The Logic of Nuremberg
The distinction Mahmood Mamdani draws between the Nazi war crimes trials and the Codesa agreement in South Africa may not be quite as clear-cut as he thinks (LRB, 7 November). As in South Africa after apartheid some laws which were an offence to human rights remained in force and were acted on long after the defeat of the Nazi regime. A case in point is the treatment of homosexuals following their ‘liberation’ from the camps. The Nazis had purposefully re-enacted paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code, which the Weimar government had repealed, thereby recriminalising homosexuality between consenting adults. Records indicate that some ten thousand gay men were sent to the camps under this law. Very few survived. But unlike the other liberated inmates, gay men were sent on to civilian prisons to complete their sentences. What’s more, the time they spent in the camps was not counted against their sentences, since the camps were designated ‘labour camps’, not prisons. The Nazi law remained in force in the GDR until repealed again in 1967; in the Federal Republic there was only a partial repeal in 1969 and full repeal in 1973. For them, unlike Jewish, political and other categories of inmate, there was no restitution or compensation even after the repeal.
Wellington, New Zealand
The Reviewer’s Song
William MacFarlane suggests that Jeannie Campbell inherited her style of speech from her father, the Duke of Argyll, who ‘spoke with all the haughty affectation of his class’ (Letters, 21 November). I knew Jeannie Campbell well for many years on the Cycladic island of Sifnos. She certainly had an upper-class English accent, but even I, reared in a working-class family in the suburb of Balmain, Sydney, found no sign of haughty affectation in her speech or behaviour. MacFarlane noticed a comparatively minor mis-statement by Andrew O’Hagan (or Norman Mailer?) of Campbell’s relationship to Beaverbrook (she was his granddaughter, not his daughter). But in 1996, in a confused review in one of his former newspapers of a television programme about his ‘secret life’, she was referred to as ‘one of Lord Beaverbrook’s many mistresses’. An out-of-court settlement funded restoration of a near-ruin she had bought in Sifnos with a publisher’s advance on her memoirs, which she never wrote.
Winning, or rather losing
‘It’s not a sport in America,’ Benjamin Markovits writes, ‘if everybody doesn’t have a real chance at winning’ (LRB, 7 November). For as long as I’ve been conscious, I have been a fan of the Chicago Cubs, a baseball club that hasn’t made it to the World Series since 1945 and hasn’t won it since 1908. At this point, we have gone beyond the hundred-year rebuilding plan. I have had to endure countless taunts and comments; once, a New York Mets fan asked me if the Cubs’ lack of success was down to their playing day games after which the players would drink themselves into oblivion. My answer: no, it was based solely on a lack of talent. My son – also a fan – and I have had serious discussions about his four-year-old son and whether or not we want to impose on him a lifetime of misery and frustration by encouraging him to follow the Cubs. But what choice do we have? We can’t risk his becoming a fan of, say, the Boston Red Sox or, worse, the Chicago White Sox. Despite the socialism in American sports – which extends to publicly financed stadiums – certain teams, it seems, still don’t have a real chance of winning. Losing has become so much a part of their identity that it’s inconceivable they could have even a chance of success. It’s no longer just a lack of talent: it is something larger and now inexorable. And I have gone through the five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I’m over it.
Roger Berger Everett
Benjamin Markovits assures us that ‘Britain has always had great golfers.’ Not if we define greatness in that field as winning a major championship, since no British golfer won a major between Max Faulkner in 1951 and Tony Jacklin in 1969. Those titles were both won in Britain: no British golfer won a major outside the UK between 1930 (Tommy Armour, the PGA Championship) and 1988 (Sandy Lyle, the Masters) with the exception of Jacklin’s 1970 US Open.
Benjamin Markovits says that the England cricket team ‘choked’ when playing India in a World Cup final. For this word to apply a team must first find themselves in a dominant position, something England have failed to achieve in the knockout stages of the World Cup in over twenty years.
In his discussion of Daumier’s lithograph Salon of 1857, captioned ‘sad countenance of sculpture placed in the midst of painting’, Julian Bell mentions ‘Why Sculpture Is Boring’ in Baudelaire’s Salon of 1846 (LRB, 21 November). This has rather unfortunately become the most frequently cited essay on sculpture. What few seem to realise – or to want to realise – is that Baudelaire revised his wholly negative opinion about sculpture. He devoted a long section of his Salon of 1859 to sculpture, and although he repeats some of his earlier criticisms, he modulates them, and is clearly enthralled by chance encounters in variable light with the products of 19th-century ‘statuemania’. By now he was increasingly giving primacy to the imagination, and the essence of the imagination was mystery. So sculptures stumbled on in churches, libraries, parks, streets and squares are ‘magnificent’ and ‘prodigious’ phantoms: ‘Your eyes are drawn upwards … the stone phantom takes possession of you for a few minutes and commands you, in the name of the past, to think of things which are not of the earth.’ Of Daumier’s airborne Man on a Rope, painted at just this moment, Bell says that ‘Baudelaire’s argument [of 1846] is inverted: the brute, unruly paint is coming between Daumier and the clean sculptural concept of his imagination.’ I don’t think Daumier ever had ‘clean sculptural concepts’ – that’s neoclassicism. But his mysteriously elevated man, drawing our eyes upwards with its eroded spectral presence, uncannily echoes Baudelaire’s argument of 1859.
Adam Shatz states that in the Jenin camp in the early 1950s, ‘more than ten thousand people were squeezed into a space not much bigger than five hundred square metres’ (LRB, 21 November). That is the area of a rectangle 25 metres by 20 metres, or 82 feet by 66 feet, giving ground space per refugee of about 10 inches by 8 inches. I expect he meant an area five hundred metres square – i.e. 500 metres by 500 metres. This is 250,000 square metres and amounts to 25 square metres (5 metres by 5 metres) per refugee, which is still overcrowded but at least physically possible.
Ilkley, West Yorkshire
The Clinton Connection
Pankaj Mishra describes Mochtar Riady’s travels and investments in China, but makes no mention of the importance of Bill Clinton and the State of Arkansas to the fortunes of the Riady family (LRB, 10 October). When he was governor, Clinton allowed the Riadys to obtain banking licences in Arkansas, which in turn made it possible for them to purchase a controlling interest in a Californian bank. The Clinton connection introduced Riady to US retail giants Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney, who consequently became tenants in Lippo Village, which was ransacked in the 1998 riots. James Riady made a substantial contribution to Clinton’s presidential re-election fund, which was later declared illegal (Riady is a foreign national); in consequence, he was fined $8.6 million, the largest fine ever levied for such an offence. However, he compensated the Clintons during the fall-out from the Whitewater saga by providing a bolthole in Jakarta for the disgraced former Arkansas governor Jim Guy Tucker in a Riady-controlled cable TV company.
Mishra says that when he visited Jakarta he didn’t find any Dutch ‘self-aggrandising monuments’: that was because they were all dismantled and destroyed by the Japanese occupation forces in the Second World War.
Anne Summers complains that, in discussing Everything for Sale?, I gave details of the career of Roger Brown but not of Helen Carasso, ‘with whom he wrote the book’ (Letters, 21 November). Her reproach is misplaced. I was merely following the indications in the book itself, where the acknowledgments, signed by Roger Brown alone, state that ‘as author I take full and final responsibility for Everything for Sale?’ He there gives warm acknowledgment to the role of ‘my researcher’, Helen Carasso.
The, Of, And
Brian Rotman’s review of Benoit Mandelbrot’s The Fractalist models what the Zipf-Mandelbrot law predicts (LRB, 7 November). In his review, roughly a 3000-word sample of written English, the (ranked number one in frequency in written English) appears very close to twice as often as of (number two) and nearly three times as often as and (number three). All looks good. Historically, however, of has not always been number two in frequency. In early Old English, occurrences of of were quite rare – inflectional endings did much of the grammatical work now handled by of. Then, from the eighth through to the 15th century, of steadily began to signal more and newer concrete and abstract relationships, to the extent that the entry for of in the Oxford English Dictionary now takes up six pages (triple columns, fine print). As of worked its way up to number two in frequency, it caught up with and eventually passed and, a word that had been very common even in Old English. So, as of passed and, there would have been a period of perhaps fifty or a hundred years, when of and and were essentially ‘tied’ for second place. Does the Zipf-Mandelbrot law allow for such linguistic change? More important, let’s suppose that of continues to increase in frequency and eventually overtakes the to become the new number one. Would of suddenly appear twice as often as the, as the law predicts? It seems unlikely. Why is it, though, that the law seems to be valid?
Wichita Falls, Texas
I was reading Lynn Visson’s tale of interpreting at the UN when I came across a report of what she terms ‘the real nightmare’: an interpreter who’s failed to turn off the mic before offering an opinion on a speech just interpreted (LRB, 7 November). On 14 November the UN passed nine resolutions condemning Israel. The interpreter thought that was unfair: ‘I mean,’ she said, ‘I think when you have five statements, not five, but like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? I mean, I know, yes, yes, but there’s other really bad shit happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff.’ Benjamin Netanyahu played the clip to his cabinet, and said: ‘I hope nothing bad happens to the interpreter, but in order to remove all doubt I can say that a place of employment is assured her if things go in that direction.’ The clip quickly made it onto YouTube.