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The story of a lifer

Séamus Murphy, Having It Away: A story of Freedom, Friendship and IRA Jailbreak (Bray, Co. Wicklow: Castledermot Press, 2019; €10).
“Having it away” was a slang term in the English prisons of the 1950s for making an escape. It is the title of Séamus Murphy’s account of his imprisonment in Wakefield Prison, Yorkshire.

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A first anthology of working people’s poetry

Jenny Farrell (editor), The Children of the Nation: An Anthology of Working People’s Poetry from Contemporary Ireland (Newcastle upon Tyne: Culture Matters, 2019).
This anthology deals with the identity of the working class, the marginalised, people in precarious employment, the unemployed, the homeless. The title of the collection recalls the pledge made in the Proclamation of 1916.

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Walking with Gandhi

Gabriel Rosenstock, Walk with Gandhi / Bóthar na Saoirse, illustrated by Masood Hussain (Dublin: Gandhi 150 Ireland, 2019, paperback, hardback, and Ebook).
This is a beautiful book to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on 2 October 1869. The book is a collection of haiga—a style of Japanese painting often accompanied by a haiku poem.

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Waiting for Godot

Great Carthage waged three wars. It was still powerful after the first, habitable still after the second. Gone without trace after the third.—Bertolt Brecht (1951).
Samuel Backett died thirty years ago, on 22 December 1989. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature fifty years ago, in 1969.
Arguably Beckett’s most famous play is Waiting for Godot. Typically, when this play today is presented today the comedy of it is emphasised, as is its “absurdist” label, suggesting that life is meaningless. Beckett had moved permanently to France in the late 1930s.

Culture

Thanks, capitalism!

Thanks, capitalism. You started off all right and all, but I’m afraid you have to leave! You’ve eaten, binned or hidden all the food, you’ve drunk all the drink or poured it down the sink, you’ve blocked all the toilets and used up all the paper. You’ve left the taps […]

Culture

Rembrandt: His times and his art

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was one of the greatest Enlightenment painters. He died 350 years ago this month at the age of sixty-three. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Flemish cloth trade had developed into the strongest competitor of Florentine cloth-makers and traders, giving rise to a growing Dutch […]

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Peasant Bruegel

The greatest of the sixteenth-century Dutch realists is without doubt Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Born about 1525, Bruegel died 450 years ago, on 5 September 1569. His lifetime coincides with the struggle of the Netherlands against Spanish domination. At that time it included Belgium, Luxembourg and part of northern France […]

Culture

The working class becomes the subject of art

Courbet painted The Stone-Breakers in his home town of Ornans, in eastern France, in 1849. He was thirty years old. Marx and Engels had published the Communist Manifesto the previous year, which stated as its opening fanfare: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” and “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other—Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.” This is the defining insight of the middle of the nineteenth century.

Culture History

Moving statues

Earlier this year there were attacks on Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery in London. Around Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union there have been attempts to destroy or remove any statues or other monuments commemorating those who fought fascism during the Second World War, or previously in […]

Culture History

Renaissance man

Leonardo da Vinci, the oldest of the Italian High Renaissance artists, died five hundred years ago, on 2 May 1519. Leonardo was born on 15 April 1452 near the village of Vinci, from which he takes his name. His mother, Caterina, the daughter of a poor farmer, worked as a […]

Culture

Pete Seeger on his 100th birthday

There are few people more famous in the political song movement than Pete Seeger. Along with his contemporaries Paul Robeson and Woody Guthrie, Seeger represented the might of song in highlighting the common cause, strengthening courage, and inspiring resistance. Song was their weapon in this struggle for a fair, equal […]