Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Log 253: NDP’s historical importance to Canada justifies their being given a leading role in our government.

Jack Layton making NDP transit announcement.Image via Wikipedia

These are heady days for a guy like me, who has voted for left-wing candidates ever since I recorded my first vote in Invercargill, New Zealand in 1946. By the following election in 1949 I was on the losing side, and I remained so until 1964, when Harold Wilson’s Labour party was elected in England, and I cast my vote for it.

I have never been on the winning side in Canada, where, more often than not, in sheer desperation, I voted for Communist candidates several times. Of course, from time to time, I have voted for candidates who actually won seats, but only on three occasions has the party I supported been elected to government.

So this remarkable surge that the pollsters have identified for the NDP comes as a matter of total amazement to a guy like me, who can hardly believe it is real.

Of course, it may turn out not to be real, it could happen that these prospective NDP voters will get cold feet as they enter the voting booth, or that the last-minute scare tactics of the terrified Liberal and Conservative leaders would convince many people to play it safe. In other words, I am as skeptical as the pollsters themselves and all the commentators, but I am hoping that for once my skepticism is misplaced.

What I have to say, however, is that the panic-driven responses of Harper and Ignatieff are full of rubbish. “Amateur-hour” is what Harper called the possibility of an NDP government. And Ignatieff has told people to “get serious”, as if the challenge mounted to their own ridiculous policies by the humane policies offered by Jack Layton and the NDP are somehow merely hallucinatory visions that have somehow lodged in the brains of the leftists.

This is total rubbish. The NDP spokespersons keep repeating that all their projections for spending have been audited by Mike McCracken, a thoroughly excellent economist who does, however, tend to pay more attention to the problems of ordinary people than do most economists.

Furthermore, I don’t need the validation offered by a Mike McCracken to very much prefer the NDP policies. Who in his right mind could vote for Harper with his promised, totally unnecessary billions of projected spending on super-prisons? This is lunacy if ever I saw it. And how about the lamentable quality of his Cabinet, people such as Vic Toews, Jason Kenny, Bev Oda and many others. Complete ciphers, and ignorant to boot.

Similarly, what the hell do we need with fighter planes? Who are these machines to be directed against? Which country is lining up to attack us, in the nightmare scenarios offered by the two major parties?

I heard Ignatieff make a speech yesterday, broadcast by CPAC. I must say, he did not sound so out of touch as all the commentators keep telling us he is. He was talking about the Liberal’s “family pack”, which sounds okay, if you can forget the way his party diminished the social network when they were in power with the millionaire businessman Paul Martin as their Minister of Finance.

In the past the Liberals have introduced some good social legislation, notably that under Lester Pearson, who was very much influenced by Tom Kent, my old former editor at the Winnipeg Free Press. I have reason to believe that Kent was really a British socialist who decided, just as Rene Levesque later did in Quebec, that if he wanted to have any influence in Canadian politics, he had to do it through the Liberal party.

That is the kind of compromise sensible people make from time to time, but it is not one that ever recommends itself to me. I am one of those guys who knows what he believes, and am not about to change my mind to match changing circumstances. I have always, for example, hated banks and insurance companies, and believe they should all be nationalized.

Canada has been well served by the continuing existence of the NDP as a party of the vague left because they have kept alive ideas in our normal political discourse that have always been anathema in the politics to the south of us. In fact, to a very large extent, this is the single factor that has kept Canada distinct from the United States.

If the nation is now about to acknowledge this by giving the NDP a major role in government, than all I can say is, “It’s about time.”

My fingers are crossed until I hear the election results.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Log 252:The political commentariat: a bunch of self-important, trumped-up, halfwits

Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Leader since Decemb...Image via WikipediaI have been driven to the conclusion that what is now called the commentariat, that body of people whose business it is to comment on elections, is comprised for the most part of self-important nitwits.

I came to this yesterday after watching the rather impressive interview given by Michael Ignatieff to Peter Mansbridge. Given a chance to express himself in the calm of a studio, Ignatieff gave an excellent account of himself. And although pressured unreasonably by Mansbridge on the question of what he would do in the event of various hypothetical results, he gave what I thought was a fairly scholarly, but absolutely correct description of how Parliament works. At the end, I thought, “Well, he must have done himself some good with this interview, at least.”

Within minutes, however, the commentariat gathered to pontificate on Evan Solomon’s (hopelessly self-important) show, were denouncing Ignatieff for having, they indicated, fallen into one of the oldest traps in the business of elections. He had talked extensively about something that, they said, he would never have mentioned if he had had any sense. They were raising, not to put too fine a point on it, an immense hoo-haa which simply took my breath away. Instead of praising the guy for the clarity, straightforward honesty and precision of his observations, they were denouncing him in the most strident tones, as if they alone knew all the secrets of how to win an election, and anyone who varied from their idiot prescriptions deserved the warmest condemnation.

Give us a break, fellers! You are a bunch of trumped up, narcissistic amateurs pretending to be seasoned professionals.

Ignatieff gave a measured account of what would happen if Harper, having won the most seats, but short of a majority, were unable to receive the backing of the House of Commons. What would happen then? insisted Mansbridge. Well, said Ignatieff, what would happen is that he would go to the governor-general, who would decide either to dissolve Parliament and call another election, or ask the party leader with the next-largest number of seats if he could try to receive the support of the House of Commons. This leader would canvass the other parties for their support, trying to find what compromises each party would have to make to make such a thing work.

That is how the system works, said Ignatieff. I respect the system, and I want to tell Canadians that I respect the system, and will work within it.

What the hell is wrong with that? Ignatieff, for reasons that escape me, has always insisted he will never enter a coalition, in other words, if he forms a government he would not include ministers from other parties. Mansbridge asked him why had this idea of coalition, which was working satisfactorily in most parliamentary democracies, become such a dirty word?

There was one curious aspect to Ignatieff’s interview. He said he could have been Prime Minister, if he had accepted the proposal made a couple of years ago for a coalition. But, after signing on, he had changed his mind, and rejected it “because I thought it was not in the national interest.” That certainly shows a becoming modesty, but it also leaves him open to the charge that he really didn’t want to be Prime Minister, one of the reasons, no doubt, for his having flounderd so badly through his time as Leader of the Opposition.

Still, to hear these idiots of the commentariat declaiming in horror at Ignatieff’s gaffe, as they described it, one would have thought he had precipitated a world war. I don’t support Ignatieff, but it seems that the poor guy is irrevocably fated to be damned whatever he does or says.

So on, Jack Layton: it is beginning to seem that the only hope of beating the damnable and dangerous Harper lies with you.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

My Log 251: Nuked and X-rayed, by Keibo Oiwa

(Keibo Oiwa is a remarkable Japanese anthropologist, who knows Canada (and many other countries) well, and has founded in Japan a so-called Slow Movement designed to slow down the pace of humanity’s frenetic search for progress. He wrote his Ph.D thesis on the subject of St Laurent Main, the dividing street in Montreal, and at that time became a close friend of my son Thom with whom he has since worked on various projects. He recently wrote this thoughtful reflection on the results of the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated so much of Japanese life.)

With all the events of the few weeks following 3/11, I often had difficulty in focusing and thinking clearly. But while a bit confused, I was hoping that going through this would make me more courageous and creative. And now that I have come out of the tunnel, I feel much better and positive, and see things more clearly.

What Japan has experienced since 3/11 is like X rays; yes, all of us and our society were X-rayed and have now become transparent. What do I see? That what we need now is a bit of silence, time for mourning, prayer, and awe. We must contemplate on the dead and realize, as Thich Nhat Hanh said in his recent message to Japan, that part of ourselves, part of the earth, has died, and the dead is and will be in us forever.

We are shocked to see in front of our own eyes our arrogance and the illusion that we can somehow control our Mother Earth. The Earth that created the great tsunami is the same Earth that has been giving everything to nurture us. We must re-instill the sense of awe that we might have been missing for a long time. We must meditate so that we can rediscover a way to reconnect ourselves to our Mother.

We see clearly that we have been a part of this civilization and its violent system built upon our own greed, hatred and ignorance, or what Buddhists call the three fundamental poisons. Instead of accusing TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and the governments, we must realize that it is we who created this monster called TEPCO that has become powerful enough to control governments, media and other big businesses. Yes, they had a kind of dictatorship, and we were willing to support and embrace it, increasing our consumption of electricity 5 times since the 70’s. With their massively financed “All Denka (entirely electrified homes)” campaign, they have been successfully made us believe that more and more nuclear plants are necessary to live comfortably.

The fisherman-philosopher Masato Ogata once said “Chisso is me.” He is a survivor and witness of the Minamata environmental crisis and was referring to the powerful Chisso Corporation that caused the mercury poisoning of the ocean killing innumerable lives including humans. Yes, TEPCO is me.

One of the most important lessons we learn and relearn from the events of 3/11 and after is that our way of living was created and barely maintained only by causing irreparable damage to the Earth, thus curtailing the possibility of a good future. The mass media is now busy orchestrating a cheerful chorus of “recovery” and “reconstruction.” But the question is what we are going to reconstruct? The same kind of towns and villages that have been proven too many times in history to be so vulnerable? The centralized massive energy system that has made our democracy hollow and has made the rural communities and remote regions enslaved by the big cities, electric power companies and central government? Reconstruct the banks and walls to protect the 50 plus nuclear power reactors, and make the reactors themselves strong enough to beat the next challenges of earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, floods and landslides? Recover the once famous Japanese technology and the invincible “kamikaze spirit” that would make no more mistakes and neglects like the ones we witnessed this time? Reinvent the once miraculously growing economy that required us to endlessly consume, to build all those nuke and other power stations, to destroy much of our once healthy ecosystems, and to sacrifice our rural communities and their beautiful landscapes?

I can already hear politicians in future elections talk loudly of those “reconstructions.” But then we will have to remember that we can never reconstruct the world without the horrifying amount of toxic nuclear waste which will be with us for thousands of years to come. Every step we made during the last several decades with more and more nuclear reactors was to make both the reconstruction of a healthy past and the construction of a healthy future harder and harder. Put another way; the reconstruction of a pre-3/11 world would mean extinguishing the remaining hope for a healthy, sustainable world. So let us say No to “reconstruction” of our previous Japan and choose from the remaining possibilities.

I can also hear clever people repeat the same old pre-3/11 stuff, saying that without giving an alternative, the argument against nuclear power is not persuasive. To this, I must repeat what the political scientist Douglas Lummis once said; the alternative to nuclear power is no nuclear power. Let us stop acting as if we still have a choice. We cannot afford another disaster, and that’s how disastrous our situation is.

This is a new era that has started on the March 11th. This is the age of what the Buddhist philosopher Joanna Macy called the “Great Turning,” that has been prepared for in many parts of the world. According to her, the Great Turning has been occurring on three simultaneous levels; environmental movements, anti-globalization and re-localization activism, and personal, spiritual awakening. Let us, too, join in the creative process with the new vision given by the 3/11.

Of course, there are not too many reasons to be optimistic. Even if we turn around and shut down all the nuclear plants today, we have to spend decades to make sure that all the reactors continue to be cooled, and many generations after us have to invent ways to deal with the enormous amount of toxic nuclear waste that is already here. So shall we continue our pursuit of wealth and luxury without turning around? Why not stopping later instead of now, if it’s too late anyway?

Again let us stop acting as if there is a choice. We must turn around not later but now. And that is if we are still interested in human survival. Let us become a “nuclear guardian” as Joanne Macy has urged us, accepting responsibility for the nuclear materials produced in our lifetimes. Macy is not optimistic, either, but her words are deeply consoling.

“Even if the Great Turning fails to carry this planetary experiment of ecological revolution onward through linear time, it still is worth it. It is a homecoming to our true nature.” (Joanna Macy “The Great Turning”)

Remember that the Chinese characters we use for the word “kiki (crisis)” can mean both danger and opportunity at once. This must be a great opportunity for us to grow spiritually, while stop growing materially, learning how to slow down, scale down and simplify. The real wisdom is to know how we can downshift joyfully and thankfully. This must be the moment of truth.

Keibo Oiwa is a cultural anthropologist, author, translator, environmental activist, and public speaker. He lived in North America for sixteen years and holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University. Since 1992, he has taught in the International Studies Department of Meiji Gakuin University. The founder of the Sloth Club, an ecology and Slow Life NGO, he gives lectures and workshops on social and environmental issues.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Log 250:In two days, four American films; two appallingly racist, two delightfully comedic.

Judy HollidayCover of Judy Holliday

Since I was so grossly offended and disgusted by Birth of a Nation two or three days ago, I have seen three old American movies. For those who may have thought I was unkind to American movies in my previous piece, I can report that of the three, one was almost as disgustingly racist as D.W. Griffith’s so-called classic, and two were delightful comedies, both of which I have seen before several times.

So, just to take racism as the measure of judgment, that makes two out of four which were offensive, or 50 per cent, not a very good score. The second objectionable film was called Tarzan Escapes, with Johnny Weismuller and Maureen O’Sullivan, from 1936, which seemed to indicate that as far as racist attitudes went, little if any progress had been made between the making of Griffith’s film in 1915, and the making of this Tarzan epic 21 years later. In addition, it was reported that the Tarzan movies were among the best-grossing films of their time, a barely credible fact (at least seen from this distance.)

In this particular epic, one of three made by the Weismuller-O’Sullivan combo, a wicked white hunter captures Tarzan and threatens to take him back to civilization where he would be put on show. He was aided in this by a group of African tribesmen who were portrayed as being entirely brainless, cowardly and incompetent, just as Griffith portrayed American blacks of the reconstruction period after the Civil War.

Enough of that --- except to say that Miss O’Sullivan, who was a long-standing Hollywood star mostly notable for having married the director John Farrow, and sired Mia Farrow, the longtime consort of Woody Allen, and a woman who became the grandmother of the many damaged children adopted my Mia from around the world, was, as a young girl, an extremely toothsome little piece, as the saying goes.

The two comedies put an altogether finer light on the United States. One of them was Born Yesterday, the classic comedy that brought to stardom Judy Holliday, as the dumb blonde whose ignorance concealed a shrewd cunning the moment it was scratched by the reporter hired by the girl’s brutal boss to teach her some manners. This role is played by William Holden, who, naturally, exposed to Miss Holliday’s bumbling charms, immediately falls for her, and conspires with her to bring about the overthrow of the man who has held her in virtual slavery for some eight years--- a socko performance by Broderick Crawford. He has been using her --- she is a former chorus girl --- to sign papers that she didn’t understand, but that allowed him to carry out all sorts of illegal skullduggery without putting his own neck on the chopping block. It all comes out well in the end.

The theme of the second comedy, Ball of Fire, is similar, except reversed. Barbara Stanwyck plays the part of a nightclub stripper with underworld connections, who, on the lam from the police, takes refuge in a house that is occupied by eight wonderfully eccentric professors engaged on a momentous research project of some kind. These professors and the thugs who arrive among them to rescue Miss Stanwyck comprise some of the most memorable actors from the golden years of Hollywood --- S.Z.Sakall, Henry Travers, Oscar Homolka, Dan Duryea, (always one of my favorite heavies) and Dana Andrews. Miss Stanwyck plays this unaccustomed role to the hilt, and of course not only captivates Gary Cooper, the best-looking and most articulate of the eccentrics, but also the whole bundle of them. This, too, comes out well, after some hectic moments involving the professors somehow or other getting guns and shooting it out, more or less, with the baddies.

So, so soon after having denounced the USA, as I love to do, I am forced to remind myself that it is the home of some of the greatest comedy ever produced, as well as the unique and marvelous popular music for which it is known and loved throughout the world. Can any nation be wholly bad that gave rise to Louis Armstrong?

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Friday, April 15, 2011

My Log 249:Technical brilliance of D.W. Griffith does not justify the abhorrent racism of his film Birth of a Nation

A color poster of the movie The Birth of a NationImage via Wikipedia

I saw the noted film, Birth of a Nation, made by D.W. Griffith in 1915, for the first time this week, and it turns out to be an abominable work, racist to its core. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that it is still considered, especially in the United States, as one of the greatest films ever made. After all, the United States is a nation that was founded with a ringing declaration of its belief in the equality of all men, a declaration of principle drawn up by a bunch of slave-owners.

In other words, hypocrisy has been at the very core of American values ever since the nation was born.

Birth of a Nation is about the American civil war. It sees that conflict from the point of view of the south, but it is in its last section, describing the aftermath of the war, that it becomes totally racist, and so unacceptable that it should have been thrown on the scrapheap years ago. The black people of the United States, newly freed from their horrendous experience of slavery, are cruelly caricatured as primitives unable to carry out any serious function of government, or even of daily life. And according to Griffith the nation was rescued from the anarchy of ignoramuses only by the gallant soldiers of the Ku Klux Klan.

I found this so revolting that I am really not capable of pretending to be other than disgusted by this movie. But it does permit me to pontificate briefly about the dichotomy between the technique by which a film is put together, and the content of the finished film. When I first got into making films at the Naional Film Board in 1971, I was frankly fairly contemptuous of the Board’s concentration on always producing a product of technical excellence.

To that end, they employed some of the finest documentary cameramen in the world, wonderful sound men, and highly skilled producers and directors who took exceptional pains to turn out a polished product. My interest at the time was totally in what the film was trying to say, and I thought it strange when a filmmaker, midway through finalizing his production, would show an assembly to anyone who liked to turn up, and would listen to every comment, and try to take every opinion into account in whatever changes he might make as a result of the screening. I thought this was ludicrous: I had been employed for twenty-five years as a kind of wandering reporter, equipped only with a pen and notebook, and the idea I should check everything I wrote with colleagues sitting at neighbouring desks was something that never once occurred to me.

I remember the occasion that crystallized my attitude: I was interviewing a Cree hunter far up in the wilderness, in a tent, getting from him insights that I thought were marvelous, and rare, when suddenly the soundman tore off the equipment through which he was listening to it all, and announced, “It’s no good. I can hear the snow falling on the tent!”

This struck me as the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, and it was only gradually, as I became accustomed to the methods used at the NFB, that I began to realize the importance of producing a smooth, professional, and careful product that would allow the audience to concentrate, not on the quality of production, which was a given, but on the message it was being so cunningly used to elucidate.

Mind you, I have seen movies, kind of rough around the edges, that nevertheless carried a tremendous punch. The model of such a movie I always cite as a film made by the French Communist Chris Marker, about the socialist revolution in Chile and the subsequent counter-revolution. That movie was full of scratchy old tapes taken from television programmes, and yet the impact of the whole film was immense. But then Chris Marker was a genius who actually stood for something.

Griffith’s film is highly regarded because of its being so many years ahead of its time in technical expertise. Film buffs can tell you about the kind of shots he invented or pioneered, methods of shooting that had never been used before, and it is true that the film was expertly made. Still, speaking personally, I don’t think that justifies his film in any way: it is an offence in the nostrils of any decent person, and should be cast on the scrapheap.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Link of the Day: A contrary view of NATO in Libya

Downtown KampalaDowntown Kampala Image via Wikipedia

There are already two recognized interpretations of what NATO is doing in Libya. One, which takes NATO at face value, is that it is on a humanitarian mission, to save lives. The other scoffs at such simplicity, and says it is an all-out European attack, in the great tradition of colonialism, designed to reduce Libya to an obedient client state. Read here a sophisticated version of this second idea, by Mahmood Mamdani, director of the Institute of Social Research at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, and Herbert Lehman, Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Link of the Day, April 6 2011

There are many stories of interest today: for example, one from The Guardian saying that there is a world-wide attack on workers underway; and the last column by Bob Herbert in The New York Times, in which he says the US has definitely lost its way as the rich dominate all created wealth. And then there’s this one, a staggering article from truthdig by Chris Hedges, about the growing economic crisis in the US, which is now frankly run by the corporations. Read it here

(“Civil disobedience, such as….the upcoming protest in Union Square, is the only tool we have left. A fourth of the country’s largest corporations—including General Electric, ExxonMobil and Bank of America—paid no federal income taxes in 2010. But at the same time these corporations operate as if they have a divine right to hundreds of billions in taxpayer subsidies. Bank of America was handed $45 billion—that is billion with a B—in federal bailout funds. Bank of America takes this money—money you and I paid in taxes—and hides it along with its profits in some 115 offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. One assumes the bank’s legions of accountants are busy making sure the corporation will not pay federal taxes again this year. Imagine if you or I tried that.”)

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Log 248: Get the facts about Abdelrazik’s case against the government and the UN Security Council’s no-fly list

I would like everyone to read the legal argument being made on behalf of Abousfian Abdelrazak, the unfortunate Canadian who was stranded for so long in the Sudan because of the government’s refusal to repatriate him until ordered to do so by the courts, Abdekrazik’s problems are not over. His name is still on the UN No-fly list, to which it was attached totally without reason, his money is totally frozen, and so on, and his supporters are still trying to help him overcome all this.

Please read the arguments being put forward in his favour at the following address:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Log 247:Lawrence Hill establishes himself as one of the great writers of Canada with his novel The Book of Negroes

In the last four years, another name has been added to the growing list of Canadian novelists who merit international recognition among the very best novelists writing in English and I didn’t know anything about him until this week I read his magnificent novel The Book of Negroes, published in 2007 by Harper Collins Publishing Ltd, of Toronto. The name of the author is Lawrence Hill, himself a black Canadian, who comes from a well-known family, his father having been Dan Hill, once Ontario’s Ombudsman, and his brother Dan Hill, the singer. The edition of the book I read is a handsome illustrated edition published in 2009, whose 506 pages include more than 100 beautifully reproduced pictures of almost every aspect of the slave trade, which is the subject of the book.

I bought this book as a gift for my son and grandson, who both have black blood in their veins, but I was surprised to learn it was a novel when I recently received a phone call from a friend in Montreal urging me to read it. The book is every bit as good as she told me, rivettingly written in simple, straight-forward English as it details through its unforgettable characters the course of the monstrous slave traded that operated between the West African coast and the centres of international commerce in Europe and North America.

The book deals with the specific years between 1756, when its narrator is kidneapped as a 12-year-old girl from her village in West Africa, and 1803, when, as an educated woman growing old, she decides to put down the story of her life. The central character, Aminata Diallo, does not spare us a single detail of her terrible experiences, and in telling it she emerges as one of the greatest characters created in any modern novel. First captured, then force-marched to the coast, then on to a slave ship at the notorious takeoff point Bance Island, off the coast of what is now the nation of Sierra Leone, then her terrible experience as one of the few survivors of a voyage from hell, then her sale as a slave in Charleston, South Carolina, then after nearly 20 years there her escape to New York, where she completes her study of languages that has always fascinated her, becomes a leader among the freed slaves, but finally decides to go to Nova Scotia where greater freedom is falsely promised, in the hope that she can there fulfil her dream of returning to her village. Ten years later she signs on to join the new freed-slave colony of Sierra Leone, where a company specially organized for this promises that the slaves shall build their own society, a promise that she quickly learns will never be fulfilled, as all the decisions are made by the company-men, who are more or less forced to collaborate with their neighbours, the slave-traders.

In the course of making these journeys she, as one of the few educated former slaves, has been employed in recording the names of slaves in a book that actually exists called The Book of Negroes. This is said to be the most complete account of the people taken as slaves, and it also provides a (slightly misleading) but suitable title for Mr. Hill's fictionalized account of the experiences of the people whose names are registered therein.

By this time she has learned many of the West African languages, and is always trying to find how she might penetrate the interior --- an interior that is never detailed on Western maps except by the planting of elephants where villages might be --- but even local village people decline to help her, since they seem intent on keeping outsiders away from their villages if at all possible. Eventually she does what she has always vowed she never would do, she makes a deal with a slave-trader to take her to her village. But along the way she discovers that he intends to sell her when the moment is ripe. So she takes off into the jungle, and when she is nursed back to health by a group of villagers who pick her up half-dead, she decides to abandon her dream of returning to the village, but to go instead to London, as she has been invited to do because her sponsors --- liberal Englishmen all --- believe she could have an impact on the movement to abolish slavery.

Through all of these adventures Ms Diallo has suffered every tragedy that could befall a person. She finds a husband, has two children by him, loses both of them because of betrayal by people she had come to trust, loses her husband to a storm at sea, is raped, brutalized, but finally, a woman who has somehow won through, she is honored for her achievements.

The telling of this brutal tale is full of felicity, wonderful touches of humanity that somehow or other makes itself felt even in the grimmest circumstances, And the impact of this is heightened by the extremely beautiful prose written by Mr. Hill, simple, direct, unfanciful, unpretentious, indeed, a style so perfectly suited to its subject as to be almost miraculous. Need I add that although one never loses sight of the monstrousness of the slave trade, his is not a tract: it is merely a human story whose subject is one dealt with by novelists throughout the ages, man’s inhumanity to man. I cannot recommend this work too highly.

This man is a great writer. I imagine others are not as ignorant of his works as I have been, but in case there are others, I append here a list of books he has written, the titles of which give an indication of his commitment to the cause of his people. (I have not read any of these, not yet.) He has produced two previous novels, Any Known Blood, and Some Great Thing. He has written four non-fiction books: The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Way from the War in Iraq (with Joshua Key); Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada; Women of Vision: the Story of the Canadian Negro Women’s Association; and Trials and Triumphs: the Story of African-Canadians. And he names among his productions a film, Seeking Salvation: A History of the Black Church in Canada.