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Jeremy Harding goes to Beirut to meet the novelist Elias Khoury

Jeremy Harding: ‘Before everything else, a writer of stories’, 16 November 2006

... Shatila is a short car journey out of Beirut and a few minutes on foot down a street full of market stalls. You pass a refuse heap where goats browse and small children smash up polystyrene packaging, duck into any of the narrow alleys to your right and enter one of the oldest refugee camps in the world. It was established by the Red Cross in 1949 on behalf of Palestinians herded from their villages the previous year ...

In Däräsge Maryam

Jeremy Harding: The East Wall of the Maqdas, 23 January 2014

... You might think you’re looking at an advent calendar, but there is no Nativity in this stunning set of paintings from the church of Däräsge Maryam in northern Ethiopia. The church was built by order of Webe Hayla Maryam, an energetic Amhara warlord, in the 1850s. By then Webe’s conquests had taken him as far as Tigray and the Red Sea port of Massawa in his bid to become emperor of a unified state ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: France’s foreign policy, 3 April 2003

... One of the oddities about France’s permanent membership of the Security Council is that its instincts are those of an influential player in the General Assembly. This in turn has to do with its skills in what you might call ‘decline management’ – the steady, negotiated passage from imperialism to mere nation status, with Great Power privileges flapping like ragged ensigns in the wind ...

At the Royal Academy

Jeremy Harding: Botticelli, 5 April 2001

Botticelli's Dante 
Royal Academy, 360 pp., £48, March 2001, 0 900946 85 7Show More
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... Illustrators of the Divine Comedy find it hard to graduate from Hell, easy going for all the arts, to Paradise, which can look dreary by comparison. The Inferno, after all, is of the earth – an interesting place – aligned with the loins of Lucifer, the gigantic armature which holds the damned in their place. Dante’s Paradise is about unmitigated light, before it drains through the spheres to the earth ...

At the British Museum

Jeremy Harding: The African Galleries, 10 May 2001

... Objects from Africa displayed in galleries leave us bemused. We hesitate to use the word ‘art’ – this is not Giorgione or the Barbizon School or Howard Hodgkin – and hedge our bets with polite words like ‘artefact’ or ‘decoration’. African narrative and music have done better. World-music impresarios can market the virtuoso kora players of the western Sahel; we have the kitsch academic term ‘orature’ to soothe our anxieties about the fact that the greatest story-telling and poetry from this vast continent had nothing to do with pen and paper ...

At the Barbican

Jeremy Harding: Pilger pictures, 23 August 2001

... Work by 18 of the photographers with whom John Pilger has collaborated over the last thirty or forty years is on show in Reporting the World, at the Barbican Gallery until 30 September. The exhibition is a record of events we remember – vaguely or clearly – having followed and others that we didn’t follow, even if we tell ourselves now that we did ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: France’s role in Rwanda, 6 May 2004

... France has been struggling with its image abroad on several counts. First, there’s the rise in anti-semitism and the corresponding exodus of French Jews. Second, there is Le Pen’s success in the first round of the presidentials two years ago, which still sends a chill through the most rosy-cheeked francophiles, whether they’re British trenchermen or Latin American bellettrists ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: On commemoration, 6 March 2008

... For societies that decide to memorialise victims of persecution (genocides, invasions, civil wars, military dictatorships, police states), notions like deterrence and aversion come quickly into play. But they are the poor cousins of ‘memory’, an almost mystical concept in these circumstances and crucial to any discussion as to why the world is caught up in a ‘global rush to commemorate atrocities’, as Paul Williams puts it in Memorial Museums (Berg, £19 ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: ‘Magnum Contact Sheets’, 2 August 2012

... In 1974 Ian Berry won a bursary from the Arts Council to photograph ‘the English’. He’d already made his name in South Africa as the only photographer to record the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. Two years later Cartier-Bresson invited him to join Magnum. He went on to work in Vietnam, Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland and Ethiopia; he was in Czechoslovakia in 1968 ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Nautical Dramas, 15 July 2021

... surrounded by all the technical gear you need to stay afloat. Breton caps à la Lenin (and Jeremy Corbyn) and ‘Ensign beanies’, a strong seller, were also on show. But the pullovers are the real stuff of legend. The Beerenberg is made from ‘black Welsh mountain wool’ and named for the world’s most northerly volcano: ‘high in the Arctic ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Milosevic is delivered to the Hague, 19 July 2001

... It hasn’t taken long, if you count from the first Nato bombing runs on Serbia in March 1999, to deliver Slobodan Milosevic up to The Hague. That’s the jaunty Foreign Office view, at any rate, and typical of Jack Straw, the new man at the helm: it’s all a bit like his asylum legislation – firm and fast, and maybe if Milosevic is very lucky, it’ll be fair ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The benefits of self-censorship, 23 February 2006

... The row over the cartoons of the Prophet has pitted freedom of speech against the concept of blasphemy and looks at first sight like a head-on clash of secular and religious traditions. This is pretty much how the French press came to see it once the trouble erupted again, following the reprints in France Soir. It’s the kind of problem that crops up from time to time, said Charb, a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo, and the best solution is for offended parties to go to law ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Shot At Dawn, 30 November 2006

... Remembrance Sunday this year was a good one for the Shot at Dawn campaigners. Since 1990 they have sought pardons for more than three hundred servicemen executed during World War One for ‘military offences’: desertion, cowardice and disobedience. The pardons, announced by the MoD in August, were largely the result of growing press coverage, discreet encouragement from the Irish government and the fact that the case of Private Harry Farr, shot in 1916 for cowardice, was due to return to the High Court, with a reasonable chance of success for his descendants – including his daughter, who’s now in her nineties ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Trying to listen to the World Service, 31 July 2008

... You can listen to Radio Three on a laptop anywhere these days, or run Five Live through a Sky digibox in, say, the Dordogne. In the days before this was possible, it was the World Service that kept hundreds of thousands of people from acute information-deficit disorder if they happened to stray beyond the range of the home service. In sub-Saharan Africa, a stone’s throw nowadays from a modern, multicultural city like London, the BBC was happy at first to sing the praises of the old country – and the colonies – in a schoolmasterly, district-commissioner sort of way ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Spook Fiction, 3 August 2006

... Liz Carlyle, Stella Rimington’s fictional MI5 officer, is a bit of a puzzle to fans of sleuthing, spookery and old-fashioned cloak and dagger. The trouble, to begin with anyhow, is that in Secret Asset, ‘the second Liz Carlyle novel’ (Hutchinson, £12.99), inference and deduction are decidedly lowbrow skills. We can tell this right away from the information on the dustjacket: ‘Liz Carlyle learns from one of her agents that suspicious meetings have been taking place at an Islamic bookshop ...

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