Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Beyond the Limit with Mustapha Marrouchi, Edward Said and Lawrence Durrell

Beyond the limit.
I am told that Mustapha Marrouchi is highly thought of among those who like a bit of theory.  Marrouchi is Algerian and he writes about Edward Said and postcolonial theory.  As the tag says to a recent article of his (about Paris, see below), 'An internationally renowned literary and cultural critic, Mustapha Marrouchi lives on borderline between the West and Rest. He is the author of half-a-dozen books, including The Fabric of Subcultures'. He has been invited to speak at the Durrell School in Corfu where, I gather, he made a great impression.  So what is there not to like? 

Not that it should matter in the world of postcolonial theory and relative values but it also turns out that Marrouchi, recently fired from his position as a professor of English literature at an American university, is a plagiariser on a grand, indeed an imperialist, scale.  Twenty-three of twenty-six works turn out to be based on material stolen from other writers, including John Updike, Salman Rushdie and Edward Said (yes, he not only writes about Said but he steals from Said what he writes).  Has he stolen from Lawrence Durrell?  I wish somebody would say.

What I find especially endearing is that he would barely change a word except to convert British spelling to American.  As the Las Vegas Review Journal reports, 'The investigation revealed Marrouchi primarily stole from works published in the London Review of Books and would often change just a few words, specifically words with British spellings to American spellings'.

Retraction Watch reports that 'Perhaps most eyebrow-raisingly, Marrouchi plagiarized whole passages from Salman Rushdie’s London Review of Books essay “Imaginary Homelands” in an essay he then sold as a memoir of his own childhood'.  Who needs a childhood when you can steal it from Salman Rushdie? 

The Chronicle of Higher Education gives a sampling of some of Marrouchi's finest moments.

And The Cabinet of Plagiarism makes the point that Marrouchi has been doing this for decades and nobody noticed.  Except occasionally the person who was being plagiarised.  Which suggests, says The Cabinet of Plagiarism, that nobody ever reads postmodernist drivel anyway. 

But Marrouchi is far from finished.  In January this year, after the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, Marrouchi wrote an article (in this case the words ring true of the man) saying that murdering people in Paris is what you would expect in a country which allows, for the sake of freedom of speech, cartoons to be drawn of the Prophet Muhammed. 'What else did these cartoonists expect? When you attack the last rampart, the terminus, the citadel of a religion that struggles on a daily basis to shield itself from all sorts of invasions coming from the West: Nike, CNN, BBC, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, you must take responsibility for your actions.'  There you have it!  Twitter and the BBC and the blood flows on the streets of Paris as it did last January and Mustapha Marrouchi wants us to understand that 130 more dead just the other day is the consequence of the intolerable assault of Nike and Facebook on Islam. 

The problem began, says Marrouchi, back in 1987.  'Here, one particular culprit comes to mind, someone who opened the Pandora Box for many to follow. That person is Salman Rushdie. Muslims have never had a break ever since The Satanic Verses came out in 1987. Oddly enough, I have a copy signed by Monsieur Rushdie himself. The team of cartoonists who were killed in Paris were marching in the footsteps of Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Anne Coulter, Niall Ferguson and Co. Their main objective is to insult in the most hideous way Muslims and what they hold dear, very dear.'  That is the very same Salman Rushdie whose childhood memoir of India was thieved by Mustapha Marrouchi and transposed to Algeria. A hideous blasphemer but good enough to steal from. 

And so it goes with theory. As for the practice I gather that the Durrell people in Corfu still stand four square behind Mustapha Marrouchi (even while misspelling his name as Marouchi) Or maybe they have not read the newspapers for a year or so.  And maybe they do not read Marrouchi's books either but just repeat his plagiarised theories.  

For more of this, see here.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Sub Tuum Præsidium

Mother of God
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν or in Latin Sub tuum præsidium is one of the oldest Christian hymns, certainly the oldest to Mary the mother of Jesus.  It was found in Egypt in Greek on a papyrus dating to about AD 250.

The hymn was used in a Christmas liturgy and is still used in various revised forms and languages in the Coptic, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches and it has been beautifully rendered as Byzantine and Gregorian chants and as Mozart’s K198 Offertorio. 

In the hymn Mary is called the Theotokos, which literally means the God-bearer, but this is invariably and erroneously translated into Latin and other languages, including English, as Mother of God.

Mother of God.
The original Theotokos was Isis, mother of Horus who was the son of Osiris.  The term Theotokos was first used of Mary the mother of Jesus by Origen (whose name means Child of Horus) in 246 and its spread, thanks to Dionysius, patriarch of Alexandria, was all part of a battle to condemn the gnostics who accorded a special position to Mary Magdalene whom they identified with Sophia, that is Wisdom, whom the Egyptians identified in turn with Isis.

In the process of condemning the gnostics the Church defamed Mary Magdalene, turning her into a whore while they themselves identified Mary the mother of Jesus with Isis and raised her to the status of virgin and God-bearer.

And so we sing:
We fly to thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Click here for a polyphonic version of the hymn by Dimitri Bortniansky.

Michael Haag's Quest for Mary Magdalene will be published in Britain by Profile Books in March 2016 and in the United States by HarperCollins in May.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

A Remarkable New Insight into Cavafy

Cavafy revealed.
I have mentioned Reframing Decadence by Peter Jeffreys in an earlier post.  That was when it was still in proof.  The book has now been published and I have a copy in my hands. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the formation of one of the twentieth century's greatest poets.

Reviews on the back cover.
After reading the book in proof I contributed a review which is reproduced on the back cover and which I repeat below.
Until now Cavafy’s adolescence in England has been buried in obscurity; and much of his creative life in Alexandria has been unexplained.  But now we have a work of literary criticism backed by genealogy and solid ethnography which places the extended Cavafy family at the heart of the artistic avant garde in 1870s London.  Peter Jeffreys reveals the family’s intimacy – both as patrons and lovers – with leading painters and poets.  The precocious young Cavafy was raised in a milieu that gave shape to his poet’s technique and sensibility, that encouraged him to be sexually bold and shameless, and that directed his art for the rest of his life.  Linking aestheticism in England to the decadence of Cavafy’s poetry, Jeffreys has done more than follow a literary thread; he has shown how Cavafy was literally a child of these movements. With this new advance, Jeffreys is well on his way toward a comprehensive literary biography of Constantine Cavafy. 
More about the book can be learnt by going to the website of Cornell University Press.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The Tragedy of the Templars in Slovakia

The Tragedy of the Templars will be published in Slovakia in a Czech language edition by Slovart Publishers who are already publishing The Templars: History and Myth - otherwise known as Templari: Fakta a mytus.

The Slovak Coat of Arms.  The double-barred cross was introduced to Slovakia by Byzantine missionaries in the ninth century.  It also found its way westwards where it takes the form of the Cross of Lorraine - which by permission of the Patriarch of Jerusalem was carried into the crusades by the Knights Templar.