escape.

As I saw no one I stood bewildered, my hair on end in a kind of ecstatic delight, and a faint scent of attar and unguents almost effected by age lingered in my nostrils. Standing in the darkness of that vast desolate hall between the rows of those ancient pillars, I could hear the gurgle of fountains plashing on the marble floor, a strange tune on the guitar, the jingle of ornaments and the tinkle of anklets, the clang of bells tolling the hours, the distant note of nahabat, the din of the crystal pendants of chandeliers shaken by the breeze, the song of bulbuls from the cages in the corridors, the cackle of storks in the gardens, all creating round me a strange unearthly music.

Then I came under such a spell that this intangible, inaccessible, unearthly vision appeared to be the only reality in the world–and all else a mere dream. That I, that is to say, Srijut So-and-so, the eldest son of So-and-so of blessed memory, should be drawing a monthly salary of Rs. 450 by the discharge of my duties as collector of cotton duties, and driving in my dog-cart to my office every day in a short coat and soia hat, appeared to me to be such an astonishingly ludicrous illusion that I burst into a horse-laugh, as I stood in the gloom of that vast silent hall.

At that moment my servant entered with a lighted kerosene lamp in his hand. I do not know whether he thought me mad, but it came back to me at once that I was in very deed Srijut So-and-so, son of So-and-so of blessed memory, and that, while our poets, great and small, alone could say whether inside of or outside the earth there was a region where unseen fountains perpetually played and fairy guitars, struck by invisible fingers, sent forth an eternal harmony, this at any rate was certain, that I collected duties at the cotton market at Banch, and earned thereby Rs. 450 per mensem as my salary. I laughed in great glee at my curious illusion, as I sat over the newspaper at my camp-table, lighted by the kerosene lamp.

After I had finished my paper and eaten my moghlai dinner, I put out the lamp, and lay down on my bed in a small side-room. Through the open window a radiant star, high above the Avalli hills skirted by the darkness of their woods, was gazing intently from millions and millions of miles away in the sky at Mr. Collector lying on a humble camp- bedstead. I wondered and felt amused at the idea, and do not knew when I fell asleep or how long I slept; but I suddenly awoke with a start, though I heard no sound and saw no intruder–only the steady bright star on the hilltop had set, and the dim light of the new moon was stealthily entering the room through the open window, as if ashamed of its intrusion.

I saw nobody, but felt as if some one was gently pushing me. As I awoke she said not a word, but beckoned me with her five fingers bedecked with rings to follow her cautiously. I got up noiselessly, and, though not a soul save myself was there in the countless apartments of that deserted palace with its slumbering sounds and waiting echoes, I feared at every step lest any one should wake up. Most of the rooms of the palace were always kept closed, and I had never entered them.

I followed breathless and with silent steps my invisible guide–I cannot now say where. What endless dark and narrow passages, what long corridors, what silent and solemn audience-chambers and close secret cells I crossed!

Though I could not see my fair guide, her form was not invisible to my mind’s eye, –an Arab girl, her arms, hard and smooth as marble, visible through her loose sleeves, a thin veil falling on her face from the fringe of her cap, and a curved dagger at her waist! Methought that one of the thousand and one Arabian Nights had been wafted to me from the world of romance, and that at the dead of night I was wending my way through the dark narrow alleys of slumbering Bagdad to a trysting-place fraught with peril.

At last my fair guide stopped abruptly before a deep blue screen, and seemed to point to something below. There was nothing there, but a sudden dread froze the blood in my heart-methought I saw there on the floor at the foot of the screen a terrible negro eunuch dressed in rich brocade, sitting and dozing with outstretched legs, with a naked sword on his lap. My fair guide lightly tripped over his legs and held up a fringe of the screen. I could catch a glimpse of a part of the room spread with a Persian carpet–some one was sitting inside on a bed–I could not see her, but only caught a glimpse of two exquisite feet in gold-embroidered slippers, hanging out from loose saffron-coloured paijamas and placed idly on the orange-coloured velvet carpet. On one side there was a bluish crystal tray on which a few apples, pears, oranges, and bunches of grapes in plenty, two small cups and a gold- tinted decanter were evidently waiting the guest. A fragrant intoxicating vapour, issuing from a strange sort of incense that burned within, almost overpowered my senses.

As with trembling heart I made an attempt to step across the outstretched legs of the eunuch, he woke up suddenly with a start, and the sword fell from his lap with a sharp clang on the marble floor. A terrific scream made me jump, and I saw I was sitting on that camp- bedstead of mine sweating heavily; and the crescent moon looked pale in the morning light like a weary sleepless patient at dawn; and our crazy Meher Ali was crying out, as is his daily custom, “Stand back! Stand back!!” while he went along the lonely road.

Such was the abrupt close of one of my Arabian Nights; but there were yet a thousand nights left.

Then followed a great discord between my days and nights. During the day I would go to my work worn and tired, cursing the bewitching night and her empty dreams, but as night came my daily life with its bonds and shackles of work would appear a petty, false, ludicrous vanity.

After nightfall I was caught and overwhelmed in the snare of a strange intoxication, I would then be transformed into some unknown personage of a bygone age, playing my part in unwritten history; and my short English coat and tight breeches did not suit me in the least. With a red velvet cap on my head, loose paijamas, an embroidered vest, a long flowing silk gown, and coloured handkerchiefs scented with attar, I would complete my elaborate toilet, sit on a high-cushioned chair, and replace my cigarette with a many-coiled narghileh filled with rose-water, as if in eager expectation of a strange meeting with the beloved one.

I have no power to describe the marvellous incidents that unfolded themselves, as the gloom of the night deepened. I felt as if in the curious apartments of that vast edifice the fragments of a beautiful story, which I could follow for some distance, but of which I could never see the end, flew about in a sudden gust of the vernal breeze. And all the same I would wander from room to room in pursuit of them the whole night long.

Amid the eddy of these dream-fragments, amid the smell of henna and the twanging of the guitar, amid the waves of air charged with fragrant spray, I would catch like a flash of lightning the momentary glimpse of a fair damsel. She it was who had saffron-coloured paijamas, white ruddy soft feet in gold-embroidered slippers with curved toes, a close- fitting bodice wrought with gold, a red cap, from which a golden frill fell on her snowy brow and cheeks.

She had maddened me. In pursuit of her I wandered from room to room, from path to path among the bewildering maze of alleys in the enchanted dreamland of the nether world of sleep.

Sometimes in the evening, while arraying myself carefully as a prince of the blood-royal before a large mirror, with a candle burning on either side, I would see a sudden reflection of the Persian beauty by the side of my own. A swift turn of her neck, a quick eager glance of intense passion and pain glowing in her large dark eyes, just a suspicion of speech on her dainty red lips, her figure, fair and slim crowned with youth like a blossoming creeper, quickly uplifted in her graceful tilting gait, a dazzling flash of pain and craving and ecstasy, a smile and a glance and a blaze of jewels and silk, and she melted away. A wild glist of wind, laden with all the fragrance of hills and woods, would put out my light, and I would fling aside my dress and lie down on my bed, my eyes closed and my body thrilling with delight, and there around me in the breeze, amid all the perfume of the woods and hills, floated through the silent gloom many a caress and many a kiss and many a tender touch of hands, and gentle murmurs in my ears, and fragrant breaths on my brow; or a sweetly-perfumed kerchief was wafted again and again on my cheeks. Then slowly a mysterious serpent would twist her stupefying coils about me; and heaving a heavy sigh, I would lapse into insensibility, and then into a profound slumber.

One evening I decided to go out on my horse–I do not know who implored me to stay-but I would listen to no entreaties that day. My English hat and coat were resting on a rack, and I was about to take them down when a sudden whirlwind, crested with the sands of the Susta and the dead leaves of the Avalli hills, caught them up, and whirled them round and round, while a loud peal of merry laughter rose higher and higher, striking all the chords of mirth till it died away in the land of sunset.

I could not go out for my ride, and the next day I gave up my queer English coat and hat for good.

That day again at dead of night I heard the stifled heart-breaking sobs of some one–as if below the bed, below the floor, below the stony foundation of that gigantic palace, from the depths of a dark damp grave, a voice piteously cried and implored me: “Oh, rescue me! Break through these doors of hard illusion, deathlike slumber and fruitless dreams, place by your side on the saddle, press me to your heart, and, riding through hills and woods and across the river, take me to the warm radiance of your sunny rooms above!”

Who am I? Oh, how can I rescue thee? What drowning beauty, what incarnate passion shall I drag to the shore from this wild eddy of dreams? O lovely ethereal apparition! Where didst thou flourish and when?” By what cool spring, under the shade of what date-groves, wast thou born–in the lap of what homeless wanderer in the desert? What Bedouin snatched thee from thy mother’s arms, an opening bud plucked from a wild creeper, placed thee on a horse swift as lightning, crossed the burning sands, and took thee to the slave-market of what royal city? And there, what officer of the Badshah, seeing the glory of thy bashful blossoming youth, paid for thee in gold, placed thee in a golden palanquin, and offered thee as a present for the seraglio of his master? And O, the history of that place! The music of the sareng, the jingle of anklets, the occasional flash of daggers and the glowing wine of Shiraz poison, and the piercing flashing glance! What infinite grandeur, what endless servitude!

The slave-girls to thy right and left waved the chamar as diamonds flashed from their bracelets; the Badshah, the king of kings, fell on his knees at thy snowy feet in bejewelled shoes, and outside the terrible Abyssinian eunuch, looking like a messenger of death, but clothed like an angel, stood with a naked sword in his hand! Then, O, thou flower of the desert, swept away by the blood-stained dazzling ocean of grandeur, with its foam of jealousy, its rocks and shoals of intrigue, on what shore of cruel death wast thou cast, or in what other land more splendid and more cruel?

Suddenly at this moment that crazy Meher Ali screamed out: “Stand back! Stand back!! All is false! All is false!!” I opened my eyes and saw that it was already light. My chaprasi came and handed me my letters, and the cook waited with a salam for my orders.

I said; “No, I can stay here no longer.” That very day I packed up, and moved to my office. Old Karim Khan smiled a little as he saw me. I felt nettled, but said nothing, and fell to my work.

As evening approached I grew absent-minded; I felt as if I had an appointment to keep; and the work of examining the cotton accounts seemed wholly useless; even the Nizamat of the Nizam did not appear to be of much worth. Whatever belonged to the present, whatever was moving and acting and working for bread seemed trivial, meaningless, and contemptible.

I threw my pen down, closed my ledgers, got into my dog-cart, and drove away. I noticed that it stopped of itself at the gate of the marble palace just at the hour of twilight. With quick steps I climbed the stairs, and entered the room.

A heavy silence was reigning within. The dark rooms were looking sullen as if they had taken offense. My heart was full of contrition, but there was no one to whom I could lay it bare, or of whom I could ask forgiveness. I wandered about the dark rooms with a vacant mind. I wished I had a guitar to which I could sing to the unknown: “O fire, the poor moth that made a vain effort to fly away has come back to thee! Forgive it but this once, burn its wings and consume it in thy flame!”

Suddenly two tear-drops fell from overhead on my brow. Dark masses of clouds overcast the top of the Avalli hills that day. The gloomy woods and the sooty waters of the Susta were waiting in terrible suspense and in an ominous calm. Suddenly land, water, and sky shivered, and a wild tempest-blast rushed howling through the distant pathless woods, showing its lightning-teeth like a raving maniac who had broken his chains. The desolate halls of the palace banged their doors, and moaned in the bitterness of anguish.

The servants were all in the office, and there was no one to light the lamps. The night was cloudy and moonless. In the dense gloom within I could distinctly feel that a woman was lying on her face on the carpet below the bed–clasping and tearing her long dishevelled hair with desperate fingers. Blood was tricking down her fair brow, and she was now laughing a hard, harsh, mirthless laugh, now bursting into violent wringing sobs, now rending her bodice and striking at her bare bosom, as the wind roared in through the open window, and the rain poured in torrents and soaked her through and through.

All night there was no cessation of the storm or of the passionate cry. I wandered from room to room in the dark, with unavailing sorrow. Whom could I console when no one was by? Whose was this intense agony of sorrow? Whence arose this inconsolable grief?

And the mad man cried out: “Stand back! Stand back!! All is false! All is false!!”

I saw that the day had dawned, and Meher Ali was going round and round the palace with his usual cry in that dreadful weather. Suddenly it came to me that perhaps he also had once lived in that house, and that, though he had gone mad, he came there every day, and went round and round, fascinated by the weird spell cast by the marble demon.

Despite the storm and rain I ran to him and asked: “Ho, Meher Ali, what is false?”

The man answered nothing, but pushing me aside went round and round with his frantic cry, like a bird flying fascinated about the jaws of a snake, and made a desperate effort to warn himself by repeating: “Stand back! Stand back!! All is false! All is false!!”

I ran like a mad man through the pelting rain to my office, and asked Karim Khan: “Tell me the meaning of all this!”

What I gathered from that old man was this: That at one time countless unrequited passions and unsatisfied longings and lurid flames of wild blazing pleasure raged within that palace, and that the curse of all the heart-aches and blasted hopes had made its every stone thirsty and hungry, eager to swallow up like a famished ogress any living man who might chance to approach. Not one of those who lived there for three consecutive nights could escape these cruel jaws, save Meher Ali, who had escaped at the cost of his reason.

I asked: “Is there no means whatever of my release?” The old man said: “There is only one means, and that is very difficult. I will tell you what it is, but first you must hear the history of a young Persian girl who once lived in that pleasure-dome. A stranger or a more bitterly heart-rending tragedy was never enacted on this earth.”

Just at this moment the coolies announced that the train was coming. So soon? We hurriedly packed up our luggage, as the tram steamed in. An English gentleman, apparently just aroused from slumber, was looking out of a first-class carriage endeavouring to read the name of the station. As soon as he caught sight of our fellow-passenger, he cried, “Hallo,” and took him into his own compartment. As we got into a second-class carriage, we had no chance of finding out who the man was nor what was the end of his story.

I said; “The man evidently took us for fools and imposed upon us out of fun. The story is pure fabrication from start to finish.” The discussion that followed ended in a lifelong rupture between my theosophist kinsman and myself.”

Rabindranath Tagore’s short story: The Hungry Stones

Product Details:

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: 1st World Library – Literary Society
  • May 20, 2005
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421804816
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421804811



May 22, 2011 on 1:34 am | In Art, Books, France, History, Literary | Comments Off on CLANDESTINE HISTORY: “A MURKY BUSINESS” NOVEL BY BALZAC



A Murky Business (Une Tenebreuse Affaire)

Honore de Balzac (Author)

Herbert J. Hunt (Translator, Introduction)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This novel covers the years 1803-6, when Napoleon was making himself first consul and then emperor.

It is also an early example of the detective story, in which the sinister, implacable police agent, Corentin, stalks his way towards vengeance on his aristocratic enemies.

Product Details:

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics
  • September 28, 1978
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442717

A Murky Business (Une Tenebreuse Affaire)

Conspiracy theorists rejoice. Balzac weaves such a complex web. As Napoleon decides the fate of Europe, others are secretly deciding the fate of France.

From the streets of Paris, just beneath the Emperors nose, to the provincial farmers of Champaign; machinations with a flair not seen since the Borgias lead the reader along this rollercoaster.

A Murky Business (Une Tenebreuse Affaire)

A Murky Business is wonderful. The acute eye and superb writing of Balzac are put in service of a political mystery novel. Napoleon is trying to conquer Europe, and Fouche, his police chief (a fascinating historical character) is covering his back, doing all the dirty work. For Napoleon has powerful enemies who are conspiring to depose him. Malin is one of the conspirators, a man who buys a big house called Gondreville, in rural Champagne. Michú, his servant, helps her beautiful and rich neighbor, Lorence de Cynq-Cygne (one of Balzac’s strongest and smartest female characters) to get their cousins secretly into France. These guys, called Simeuse, are conspirators exiled by Napoleon. Fouche gets to know the Simeuses are back in France, and starts the search for them, kidnapping Malin. It is a great novel with a very dark tone. There are spies, traitors, revenge and passion. This novel should be much more famous, since it is magnificent entertainment and excellent literature.

A Murky Business (Une Tenebreuse Affaire)

Honore de Balzac (Author)



May 16, 2011 on 1:08 am | In Art, Asia, Books, Japan, Literary | Comments Off on SONGS AND MOVIES IN JAPAN: “HARP OF BURMA”



Songs and Movies in Japan: “Hanyu no yado”

“Hanyu no yado–埴生の宿” is the Japanese title of an old song that is known as “Home, Sweet home“. We can listen it at the end of Ghibli movie “Hotaru no haka—-The grave of the Fireflies”—-performed by Amelita Galli-Curci. In the original lyric, there is a phrase “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home”.

It figures also in Kon Ichikawa’s movie masterpiece from 1956, “Harp of Burma.”

Hanyu no Yado means “a house made of mud”.

“Home, Sweet home” is played in “The Grave of the Fireflies.”

You can listen the Japanese version of this song on youtube.

Japanese translation:
埴生の宿も 我が宿 玉の装ひ 羨まじ
長閑也や 春の空 花はあるじ 鳥は友
おゝ 我が宿よ たのしとも たのもしや
書読む窓も 我が窓 瑠璃の床も 羨まじ
清らなりや 秋の夜半 月はあるじ むしは友
おゝ 我が窓よ たのしとも たのもしや

はにゅうのやども わがやど たまのよそおい うらやまじ
のどかなりや はるのそら はなはあるじ とりはとも
おお わがやどよ たのしとも たのもしや
ふみよむまども わがやど るりのゆかも うらやまじ
きよらなりや あきのよわ つきはあるじ むしはとも
おお わがまどよ たもしとも たのもしや

Hanyu no yado mo waga yado, Tama no yosooi urayamaji
Nodokanariya haru no sora, Hana wa aruji tori wa tomo
Oh, waga yado yo, Tanositmo tanomosiya
Fumi yomu mado mo waga mado, Ruri no yuka mo urayamaji
Kiyara nariya aki no yowa, Tsuki wa aruji mushi wa tomo
Oh, waga mado yo, Tanositmo tanomosiya

‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, There’s no place like home.
A charm from the skies Seems to hallow us there,
Which seek thro’ the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet sweet home,
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
I gaze on the moon as I tread the drear wild,
And feel that my mother now thinks of her child;
As she looks on that moon from our own cottage door,
Thro’ the woodbine whose fragrance shall cheer me no more.
Home, home, sweet sweet home;
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain,
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again;
The birds singing gaily, that came at my call:
Give me them and that peace of mind, dearer than all.
Home, home, sweet sweet home,
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.

The Burmese Harp (Biruma no tategoto, a.k.a. Harp of Burma) is a 1956 black-and-white Japanese film directed by Kon Ichikawa.

The Burmese Harp (Biruma no tategoto, a.k.a. Harp of Burma) is a 1956 black-and-white Japanese film directed by Kon Ichikawa. It was based on a children’s novel of the same name written by Michio Takeyama. It was Ichikawa’s first film to be shown outside Japan,[1] and is “one of the first films to portray the decimating effects of World War II from the point of view of the Japanese army.”[2] The film was nominated for the 1957 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, during the first year that such a category existed.

In 1985, Ichikawa remade the film in color with different actors.


Private Mizushima, a Japanese soldier, becomes the harp (or) saung player of Captain Inōye’s group, composed of soldiers who fight and sing to raise morale in World War II Burma Campaign. When they are offered shelter in a village, they eventually realize they are being watched by British soldiers. They successfully retrieve their ammunition, then see the advancing force. Firing is declined, however. They are later told that the Japanese surrender has occurred and they surrender.

At a camp the Captain asks Mizushima to volunteer to talk down a group of soldiers who are still fighting on the mountain. He agrees to do so and is told by the British that he has 30 minutes to tell them to surrender. At the mountain he is almost shot down before they realize he is Japanese. He climbs up safely and asks to speak to whoever is in command. Meeting their commander in a cave bunker he informs him that the war has ended and they should surrender. The commander says he shall talk to the other soldiers, and they come out minutes later stating that unanimously they decided to fight to the end. Mizushima begs for them to surrender but they do nothing. He decides to ask for more time from the British, and when he creates a surrender flag, the others take it the wrong way and believe he’s surrendering for them. They beat him unconscious and leave him on the floor. Soon the artillery begins again and because he’s in the cave, he becomes the only survivor. He wanders around looking for the camp his group was in. He becomes sick looking at all the corpses on the ground and decides to help bury them and pray for them by stealing a monk’s robe.

Meanwhile, Captain Inōye and his men are wondering what happened, and cling to a belief that he is still out there. Eventually they buy a parrot (saying ‘Mizushima, let’s go back to Japan together’ over and over again) and tell a villager to bring it to a monk they suspect Mizushima is hiding as. But they get the parrot and a long letter replying that he won’t come back to Japan with them, because he must continue burying the dead while studying as a monk, and promoting the peaceful nature of mankind. Years later however, he allows for the prospect of returning to Japan.



In Japan, Nikkatsu, the studio that commissioned the film, released it in two parts, three weeks apart. Part one (running 63 minutes) opened on January 21, 1956, and part two (80 minutes) opened on February 12, both accompanied by B movies.[1] Its total running time of 143 minutes was cut to 116 minutes for later re-release and export, reputedly at Ichikawa’s objection.[1]


Awards and nominations

Critical reception

In 1993, film scholar Audie Bock wrote:[4]

Screenwriter Natto Wada (Ichikawa’s former wife) lets minimal dialogue carry the emotion of The Burmese Harp. Ichikawa allows the grandeur of the Burmese landscape and the eerie power of its Buddhist statuary and architecture to sustain the mood of Mizushima’s conversion and the mystification of his Japanese comrades. Yet the gravity of the film lifts with the lyrical score, the light humor of a local bartering woman (Tanie Kitabayashi) with her parrots, and the genuine but uncomprehending affection of the soldiers for their missing mate.

In 2007, film critic Tony Rayns called it the “first real landmark in his career” and wrote:[1]

Ichikawa’s film is sharper and more clearheaded than Takeyama’s book, perhaps because it reflects an encounter with the reality of Burma and the Burmese. Most details in the film are taken directly from the book, although the overall structure has been changed….It’s with the dropping of one of the book’s episodes entirely and substituting ideas of his own that Ichikawa provides the measure of the film’s achievement. After Mizushima is sent on the futile mission to persuade a belligerent captain to surrender, he’s wounded in the leg by a British bullet and left to die….In the book, Mizushima is found and nursed back to health by a non-Burmese tribe of cannibals, who plan to eat him; … Ichikawa instead has Mizushima brought back from near death by a Buddhist monk, who intones over his patient the line “Burma is Burma. Burma is the Buddha’s country.” After his recovery, Mizushima shamelessly steals the monk’s robe (his only thought is self-preservation, and he needs a disguise) and makes his way south, intending to rejoin his company, which is where Ichikawa’s story line rejoins Takeyama’s.


  1. 1. a b c d e Tony Rayns (16 March 2007). “The Burmese Harp: Unknown Soldiers”. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
  2. 2. “The Burmese Harp (Biruma no tategoto)”. BBC Four. 22 August 2002. Retrieved 2010-07-10. “A compassionate, anti-war film (yet refusing to enter into any cinematic discussion of where to lay blame), this is one of the first films to portray the decimating effects of the war from the point of view of the Japanese army.”
  3. 3. The Burmese Harp (1956) at the Internet Movie Database
  4. 4. Audie Bock (27 January 1993). “The Burmese Harp”. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2010-07-10.

Directed by Kon Ichikawa

Produced by Masayuki Takagi

Written by Michio Takeyama (novel), Natto Wada

Starring Rentaro Mikuni, Shôji Yasui, Jun Hamamura

Studio Nikkatsu

Distributed by Brandon Films (USA)

Release date(s) (part 1) 21 Jan 1956; (part 2) 12 Feb 1956 (Japan)[1] Running time 143 minutes (Japan)
116 minutes (other countries)

Country Japan

Language Japanese



May 13, 2011 on 12:08 am | In Art, Books, History, Judaica | Comments Off on MARY BERG: “WARSAW GHETTO: A DIARY” FROM 1945



In the classic work “Warsaw Ghetto Diary” by Mary Berg, the entry for July 12, 1940 describes how the Jews of the Lodz and Warsaw ghettos attempted to understand what was happening to them in terms of Polish literary classics by Mickiewicz, Slowacki and Wyspianski, quoting Wyspianski’s classic play “Wesele” from 1901:

Uncouth yokel, you had a golden horn.

Now what is left you is only a rope. …

(page 33, “Warsaw Ghetto: A Diary” 1945 edition)

Warsaw Ghetto: A Diary by Mary Berg

edited by S.L. Shneiderman

Published: 1945 L.B. Fischer Publishing Corp.

©1944 by L.B. Fischer Publishing Corp. L.B. Fischer New York, NY



April 17, 2011 on 11:16 pm | In Art, Film, History, Literary, United Kingdom | Comments Off on “THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH” FILM FROM 1934: CHURCHILL HITCHCOCK AND THE 1911 SIDNEY STREET DISTURBANCES



The Man Who Knew Too Much Film from 1934:

Churchill, Hitchcock and the 1911 Sidney Street Disturbances

The Man Who Knew Too Much is a 1934 suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, featuring Peter Lorre, and released by Gaumont British. It was one of the most successful and critically acclaimed films of Hitchcock’s British period.

Hitchcock remade the film with James Stewart and Doris Day in 1956 for Paramount Pictures; it’s the only film he ever remade. The two films are, however, very different in tone, in setting, and in many plot details


Bob and Jill Lawrence (Leslie Banks and Edna Best), are a British couple on vacation in St. Moritz, Switzerland, with their daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam). Jill is participating in a clay pigeon shooting contest. They befriend a foreigner, Louis Bernard (Pierre Fresnay), who is staying in their hotel. One evening, as Jill dances with Louis, she witnesses his assassination as a French spy. Before dying, the spy passes on to them some vital information to be delivered to the British consul.

In order to ensure their silence, the assassins, led by a charming and nefarious Abbott (Peter Lorre), kidnap their daughter. Unable therefore to seek help from the police, the couple return to England and, after following a series of leads, discover that the group intends to assassinate a the Ambassador of an unidentified European country, during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Jill attends the concert and distracts the gunman with a scream.

The assassins are tracked to their hide-out in a suburban church. Bob enters and is held prisoner, but manages to escape. The police surround the building and a gunfight ensues, the assassins holding out until their ammunition runs low and most of them have been killed. Betty, who has been held there, and one of the criminals, are seen on the roof, and it is Jill’s sharpshooting skills that dispatch the man, who, it emerges, was the man who beat Jill in a shooting contest in Switzerland.

One of the assassins commits suicide rather than be captured, and Betty is returned to her parents.


Peter Lorre was unable to speak English at the time of filming (a Jew, he had only recently fled from Nazi Germany) and learned his lines phonetically.[1]

The shoot-out at the end of the film was based on the Sidney Street Siege, a real-life incident which took place in London’s East End (where Hitchcock grew up) on 3 January 1911.[2][3][4] The shoot-out was not included in Hitchcock’s 1956 remake.[5]

Hitchcock hired Australian composer Arthur Benjamin to write a piece of music especially for the climactic scene at Royal Albert Hall. The music, known as the Storm Clouds cantata, is used in both the 1934 version and the 1956 remake.

Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appears 33 minutes into the film. He can be seen crossing the street from right to left in a black trench coat before they enter the Chapel.

The siege was the inspiration for the final shootout in Alfred Hitchcock‘s original 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, although not his own 1956 remake.

The Siege of Sidney Street, popularly known as the “Battle of Stepney”, was a notorious gunfight in London’s East End on the 2nd of January 1911. Preceded by the Houndsditch Murders, it ended with the deaths of two members of a supposedly politically-motivated gang of burglars supposedly led by Peter Piatkow, a.k.a. “Peter the Painter“, and sparked a major political row over the involvement of the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill.

The siege was the inspiration for the final shootout in Alfred Hitchcock‘s original 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, although not his own 1956 remake.

The Houndsditch murders

On 16 December 1910, a gang of Latvian thieves attempted to break into the rear of a jeweller’s shop at 119 Houndsditch, EC3, working from 9, 10 and 11 Exchange Buildings in the cul-de-sac behind. An adjacent shopkeeper heard their hammering, informed the City of London Police (in whose area the shop was), and nine unarmed officers — three sergeants and six constables (two in plain clothes) — converged on Exchange Buildings.

Sergeants Bentley and Bryant knocked at the door of No. 11 Exchange Buildings, unaware that the first constable on the scene had already done so, thus alerting the thieves. The gang’s leader, George Gardstein, opened the door, but when he did not answer their questions they assumed he did not understand English and told him to fetch someone who did. Gardstein left the door half-closed and disappeared.

The house consisted of a single ground-floor room, into which the front door directly opened, with a staircase leading to the upper floors on the left, and a door to the open yard at the back on the right. It was later deduced that Gardstein must have moved left towards the staircase, since if he had gone right and out of the yard door he would have been seen by one of the plain-clothed officers standing outside, who had a clear view of that side of the room.

Growing impatient, the two sergeants entered the house to find the room apparently empty, before they became aware of a man standing in the darkness at the top of the stairs. After a short conversation, another man entered through the yard door, rapidly firing a pistol, while the man on the stairs also started shooting.

Both officers were hit, with Bentley collapsing across the doorstep, while Bryant managed to stagger outside. In the street, Constable Woodhams ran to help Bentley, but was himself wounded by one of the gang firing from the cover of the house, as was Sergeant Tucker, who died almost instantly.

The gang then attempted to break out of the cul-de-sac, Gardstein being grabbed by Constable Choate almost at the entrance. In the struggle Choate was wounded several times by Gardstein, before being shot five more times by other members of the gang, who also managed to hit their compatriot in the back. They then dragged Gardstein ¾ of a mile to 59 Grove Street, where he died the next day. Constable Choate and Sergeant Bentley died in separate hospitals the same day. An intense search followed, and a number of the gang or their associates were soon arrested.

The Siege of Sidney Street

On 2 January 1911, an informant told police that two or three of the gang, possibly including Peter the Painter himself, were hiding at 100 Sidney Street, Stepney (in the Metropolitan Police District). Worried that the suspects were about to flee, and expecting heavy resistance to any attempt at capture, on 3 January, two hundred officers cordoned off the area and the siege began. At dawn the battle commenced.

The defenders, though heavily outnumbered, possessed superior weapons and great stores of ammunition. The Tower of London was called for backup, and word got to the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, who arrived on the spot to observe the incident at first hand, and to offer advice. Churchill authorised calling in a detachment of Scots Guards to assist the police. Six hours into the battle, and just as the field artillery piece that Churchill had authorised arrived, a fire began to consume the building. When the fire brigade arrived, Churchill refused them access to the building. The police stood ready, guns aimed at the front door, waiting for the men inside to attempt their escape. The door never opened. Instead, the remains of two members of the gang, Fritz Svaars and William Sokolow (both were also known by numerous aliases), were later discovered inside the building. No sign of Peter the Painter was found.[1]


All the fatal shots in what became known as the “Houndsditch Murders” came from the same Dreyse pistol belonging to Jacob Peters, but as he had left it with the mortally wounded Gardstein to be found by the police, it was assumed to be his and that he was the killer. This was despite the fact that Gardstein had completely different calibre ammunition for a Mauser C96 pistol both on him when he died and in his lodgings, but none at all for the Dreyse. Gardstein’s “guilt” was further compounded by the mistaken belief that it was Gardstein who had opened fire at 11 Exchange Buildings from the yard door, on the grounds that it was he who had opened the front door to the police shortly before they were shot.

Of seven supposed members of the gang captured by the police, five men — including Peters — and two women were put on trial, but they all either had their charges dropped, were acquitted, or had their convictions quashed. Peters later returned home, and after the October Revolution served as deputy head of the Cheka. He perished during the Great Purge in 1938.

The role Churchill played in the Sidney Street Siege was highly controversial at the time, and many, including Arthur Balfour, the former prime minister, accused him of having acted improperly. A famous photograph from the time shows Churchill peering around a corner to view events. Balfour asked, “He [Churchill] and a photographer were both risking valuable lives. I understand what the photographer was doing but what was the Right Honourable gentleman doing?”

The gang’s superior firepower led the police to drop the Webley Revolver in favour of the Webley semi-automatic in London.

On film

Much of the siege was captured by newsreel cameras, including the moment a bullet passed through Mr Churchill’s top hat, coming within inches of killing him. This footage was later shown at the Palace Theatre, London, under the billing, “Mr Churchill in the danger zone”

The siege was the inspiration for the final shootout in Alfred Hitchcock‘s original 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, although not his own 1956 remake. The events were depicted directly in the 1960 film The Siege of Sidney Street.[2]

In popular culture

The siege was parodied by the Goon Show in the episode The Six Ingots of Leadenhall Street.,[3][4] A bullet was supposedly fired which passed through Churchill’s hat, though this has been dismissed by historians.

The events were portrayed fictionally in the Sherlock Holmes pastiche Sherlock Holmes and the Railway Maniac by Barrie Roberts.


  1. 1. Siege of Sidney Street — 1911 (Metropolitan Police history) accessed 4 Feb 2008
  2. 2. The Siege of Sidney Street (1960) at the Internet Movie Database
  3. 3. http://www.thegoonshow.net/scripts_show.asp?title=s05e23_the_six_ingots_of_leadenhall_street
  4. 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0072vdz

The Man Who Knew Too Much Film from 1934:

Churchill, Hitchcock and the 1911 Sidney Street Disturbances


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