Book Review: The Lighthouse by Paco Roca

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The Lighthouse is a graphic novel set during the Spanish Civil War. It tells the story of Francisco, a seventeen year old fighting for the Republican side, who is wounded and attempts to flee to an uncertain future in France. However, his wound slows him down and he is given shelter by Telmo, the keeper of an old lighthouse.  While Francisco struggles with both physical and mental wounds, Telmo attempts to raise the young soldier’s spirits by telling him stories about distant lands beyond the sea, forging a friendship that entwines the fates of both men and sets them into motion.

The Lighthouse was first published in 2004. The 2017 English translation edition also contains The Eternal Rewrite, a 2009 afterword by author and illustrator Paco Roca, in which he reflects on the inspirations for his story as well as it’s creation.

The artwork throughout is  both beautiful and distinct, and the style lends itself well to the pace of the story. The story itself I found excellent. It transcends it’s simplicity with a sort of ease that is uncommon in a story of this length—-at only 54 pages (not including the afterword, which is well worth reading), you may well find yourself slowing your reading to savor every last moment.  The Lighthouse is a great quick read for adults, and I would also recommend it to sensible older children (say, pre-teen) provided that they have sensible parents.

 

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648. Gráinne ♫

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Leagan eile de

Múinfimid Gaeilge do Ghráinne

Fonn: Loch Lomond ♫

Liricí

Cé hí siúd a tchím ag tarraingt chugainn aniar?

Who is she [that] I see drawing towards me?

Nó fós, cad is brí lena cuairt chugainn?

Or yet, what does her visit to me mean?

Is í Gráinne mhilis Mhaol í a chaill a teanga féin

She is Sweet Granuaile, she who lost her own language

Is atá chugainn go tréan ar a tuairisc.

And is approaching us determined to find it.

Curfá: 

Ó labhair léi go séimh deas i dteanga bhinn na hÉireann,

Oh speak to her mildly in Ireland’s sweet tongue.

Is bhéarfadsa an chailc is an clár liom.

And I’ll bring the chalk and the board with me.

Ná bíodh eagla ar an bhé, beidh sí eadrainn araon,

Let the muse not be scared, she’ll be amongst us too,

Agus múinfimid Gaeilge do Ghráinne.

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Ghoulish Machinery Set to Whirling*

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(collage by Óglach)

 

There inside the gothic arch

the whirling purple satin stain

mouths the words and makes the mark

and calls me by my given name

The limestone drips with solemn sweat

the windows let the sunlight in

colored by bits of broken glass

shaped in silhouettes of sin

All this time I’ve been deprived

the chance to make a simple step

to open doors to well worn paths

each of which must lead to death

But none more certain than this place

where no heart can find a stable hold

beneath the flagstones the lies will hide

and dust will flour the native bones

It wasn’t me, I try to say

It wasn’t me, the silent cry

It couldn’t be, it’s not my way

and besides I’ve only just arrived—

 

*The title comes from a line in Bringing the Vatican to Justice, an article by American neuroscientist and author Sam Harris, who described Catholicism as “ghoulish machinery set to whirling through the ages by the opposing winds of shame and sadism.”

 

 

 

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Martin McGuinness (23 May 1950-21 Mar 2017)

 

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Born 23 May, 1950 in Derry, Ireland, James Martin Pacelli McGuinness was one of the most influential and instrumental figures in Irish politics. From IRA leader to peace process innovator, he gained national and global respect as a man able to convince seemingly uncompromising foes into becoming allies for the common good.

McGuinness, at age 21, was second in command of the Derry Brigade of the Provisional IRA.  In 1972, Derry suffered through the infamous “Bloody Sunday” massacre, during which the British 1st. Battalion, Parachute Regiment, gunned down 13 innocent civilians during a civil rights march. (Seven of those shot were teenagers; a fourteenth victim died months later as a result of his injuries during the event).  The 1998 Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday found that although McGuinness was indeed an active IRA member, and in possession of a Thompson submachine gun, he “did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire.”

McGuinness was convicted in 1973 by the Republic of Ireland Special Criminal Court, after being arrested near a vehicle containing a large amount of ammunition and explosives. He refused to recognize the court, but stated, ”We have fought against the killing of our people…I am a member of Óglaigh na hÉireann and very, very proud of it.” He was sentenced to six months in prison.

In 1974, McGuinness left the IRA and chose to concentrate his efforts on a diplomatic solution to The Troubles, working with prominent Sinn Féin member Gerry Adams, among many others. Following many clandestine meetings with the British government and Unionist leaders, some marginally productive, others futile, McGuinness managed to help form what Brian Rowan of the Belfast Telegraph called “The most unexpected partnership in politics”. The partnership was with that of Rev. Ian Paisley, infamous for his anti-Catholic, anti-nationalist stance—not to mention his alleged collusion (via his DUP position) with sectarian violence and a nearly successful attempt on the life of Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams.

By this time, McGuinness had been elected Sinn Féin MP in 1997. (In concordance with Sinn Féin policy, he abstained from participation in Westminster Parliament.) He kept this position until his resignation in 2013. In the meantime, he helped accomplished what many considered impossible.

Working closely with Gerry Adams and other members of Sinn Féin, as well as David Trimble, Tony Blair, Ian Paisley, and other members of the Unionist community, McGuinness was able to help bring about the historic Good Friday Agreement of 1998. This admittedly incomplete recompense to the nationalist community nevertheless brought about a cease to the majority of organized warfare in the northern six counties and paved the way for a (still) precarious peace between loyalist and nationalist, Catholic and Protestant.

McGuinness served as the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, having served with Ian Paisley as First Minister until 2008. (He ran an unsuccessful campaign for president of the Republic in 2011). Considering  the life struggles of McGuinness, largely due to British colonialism and Unionist bigotry, and Paisley’s  nearly life-long bigotry towards Catholics, it is amazing that McGuinness came to call Paisley not just a partner in the peace process, but a friend. He was visibly distraught upon Paisley’s death, and extended condolences to not only his family but the loyalist community at large, paying respect to the stature of his former foe amongst a population that persecuted and opposed him his entire life.

McGuinness was instrumental in the beginnings of the the peace process in Ireland. However, he was far more than that. He travelled from Sri Lanka to Iraq and all points between to share his expertise in the sacrifice and diplomacy necessary for peace in the most contentious of circumstances. In one of his statements regarding the Irish peace process he stated, “Let everyone leave all their guns—British guns and Irish guns—outside the door.”

He also famously said, speaking of his political opponents, “In fact, I would defend to the death their right to express a different point of view.”

McGuinness resigned his post as Deputy First Minister in January 2017 after First Minister Arlene Foster refused to step aside to allow independent inquiries relating to the Renewable Heat Incentive, the so-called “Cash for Ash” scandal. (Foster’s predecessor Peter Robinson had twice stepped aside to allow independent inquiries on other matters; apparently Foster did not share his views on transparency or commitment to the power sharing government at Stormont.) This also marked McGuinness’s retirement from politics due to health concerns. Michelle O’ Neill was named as his replacement as the leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland. His resignation vacated both his seat and Foster’s, forcing an election which took place 2 March 2017, resulting in Sinn Féin drawing to within one seat of the DUP’s majority, an unprecedented achievement.

With Ireland closer than ever to an end to partition and the challenge of Brexit looming ahead, McGuinness’s leadership will be sorely missed, but his legacy and example have armed the next generation of Irish Republicans to lead their country to the future that has been dreamed of for generations.

“The most important thing to say is that Sinn Féin isn’t going back to anything. We are a party on the move.” —Martin McGuinness

 

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As they say in Limerick: “Cmereiwantcha”

“Silent Stories”, an upcoming 2 person show at the Belltable in Limerick, will feature art by Miriam McConnon and Eoin Mac Lochlainn.

Scéalta Ealaíne

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of empty fireplace “Tinteán Tréigthe no. 31”,  50 x 50cm, oil on canvas, 2017

We didn’t have a dresser in our kitchen.  We only had shelves with hooks for the cups. The gas cooker was in a room on its own, called the scullery.

Kitchen units? – we’d never heard of them. But we had a fireplace, with a fire that never went out. Maybe that’s why I started my series of paintings of old fireplaces. They hold so many memories in their dusty hearths.

And in the upcoming 2 person show “Silent Stories” at the Belltable in Limerick, I’ll be showing some new pieces (see one above). I think that they’ll work well alongside Miriam McConnon’s paintings of domestic objects.

Because, whether we sit at a fireplace and poke at the flames or whether we peel the potatoes or dry the dishes or just drink tea from a chipped teacup, we get…

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Aldous Huxley – Today’s Brave New World

We can’t say we weren’t warned…courtesy of benmadigan.

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Saturday Night – Film Night

Here’s an extraordinary find!

A 1958 interview with Brave New World author Aldous Huxley

It’s well worth listening to because of the themes he explores

And because he’s bang on with what he said would happen!

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might as well have put away her crystal ball

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as this visionary writer looked into our future.

You’ll be shocked and surprised at what you hear.

NB – disregard the first few seconds. I’m told they were usually messy like that at the dawn of TV broadcasting

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

Much of his work deals with the conflict between the interests of the individual and society, often focusing on the problem of self-realization within the context of social responsibility.

Brave New World, published in 1932,  imagined a fictional future in which free will and individuality were sacrificed  to achieve complete social stability.

Brave New World  depicted a dystopian…

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Because I Say So Stories; How Óglach Met His Wife

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Glasgow 1994

Nowadays when you see Óglach on the precious few occasions he’s allowed out on his own, he’s an oddly acting fellow indeed. Always walking with his head down and muttering, occasionally stumbling over his own two feet as he turns to look at a beautiful woman who is quite annoyed by his attention. Poor Óglach. He is a miserable bastard, having been married these many years and suffering all of the torments that that sacred union has to offer. But it wasn’t always so. He was once a carefree bachelor until one day…well, you’ll see.

Óglach left home at an early age to seek his fame and fortune in London, where a friend had promised him a job. But it turned out the job was full of work. He returned home to face his friends who greeted him with—-

“Told you you’d never amount to anything!”

Then another friend suggested that Óglach accompany him to Glasgow. The two had little money and no prospects for employment. It sounded like a horrible idea, so Óglach naturally agreed.

Their first night in the city, the pair went to see Edwyn Collins play, which was gas. The second night, Morlocks came up out of the sewers and ate Óglach’s friend right in front of him. Everyone back home had told the boys that things like that happen in Glasgow, but they didn’t listen.  Óglach promised himself he would listen from that day forward until the next time he went back home. As he was running from the Morlocks, he spied a light on in a toy shop. He dashed inside and locked the door behind him.

As he turned around, he saw the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen (in real life, anyway).  She was tall with fair skin and had long red hair that hung in luxurious curls about her shoulders. They stared at one another for a moment until the girl said—-

“So whaddaya want?”

Well, she may have looked like Drew Barrymore but she sounded like Frankie Boyle. It’s very difficult to stay enchanted, hearing an accent like that, but it was either the girl or the walking dead outside.

“I need a place to stay for the night!”

“I hear wherever you came from is nice this time of year.”

Óglach wept and wailed and pleaded and begged. Finally the girl (whose name I forget) took pity upon him.

“You can sleep at my house tonight, since you’re so deadly handsome,” she said. “But be warned! I have two brothers and they’re ferociously protective.”

“Good enough,” said Óglach. “I’ll behave myself.”

“And my father is too. I’m his only daughter and he guards me day and night. Also, he dislikes Irishmen.”

“Completely understandable. I’ll behave myself.”

“And my mother is ferocious and hates the Irish and can nag the hair off a dog.”

“I have no idea what that means, but I’ll behave myself.”

“There’s just one more thing,” the girl said, twirling her hair between forefinger and thumb and biting her lower lip.

“Yes?”

“You’re not allowed to behave yourself.”

“Whaddayamean?!”

“If you don’t sneak upstairs and into my bed by the stroke of midnight, I will start screaming bloody murder and God only knows what my family will do to you!”

Óglach figured this test must have been for the comedic purposes of this story and reluctantly agreed.  The two made their way out the front door and past the Morlocks, who had nodded off for the night. They soon arrived at the girl’s home.

Her brothers and father were big intimidating men, the sort who smile when there’s nothing to smile about. The mother was small but had flinty eyes that saw everything, even things that weren’t there. She smoked a magical cigarette that never ran down as she cooked a late supper. Óglach had never before seen such an abundance of eye of newt in a stew.

“Would you like to say grace, Paddy?” the father asked. Óglach wondered how the man knew his brother’s name, but he was used to being mistaken for him.

“Grace!” he said. They looked at him strangely. The girl held her hands as if in prayer.

“Oh! Yeah. ” Óglach closed his eyes and tried to remember that prayer his father had done that one time.

“Good bread, good meat, good God, let’s eat!” he shouted and began eating before anyone could say anything.

Soon afterwards everyone was off to bed, with Óglach sleeping in the sitting room and everyone else upstairs. The girl gave him a knowing look and mouthed the word “midnight” as she climbed the stairs. Then she slipped and bit her tongue. She tried to act all cool about it but it just made her seem even clumsier.

Óglach lay awake in the dark, remembering his promise to do something he wanted to do anyway. When he was certain everyone was asleep, he began to creep up the stairs. Halfway up, the stair below his foot yelled—-

“‘Ere, wot’s all this, then?! ‘Oos that creepin’ upstairs tryin’ to get in the young missus’ knickers?!’

It was an enchanted stair! But little did the stair know that Óglach had a magic boot, which he brought down with tremendous force, smashing the magic stair and shutting it’s stair-hole once and for all.

And he walked on down the hall…

He came to the room where the girl’s parents were. Her mother was sound asleep smoking a cigarette. Her father was snoring so loudly that no one had heard Oglach’s battle with the stair. He kept a-creeping.

The brothers were in their room playing Duke Nuke ‘Em.

Oblivious.

Finally he came to the girl’s room. There she was, radiant in the pale moonlight and the glow of her old Donnie Wahlberg nite-light. Óglach dove into her bed and they were just getting up to some devilment when they heard a mighty crash. One of the brothers had been walking down to the kitchen for some of the healthy refreshments Scots like to eat when he stepped into the hole made by Óglach’s magic boot. He started screaming. The girl started screaming. Then Óglach screamed too, when the door flew open and here came the girl’s mother threatening him in a very graphic and anatomically precise manner. Óglach threw on his clothes and crawled barefoot out the window, as you can see in the photo above.

He escaped safely, but as he wandered the streets with only Morlocks as his company, Óglach became sad. He had grown rather fond of the obviously mental girl in their brief time together. As the sun came up he found himself standing in front of the toy store where they had first met.

“So whaddayer want?” came a voice from behind him.

It was the girl! Óglach wanted to throw his arms around her but decided to play it cool.

“That was quite a night we had last night,” he said, smiling. The girl got a confused look on her face and he had to recount the entire episode to her before she finally said—-

“Oh, that. Whatever.”

And they lived happily ever after until they didn’t.

 

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