Saturday, November 03, 2007

thanks to "Creatures of State" & "Virtual Clearcut" author Brian Fawcett for directing me toward Don Akenson's amazing An Irish History of Civilization

"Akenson, unlike Galeano, is in no hurry, perhaps because it is his discovery that civilization is in no hurry. Galeano, at least in Memory of Fire, is in the Marxist hurry, always, to prove injustice and to demonstrate the superior, poignant beauty of the victims of Imperialism. Even the most glorious and startling of Galeano’s portraits/historical tableaux are purposive: the Revolution is coming, and if not, why not?

Influenced by his understanding of Aggadah, Akenson plays his stories for what’s in them. They are thus less ideologically inspiring, but they are no less awe-inspiring, the brutalities are no less awful, and the ironies revealed are just as sharp. If Akenson has a political agenda, it is to get us to read smarter, and to lose our fear of history’s utter, uncompromising complexity. This is a step beyond where Galeano took the historiographic method he invented. Akenson goes straight for the wilderness of swirling causalities and opportunisms that he regards as the circulatory conduits of human enterprise. What’s amazing is that nearly always, he brings back something valuable, and more often than not, something surprising. There are hundreds of possible tracks to explore within this work, all of them revealing something about the Irish, and about you and I, that we didn’t appreciate fully, or didn’t know was there. And there are thousands of vignettes/anecdotes/ that will startle, educate and entertain..."