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Post by halfwise Mon Mar 04, 2024 1:02 pm

Oh! H Rider Haggard travelled to Mexico and did two years of research in preparation for writing Montezuma's Daughter. It's a chronicle of the fall of Montezuma sort of told from the inside, via a European adventurer who somehow gets to mexico before Cortez and falls in love with Montezuma's daughter. Haggard isn't really the right author for this job, but one has to admire the effort he put into it. He tried hard to nail the historical and cultural accuracy, though his sense for the comic book lurid and melodramatic got in the way.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sat Mar 30, 2024 10:04 am

{{ So I just finished another Agatha Christie book....and, um, I don't really know how to explain it. I think its the oddest book I've ever read, not just Christie, any book, ever.
I'm still not sure what it was about. I'm not sure if having the blandest man possible as what passes for the main character in such a tale is genius or awful. I don't even now what genre it is in, its sort of several all at once and sometimes not together at all. And as for the choice of how its plotted, I don't know again if its disastrous, or genius. And above all I don't know if I liked it or not. As I said its the oddest book I've ever read.

It's called Passenger to Frankfurt and here comes the spoilers as I am going to attempt to explain the plot, I hope. Oh and I need to point out, she wrote this in 1970, that is I think important, maybe.

Its starts of with a diplomat for the British Government Sir Stafford Nye. His main characteristics are that he doesn't particularly have any, no real ambition, a tendency to not take life seriously enough to get on, and so though trusted has always remained somewhere in the middle ranks of the diplomatic service. On a return trip from a meeting as dull he is in Germany he is approached with an odd proposition by an attractive mystery women, she wants to nick his ridiculous attire- a stupid cloak and hood, and his passport in order to get out the country, and in doing so he will be saving her life, oh and she will also have to put something in his drink so it seems, after the fact, he was drugged and she stole the stuff and escaped, that way he would appear an innocent victim. Nye acting on his diplomat instincts trusts her, and accepts, and the plan is carried out.
Back in London he expects some sign from her if she is still alive, and the return of his passport, eventually sneaky meetings are made and he discovers she is part of something much larger.
So far its in the Christie spy/thriller genre of which she has a few that I've read so far.

But then he goes off to visit a favourite aunt in the country, Aunt Matilda. And she is the best character in the book by a mile even though she really only pops up every now and again. She is in fact the master mover of deeds in many ways, always telling Nye something, or someone to talk to, who seems to be unrelated to whatever he is wanting to do, but which always turn out to be crucial links in a very weird chain. For example she casually mentions an old scientist friend who had a stroke and was forced to give up his work, he it turns out pops up as the crucial figure in the final act, and she name drops him in her first appearance.

So the plot, sort of, goes like this. Nye goes off with the girl to a place in Switzerland, a palatial place in the mountains where an old school friend/enemy of his Aunts lives, an immense fat grotesque women who talks like a Bond villain. Its here they start to uncover a global plot, one this fat woman is co-ordinating, or helping to do so alongside huge finaciencers, weapons manifactures and other super wealthy rich elites, acting through the youth of the world. The whole conspiracy involves sort of everyone, scientists, political thinkers and philosophers, people in communist and totalitarian regimes across the globe, universities and students, musicians, poets, an ideal of a Nordic based, Ayran world view overthrowing the established world order with violence and chaos and distruption. A trojan horse Hitler Youth. And they meet its leader, a perfect young ridiculously handsome and charismatic Ayran blonde guy called Seigfreid, who holds massive 'concerts' where gathered youth listen to his every word and then fall into frenzy. And we are in new territory (for me reading Christie at least) its now a conspiracy thriller.

And then it cuts from all this and plonks us down in the middle of a top secret government cabinet meeting, in France. We learn that they are worried about 'things' in the world, all over the place, particularly among the youth. And we never see or hear from them again.

But we meet another government secret meeting, this time British with a couple of characters we previously met in the briefest passing and a bunch of new ones we will learn little about save their names and positions in government.
Its rather jarring and quite confusing for a bit as they seem to be talking about a bunch of stuff unrelated to the previous, trouble in S Africa and S America, the Russians worried about something and such. The book cuts to such meetings from here on in till the end. And they do at least become clearer in their relevance as the scale of the global conspiracy becomes clearer and eventually, sort of, explained. And its a little unexpected.

The Ayran leader of this 'movement' ( who is himself a hand-picked puppet for the unknown real minds behind it all) that is aiming to overthrow everything with anarchy, are really just planning to complete what Hilter started, because he is the secret son of Hitler. No really, bare with me.
The story goes like this- a German psychologist had a hospital in Germany which specialised in mentally ill folk who believed they were in fact famous people or figures from history, he had 10 Ceasars for example. And he also had a collection of Hitlers. Then one day near the end of the war when it all was going badly, Hitler and a staff member unexpectedly turned up. Hitler was intrigued by the people who thought they were him, and asked to meet one of them. The Doctor picked his best 'Hitler' both in mannerisms and appearance and left Hitler, the staff member and patient together. Then Hitler left with staff member. Only he didn't, the patient left and that is whose body was in the bunker. The real Hitler went to South Africa, married a specially selected blonde Nordic beauty and produced Sigfreid, his heir and now the leader of the global movement. And they know its him because when the baby was born they branded him on the foot with a swastika. Throughout everything there is a strong emphasis on 'youth', their disenfranchisement with politics, capitalism, and cronyism among elites and a growing desire for anarchy that has been carefully nurtured as part of the global conspiracy, students and universities in particular are a focus.

It takes a whole chapter to tell the Hitler background tale, and the very next chapter opens with the British Secret Service telling Nye they know he isn't Hitlers son. They have definite proof of it in fact, but he has been raised by a larger shadowy group to think he is.

And then, well to be honest, and I am not 100% sure what happens next.
Sir Nye, well he's back in England after his trip and a visit to his aunt who advised him to learn to whistle a piece of Wagner music, Sigfreid's March. This turns out useful as he is waiting on being contacted, as part of his jaunt with mystery women to Switzerland was to appear to be a British Diplomat who was on the side with the revolutionaries. And so some contact him, but they aren't sure he is genuine and try to sound him out, until he whistles the music. Which works as a sort of secret pass.

The British government lot meanwhile have been probing about some old scientist and his experiments, particularly something called Project Benuvo. Nobody seems to know exactly what it was however as the man responsible for it, a genius, destroyed all his own work after creating it, went into recluse in the north of Scotland, and had a bad stroke and can barely speak any more. The very man Nye's aunt so causally mentioned in passing right at the start.

Nye goes to the government folk to tell them he has made contact and then a bunch of them go with Nye to the N of Scotland to find this scientist. At his household are a couple of nurses and his lifelong secretary, who has also been in love with him the whole time, she can speak to him by lip-reading, sign language and sometimes he can mange some speech himself.
He tells them Project Benuvo stood for Benevolence, it was something (he refuses to say if drug, gas, surgery or what) that when deployed altered a persons demeanour, making them, well benevolent. So they had a strong desire and impluse all the time to help others and make them happy. The downside was this did not make the person doing it happy, they just had a consent impulse to help others and make them happy. And it was also irreversible, once it changed a person it was permanent. And so he had destroyed his work. But Nye being shrewd perceives a man like him could not destroy his work, and rather he had stashed it away somewhere.
And then one of the aides to one of the government men there, an old Admiral, attempts to kill the Admiral, which fails as he is stopped first and killed but the Admiral dies anyway of a coincidental heart failure from shock?, and one of the nurses attempts to kill the scientist by shooting him but is likewise foiled in the act.
And then the government men say this benevolence thing is just the thing that could save the world and be used against this mad far right conspiracy that they cant use conventional weapons nor nukes nor conventional chemicals on. And the scientist says as the Admiral was the only government man he ever trusted and if he thought it was necessary then he would take that as the Admiral's dying wish and they could have it.

The end. No really that's it. There's an epilogue but its just a telegram back and forth between Nye and his Aunt Matilda about his wedding to the mystery girl.

Did I mention how odd it was?
But its also, well interesting from the point of view of 50 years hence. You see the thing about her global conspiracy, not just how vague in most of its details, aims or means that it is, but rather how its spread as an idea.
I'll just quote directly here-

“Everything used the whole time to arouse emotion. Discipline? Restraint? None of these things counted for anything any more. Nothing mattered but to feel. What sort of a world, thought Stafford Nye, could that make?”

I thought in response when I read that, “the one I live in. The world where how you feel about something trumps evidence, facts, logic or reason. That's this world right now.”

The 'mobilise' youth without them even realising by promoting certain ideas is alos, with 50 years hence interesting, they fund various Youth Federations in Third World Countries, Aid Agencies, the 70's Black Power movement in America as well as various Universities infiltrated to promote those ideals alongside a strident form of no morality feminism and anarchist based music and art (she wrote this a few years before the dawn of punk music and its call for anarchy in the UK). The way it works it seems is to just foster emnity by creating as much division as possible, then focusing the anger generated into anti-captialist, anti-democracy power. The youth will fight to build a better world, but the manner of their fight, through the influneces worked on them by ideas based on division, will be in the style and to the same conclusion the Third Reich were aiming for.

But as a whole tale I am left, confused. Especially by its ending. I assume the revolution is beyond stopping and inevitable at this point and a wave of angry new wave Hitler Youth will arise around the globe all at once? And having, at the various government meetings throughout earlier, rejected the possibility of using nukes or chemical weapons on rampaging students, they are now going to use this benuvo thing on them, which will permanently make them all nice to people against their will? Its sort of 1984 meets a Clockwork Orange as seen by Agatha Christie.
But I could be completely wrong, maybe that's not what the ending means. But then if not what happens to the revolution? Did I miss the bit where its beaten?

It's just the oddest book Ive read. I don't really know what to make of it. I cant say it's a favourite. I can't say its got good characters in it,it has 1 good character and they aren't the main character. I can't say its got a good plot, I'm not even sure I understand all the plot, I can't say its a simple read either as the way it suddenly jumps to situations or people you've never met before, but if your lucky might have been name dropped once somewhere previously, and the jigsaw nature of the pieces makes it feel disjointed and difficult to put together into a coherent read (perhaps that's part of point of it?) But I would recommend it if only because it's easily the most political thing I have ever read of hers and probably, intellectually given me the most to ponder on, even if sometimes in slight confusion. Oh and did I mention it's easily the oddest. }}

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Post by halfwise Sat Mar 30, 2024 12:27 pm

Sounds like an incoherent Boys from Brazil. They Came to Baghdad was a conspiracy thriller, wherein you once again don't really see the whole conspiracy picture, but that's sort of run of the mill for conspiracy tales. The idea is usually it's out there and it's murky and it's bigger than you. I'm guessing Christie liked to break free every now and then from the perfectly wrapped up version of detective genera she had invented. From what little I've read I've also noticed that the only truly alive and 3D characters she writes are women, typically young women. The men are interesting character types but we don't get inside their heads as fully.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sat Mar 30, 2024 1:48 pm

{{ I think the difference here with They Came To Baghdad is that there the conspiracy felt more like just a backdrop to set the spy thriller against, rather than the subject matter itself. This is about conspiracy. Its motivations, its uses, how it can manipulate revolutions and such. But it's so bizarrely and oddly done and put together it is at times, when you are reading, hard to even know what it's supposed to be about at any given point along the way. It's only sort of in the round you can even put it together into something resembling a coherent plot. It's not presented as one.
It is, to my mind at least, quite controversial too. I mean it would be I feel if she were writing it in todays setting. As the groups she has being manipulated and secretly funded and directed by the new Nazis modern equivalents would be Black Lives Matter, various gay, lesbian trans groups and the women's groups who most strongly oppose them, judges who are lenient on violent youth and don't lock up young people for violent property crime, especially private property, politicians who push the policies to support and spread these groups and laws influence.
It's just both very prescient in some ways, very nihilistic in others and very strongly political even by Christies standards.

I took a look after I wrote my own review of it here at reviews online, it's generally considered one of, if no the worst books she ever wrote by the majority, for many of the reasons I have given.
Thing is, I think I rather like it, without actually liking any one particular thing about it or in it besides the Aunt, whose great. It's bonkers, it's bizarrely written it's got a deliberately dull lead and an almost incoherent plot as presented to the reader, that says some quite outrageous things. And I kind of like that. I think...}}

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Compiled and annotated by Eldy.

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*Pure Publications reserves the right to track your usage of this publication, snoop on your home address, go through your bins and sell personal information on to the highest bidder.
Warning may contain Wholesome Tales
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Post by azriel Sat Mar 30, 2024 5:20 pm

Fact is stronger than fiction, as crazy as you say about this book, you read it out as though its based on real events. Ive watched some astonishing progs on tv where, after years of us thinking A is A, we find out A is actually B and nothing as we first thought. As they say, History is written by the victors. Truths have been twisted and erased for whoever suits it best at the time. Maybe this book is just fecking mad enough to have elements of truth in it and Christie, knowing her fame, could get the truth out without people realising it. She was intelligent enough to know it could all come out later. She married an archaeologist so hiding things and finding things were not new to her. Just a thought Smile

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Post by Mrs Figg Sat Mar 30, 2024 9:26 pm

I remember reading that book and really liking the first part where Nye meets the mysterious girl and then when it got to the Switzerland stuff i just tuned out and got bored. Too much quasi-political mumbo-jumbo for my liking. it started really interestingly then flew off on different tangents. It felt like about 3 books rolled into one.
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Post by halfwise Tue May 21, 2024 1:43 pm

So for some reason I woke up with scenes from Watership Down in my head.

First Hazel's death scene, which used to bring tears to me eyes. Went back and looked it up and found that Adams breaks the fourth wall at the start by addressing the readers directly. Didn't remember that and it rather annoyed me.

Then I distinctly remember, during the face-off in burrow between Bigwig and Woundwort, Bigwig saying he had orders to hold the tunnel "until Hazel-Rah arrives" and Woundwort staggers back thinking "Hazei-Rah?!" realizing for the first time that Bigwig isn't the chief rabbit so there must be an even bigger one. But Bigwig never say's "Hazel-Rah", instead referring to his "chief rabbit". Feels too obvious and less satisfying.

But how did I get that wording stuck in my head? Did the animated cartoon perhaps do that? Or is that my own mental insertion?

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Post by halfwise Tue Jun 11, 2024 5:08 pm

Oh my dancing stars, I have discovered Rudyard Kipling's American Notes. It has largely been suppressed because it lacks the high and mighty style he's know for in his books and poems. But we see a side of him totally unknown, of biting sarcasm and wit - in fact this style of writing reminds me of nothing so much as Mark Twain, who now I come to realize may be famous more for writing in every day style than the more acceptable high falutin' style that passed for literary at the time. He was just jotting down his impressions as he travelled through the wild west of 1890 or so, and it's riotous. Fortunately you don't have to acquire a physical copy, for it's all here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/977/977-h/977-h.htm#link2H_INTR

Here's a sample of it:

---

There were no more incidents till I reached the Palace Hotel, a seven-storied warren of humanity with a thousand rooms in it. All the travel books will tell you about hotel arrangements in this country. They should be seen to be appreciated. Understand clearly—and this letter is written after a thousand miles of experiences—that money will not buy you service in the West. When the hotel clerk—the man who awards your room to you and who is supposed to give you information—when that resplendent individual stoops to attend to your wants he does so whistling or humming or picking his teeth, or pauses to converse with some one he knows. These performances, I gather, are to impress upon you that he is a free man and your equal. From his general appearance and the size of his diamonds he ought to be your superior. There is no necessity for this swaggering self-consciousness of freedom. Business is business, and the man who is paid to attend to a man might reasonably devote his whole attention to the job. Out of office hours he can take his coach and four and pervade society if he pleases.
In a vast marble-paved hall, under the glare of an electric light, sat forty or fifty men, and for their use and amusement were provided spittoons of infinite capacity and generous gape. Most of the men wore frock-coats and top-hats—the things that we in India put on at a wedding-breakfast, if we possess them—but they all spat. They spat on principle. The spittoons were on the staircases, in each bedroom—yea, and in chambers even more sacred than these. They chased one into retirement, but they blossomed in chiefest splendor round the bar, and they were all used, every reeking one of them.
Just before I began to feel deathly sick another reporter grappled me. What he wanted to know was the precise area of India in square miles. I referred him to Whittaker. He had never heard of Whittaker. He wanted it from my own mouth, and I would not tell him. Then he swerved off, just like the other man, to details of journalism in our own country. I ventured to suggest that the interior economy of a paper most concerned the people who worked it.
“That's the very thing that interests us,” he said. “Have you got reporters anything like our reporters on Indian newspapers?”
“We have not,” I said, and suppressed the “thank God” rising to my lips.
“Why haven't you?” said he.
“Because they would die,” I said.
It was exactly like talking to a child—a very rude little child. He would begin almost every sentence with, “Now tell me something about India,” and would turn aimlessly from one question to the other without the least continuity. I was not angry, but keenly interested. The man was a revelation to me. To his questions I returned answers mendacious and evasive. After all, it really did not matter what I said. He could not understand. I can only hope and pray that none of the readers of the “Pioneer” will ever see that portentous interview. The man made me out to be an idiot several sizes more drivelling than my destiny intended, and the rankness of his ignorance managed to distort the few poor facts with which I supplied him into large and elaborate lies. Then, thought I, “the matter of American journalism shall be looked into later on. At present I will enjoy myself.”

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Post by azriel Tue Jun 11, 2024 8:21 pm

This is something I enjoy reading. Something fulfilling. Most things from Kipling makes the brain sit up and indulge

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Post by Orwell Tue Jun 25, 2024 6:35 am

Do people still read books here? I thought they’d been banned...🤔
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Post by halfwise Tue Jun 25, 2024 7:16 pm

Speaking of books to be banned, I've been trying to get through Tales of Watership Down, by Richard Adams; a collection of further tales of Elihrairah and others.  It sounds great, but it's a mangy affair. Mad  No where close to the standards of Watership Down, feels like a cheap money grab.  To say I'm disappointed doesn't cover it.

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Post by azriel Tue Jun 25, 2024 9:36 pm

I read books of my childhood mostly or, IL have a go at Agatha Christie, she can take it, game bird that one....

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